The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

June 12, 2013

WISD board OKs $1.4 million for campus construction projects

Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — The Westwood Independent School District’s Board of Trustees approved more than $1.4 million in summer improvements for its four campuses during Monday’s school board meeting.

WISD’s Construction Manager At-Risk Britt Patterson went over plans for the summer improvements at campuses including Westwood High School, Westwood Junior High School, Westwood Elementary School and Westwood Primary School.

The board unanimously voted to approve the summer improvement bids for $1,403,629 that will include, among other improvements, concrete paving and road work at the elementary and primary campuses, new gym floors at the elementary and primary campuses and new entry ways for the high school and junior high school campuses.

At the junior high school campus, heavy duty concrete will be poured for the bus drives. At the primary campus, the bid included security updates to replace the store-front glass, changing the appearance of the front entrance and taking out glass in some of the doors.

The WISD trustees also discussed at length, taking no action but choosing do more research on board president Theresa Bambeck’s proposal to consider re-opening the pre-kindergarten program back up to a full-day program and charging parents tuition for those children do not qualify for the state-funded program, as some neighboring school districts do.

Currently, WISD operates a morning and afternoon half-day pre-kindergarten program for qualified children, which is paid by state funding. For the 2012-13 school year, 16 students took morning classes and 15 took the afternoon classes for a total of 31 students, employing one teacher and one aide.

Bambeck said she would like to see if there is an interest from the community to offer a tuition-based full-day pre-kindergarten program in the future, versus sending children to a baby-sitter or pre-school.

“It would help the children and the school. It would let all of the children start on the same level when they enter kindergarten,” Bambeck said. “Parents would have the option of giving their children a head start on their education.”

The board members discussed the pros and cons of instituting a full-day program. Currently, there is one vacant classroom that could be used in addition to the one currently in use for the Pre-K program.

If the district offered a full-day Pre-K program, it would be required to take the children who qualify for the free half-day program first, however the state will only pay for a half-day program, meaning the school district would have to subsidize any extra costs out of local funds if an additional teacher and aide were needed (estimated at $70,000) or if a portable building (estimated at $100,000-$120,000) were necessary due to more parents wanting to participate in the full-day program versus the current half-day program.

Parents participating in the tuition-based Pre-K that do not qualify for the free half-day program would pay the tuition in advance by the semester.

Also during the meeting, WISD Finance Director Tricia Wardell gave a report on the district’s financial information including fund balance reports, projected revenue and preliminary budget estimates.

It appears that overall revenues for the 2013-14 year will be up by about $300,000 from the 2012-13 school year, Wardell estimated.

The district’s WADA (Weighted Average Daily Attendance) is down by about 117 from last year, however state funds should increase slightly, Wardell explained. Title funding will be down by at least $25,000, but final numbers were not available. The end-of-the-year enrollment was down by 27 students to 1,579 total.

Wardell said there is an estimate of increased revenue per student with a gain of about $251 per WADA from new legislation, which will help offset some of the fund loss resulting from reduced enrollment. Budget information will be presented at each summer school board meeting.

The board also nominated Dr. Carolyn Booker for the Texas Association of School Boards Board of Directors for Region 7. Booker’s name will now be on the ballot along with board members from other school districts.

During the open forum, Nick Spencer, representing the Westwood Youth Football League, asked the school board to consider allowing the organization to use the football field on Saturdays  from August through November. Spencer said the organization is made up of 85 percent of Westwood kids and the other 15 percent from area students.

The school board elected new officers for the 2013-14 year with Bambeck remaining as president, Dr. Carolyn Booker remaining as vice president and Dr. Don Rice serving as secretary.

Committee assignments also were made:

• Faculty Improvement Committee — Craig Nivens, chair; Mike Bentley and John Tilley.

• Superintendent Evaluation Committee — Bambeck, chair; Rice and Joni Barone.

• Construction Policy Committee — Booker, chair; and Bambeck.

Also during the meeting, the board took the following action:

• APPROVED hired, accepted resignations and leave requests of professional and non-professional personnel following a closed session period.

• APPROVED Region VII Education Service Center agreements for 2013-14.

• APPROVED supply bids, student insurance bids for 2013-14 and will continue using Region VII ESC purchasing cooperative for Food Service Bids during 2013-14. The district will continue the 2013-14 student insurance contract (second-year) with Texas Student Resources. The pricing for next year will remain the same as the 2012-13 pricing of $9,441.

• APPROVED paying for unused faculty local leave days for the 2012-13 school year. Approximately 59 employees did not use at least one of their local leave days. WISD pays $50 per day for un-used personal leave days to WISD teachers for a total cost to the district of about $7,000. This practice is meant to encourage teachers to remain in the classroom and provide quality instruction, versus using a substitute when not absolutely necessary.

• DISCUSSED yearly fund-raising/accounting reports from student groups.

• APPROVED changing the date for the July 8 meeting to July 22.

• APPROVED delegating “fast track” hiring authority to WISD Superintendent Dr. Ed Lyman and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Clint McClain from July 1 to Aug. 31.

• APPROVED the consent agenda which included minutes of the regular board meeting on May 13 (with corrections), May tax report, fundraisers for next year and the first reading of TASB Policy Update 97.

School board member Joni Barone was absent.