New SISD Board Trustees sworn in

Changes and celebrations were prevalent during the SISD (Sweetwater Independent School District) Board of Trustees meeting held on Monday night, May 21, 2012 at "The Hub" at Sweetwater High School (SHS).SISD Superintendent Terry Pittman presented a plaque and expressed his appreciation to the two outgoing board members, Gail Lawrence and Jeanie McPherson--who served on the board for the past ten and six years, respectively. A reception was held prior to the meeting for family, friends and community members to show their appreciation and offer well-wishes to the ladies.The two seats on the board will now be filled by Leah Andrews and Neal Hoover, who took the oath of office and began their service during the meeting. The board was also reorganized and--as it was an action item--approval was given to the new format. Russ Petty will now serve as the board president, with Nancy Johnson in the vice presidential role and Ginny Mayes as secretary. Along with Hoover and Andrews, Mark Meneses and Becky Jimenez will continue their service on the board.Numerous resolutions were also given to a number of SISD students in a variety of programs. The Sweetwater Mustang Band garnered three resolutions for their sweepstakes win, representing the school in the state solo and ensemble competition and for Crysten Ivy's accomplishment of becoming a TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) all-state band member.The Sweetwater FFA (Future Farmers of America) career development teams were also recognized for their achievements in qualifying for state competition, along with the Sweetwater Middle School's state-qualifying TMSCA (Texas Math and Science Coaches Association) team. SHS freshman art student Amber Hernandez was also honored for representing the school at the state VASE (Visual Art Scholastic Event) competition--a first-time accomplishment for any Sweetwater High School freshman.Also during the meeting, a presentation on technology within SISD was also given by Mike Marlett, the district's Director of Educational Technology.Smart boards are now utilized and are available in almost every classroom. Document cameras--an upgrade from the overhead project--will allow a teacher to place printed material on the machine that can be displayed to the classroom; the smart board then allows the teacher to write on the board without affecting the print.The district's website was shown and the different tabs available to browse. Some of the journals available give teachers access to different methods, ideas and tips for the classroom, while others discuss current events within the district.The calendar tab will give users a daily breakdown of activities at different campuses. Updates via Facebook and Twitter will also share events, and iPhone users can subscribe to SISD calendar updates.The photos and videos tabs were also highlighted. The photo tab takes users to the "flickr" account for Sweetwater ISD, and photos can be downloaded at different sizes, as well as videos. The video tab will send users to their "vimeo" account, that includes recent music programs and the "Cyber Stampede" podcasts made by students.Marlett stressed that with the continual use of technology in the classroom, hands-on interaction is key for both students and teachers. Different websites that are used were shown to the board, including PBS kids for elementary students.Students can also receive supplements and assistance with assignments through the "knowledge engine" Wolfram Alpha, tutoring with the Khan Academy site, and visit the Library of Congress website, among others.Teachers are able to be mobile in the classroom through the use of slates that give them access to the technology via wireless connection. As textbooks continue to head toward becoming obsolete, the district hopes to slowly make a full technology transition.Marlett praised the teachers for embracing the classroom technology, while the board expressed their appreciation to Marlett for his work in teaching faculty members how to utilize the technology.The board also took action during the meeting on a proposed Tax Ratification Election (TRE), in which the process was explained by SISD Business Manager Nathan Ehlert. This opportunity would serve a two-fold purpose of avoiding additional budget cuts for the next year while giving taxpayers a lower tax rate. The district will already be seeing a state budget cut of $330,000 for the 2012-13 school year.The school's tax rate is in two categories: M&O (Maintenance and Operations)--which covers daily operations within the district and I&S (Interest & Sinking)--collections for voter-approved debt. Currently, the rates stand at $1.06 and $.165 (both per $100 value), respectively.New electrical transmission lines and mineral values will greatly increase the district's taxable base, thus allowing for a reduction in the I&S tax rate. The proposed TRE would decrease the I&S rate to $.12, while raising the M&O rate to $1.095.This change would, in turn, lower SISD tax payers' total tax rate to 1.215--from the current rate of 1.225--and give the district an additional $393,000 of funding. From this amount, $229,000 will come from local taxes while the other $164,000 would come in the form of state funding.A timeline for the election was presented, with a June 7 public hearing to be held for the board to adopt the tax rate. The proposed election date is August 25, with early voting to be held two weeks prior starting August 8.SISD has one of the lowest total school tax rates in the county, and acknowledged that while economic hardships still continue, they are pleased to offer some relief to taxpayers while avoiding additional budget cuts. Following the proposed plan, the board approved setting the rates of $1.095 for M&O and $.12 for the I&S, along with the public hearing to be held at noon on Thursday, June 7 toward the Tax Ratification Election.Furthermore, the board approved changes to the 2012-13 Athletic Handbook for SHS athletes. New SISD athletic director and head football coach Shane Mobley presented the amendments to the board, which included a wide variety of issues.An extended time of strength and conditioning training will follow after the end of a season, which will encourage involvement in all sports within the athletic program.An athlete's attendance will be monitored during the season, in which Mobley noted that if a student is missing practices, he and the staff will meet with the student to see if any outside situations are causing problems. Grades will also be checked, with academic probation to be determined in some cases. The hope is for students to excel in the classroom the entire school year, rather than when their sport is in season.Profanity will not be tolerated from players and coaches, with 20 pushups required for discipline. Vulgar music will also not be allowed during workout time. Mobley stressed that being an athlete is a choice, in which the students will be held to a higher standard and be held accountable.Consequences will also be given toward stealing uniforms and equipment, and medical concerns were addressed. Injuries must be reported to the athletic trainer, and forms will need to be submitted for trauma such as concussions.Grooming and tattoos were also discussed, as well as letterman and eligibility for sports, with Mobley stressing that whatever is implemented in the handbook will be followed and executed. The main concern addressed by Mobley and discussed with the board was athletes using and abusing alcohol and the handed-down consequences. Different levels are set for continual disregard of the rules--with other steps added to the prior level, which include essay writing about alcohol, a public apology, physical consequences outside of regular practice and counseling.Game suspensions will also be handed out at higher levels of consequences, along with community service. Referrals to intervention programs will be issued as well. The most severe level of discipline will--along with the prior consequences--also involve meetings with the athletic director and the school board, with possible removal from the program. Mobley said that only the athlete, the athlete's parents, administration or local authorities would be able to report alcohol offenses.With the approval, the expectation is for high school students-athletes to receive the handbook in a timely manner in order to review the changes.Approval was also given to the Consent Agenda, which consisted of the minutes from the April 16, 2012 regular meeting, the investment statement and the delinquent tax lot bids, along with the April 2012 financial statement and bills.Several personnel changes were also announced, with approval given toward the professional changes--as seven resignations, three retirements, nine reassignments and seven new hires were reported. In paraprofessional changes, only five reassignments and two retirements were noted.In the Superintendent's Report, tax collections came in at 95.16% collected, or $5,412,040.32. Enrollment as of May 15 noted 2,201 students in the district, which is an increase of eleven students from the first day of classes.A reminder was given on the upcoming graduation ceremonies as well. Sweetwater's commencement will take place on Friday, May 25 starting at 8 p.m. in the Mustang Bowl.Graduation at Wallace Accelerated High School will be held on Thursday, May 24 at the Ruddick Park Amphitheater in Colorado City at 8 p.m. An update of the school was given, with 13 students graduating--proof that the new program has been a success.In addition, the SLI (Summer Leadership Institute) conference for the board will be held from June 13-16 in San Antonio. The regular June meeting for the board will be a noon-time lunch meeting on June 7 at the Administration Building.