Various updates given at SISD board meeting

The Superintendent's Report was given during the November meeting of the Sweetwater ISD Board of Trustees, which highlighted a wide variety of issues within the school district.One update given was on the district's food service, as changes had to be made locally--along with all the other districts in the nation--due to the amendments in the National School Lunch Program. Though feedback has been varied, a majority of students are not pleased with the changes.On top of that, food costs continue to rise. Nathan Elhert, the Sweetwater ISD Business Manager, stated that losses have been seen in the food service as money is literally being thrown away because children will discard the food they dislike.As a result, Sweetwater ISD hopes to learn what the students like at lunchtime while still sticking with the federal guidelines. Tentative plans include possible substitutions, serving students' favorite foods and offering a favorite item rather than serving everything to students.The district also desires to bring in a cafeteria consultant to learn what steps to take, with possible plans of having some students take part in taste tests to learn favorite entrees.But on a positive note, a report on the 2011-2012 fiscal year was given by Elhert as well. Good news was reported as over $1.1 million was added to the fund balance.Contributing factors include steady numbers in enrollment, funding cuts from the state were not as strong as anticipated, and that campuses were making all-around savings. In addition, the Cool Schools grant--which allowed Sweetwater ISD to obtain updated air conditioning--lowered maintenance and energy costs.Furthermore, savings are still being seen from the closure of the Hobbs Alternative School as the district joined the Wallace Accelerated High School. Also regarding the Wallace school, an update was given during the meeting, in that 18 students from the district are currently at the campus. Retake results from the former state-mandated test, TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge of Skills), were given, with success seen in the Science and Social Studies exams.Concerning the staff of the district, the Highly Qualified Report was given and noted that 100% of the teachers at Sweetwater ISD are considered "highly qualified," in accordance to the No Child Left Behind Act.Paraprofessionals must also be considered "highly qualified," but recent state regulations now require paraprofessionals to be certified. Sweetwater ISD Superintendent Terry Pittman said that the district will be taking steps to ensure this entire staff group--currently seventy serving the Sweetwater campuses--will become certified.There are three tiers of certification, in which the paraprofessionals will attain the top level. The district will cover any costs for the first certification, but the paraprofessionals will have to pay for reapplication costs thereafter.Furthermore, as of November 13, the enrollment at Sweetwater ISD stands at 2,199 students--a ninety-student increase from the first day of classes. An enrollment projection was also briefly discussed, which took into account births in Nolan County and other trends.However, pre-kindergarten was not part of the list as well as unexpected patterns, like the upcoming Cline Shale project. The projections are historically based and listed up to the year 2023.In related updates, an report on the Cline Shale was given, in which Sweetwater ISD was represented at a past meeting regarding the oil exploration and production project. Nolan County is one of several area counties included in the largest point of impact.Snyder has already felt the impact of the upcoming boom, with their industrial park filled to capacity and growth in school enrollment. Sweetwater, as well, has seen growth in their economic development opportunities.The Cline Shale is expected to be so big that a representative from Washington, D.C., came to learn about its impact. Expectations are for increases to be seen in leasing and truck traffic, along with the possibility of man-camps and water stations.The purpose of the meeting was to allow all entities that will be affected by the boom to be proactive and learn as much as possible.Pittman also informed the board about key points that will be issues for the upcoming 83rd Legislative Session in Texas, handing out a pamphlet that highlighted the concerns. Among the points were high stakes testing and accountability--like the STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) test, a voucher program, education service centers, the TRS (Teacher Retirement System), and public school finance. It also stated how to contact elected officials and other websites to learn more about the upcoming session.In paraprofessional personnel changes, two resignations and one new hire was reported. And with the new fiscal year beginning, tax collection only stood at $77,745.20, or .15%. By the end of the calendar year, the numbers should pick up.The board was also reminded about several upcoming events, such as their team training and evaluation of the superintendent on January 14. New board members will also have to complete a superintendent's evaluation on their own time.