Meneses sworn in as new SISD Board Trustee

The Sweetwater Independent School District (SISD) Board of Trustees met for its regular session meeting on Monday evening, May 16 at Sweetwater High School (SHS) in "The Hub" conference room.Several presentations were made to open the meeting, including a variety of resolutions, a robotic demonstration and the recognition of a departing board member.Four resolutions were given to a wide range of extracurricular organizations within the school district. Sixteen students in the Sweetwater FFA (Future Farmers of America) were recognized for qualifying to the state level in the areas of Cotton, Dairy Foods, Land, Meats, Poultry and Range. Three Sweetwater High schoolers were also recognized and presented with resolutions. One member of the SHS Choir, Austin Burt, was commended for qualifying to the state competition for his solo. Jayci Shelton was recognized for qualifying to the state track meet, and Ryan Mercer was honored for being a state qualifier in boys' golf.Also, the Sweetwater Middle School Robotics team led a demonstration of three of their robots. Led by sponsor Shana Hrbacek, the group of middle schoolers recounted their recent robotic workshop, the forming of the boys and girls team and an overview of their program.Departing SISD Trustee Bryan Studdard, who opted out of reelection, was presented with a plaque for his nine years of service to the school district by Superintendent Terry Pittman, who praised Studdard for always keeping the interests of the students in mind during his tenure. Studdard offered his appreciation to his fellow board members and reiterated his concern for the students, saying he was "blessed" with the opportunity to serve.With Studdard exiting the board, new Trustee Mark Meneses was sworn into office along with current board member Russ Petty, who were both unopposed for the positions. Following the oath, the board reorganized into its new order as Becky Jimenez now presides over the meetings.Approved at the meeting was the consent agenda, which featured the minutes of the regular meeting held on April 18, the called meeting on April 20, the investment statement and budget amendment. The April 2011 financial statements and bills were approved as well, and the delinquent tax lot bids — which were deemed too low, thus unacceptable — were also approved.The board also approved the hiring of EIC, or Educational Independent Contractors. The entity specializes in employing and paying teachers through their company rather than the school district itself. Some current SISD employees have expressed interest and those who participate will greatly benefit from a financial standpoint.Another consideration for approval were some changes within a couple of local policies. Regarding the FNF, which deals with drug testing, some revisions were implemented such as refusals for testing being the equivalent to a positive test result and the timeline and measures to take for reinstatement to participate in extracurricular activities. An insightful discussion on the matter took place among the board and with its approval, students will be informed of the changes that will take effect as early as next school year. Also approved for changes was in the BE local policy for the time of board meetings to be set at 5:30 p.m., in contrast to the previous statement of 6:30 p.m.Other changes that will also be implemented for next school year are the changes in dress code. As previously reported, the public forum held regarding standard attire within SISD led to the formation of a committee to determine if the school should transition into standard attire or make changes to the current dress code.Assistant Superintendent Kathy Smartt praised the cooperative work of the committee members, who ranged from each end of the dress code spectrum. The committee concluded in a majority to make changes to the current code in an effort to be more specific in expectations. Another main factor will be the consistent enforcement of the updated dress code, which not only addresses clothing issues like sagging and cleavage but continual cultural trends such as tattoos and piercings. The board approved the new dress code and the board stated that parents will be informed through a variety of outlets. SISD faculty and staff members will also have to comply with the dress code, with the only exception being facial hair.Several personnel changes — both professionally and paraprofessionally — were noted in the meeting for next year's staff. Four resignations, one retirement and two new hires will take place in professional personnel, while three resignations and two retirements were named in paraprofessional personnel. In the Superintendent's Report, it was noted that the tax collections at the end of April 2011 stand at $6,339,545.15, equaling 95.82% being collected. The enrollment numbers were positively reported as being higher than last year, and the district is ending the year with more students than it originally started with.An update on Hobbs was also given, in that items in the current facility will be cleared out to move to the district's new location. The release date is set for June 15, in which the building will be turned over to Rotan ISD at that time.A retention report was presented, and while communication between the involved parents and teachers was commended, there are concerns of high retention numbers within the elementary schools. However, a positive outlook was presented for projected growth in the overall kindergarten class for next school year.Also reported was the proposed bus routes for the 2011-12 school year by the Bus Transportation Director of SISD, Scott Lambert. The district plans on implementing 25 local bus stops in comparison to the current stops which stand at over 100. The new plan should prove to be convenient not only from a financial perspective but for the students as well.