ITALY – The Italy ISD board of trustees approved a resolution Monday evening to join 300-plus schools across Texas concerning the school finance system and potential litigation to protect the taxpayer and schoolchildren of the state.
Barry Bassett, superintendent, told board members that he recommended this joint venture with Equity Center.
Wayne Pierce, executive director of Equity Center, said in a letter to the district, “Actions taken during the regular and special sessions of the 82nd Legislature put public education in an untenable financial position. And, there are clear indicators that this is not a short-term problem, necessary only to deal with a temporary budget shortfall, but what members of the leadership have termed ‘the new normal.’ ”
The letter continued, “We believe these legislative actions regarding the funding of Texas public schools are just cause for those committed to an efficient and adequate funding system for children in Texas schools, fair treatment for Texas taxpayers, and a return to local control of public schools to take necessary action to stop the erosion of these principles.”
Bassett explained that under current funding, a property rich school district, such as Highland Park, can raise $5,600 with 56 cents in school taxes. A district the size of Italy must charge taxpayers $1.06 to raise the same amount of money.
Mark Stiles, school board member and former Texas legislator, said the school funding mechanism is unconstitutional.
Before voting, Jon Mathers questioned whether this lawsuit could cause a backlash from the state.
Bassett said the district lost $1 million from last year’s budget. He asked what more could the state do to the district?
In other business, Richard Harvel, fifth-grade science and social studies teacher had several students demonstrate their leaning techniques with iPads. He said each student in his class has an iPad and has applications that allow them to take tests, do homework and research projects online. He said they have access to kid-safe Internet to gather information for various projects. He is able to track the children’s progress on various programs, thus allowing him to explain something in more detail, if necessary.
He said his room stays clean because students do not use paper or pencils. He said students are responding positively and learning with this approach.
The board also reviewed a recent safety audit at both campuses conducted by a Region X inspector.
The recommendations at the Stafford Elementary are:
• Consider fencing the large electrical box in the back courtyard as well as all gas mains.
• Cap and fence the loose gas line in the courtyard area.
• Consider utilizing a master key system so principal does not have to sort through numerous keys to find the proper one. This could be a problem in an emergency.
• Install a sign indicating this is an alcohol, tobacco and weapons free school zone as required by Title I.
• Consider keeping classrooms locked at all times possible. Be sure all storage rooms are locked.
• Be sure all teachers have a lockable space in classroom for their valuables.
• Be sure flammables are kept at least three feet from hot water heaters and electrical panels.
• Require every student occupied space have fire exit maps posted near the door.
• Have fire extinguisher in computer lab serviced.
• Train school secretary in CPR and first aide since she is the nurse’s aide backup.
• Consider contracting with or hiring on a limited basis an LVN or an RN to advise nurse’s aide.
• Distribute list of CPR trained staff to all faculty.
• Consider purchase of a computerized background check system for visitors to the campus.
• Consider installation of a buzz in entry system. If the system is installed with a camera, no additional construction would be required.
• Consider installation of a peephole in the cafeteria delivery door so staff can view before allowing delivery people into the building.
• Consider removal of monkey bars on playground and wooden equipment from playground.
Recommendations on the high school campus are:
• Create a detail plan for and conduct emergency drills for fire, bad weather and lockdown situations.
• Be sure all rooms have a fire exit map posted near the door.
• Create new crisis management plan.
• Consider fencing of campus to keep out potential intruders.
• Consider creating a bus drop off lane separate form parent and student traffic and making the driveways one way. Also, consider creating designated parking for visitors.
• Install drug, alcohol and tobacco free school zone signs.
• Consider fencing air conditioning units, exterior electrical panels and gas mains.
• Remove microwaves from classrooms due to potential fire hazard.
• Consider creating conference rooms near office area so teachers-parent conferences are not conducted in teacher’s classroom in isolation.
• Consider planning so female coaches do not have to go to the bus barn alone late at night.
• Get flammables away from hot water heaters and electrical panels in storerooms.
• Get dryer in old gym repaired so vent is operating properly.
• Create list of CPR trained staff to distribute to faculty.
• Consider rearranging registrar’s office so visitors who are signing in cannot view confidential student information while standing at her window.
• Consider computer system that does criminal background check on all visitors to the campus.
• Number all exterior and interior doors so they can be identified in an emergency.
• Develop a plan so principal can have one master key that fits all doors on the campus.
• Be sure all classroom teachers have a lockable place to store their valuables.
• Install signs on all exterior doors asking visitors to report to the principal’s office.
Speed Hamby, maintenance director, said they have completed some projects and others are in progress. Board members asked Hamby to prioritize the audit with a timeline and reports each month until recommendations are completed.
The board also discussed the possible purchase of two-plus acres near the agriculture barn located on Farm-to-Market 667. They took no action.
Tanya Snook presented an ESL overview noting there were 60 students in the program last year.
District-wide enrollment is currently 567 with refined average daily attendance at 534.91 or 97.72 percent.
In other business, the board approved an interlocal cooperation contact with Ellis County and approved a resolution sanctioning 4-H as an extracurricular activity. They scheduled policy review meetings from 1-5 p.m. Oct. 17 from and from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 18. They also approved August board minutes and financial reports.