Several topics affecting many facets of the Sweetwater Independent School District were discussed in a regular session at the monthly board meeting held on Monday evening, Dec. 13.
Among those were the location of the Hobbs alternative school. At last month's meeting, two options were presented yet no action was taken. One was to move the alternative school into the city limits, while the other option was to consolidate with Colorado City's alternative school. During this month's meeting, the board was informed that prices continue to escalate, due in part to the cuts made from the Texas legislature. "To make things cost-effective," said business manager Nathan Ehlert, "we need a partner." He informed the board that joining with another alternative school would save the school district an estimated $75,000 for the alternative education program (AEP) and $35,000 for the discipline alternative education program (DAEP). After some deep consideration, the board approved that the Hobbs school be closed and combined with the Colorado City co-op.
Another heavily considered topic was the turf that is to be replaced inside the Mustang Bowl. Two contractors were invited to present to the board: FieldTurf and Hellas. The FieldTurf representative stressed the importance of safety, playability, durability and value with their product, noting that many high schools, Division I colleges, and even NFL teams play on FieldTurf fields. The representative from Hellas presented the board with their patented system that uses gravel, instead of sand used by many of their competitors. However, Hellas boasted "service after the sale," convincing the school board to approve Hellas as the contractor to replace the turf. Installation of the new turf is scheduled to begin in March.
The Sweetwater Middle School (SMS) was highlighted during this month's campus report. Principal Jeff Withrow along with assistant principal Danette Price and teachers Julie Cypert and Paula Bennett presented the board with the current events and future outlook of the middle school. Bennett stressed the fact that the teachers are working very hard to be the best, getting to know the students personally as well as their educational history. SMS also has a new program in the works called DOCs, or "Dads on Campus." An organizational meeting was held last week and appears to be a promising program.
Cypert informed the board of another program at SMS called the Colt Star-Lite Drive-In Theater, a class that helps students prepare for the upcoming TAKS tests. Students meet daily and are assisted in preparation for the tests, prompting much collaboration between the teachers and the "Drive-In" workers. Cypert also cited successes of the program and the growth made by the students who benefit from the class.
Price shared with the board that her experience in the classroom as well as the staff has helped in her transition to assistant principal. However, her promotion led to a new UIL coordinator, Shaunna Cleckler, which has also led to outstanding results. SMS participated in a UIL academic meet on Dec. 7, with a majority of the students placing and receiving medals. Another change in the middle school, the use of no lockers, has proved to be a positive but still growing transition. Yet another new program at the middle school is "Random Acts of Kindness." Teachers and faculty will be on the lookout for students going above and beyond, in which the student will be presented with a card. The cards will then be placed in for a weekly drawing held on Fridays, in which the student will be acknowledged.
Principal Withrow wrapped up the campus report, stating, "We want to get to the next level." This year's goal for the middle school is to be named an Exemplary campus, and noted several factors that will help the school to attain this status. With 11 new teachers on the campus — seven of them in their first year of teaching, pairing them with veteran teachers and offering training will assist the teachers in their growth. As the state continues to raise the bar in education through the modified TAKS test and even the No Child Left Behind Act, the school must continue to aim higher and even offers more tutorial time for the students. Attendance from both the teachers and the students is another factor, and last month had 97% in attendance at the school. Even teacher incentives, new programs at SMS, the new technology received last year and awards like the gold star awarded for social studies and writing are motivating factors that can lead the school to a top rating.
Another school mentioned at the meeting was Southeast Elementary. The school was recently named on the TBEC Honor Roll for the second year in a row. Principal Vicki Mayberry along with a few staff members who attended the award ceremony in Austin were recognized in front of the board, noting that only 4% of schools in the state receive this honor, making it a very prestigious award.
The superintendent's report was also presented at the meeting. Two professional resignations were reported, along with the resignation of a paraprofessional within the school district. In regards to enrollment, concerns were still present on how to balance the attendance between the two elementary schools, East Ridge and Southeast. The tax collections are currently at $605,072.84, which is equivalent to 9.15% collected at this time. Also, the scores for the exit level TAKS retests were presented to the board, and the numbers proved to be much better than in the past. Another item presented was the current rental fees for the Mustang Bowl. A proposal to increase the fee per game was presented, but the board did not make a decision at this time.
Several items were approved at the meeting, including the consent agenda that consisted of the minutes from the previous month's regular meeting, the financial statements and bills from November 2010, the investment statement, and the delinquent tax lot bid. A motion was also approved in regards to a delinquent tax property, located on 1611 Morris, for a public notice to be made for bids.