ENNIS – Ennis ISD board of trustees heard a report from former member Connie Durbin on the formation of a district education foundation during their meeting Tuesday night.

Durbin provided information she received from recent seminars and meetings with other districts that have foundations.

“With the current problems of school funding, it is even more important the district form a foundation,” Durbin said. “This is a nonprofit group that raises funds to help with programs within the school district.”

A foundation is not a part of a district and is a separate entity governed by a board of directors made up of community volunteers, she said.

EISD superintendent Dr. Barbara Qualls said, from her past experience, district trustees and members of the administration also are members of the board, although they usually are not voting members.

The function of a foundation is to complement the district by funding projects.

“It does not replace any part of the district budget, it complements it,” Durbin said, saying the funds raised stay within the district.

The district looked into a similar program several years ago, with trustee Pete Bibby asking why it wasn’t started then? Durbin responded by saying the district wasn’t sure how to raise the start up funds and there were questions on how to administrate the program.

She noted there are grants and other sources now to help with startup funds along with several resources to help form and administrate a foundation.

Qualls said the next step to starting a foundation is for district staff to meet with advisors who will provide two individuals who consult with districts with newly forming foundations as well as districts in the startup process.

The trustees scheduled a public hearing at the administration building at 6 p.m. Aug. 30 to be held prior to discussion of the district’s 2011-2012 budget and proposed tax rate.

Lisa Fincher said the proposed tax rate is the same as last year’s; however, the district’s taxpayers will see an increase in their tax bill due to increased property valuations.

The trustees approved the student handbook, with Kathy Cikanek saying she has made some cosmetic changes that improve the look and make it more user-friendly.

“This book is still a work in progress,” Cikanek said, saying the handbook has to address technological needs as well as other school policies.

The trustees also approved the appointment of Ellis County Extension Service agents as adjunct staff members, with Qualls saying this is a normal action brought to the board every year. The three agents are Mark Arnold, Page Bishop and Rita Hodges.

During the superintendent’s report, Qualls introduced two special guests, including Matthew Bennett of Ennis Middle School, who gave the trustees an overview of the capabilities of a computer network program named My Big Campus.

My Big Campus allows students and faculty to use the system to form blogs and other communication methods for learning aids. According to Bennett, the system is totally secure from outside contact or harmful websites and is designed to be used by students as young as kindergarteners.

The other guest was Houston, a trained therapy dog whose handler demonstrated his ability to stay calm by having him at the entire board meeting.

“These type of dogs have a very calming affect on people, especially children with special needs,” a spokesman said, saying Houston will be used in the classroom with students in the life skills program.