Safety on campuses throughout Waxahachie was on the front burner Monday night during the regular session of the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees.
After discussing several options that ranged from off-duty officers to additional security measures, the trustees returned from about an hour long closed session to unanimously authorize district officials to begin the process of implementing the Guardian Program.
According to several recent news reports, approximately 170 of the over 1,000 public school districts across Texas have implemented the initiative.
A previous Daily Light report detailed the Guardian Program already in place across Palmer ISD.
Palmer ISD Superintendent Kevin Noak told the Daily Light that members of the program are all hand chosen, obtain a license to carry and are analyzed by a psychologist in Waxahachie. Members are required to take a 560-question test that is often given to police candidates and then undergoes three, long days of extensive training. The faculty then acts out intense active shooter scenarios.
He added that some members store the handguns inside a hidden safe during the school day, while others keep the firearm on the person.
More information on the plan for the Waxahachie ISD Guardian Program will be detailed at a later date. The program is currently in the exploratory phase.
SAFE AND SECURE
Waxahachie ISD chief security officer Eric Kyle presented the trustees with a districtwide safety and security update.
Kyle stated all campuses have secured main entrances, and security officers are on all campuses, at all sporting events and other district events. He also noted there are 17 district-employed security officers — up from three in 2006.
The district also has one School Resource Officer (SRO) who visits all district campuses and off-duty Waxahachie Police officers are used at various sporting and campus events.
Kyle said he hopes the district can continue to upgrade security cameras and lighting at all district campuses, expand the SRO program, expand the current security department and continue evaluating the district emergency management operation plan.
Waxahachie ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn commended Kyle and his staff for continually addressing the safety of the district. Glenn also informed the board that School Shield — a national program focused on school safety — will soon walkthrough campuses and evaluate the district’s security.
Lee Auvenshine, Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services, explained to the trustees that, under state law, the district cannot authorize an armed-security force without employing commissioned peace officers.
He also said the Waxahachie Police Department recently conducted an active-shooter drill at a date and time known only to the department and it “went very well."
Trustee Gary Fox informed the board he is in favor of a district police force, which he recalled previously voting in favor of during a previous meeting. Board member Dusty Autrey also said he thinks the district needs more than one additional SRO and should consider voting in favor of either the Guardian or Marshall Program, as well.
Clay Schoolfield asked Auvenshine if there is a possibility of employing part-time, certified peace officers as need. Though the option is available and is often utilized for sporting events, it is very costly, Auvenshine explained.
He also confirmed to board president James Villarreal that Waxahachie Police Chief Wade Goolsby has informed the district that only one potential SRO would be available for next school year.
The trustees unanimously approved the addition of one SRO and several campus lighting improvements.
A process to establish new attendance zones across the district began in the spring of last year. That process concluded with the unanimous passing of Elementary Plan 2-B, which “keeps everyone out of the functional capacity until 2019” when Felty Elementary could reach capacity,” said Shelle Blaylock, Assistant Superintendent of Leadership and Academics.
Plan 2-B changes the original proposal by allowing students in Buffalo Ridge Phase 1 to remain at Felty with future phases zoned to Clift Elementary, River Oaks is zoned to Marvin Elementary and The Arbors will stay at Shackelford Elementary.
Glenn noted the new, altered plan would eventually allow for the district to “lock in” zones.
Blaylock then presented the junior high feeder plan, also labeled Plan 2-B. The feeder plan splits the district into three zones and gives the junior highs until 2024 before any of the three hits functional capacity (Coleman).
School choice options in Waxahachie ISD include the dual-language academy, STEAM Academy (Wilemon Elementary), a residential choice of elementary schools by application for campuses under capacity, and early college high school (Global). Waxahachie Global High School is the only option open to residents and non-residents. All of the school choice options require the parent or student to provide transportation.
Several local policy amendments were also passed that addressed transfer policies of students who are children or grandchildren of district employees. Those students will allow for those students to transfer to any elementary or junior high school that is not at capacity.
Melissa Bousquet spoke to the board about a potential districtwide wellness and fitness center with an idea of “fit employees/productive employees.”
The onsite workout facilities would provide district employees an opportunity to relieve stress, create a culture of wellness and encourage teamwork. She also listed the top-10 reasons to entertain the idea of onsite wellness centers, which included space readily available at the current Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy, better rest, increased brain power, increased retention rates, convenience, reducing employee healthcare costs, and increased attendance, among other things.
Bousquet concluded by stating the kids will ultimately be the No. 1 group who benefit from the wellness center because the teachers will be happier, healthier and more energetic.
Glenn agreed with the presentation and asked the board to consider the “low-cost option” with intent to put the proposed center to a vote at a future meeting.
Sylvia Coulson is 27-year district volunteer and began the open forum by speaking to the trustees at length about the rise in her property taxes and a desire to “maximize the available space” in the district instead of building a new elementary school.
“My income is going down, but my property taxes are going up,” Colston said. “How did we build nice schools before bonds? Our taxes paid for them.”
The trustees called for a $23 million bond election for a new elementary school to be built in the North Grove housing development during the February meeting. The proposal will not increase the district’s tax rate, Villarreal assured during at the time of the passage.
Shannon Moyers asked for the trustees to consider a stipend for any teacher who enrolls in the school marshal program. She also addressed the “misuse” of current campuses and facilities.
Kim Kriegel and Mike Lee spoke about school safety. Lee, a children’s minister, stated “there is an evil in this world” and asked the board to consider increased security on the campuses across the district.
The consent agenda was approved in full. The agenda included new band uniforms, fireworks for the 2018 graduation, the conveyance of approximately 11 acres to build North Grove Elementary from John Houston Homes, which was donated contingent on the May bond election, as well as track and turf replacement at Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium.
The board of trustees recognized several outstanding individuals before taking action on the lengthy agenda.
First up were the Imagine Girls from Howard Junior High. The group of about 40 female students is dedicated to community service and community involvement.
Lady Indian head basketball coach Lesli Priebe was recognized for notching her 500th win during her 22nd year at Waxahachie High School.
Sharrika Levingston — a three-year Lady Indian softball captain, and involvement in a host of other community clubs — was honored as the teen school board member of the month.
Finley Junior High principal Adan Casas also recognized science teacher (and future administrator) Brittany Griffith as the Waxahachie ISD employee of the month.
In other business, the board of trustees:
Approved a bid from JM Construction Solutions to build an $18,000 fence to secure the perimeter of Wilemon and complete interior modifications. As part of the $3 million campus improvements budget, the board unanimously approved a $30,800 bid from The Greenery to install trees and irrigation on the Northside Elementary campus. Received a construction update: The new high school is 77 percent complete. Hired five new teachers hired and promoted Rachel Rector from her role as a teacher at Clift Elementary to assistant principal at Northside Elementary. Approved TASB Board Policy update 110. Took no action to update DEC Local regarding reimbursement of leave days for retirees beginning 2018-2019. The board will gather more information. Informed WISD will retain its label as a District of Innovation for four more years. Unanimously approved the 2018-19 school calendar, which includes flex days, three professional days, marks homecoming as Oct. 26, the same Christmas break length and an extended spring break. The board learned 71 percent of the 510 responses to the district-issued questionnaire were in favor of the calendar presented Monday. Unanimously approved two budgetary items and updates.