The Midlothian ISD School Board voted to approve class size waivers and discussed collecting data on the effects of increased class sizes at its meeting, Monday, Sept. 16.
The school board trustees previously expressed a desire to have a 22:1 student to teacher ratio throughout elementary grades during its budget process. Superintendent Dr. Jerome Stewart explained that he himself, the administration and principals of each campus had set Aug. 15 as the cutoff date to ensure each campus had a 22:1 ratio.
“As of Aug. 15 the student population has grown and we are no longer at a 22:1 ratio for second, third and fourth grades,” Stewart said explaining the need for class size waivers. “We are between 23-24 students per teacher and those at 24 will be capped so they do not go beyond.”
Trustee Duke Burge said, if possible, he was in favor of capturing data to show whether the recent class size increases (since 2007 when MISD had an 18:1 ratio) are detrimental to students. He suggested this data could be shown to the state in defense of a request for more funding to hire teachers.
“I fear it’s more of a long term effect than short term,” Vice President Cindy Williams said.
Trustee Matt Sanders said he prefer to see MISD return to its 18:1 ratio and noted that since coming on the board earlier this year, the administration has presented seven staff positions to the board for approval with none of them being teaching positions.
“The hardest decision I’ve had to make on this board was coming off that 18:1 ratio,” Board President Wayne Shuffield said referring to the district’s budget compression after the 82nd State Legislature cut $5.4 billion from K-12 education.
Stewart said collecting data to show the state the detrimental effects is possible. The board voted to approve the class size waivers and directed administration to research how to collect this data.
The board also discussed purchasing band instruments and requested a plan for future band purchases.
Stewart presented the board with a request to fund the $93,933 purchase of band instruments to replace and expand the band program.
“This item is not budgeted and staff recommends that this be funded out of fund balance and could possibly create a deficit budget,” Stewart said.
Sanders asked why it was not budgeted, and Stewart read that the board directed staff to remove this expenditure at a previous meeting during its budget process.
“We need to get so these issues don’t occur,” Burge said. “It’s like we passed the budget two months ago and now we jump up and to spend $100,000 and run a deficit budget.”
He noted that the district had seen this expenditure coming and suggested they plan for this ongoing expense as they do with maintenance costs.
Burge pointed out that the district continuously sets aside funds (from unassigned fund balance to assigned) to replace air conditioning units every seven years and could do the same with band instruments.
Board Secretary Todd Hemphill concurred with Burge that this looked like very poor planning on the district’s part and suggested the district look at how to gauge the number of students coming into the band program each year.
Williams suggested that the district could use $850,000 in assigned funds designated for the Midlothian Heritage High School band.
Trustee Jim Mentzel asked Stewart if the board would have to make this same purchase again for MHHS, to which Stewart replied that there would be a few duplicates of certain instruments, but that both high schools would use these instruments.
Williams asked when this purchase needed to be approved and staff replied that there is not a strict timeframe. She then asked that staff look at funding and planning options and present theses at the board’s next meeting. The board reached a consensus to take this action.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to contract School District Services for its demographic services instead of its longtime demographer Templeton Demographics.
In other action, the board:
• received a Working On the Work (WOW) Presentation from Robert Lathan’s J.R. Irvin Elementary class on their biographical poem and self portrait lesson
• approved consent agenda items
• discussed nominees for the Ellis County Appraisal District and took no action
• voted 4-3 to award the bid for purchase of school busses vehicles to the least, responsible bidder
• approved the purchase of laptops for secondary teachers with 2006 bond funds
• postponed discussing fencing options at MHHS until next month’s meeting
• received an update from Balfour Beatty on progress at MHHS.