WAXAHACHIE — Educators employed by Waxahachie ISD have approximately 1,000 extra reasons to begin counting down to the first school bells of the upcoming year.

During their regular monthly meeting held Monday, July 10 in the Mabel and Eva Grizzard Board Room, the WISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved salary raises for teachers, auxiliary staff and administrators. For educators, the increase means an extra $1,000 or so added to their yearly income.

In other business, the trustees received an update on the general fund balance, approved a change to the meal charge policy, agreed to a three-year contract with a college-readiness program and chose a vendor to supply over $1 million in furniture for the new high school. The board, along with those in attendance, also held a special graduation ceremony for five Waxahachie seniors who completed coursework for a high school degree during the summer.

“On behalf of the board of trustees, I am ecstatic to be able to pass along a five-percent-on-average rate (increase) to our auxiliary staff, a 3.6-percent average raise to our teaching staff and a 3-percent raise for all administrators,” said Dusty Autrey, who sat in the place of board president James Villarreal during the meeting. Villarreal was the only of the seven board members not present.

Following the meeting, WISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn said the raises agreed to by the board place WISD salaries “near the top in Ellis County.” He also credited the trustees with being proactive and recognizing the need to keep salaries competitive.

“This is also the fourth year in a row that our school board has addressed salaries. They continue to keep teacher pay at the front of all of their action because they understand the quality of teachers in the classroom is good for students,” Glenn said.

“At the end of the day, our school board and administration are dedicated to making sure, in all action that we take, that we do what is best for students and certainly the action today to raise (salaries) is going to help us recruit and retain some really good people. We are excited and thank the trustees.”

CAPS AND GOWNS

Before diving into the consent agenda or action items, five seniors received their diplomas and moved their tassels, joining the ranks of Waxahachie High School alumni.

The road was not easy for Blake Bullard, William Hyden, Gabrielle Jackson, Summer Brel and Tre Taylor, explained Waxahachie High School principal Dr. Al Benskin, but the five committed to themselves and their educators to go the extra mile after falling short of meeting the requirements for the May commencement.

“And they did,” said Benskin, beaming toward the capacity crowd seated on the second floor of the WISD Administration Building.

“As I stated, these students have gone the extra mile and you all have gone the extra mile with them. We have also had some educators who have gone the extra mile with them, as well, and one in particular who always sees them through to the end is miss Jill Hocutt.”

While coaching the soon-to-be graduates through the finer points of moving tassels from left to right before the ceremony, Hocutt candidly said, “They (the graduates) are all really good kids who just struggled a little. I’m so, so proud of them.”

BUDGET AND FINANCE

The trustees unanimously adopted a change to the WISD meal charge policy presented by Ryan Kahlden, WISD Assistant Superintendent of Finance. The change will allow for charged meals to drop down to the alternative meal price ($1.75), removes to issuance of a “cheese sandwich” after three charged meals and allows for the district to write off the remaining charged-meal balance under the child nutritional fund instead of the general fund at the end of the school year.

Kahlden also updated the board on the state of the general fund for the 2017-18 school year, which Glenn said is in better shape than it was in 2013 despite having roughly the same balance.

On Aug. 31, 2013, a slide provided by Kahlden reflected a $23,941,018 fund balance, while the same slide showed a projected $25,935,933 for Aug. 31, 2017. Of the roughly $26 million balance for the upcoming school year, the district will have an estimated $3,387,403 available after subtracting the three-month reserve ($19,548,590) and the $3 million to be used for campus improvements as recommended by the Long Range Planning Committed.

Glenn explained that the district — thanks to a conservative approach by Kahlden and his staff — has increased the general fund even after HVAC improvements at several campuses, purchasing $9 million in land and reconditioning the gymnasium at Turner.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

The trustees unanimously approved to sign a three-year, $86,615.35 contract with Naviance for a districtwide college-readiness program. The agreement also provides two single-year options. Each year costs approximately $39,000. The original quote “came down a little” after the district sought competitive bids, stated Shelle Blaylock, WISD Assistant Superintendent of Leadership and Academics. Collegiate Zone submitted the second bid considered by the board.

The trustees unanimously passed a UIL exempt-course list for the grades 6-12 to be implemented during the upcoming school year. According to Blaylock, the goal of exempt courses is to encourage students to take chances on tougher and college-ready classes without the fear of failing the UIL no-pass-no-play guidelines. The list of exempt classes can be found in the course catalog.

The board agreed to move forward with choosing a vendor for the design-build services for a new support services building. The Nay Company, Speed-Fab Concrete, and Concorde Commercial will all be asked to provide qualifications and estimates to be considered by the board.

The board voted 6-0 in favor of contracting CMC to install security cameras, alarms and entry-card readers at the new high school. The bid, approximately $235,000, was about $8,000 more than the lowest bid submitted by Johnson Controls. It was also, however, lower than bids submitted by KLC and Bat Security, according to Clyde Melick, WISD Assistant Superintendent of Facilities.

The trustees unanimously approved to enter into a contract with School Specialties to furnish the new high school. The snapshot bid ($962,000) came in between the two others submitted, which included a $1.1 million proposal entered by Lonestar Furniture. Melick noted he is “confident that they (School Specialties) can supply a turnkey operation.” School Specialties was contracted to outfit Turner, as well. The snapshots are not an exact number and were only used for the bidding process.