Several Gold Star Awards were presented during the SISD (Sweetwater Independent School District) Board of Trustees meeting on Monday evening, Nov. 21, 2011 at the Administration Building.
The Gold Performance Acknowledgment awards recognize school districts and campuses that have attained high performance indicators. However, the standards have been raised by 5%, making the award harder to come by.
SHS (Sweetwater High School) was given a Gold Star for Commended Performance in Social Studies; SMS (Sweetwater Middle School) also achieved Commended Performance in Social Studies.
East Ridge Elementary was awarded a Gold Star for Commended Performance in Reading/Language Arts, and SIS (Sweetwater Intermediate School) earned three Gold Stars for Commended Performance in Reading/Language Arts, Math and Science. Board members made the presentations to administration and staff members from the respective schools, praising them for their high achievements.
A campus report was heard from Kirk Stroman, principal of J.P. Cowen Early Childhood Center. He discussed the four programs that are held on the campus which extend from birth to five years old. Various goals regarding development — social, emotional, cognitive, physical, among others — and the eligibility factors were also presented to the board. The components of the school, which include reading, science, music and movement, were discussed also.
The Early Head Start program was highlighted, with the youngest enrollee noted as a two-month-old while the program also has a waiting list for children who haven't even been born yet. Out of all Texas school districts, J.P. Cowen in Sweetwater is one of nine Early Headstart programs.
Photos were also shown during the presentation of the Motor Lab, various classes and the outside learning area — which prompts physical and social development.
Parent involvement at the school, stated Mr. Stroman, is a vital part to the campus. Parents can be classroom helpers, language facilitators and volunteers while engaging in monthly meetings. Community involvement, as part of the social studies curriculum, introduces students to various civic figures like law enforcement, medical professionals and soldiers.
Attendance was also discussed, in that programs and incentives have been implemented. This year, an attendance report card was incorporated at the school for every six week period. Currently, 210 students are enrolled at the campus. Looking ahead, 60% of the students in the SHS class of 2025 would have started their education experience at J.P. Cowen.
The staff of the school, which numbers around 50, is also developing as the campus strives to be a learning campus. At this time, around 30% of staff members are enrolled in a program to earn an Associate's degree.
A final report was given by David White, a representative from McKinstry. Along with two other associates from the company, Mr. White discussed the Cool Schools grant along with another incentive plan in which the district can apply.
The interaction between SISD and McKinstry spurred from the company's interaction with Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital through their renovation efforts. The Cool Schools grant will allow the district to gain around $1.1 million in air conditioning updates. In addition, the district can possibly gain $75,000 to use for future energy improvement works.
Mr. White also made a presentation in which the school can gain further savings through NOLFA (Notice of Loan Fund Availability). The application deadline is on Dec. 16, with other key dates presented, in which the company intends to be aggressive with energy savings.
Requirements of the loan fund were discussed, including the availability to retrofit (improve buildings in order to reduce utility costs) existing buildings, inspections, meeting minimum efficiency standards and costs and repayments.
The loan would include retrofitting lights as well as plumbing in order to reduce water consumption. McKinstry would also offer dedicated customer service through their work as well as filing the paperwork. Also, they would work with the district in training the staff to learn how to operate the newly installed equipment and its functions.
The company also noted their current projects, many which are similar to the one presented. Various schools, cities and counties in the surrounding areas are collaborating with McKinstry, which will allow them to be within close proximity to Sweetwater should an agreement be in place.
Qualifications of the company were also highlighted, as McKinstry explained their core beliefs and capabilities. The company is part of the top 10 firms of industry in the country.
Mr. White described the application process from the Dec. 16 deadline and beyond before entering a Q&A session with the board. It was noted that the high school is currently the largest energy consumer and while there is no initial cost, the district would have only have to make the commitment if the board decided to move forward.
Should the district gain approval with the application and begin the renovation process, SISD Business Manager Nathan Elhert said the updates would "improve the environmental quality for staff and students." No action was taken following the report.
SISD Superintendent Terry Pittman presented the Policy Update 91, a long list of items which affect local policies. A wide range of topics were discussed regarding board member, finance issues, transportation and contracts.
Textbooks have now become obsolete in the classroom, resulting in the name change to instructional material. Assignments, notably end-of-course exams, will see some changes, along with special education regarding the program's transition plan. Other instruction, including economics and personal finance, will be amended.
In addition, student issues were also part of the policy. Physical fitness, attendance and corporal punishment — which is still allowed but will be administered by an employee of the same gender as the student, was also discussed. A summer nutrition program was also mentioned in the policy, and the entire policy update was approved by the board.
However, the board approved to request a waiver from participating in a summer nutrition program in 2012. In the past, there was not enough participation to cover the cost of food and staff. The deadline to request the waiver is Nov. 30.
In addition, the board also approved a resolution which allows the current trustees to complete their terms of office following the district's redistricting. This step finalizes the redistricting process and will affect the 2013 board member elections.
The board approved another resolution to elect nominees to the Fisher County Appraisal District Board. The number of votes were split evenly among the five nominees: Vick Buck, Terry Coker, Richard Gaona, Raford Hargrove and Preston Martin.
Furthermore, proposed district calendars for the 2012-13 school year were presented to the board. Three calendars were given and upon discussion, two were suggested for the final calendar. As a final decision was not made by the board, they approved to present the final two calendars for a majority staff vote.
The consent agenda — which was made up by the minutes for the Oct. 6, 17, and 26 meetings, the financial statements and bills for October 2011, the investment statement and delinquent tax lot bids — were approved.
Also during the meeting, a brief public hearing was held to receive comments on the Goods-in-Transit exemption. No input was given and the board approved the exemption. Two resignations and one retirement were approved in professional personnel changes as well.
In the Superintendent's report, the 2010-11 fiscal year was reviewed by Mr. Elhert. A preview of the draft of the December audit report was given which highlighted the year from a financial perspective. Following the report, $750,000 from the fund balance was assigned to be set aside for facilities improvement.
The tax collections were also presented by Mr. Elhert. Collections currently stand at .97%, or $55,082.18.
The Highly Qualified report, as part of the No Child Left Behind act, was given as well. Only two of the indicators were marked as lower than 100%, but steps are currently being made to raise the two measures to 100%.
SISD Assistant Superintendent Kathy Smartt also gave the enrollment report. At the present time, the district has 2270 students enrolled. While the number is 19 less from the prior month, the district has grown by 80 students since the first day of classes.
An update from the Wallace High School was also given, in which the school will begin offering a monthly report. The number of students has grown by five since the year started and 12 students are anticipated to graduate this year.