Summary Report
April 9, 2018
Board Workshop Agenda
Board meeting videos

Executive Session

Trustees met in executive session to discuss personnel, real estate and the superintendent’s evaluation. No action was taken.

Second Reading of Policy

Trustee Katherine Dawson said that there had been several questions submitted since first reading about TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) Policy Update 109. She also said several policies had been pulled from the update packet before presentation of the packet to the Board for first reading. She said this is standard practice as not all policies are relevant to SBISD. The policy packet will come back to the board for third and final reading at a future meeting.

TASB Policy Update 109 Overview
Board Policy Website

Transportation Update

Transportation Director Sherri Lawson gave a periodic update on the transportation department, including preliminary findings and recommendations from a recent route audit conducted by the Region 4 Education Service Center. The district’s fleet includes 266 school buses, all equipped with GPS, air conditioning and camera systems. New buses purchased will include seat belts. The district operates 198 diesel buses and 68 propane buses, which drive nearly 2.5 million miles annually. A shortage of drivers continues to be a challenge, Lawson said, with an average daily shortage of 18 drivers. She said that’s made up by having some mechanics drive, other drivers taking on several routes and utilizing other qualified drivers – who in some cases are teachers.

Lawson said that the district has received grants of $521,000 and $275,000 to purchase school buses, offsetting some of the money approved by voters for transportation in the 2017 bond package. Because buses with seat belts have less capacity than other buses, more buses have to be purchased.  The route audit preliminarily revealed that transportation accommodates SBISD campus’ many bell schedules but that accommodation – coupled with Houston’s typical traffic congestion and road construction, causes late arrivals. The audit suggested the district look at putting more time between bell schedules, and that it consider creating walk zones (of either a quarter- or half-mile), and “walk to stop” policies where students are picked up at the end of a street rather than in front of their houses. The audit also suggested using common pick-up sites for transportation to the district’s charter schools, including Cornerstone Academy and Westchester Academy of International Studies. The quarter-mile walk zone could save the district $17,000; the half-mile walk zone could save $571,000; the pick-up sites are a potential savings of $600,000.

Because SBSID is a Chapter 41 district – it is considered property-wealthy and pays recapture (Robin Hood) – it gets no transportation assistance from the state, said Associate Superintendent of Finance Karen Wilson. SBISD’s transportation budget is around $8 million, she said; state assistance, if provided, would be around $1.8 million.

Trustee Pam Goodson said that some campuses are able to use time differently, thanks to SBISD’s District of Innovation (DOI) status, causing some inefficiencies in the district’s transportation system. Goodson also noted that when the district had to make strong cuts in the budget in 2011 that Trustees discussed moving the “walk zones” but decided against it. She also said that Board decided against seeking advertising on buses as a revenue generator. Lawson said she estimates that perhaps $40,000 could be raised through advertising on buses and that she wasn’t sure it was worth it.

Transportation Presentation

SBISD Website Replacement Project

Communication specialists Melissa Wiland and Kristen Cain gave an update on the website replacement project currently underway. Wiland said that the current site is reaching its 10th year of service and that industry standards suggest an update/refresh every 2-3 years. She said that both best practices and the work of SBISD have evolved over those 10 years and that the new website will reflect that. Due diligence at the beginning of the project revealed that the district website serves as a marketing resource while campus websites serve as resources for parents and students.

Cain stepped Trustees through a dynamic, multi-functional home page that displays a lot of information while serving as a jumping-off point to a number of other areas. A key component of the new design is the “Join Our Team” feature for recruiting teachers and other employees. The new website also features a more robust search function, a common complaint about the current site. The new home page will also feature high-level data in a data dashboard that also serves as a link to the more nuanced district data dashboard, branded Compass.

Trustee Josef Klam said that “on behalf of families in the district, thank you,” and asked about planning cycles for updates. Wiland said that absolutely there was a need for a 3-5 year plan for the website, and that a good website is always in a state of evolution. The new website is scheduled to go live in mid-summer this year.

Website Replacement Project Presentation

FY2019 Budget Update

Associate Superintendent of Finance Karen Wilson said that district has received a $6.1 million adjustment from the state for appraisal adjustments in prior-year values. There is always a lag in the adjustments, Wilson said, because of appraisal protests and also because the adjustment is determined first by an audit then flows through the state comptroller’s office to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The $6 million will go towards the current budget’s bottom line, reducing the use of fund balance from $21 million to $15 million. She said that SBISD received $7.6 million last year that also went towards the budget’s bottom line. She noted that the money helps create a positive fund balance through fiscal year 2021 of .2 percent. She said that the board and district have focused on getting through the current biennium with the hope that the Legislature will work on school finance during its upcoming session beginning in January 2019.

Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri said that several superintendents have told the Commission on Public School Finance that their fund balances will run out in three years, and that commission members have then said they have three years to fix school finance. He said he’s drafting a letter to the commission to encourage them not to wait three years. SBISD Board policy is to maintain 19 percent of expenditures in its fund balance, or savings account. SBISD uses fund balance to make payroll and meet other expenses through the fall of each year, before tax revenue starts coming in later.

Closing Remarks

Dr. Muri reminded Trustees that this is testing week at most SBISD campuses, and that sleep and breakfast are paramount for students over the next few days.

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