San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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October 21st, 2008
Board meeting reports cover the gamut

The Hays CISD Board of Trustees on Monday heard reports on the district’s financial health, the new parent portal, a salary study conducted by the Texas Association of School Boards, and the latest demographic update. An initial recommendation for middle school attendance zones was briefly discussed, with a public hearing and vote scheduled for November 17. In action, the School Board unanimously approved the creation of 17 Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) data clerk positions to serve the campuses. Estimated cost is $250,000. The clerks are expected to begin working on each of the campuses by Spring 2009.

“We believe this is necessary to move the responsibility of our PEIMS data to the campuses,” said Carter Scherff, Hays CISD Deputy Superintendent. “This will allow them to shift duties and responsibilities of several people into one person at the campus level. It will allow our central information system employees to take on a role of training, support and auditing the data.”

The Board learned that for the sixth year in a row, the district received “superior achievement” on the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). For the first year, the FIRST system is numerical, said Annette Folmar, Hays CISD Executive Director of Finance. The district received 84 of a possible 85 points.

Specific indicators that Mrs. Folmar noted include instructional expenditures of 63.62 percent of the total budget, and an administrative cost ratio of .0739, compared to a state standard of .1105. The district’s student-to-teacher ratio is 15.3 and student/staff ratio is 7.2.

The School Board viewed a test run of the district’s new parent portal-where parents can see their child(ren)’s attendance, schedule, reported grades and assignment grades, TAKS scores and missed assignments-which is now available to any parent who downloads the application form from the district web site.

A “dropdown” menu from the Parents link on the district website (www.hayscisd.net) will reveal instructions on how to sign up and use the parent portal, said Linda Rosebrock, Hays CISD Webmaster.

“You’ll see a link to a form that parents can download to request access,” she said. Parents can fill out the form and email or mail a completed form to the district office.

“The information on the form needs to match the information in our student data system,” she said. A signature is required, so the form emailed should be a scanned PDF format. A link to the district’s grading standards, plus an email address for technical assistance are also on the parent portal page.

“If there are technical issues with the portal, parents can send an email to this address,” Mrs. Rosebrock said. “If they have an issue with a grade, we ask they first speak with their child. If the issue isn’t resolved, we ask they contact the child’s teacher and then contact their campus administrators.”

Marcia McClendon, Hays CISD Coordinator of Instructional Technology, assured the School Board that most teachers are doing well with the new electronic gradebook, called Classroom Plus.

“We are requiring teachers to post the grades weekly so that when parents do go into the portal, they will be able to view the grades in a timely fashion,” she said.

Dianne Borreson, Hays CISD Executive Director of Instructional Technology, assured the Board that several security measures-automated verification checks within the system-are in place.

“Parents can monitor the progress of their children,” she said. “The portal itself is just a window into our system to see what’s going on. It improves communication. It will be better in the long run.”

In January, parents/guardians in the district will receive letters and fact sheets about the portal and announcing training sessions that will be offered at the campuses.

Dane Adkinson with the Texas Association of School Boards, presented the results of a salary study evaluating the district’s pay systems, which include a general increase of 4-4.5 percent, plus equity adjustments at an estimated cost of $3.8 million.

The increase in district expenditures to pay for implementing the salary study would require a tax “rollback” election, probably in November 2009.

“Whatever it is that we eventually come forward with needs to be acceptable to the public in general,” said Chip DuPont, President of the School Board. “We need to help the voters understand that the need and the reasons are important enough to go to the polls and vote for it.”

“This School Board has been very supportive of our teachers,” said Dr. Kirk London, Superintendent of Hays CISD. “It is not fair or practical to expect our School Board to approve this plan unless we get behind this and make sure our community knows how important it is for us to move forward as a district. I am confident we can come up with a good plan to get us where we need to be.”

Attendance zone boundary proposals for the district’s fifth middle school, which is expected to open in August and is located adjacent to Hemphill Elementary School on Highway 150, were previewed by the School Board. The proposed map is available on the district web site or by calling 268.2141. Students who currently attend Dahlstrom, Chapa and Wallace middle schools would be pulled to the new school, with roughly 600-700 students projected at each of the four middle schools. The new middle school will open with fewer than 500 students, many from low-income households, and different programming.

“We are currently talking about programming with that school,” said Dr. London. “We will present to the Board the innovative things we’re going to do to give these students the very best opportunity by the time they get to high school.”

Other attendance zone modifications include removing approximately 120 students from Science Hall Elementary School, currently the district’s most crowded school, and drawing an apartment complex currently under construction in Buda into the Tom Green Elementary School attendance zone.

A public hearing on the proposed attendance zones will be on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. at Hays High School Career and Tech Auditorium. Following the public hearing, the School Board will vote on the zones to take effect in August 2009.

Scherff reported the latest housing survey by School District Strategies, saying new housing starts are down only 10 percent from last year, “mild compared to the rest of the nation.”

“Based on these numbers, we revised the enrollment projections,” he said. “We feel like we’ll be slightly slower, but we’ll still continue to grow at a good, solid pace.”

by JULIE JEROME
Chief Information Officer – Hays CISD

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