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TISD board discusses district improvement projects

The Thorndale Independent School District Board of Trustees discussed capital improvement projects for the district amount other things at its meeting on Oct. 14.

TISD Superintendent Adam Ivy informed the board that he had been collecting cost estimates for several projects that were all part of the districts long-term facilities plan. 

Ivy added that due to the new state funding formula they were able to put around $200,000 into the budget to go towards one of these projects. He also stated that there will be an additional $90,000 from SHARS billing along with $100,000 that is still sitting in I&S fund balance that can only be used for building or renovation projects. The district has also added nearly $1,000,000 to the fund balance over the last four years. 

The projects that Ivy presented included:

- The removal and rebuilding of the west end of the Middle School Gym to allow for air conditioning to be added. This would greatly benefit the elementary PE program as well as the Middle School volleyball and basketball program.

- The installation of electronic locks throughout the district. This would allow for much better access control and a safer environment.

- The renovation and resurfacing of the track surface.

- Replacement of the roof material on the current high school and portions of the elementary. This roof system is still holding up but is over 20 years old and will need replacement in the next few years.

Ivy said the board might be able to accomplish more than one of these items if at least some fund balance money is utilized. He also added that the district is very close to paying off a maintenance and operations loan that could give room to use a new loan to accomplish yet another project. 

The board discussed all of these potential projects and decided to move forward with planning for rebuilding the west end of the Middle School Gym and adding air conditioning along with installing the electronic locks throughout the district. 

The board voted 6-0 to move forward with this plan. 

The board also heard from administrators about what is going on at their campuses.

Elementary principal Michael Young reported that the elementary was ramping up the UIL academic program with regularly scheduled practice times to allow for more consistency. 

High School principal Jennifer Parnham added to her report by highlighting the band’s excellent performance at last week’s marching contest. She also briefly discussed the upcoming speakers that will be talking to students in fourth through 12th grades about the dangers of vaping. 

Superintendent Adam Ivy also added that Police Chief Mark Birchard and Justice of the Peace Judge Gary Northcott will be attending to talk to the students about how serious vaping, tobacco, alcohol and drugs are and what the consequences will be if minors are caught with these items. 

Ivy then discussed a recent bill that was passed by the legislature that will require the district to consolidate the current social media accounts from more than 20 to around five. Ivy added that this would not decrease communication but would simply consolidate where that communication is published. 

All three principals shared data from the first nine weeks that demonstrated how students were performing on the objectives that had been taught so far. They explained that they had worked together to set new, higher expectations and had set the bar above the state minimum level to pass the STAAR test.

The board heard a discussion concerning the district’s affiliation with the Burleson-Milam Shared Services Cooperative and its role in the district’s special education service. Ivy explained that due to new legislation TEA would no longer be overseeing shared services arrangements so the BMSS cooperative would be transitioning from a shared services arrangement to an interlocal agreement staring in the 2020-21 school year. 

He asked the board to approve a resolution that would grant permission to the superintendent to make decisions regarding this transition also with approving the use of the law firm that represents BMSS to also represent Thorndale ISD in drafting this new interlocal agreement. The board voted 6-0 to approve this resolution.

Ivy along with all three campus principals presented the campus improvement plans for the 2019-20 school year along with new targeted improvement plans for the Middle School and Elementary campuses. The principals talked about how the new plans were designed around an intensive use of data that is being used to drive instruction and intervention for every student. The board voted 6-0 to approve the improvement plans.

Due to the very large increase to the district’s insurance premiums and deductibles during the last year Ivy presented the board with a program called School GAP protect. This program is designed to form a pool of districts that share the cost of deductibles to prevent any one school from wiping out their entire fund balance in the case of a major storm.  

Ivy presented the board with a set of scenarios that showed how the district would fare in the event of an insurance claim both with and without the GAP Protect program. He clarified that no matter what the board chose to do that there was a risk involved due to the fact that deductibles had risen from $10,000 per incident to $300,000 per building during an incident. After discussion and weighing the pros and cons the board decided that it was prudent to join the School GAP Protect program to minimize the risk to the district. The vote was 6-0 in favor of the program.

Business Manager Rebecca Peel presented the 2019-20 Financial Procedures Manual to the board. She stated that there were only a few changes, which included raising the staff meal allowance from $22.50 per day to $30 per day to more closely align with the new student meal allowances. Other changes included removing language concerning long distance because the new phone system has no long distance charges and adjusting the language concerning rental of district facilities to align with board policy. The board voted 6-0 to approve the manual.

Technology Director Deby Leschber briefly explained to the board that she needed to buy 200 new Chromebooks to begin the process of keeping district technology up to date. She stated that there are several hundred devices that will no longer be supported starting in June of 2020 and this purchase will help to get the district on a regular cycle of replacement. Peel added that they were hoping to get the point of purchasing around 100 devices each year. 

Ivy explained that the funds for these devices will be coming from the States Instructional Material Allotment and that the cost per device was less than $150 each which is far less expensive than the same exact devices were a few months ago. The board voted 6-0 to approve the expenditure.

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