Voluntary resignation program discussed at SISD board meeting

The SISD Board of Trustees met for their regular meeting on Thursday evening, Feb. 24, at the Administration Building.The board discussed and approved to begin the process for a voluntary resignation incentive program at the meeting. By setting the plan in motion, the district intends to address the declining revenue, promote early notification and provide ample time and information for the district in order to address next year's staffing, scheduling and budget needs.To be eligible for the program, staff members must be a full time employee; a certified classroom teacher or librarian, campus counselor or registered nurse; or have at least 10 years of service credit from grades pre-kindergarten through 12th.The pay-out would amount to an equivalent of 20% of the employee's base salary for the 2010-11 school year, with the maximum set at $10,000.The program would be limited to 20 employees. All interested employees would sign and submit a notice of interest starting on Monday morning, Feb. 28, with the deadline set at 4 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 11. The board did state, however, that the signature only states an interest and does not bind the employee to a decision.From that point, the Voluntary Resignation Incentive Agreement would need to be signed and submitted by 4 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 15. From the time that the agreement is sign and dated on the 15th, the employee has seven days to revoke the agreement. If the agreement is submitted before the 15th, the employee waives his right to the 45 day period.Should the employee follow through with the agreement, the benefits would be received in a lump sum through a check on June 3, subject to withholding. To get to the top 20 could prove to be a lengthy process, which could postpone the date of the pay-out.Because they are not contract employees, paraprofessionals are not eligible for the program. In addition, the newly approved plan does not require a waiting period for rehiring; the previous plan had a two-year wait.Also, a campus report was presented at the meeting by the principal of the J.P. Cowen Early Childhood Center, Kirk Stroman. Stroman noted that teachers are required to make home visits to their students in order to engage families and exchange ideas and concerns. By year's end, teachers will have made over 76,000 face-to-face contacts with parents. The current head start classes that are enrolled amount to around 60% of the future graduating Sweetwater classes of 2023 through 2028.Several initiatives were presented to the board by Stroman. School ownership promotes involvement from everyone within the school, including a weekly "Lunch with the Principal". Also incorporated is the JP Drum Corp, where students assist Stroman with the morning announcements and pledges.Another initiative is parent involvement which the school strongly pushes. Monthly parent meetings address such issues like discipline, budgeting and eliminating barriers. Activities are also held at the school where parents can go to class with their child and help with projects. As a result, the school has seen a 500% increase of parent involvement.Response to Intervention is another initiative at J.P. Cowen, namely with the START (Support Today and Readiness Tomorrow) program. Four different facets make up the START program, including language and communication, social and emotional development, cognitive and academic development and physical development.A strong push in social studies and science is yet another initiative. The school desires to introduce students to various roles within the community, with the awareness that community helpers make a difference. Students partake in various science experiments, and the curriculum for next school year offers a strong science program."Mission Transition" is an initiative to help students move from the head start program to the elementary schools. The goals of the steering committee — made up of head start, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers within the school district — are to establish expectations as well as identify and eliminate barriers. The committee also works toward a "kindergarten camp" and setting up campus visits for students and parents.The school also integrates fun into their campus through participation in the Christmas parade and technology. J.P. Cowen currently has five smart boards on campus, with a goal set of receiving at least two more. The technology promotes reading, math and social development.Awards were also presented at the meeting by the National Center for Educational Achievement (NCEA). The NCEA identifies schools that consistently outperform their peers and recognizes their achievements in preparing students for college and careers. The list of NCEA Higher Performing Schools was released, with 1,113 schools in Texas receiving this honor. Southeast Elementary, Sweetwater Intermediate School (SIS), and Sweetwater Middle School (SMS) were among three of the six schools making the NCEA list within Region 14.Also regarding academics were the release of the school district's NCLB (No Child Left Behind) report card. Secondary math and science will be the primary push as a result of the report, with a continued focus on financial support for teachers.Several action items were approved at the meeting as well. Among those was the consent agenda which consisted of the minutes of two called meetings in the past two months and the regular meeting held last month, the financial statement and bills for January, the investment statement and the delinquent tax lot bids.Another approval came for the order of election for school board trustees on May 14. The election will be for two spots in Districts 3 and 4. Furthermore, the principal and administrator contracts were approved for extension, along with a professional personnel change to take place at the end of the school year with the resignation of a teacher at SIS.The superintendent's report noted another resignation of a paraprofessional within the district. In the enrollment report, the board was pleased to see growth at J.P. Cowen. However, there was some concern in the drop of students at Sweetwater High School, in which the board hopes to further study the declining numbers.The tax collections were presented and currently stand at $4,343,155, or 65.65% The number is down from this time last year, but the report was compiled through Jan. 27, in contrast to the official end of the month of Jan. 31.A brief discussion was held in regards to state funding, with the conclusion that while cuts are inevitable, the severity of the losses are unknown. The board was also presented with the official calendar for the 2011-2012 school year for SISD.