A brief discussion on campaigning restrictions and a hefty surplus-property sale highlighted the April session of the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees.
The members worked quickly through one of the shorter agendas of the school year Monday night before tackling two items on the superintendent's report after a closed session that lasted a little over an hour. The closed session was to consider contracts for employment, retirements, resignations and position changes among teachers across the district.
During his report, Waxahachie ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn asked the board to consider "reasonable restrictions" to electioneering conducted across Waxahachie ISD campuses during the voting season. He noted principals reported several instances during the November election cycle that caused distractions and safety concerns, especially with candidates encroaching the pick-up lines after schools released.
Lee Auvenshine, WISD Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services, delivered the proposed restrictions to the board, which include signs being no taller than 4-foot-by-4-foot and those signs be designated to a 20-foot-by-20-foot area on each campus. He also proposed a 10-foot-by-10-foot area be designated for electioneering on each campus during the early voting period.
The restrictions would not apply on Election Day, Saturday, May 5, Auvenshine explained. Candidates would still have to remain outside of the 100-foot restricted zone, as marked by the Ellis County Elections Office and set by the Texas Elections Code.
Auvenshine informed the board the proposed restrictions are very similar to that of the City of Midlothian and came after speaking with Ellis County Elections Administrator Jana Onyon. He also explained the new local ordinance would allow for candidates to be removed, via a misdemeanor, for violating the change. He added school officials had issues with candidates walking into the pickup lanes after classes released, which created a safety concern.
"Is this too restrictive," asked board member Dusty Autrey, who also pointed to a few slides of proposed electioneering zones that he felt were too far away — or on the opposite side of the building — from election entrances.
Board president James Villarreal agreed with Autrey, which Auvenshine followed by stating the zones could change after consulting with the campus principals. He remained adamant the zones are intended to limit distractions and ensure safety during the early voting period.
Trustee Joe Langley stated he felt the zones, as presented, were "fine" to be on "the other side of the school" as long as it removes candidates from the pickup lines.
"On Election Day, there will be no changes at all other than to stay 100 feet away [from the polling location]," Glenn clarified.
The motion passed 7-0.
Early voting for Waxahachie ISD trustees is April 23—27 and April 30—May 1. Times vary depending on location.
Candidates include Stephanie Jennings Singleton, Melanie Reynolds, John W. Rodgers, J. Lance Bray, Kim Kriegel, Melissa Starnater, Shannon Moyers, and Eric Cunningham.
There is also a $23 million bond proposal for a new elementary school in the North Grove subdivision.
In other business, the board agreed to sell 26.7 acres of surplus property for $373,800, which Glenn stated is over the appraised value. The land tract is located at Parks School House Road and Graham Street in Waxahachie.
The consent agenda also passed unanimously.
BUDGET AND FINANCE
Various furniture was designated as surplus and will be moved to a central location for a public auction. All of the items will be valued at less than $5,000, according to Glenn.
The board received a budget update as an informational item, only. Payroll comprises about 80 percent of the WISD budget. The district should become a Chapter 41 school district, which Ryan Khalden, WISD Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance, said means the district would have to pay about $200,000 back to the state because of rising property values.
He estimates the recapture payment could increase upward of $1 million over the next three-five years. Khalden noted Midlothian is the only other Chapter 41 district in Ellis County.
CURRICULUM AND ACADEMICS
Turner Pre-K, which the board recently approved to become a full-day program, will increase its staffing by five next year.
Shelle Blaylock, WISD Assistant Superintendent of Leadership and Academics, asked the board to approve a request that would allow students of WISD employees to attend Turner Pre-K next year, as space allows.
The board unanimously approved the motion. The cost and policy will be determined at a later board meeting.
FACILITIES AND CONSTRUCTION
The board unanimously approved to move forward with construction by Nay Compay for the Support Services Annex.
The board unanimously awarded a contract with Concord Commercial to renovate the WISD Administration Building.
Waxahachie ISD Assistant Superintendent of Facilities Clyde Melick also gave the board a construction update on the new high school, which has spent $94.5 million of the $118 million budget so far and is 80 percent complete.
The board approved six new hires, as well as several resignations and retirements discussed during the closed session.
Contract renewals for teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians are typically presented every April and were unanimously approved for the 2018-19 school year, as discussed in the closed session.
The board approved TASB Board Policy Update 110.
Glenn reminded the board of meetings set for April 28 (high school dedication with tours for the community available), May 7 (special called meeting/last session of current board), May 8 (canvass election), May 11 (Hancock dedication/WNGA), and May 14 (regular May meeting/swear-in new trustees and elect officers).
The new Waxahachie High School will hold a grand opening event Aug. 13 for the community to attend, as well.
The trustees adjourned at 8:30 p.m.