WISD board OKs new website provider

Blackboard Inc. wins bid for internet content management

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Waxahachie Independent School District Administration Building at 411 North Gibson Street.

The Waxahachie Independent School District’s website will soon have a new look following a vote during Monday evening’s regular monthly meeting of the WISD board of trustees.

The board unanimously approved a bid from Blackboard Inc. to provide website hosting/content management services. The district recently conducted a request for proposals, or RFP, for website hosting/content management services and received 25 responses to its solicitation. Superintendent Dr. Bonny Cain said each bid needed to be vetted.

District director of public relations Jenny Bridges said the Blackboard platform works with many of the larger districts in the state and would be a good partner with WISD as it grows. Bridges added that Blackboard has more functionality than the current provider has.

District acting director of technology Joe O’Daniel said the content management system is what the district uses to add and remove content on the website, and the current system in use makes it difficult to do that because of the code being used. O’Daniel said the Blackboard system is much easier to use.

District chief financial officer Ryan Kahlden said any changes to the website won’t happen overnight as systems will have to be migrated and built. Any changes to the page won’t go live until near the end of the 2021 calendar year, likely during Christmas vacation.

All seven trustees were present.

Other items

• The board approved the personnel report as recommended by the superintendent that includes employment, retirements, resignations, position changes, and other matters. The board also approved professional contracts as presented. Three new administrators were present and were introduced.

• Recent WHS graduates Anthony Alvarado and Katie Jenkins were recognized for national Hispanic recognition by the College Board National Recognition Program by scoring in the top 10 percent on the PSAT and holding a 3.5 grade-point average.

• The board recognized Howard Junior High’s fine arts program for its success in University Interscholastic League academic competition. Elementary librarian Glenna Reisner was recognized for leading Wilemon STEAM Academy and Marvin Elementary to first-place district finishes in UIL competition, and students were recognized for first-place finishes in Destination Imagination.

• Head baseball coach Tracy Wood recognized recently-graduated baseball player Landon Davis for his academics. Coach Dana Scott recognized graduate Emma Curry, who won numerous honors in cross country and track.

• WISD athletic director Greg Reed recognized head boys’ basketball coach Greg Gober for winning the Class 6A Don Coleman Outstanding Coach of the Year Award; and assistant coach Colten Gober for being named the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches 6A Outstanding Assistant Coach of the Year.

• Six graduates of WISD’s LEAP Academy were recognized by district assistant superintendent for elementary learning Lisa Mott. Two of the graduates have already been placed as assistant principals, Mott said.

• The late Jerry Lawrence was honored by the WISD transportation department. Lawrence, a bus driver, crossing guard and bus monitor employee, lost his battle with COVID-19 in February at age 76.

• Child nutrition employee Tamara Mitchell was recognized with the Exceptional Leadership Award.

• Kahlden gave a presentation on the ongoing topic of budget constraints. Kahlden presented several non-negotiable priorities, including expansion of existing elementary capacities to 800 students; raising the cap on secondary school core classes from 25 to 28 students; a 5-percent salary increase for all auxiliary staff; and the repayment of $1 million into the fund balance. Kahlden said 2021-2022 budget priorities as funds remain include hiring of staff for 600 additional students in the fall; implementation of TASB Salary Survey recommendations including approximately $1.1 million in salary level adjustments and a 2-percent increase in salary for employees; and funds for additional department requests.

• Results from a May survey over the failed 2021 bond referendum were presented by Baselice and Associates. More than 300 voters responded to the survey, which showed that parents were almost as likely as non-parents to oppose the bond. Sixty-five percent of respondents gave concern about a tax increase as a reason for opposition, and 30 percent didn’t trust the district to spend it wisely. Three-fifths of respondents support a second high school, while 28 percent do not, the survey showed. Those in favor of a second high school support reusing Coleman Junior High rather than new construction.

• Kahlden told the board the district expects to receive $8.9 million in ESSER III funding from the U.S. Department of Education, of which $5.9 million is available immediately. The district is conducting a survey seeking input on how to best spend these funds. The survey, which is accessible on the WISD home website, closes Thursday at 4 p.m.

• Doug Whitt with SAMCO Capital told trustees that bond interest rates are near historic lows. The lower rates have meant an increase in the district’s interest and sinking fund balance, which gives WISD an opportunity to pay off older, higher-interest bonds early. Whitt proposed paying $2.5 million in principal on a 2011 bond, which will result in a net savings of $6 million.

• WISD assistant superintendent of secondary learning Dr. David Averett presented preliminary EOC/STAAR scores for the district. English I and II scores were improved, with gains made in history. Averett said there was a decrease in algebra scores at WHS, as well as some significant decreases in junior high math and reading. Averett said he expected to see drops this year because of at-home learning.

• Numerous consent agenda items were unanimously approved. One consent agenda item for flooring improvements at Northside Elementary was considered separately and approved. Replacement flooring, computer lab flooring repair, and asbestos abatement were approved at a cost of $256,614.40.