‘State of the district’ report presented to LISD board

The Livingston Independent School District’s board of trustees heard the superintendent’s address and reports that included campus ratings and personnel in the June monthly meeting Monday.

During the meeting, Livingston Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins gave a “state of the district” address for the school district that included a handout reporting on several topics.

This is the 13th year that Texas school districts are reporting the results of the state’s financial accountability system, Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST), which includes the evaluation of seven criteria. Livingston ISD has received the superior achievement rating for the current reporting period, which is for the 2014-2015 school year. Livingston ISD also received a clean unmodified financial audit for the 2014-2015 school year.

Tax Ratification Election
Voter approval of a tax ratification issue allowed the district to move $0.13 from the Interest & Sinking account to the Dallas/Austin Penny Category. This swap generated an additional $775,000 annually for Livingston Independent School District. It decreased the 2014-2015 tax rate of $1.395 and lowered it to $1.39. The change increased the Maintenance & Operating Tax from $1.04 to $1.17 and decreased the Interest & Sinking tax from $0.355 to $0.22. The change created a decrease from a total tax rate of $1.395 to $1.39.

The additional funds generated by the tax ratification passage allowed Livingston ISD to retain personnel, adjust the teacher salary schedule to remain competitive and expand the dual credit program at Livingston High School.

The tennis program has been active for 13 years and before the courts were completed, students were bused to the city’s Matthews Street Park, where a time slot was reserved and others waited for them to finish. The new eight-court complex hosted Crosby, Splendora, Liberty, Shepherd and Diboll, as Livingston placed second on March 24.

The purchase of Texas Slam in the amount of $1 million was made after the district was given a quote of $4 million to construct a similar facility. LISD has entered into a three-year lease for a revenue to the district of $90,000, which will cover the costs of maintenance, upkeep, water, sewer and electricity. LISD will now have concession rights and priority events.  

The board approved the purchase of five new school buses in the amount of $437,015. This purchase allowed the removal of the oldest buses in the fleet. The new buses are 77-passenger buses and more accommodating for larger routes than current 72-passenger options.

Through the efforts of Craig Manning of Red Barn Builders Supply and Danny Moseley of Moseley Construction, the dream of Katie’s Pier was realized. Katie was the daughter of Danny and Frances Moseley. Katie drew inspiration from being near the water and the pier was constructed out of love for her. A ceremony was held to dedicate the pier on the Livingston Intermediate School campus. It will be primarily used for fishing, which is part of the physical education class curriculum for fourth and fifth graders.

Infrastructure improvements in the amount of $295,000 were made this year to connect the campuses and increase speed of the Internet ten times, while upgrading necessary equipment to support the $632,000 spent on Chromebooks for students in fourth through twelfth grades. The technology department replaced projectors with 65-inch LED monitors, enabling a clearer display and requiring less maintenance.

The district added additional content filters that allow students to take the devices home, while still filtered under school and federal policies. The filters have been relaxed to encourage students to take responsibility when they are online. The teacher controls one filter, where they are able to see and control what student’s access while they are in the classroom.   

Technology integration has increased the number of devices on the elementary campuses during the spring semester, while also increasing training for teachers. Decisions are being made as to what teachers find most beneficial in their classrooms.

Full Day Pre-K
This year the district had an increase of Pre-Kindergarten enrollment of over 30 percent from last year at the three elementary campuses. In 2014-2015, there were 123 students enrolled in the Pre-K program. This school year saw that number rise to 162.

Dual Credit
The 2015-2016 school year allowed 122 Livingston High School juniors and seniors to enroll in Angelina College courses for the fall semester. The courses cost $320 per semester, per class. Livingston ISD pays this fee with the additional funds received after the passage of the Tax Ratification Election. The district has historically paid for the textbooks needed for the college courses, but this is the first semester that Livingston ISD has picked up the tuition costs for English, government and U.S. history. The goal of the dual credit initiative is to expose high school students to at least 20 college hours. Studies show that any student completing 20 college hours or more will continue with their college education until a certification is earned.

LHS Academy
Services have been provided to 139 students during the 2015-2016 school year. Of that, 61 students received diplomas during the 2015-2016 school year and 48 students attended the district graduation in June. One student was the recipient of a Green and White Scholarship. Students in the program were at one point two years behind on academic work.

There are 4,039 students enrolled in LISD schools. Among elementary schools, Cedar Grove has 394, 553 in Pine Ridge and 533 in Timber Creek. Livingston Intermediate has 632, while the junior high has 889. Livingston High has a total of 1,003 students and LHS Academy has 35.

There are 3,130 economically disadvantaged students and 450 in special education. The gifted and talented program has 226 students and there are 433 English language learners.

In other business, Hawkins also discussed the personnel change that the district experiences each summer. He said the amount of hiring the district has undergone this year is a more manageable number than in years past, especially when considering the number of retirees.

“I believe this morning we had 12 openings in the district,” Hawkins said. “When I went to work here two years ago in June, there were 40-something openings in the district. Our principals and directors have done an excellent job of making personnel a priority, making hiring a priority, and (human resources) have made that a priority — and I appreciate that. It comes down to people, and people with outstanding training meeting the needs of those we serve.”

Teachers are said to have reported that they are happier at their job and the compensation they receive has improved.

The board reviewed ratings for its campuses. Each principal on a campus takes a team or uses a committee to evaluate themselves in nine categories, scoring from zero to three. A three represents an “exemplary” score, while zero is “unacceptable.” The ratings are eventually reported to TEA.

All campuses at least met the acceptable goal — or a one. No campus overall was rated “exemplary,” though the junior high and high school were close. Every elementary was thought to be highly recognized — which is a two.

Among the factors the district is graded upon are digital learning environment, dropout prevention strategies, and community and parental involvement, where the district as a whole scored “exemplary.” A “recognized” rating was assigned for fine arts.

Others areas of focus included wellness and physical education, 21st century workforce development, educational programs for gifted and talented students, and second language acquisition program — where the district had an “acceptable” rating.

The board also adopted a new mathematics course beginning Fall 2016. The course, “algebraic reasoning,” will be taught after completion of algebra I for selected students. The TEKS covered in the course will address the areas of algebra I that are needed for success on the algebra EOC and to better prepare students going into algebra II.