SISD tax rate lowered

The SISD (Sweetwater Independent School District) Board of Trustees met for their regular meeting at noon on Thursday, June 7, 2012 at the Administration Building.Two public meetings were held during the meeting--one regarding the 2012-13 tax rate and the other for the district's technology plan. While no input was given for both open forums, action was taken on both matters.Approval was given to adopt the 2012-13 tax rate at $1.095 for M&O (Maintenance and Operations--which covers daily operations within the district) and $.12 for the I&S (Interest & Sinking--collections for voter-approved debt), for a combined total tax rate of $1.215. This is lower than the total current rate of $1.225 (per $100 value); the current rates are at $1.06 (M&O) and $.165 (I&S), respectively.Preliminary talks have been ongoing with the Department of Justice about the Tax Ratification Election (TRE), which the board approved for the election to take place on August 25, 2012. In the meantime, school administration plans on presenting information regarding the TRE to various civic clubs.The public hearing on the SISD Technology Plan also took place with no input. However, the board approved the plan and discussed technology within the district--from regulations to the future outlook of how technology will be used in the classroom.The technology plan is handed down by the state and is to be met by the district, in which they are 100% in line. This plan must be in compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act, or CIPA--which will be presented in further detail at the July meeting. The plan is updated annually and both are required in order to receive state funding for the school district.SISD'S policy lays out how internet use is monitored, in that Internet filters and blocks are in place to prevent student from viewing objectionable material. Safety and security is always implemented when students are using the network of the district."Hacking and other unlawful activities"--as noted on the SISD Internet Safety Policy--are also monitored by Region 14. Thus, students committing offenses online can be found through the IP address, which will lead faculty to the location of the computer and what computer was used.Students will be given age-appropriate training for their use of the district's internet facilities. Younger children will be verbally instructed, while older students will view videos regarding safety, appropriate behavior and cyber-bullying. Students will also have to acknowledge that they have received and understood the training.With textbooks becoming obsolete, printing costs have risen considerably as a result. To alleviate the problem, SISD Superintendent Terry Pittman informed the board that the district is coming close toward a plan to implement technology for each student in the classroom.Pros and cons have been weighed by administration, in regards to wireless capabilities, proper usage of the technology by the student, the grade to issue the technology and guidelines and consequences. Work, however, does continue on the initiative.In addition, the board approved two interlocal agreements with Colorado ISD for AEP (alternative education program) and DAEP (disciplinary alternative education program) for the continued partnership with Wallace Accelerated High School.Since the district transitioned from Hobbs to Wallace, positive changes have been seen from several levels. Savings have resulted from a financial standpoint, and student success has improved in TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test results, retention and completion for graduation.The agreements are similar to last year's documents, and the board noted their satisfaction on the good relationship and working program with Colorado ISD.Several professional personnel changes were also approved, which included 10 resignations, 10 reassignments and eight new hires. The consent agenda--which is made up of the minutes from the May 21, 2012 meeting, the investment statement and delinquent tax lot bids, along with the May 2012 financial statement and bills--was approved as well.Some other paraprofessional personnel changes--which required no action from the board--were noted in the Superintendent's Report. The update also included the status on tax collections, which were noted at 95.71% collected or $5,443,204.70.Also briefly discussed was enrollment and retention, which are of concern to the district. However, SISD is not the only district dealing with these concerns as education is a large concern throughout the entire state.Drug testing results were also presented to the board from the past school year--a troubling issue in that "one [student] is one too many". 26 positive tests were reported from the middle school and high school; this number represents 13 students from nine different testings who abused the drugs marijuana and cocaine. Additionally, the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) test scores that were recently received on the district were discussed. Superintendent Pittman looked at five different state-mandated tests along with their minimum standards, the current pass rate, the future passing rate four years later--which the state placed at a significantly higher value from the current rate, and the advanced rate of passing.The state has implemented stiffer standards on the tests and also gives each subject a different rate on passing the respective test. Retesting takes place during the summer, with remediation offered prior to the test. But with the higher state standards and their timeline in releasing test scores, students who fall short on their testing--specifically on several tests--will undergo several hours of preparation in a short time frame before the tests.In addition, other concerns are also being heard regarding the state tests in that next year, the tests are expected to make up 15% of a student's final grade in the subject--determining not only pass/fail scores, but will affect grade point averages and class rankings.The district is looking not just at the numbers of the tests but the level of instruction to prepare for testing. The hope of the district is that the continued and rigorous use and teaching of the C-SCOPE curriculum--which presents higher-level thinking similar to the tests--will help to improve test scores.