Alvord ISD’s budget, tax rate down

With last year’s big paving project on the ground and paid for, Alvord ISD Superintendent Bill Branum said the district’s proposed budget and tax rate are both a little smaller for 2014-2015.

The proposed operating budget for next year is $7,222,956 – about $290,000 less than the current 2013-14 operating budget.

“This reduction is mostly due to the fact that the major expenditures for paving have been completed,” Branum said this week. The budget was discussed in a school board work session Aug. 12.

Branum noted that the instructional budget is increasing by about $192,000 – to $3,869,000 – due to the addition of art being offered on each campus, an assistant principal position at the elementary campus and the startup of a volleyball program at the middle school and junior varsity levels.

Branum said the food service budget has also increased by about $12,000, and bond payments for the new middle school and high school addition are going up about $3,000. The proposed food service budget is $440,348 for the fiscal year, and bond payments are $814,000.

The total of the proposed operating, food service and debt service budgets is $8,477,304 for 2014-15.

The proposed tax rate to fund that is $1.3540 – down a penny from last year. The proposed rate includes $1.17 for maintenance and operations and $0.1840 for debt service.

Branum told the board in its July 31 meeting that a 6.37 percent rise in property values would likely require the district to return between $89,000 and $110,000 to the state under the Robin Hood finance system.

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Enis takes job in Burleson

Curtis Enis is leaving the football sidelines in Alvord and will return to coaching on the hardwood.

Curtis Enis

Enis resigned from Alvord ISD Wednesday and will be the girls basketball coach at Burleson High School. His wife, Rhonda, also will leave her post as girls track coach in Alvord to become an assistant at Burleson in basketball and track. She is expected to tender her resignation after signing a contract with Burleson.

“We’re moving to Burleson and will become part of the community there and help the kids,” Enis said.

“I wish the kids in Alvord well. I enjoyed the kids, the faculty and administration. They were all good to me. The girls program will continue to be good and the boys are fixing to be real good. I’ll be 60 miles away but I’ll be rooting for them.”

Enis, who was in his second tenure at the school, leaves after a turbulent spring in which the Alvord ISD trustees failed on a 3-3 vote to extend his contract. Later, the board stripped the athletic director role from him with a unanimous vote.

Enis coached at Alvord from 1989 to 2008, then returned to the school in February 2011 as the athletic director and head football coach. Under Enis, the Bulldogs went 10-20 in three seasons.

The team was 3-7 last year in 2A Division II. But after moving down to the new Class 2A in the latest round of realignment, the Bulldogs are picked to win District 5-2A Division I by Texas Football.

“They are going to have a great football season,” Enis said. “The kids have been working hard and will reap the rewards of their hard work this year.

“It’s been impressive how hard they have worked the past two years. We were young offensively and defensively last year and made mistakes. They were lack-of-experience mistakes.”

He was the Bulldogs’ head coach in 1997, leading the team to an 11-2 record and trip to the third round of the playoffs.

He hired his brother, Greg, as head coach in 1998 and Alvord captured a district title.

Enis came back to Alvord after a two-year stint as the girls basketball coach at Saint Jo. He said his goal at Alvord was to develop a strong work ethic.

“When I came back and looked at the boys program, we had to establish a work ethic,” Enis said. “We had established that with the girls when I was here the first time, a strong work ethic and a commitment to the athlete as a whole. We knew it’d take time.

“What also held us back were the numbers. We had 200 kids, and we were playing schools with 260 and 280. We were the small fish in the big pond. We tried not to use that as an excuse.”

Enis said after this year’s realignment, which placed Alvord in a league with Valley View, Chico, Blue Ridge, Bells and Trenton, the kids in the program began working even harder.

“You saw that they were gaining confidence. I didn’t think they could work any harder, but it just amped up the kids’ work ethic,” Enis said. “They are going to be really good. I’m not going to be there to be a part of it. I hope the rest of the staff stays there.”

Curtis Enis said he hopes current assistant and former Chico coach Pete Hart lands the athletic director and football coach job. A group of players led by incoming senior Joe Randall addressed the school board at its Thursday night meeting to ask that the board “hire from within.”

“He’s a good coach, hard worker and very thorough,” Enis said. “He’s deserving of the head coaching position.”

AISD posted the opening Wednesday for a head football coach and athletic director. No date was set for the hiring.

Going back to coaching basketball full time, Enis takes a 433-215 career record. He is 19-13 in playoff games and led teams to seven district titles. He took the Alvord Lady Bulldogs to the state tournament in 1995, falling to Sudan.

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Alvord ISD board to welcome new members

After an election which saw one incumbent unseated and a vacant seat filled, the Alvord ISD board of trustees will swear in two new members Thursday evening.

Charlie Matthews defeated Jeannette Ward, who has held place 7 for two terms, and will take her seat on the board.

Lance Thweatt won a three-person race to fill place 6, vacated by Randy Hamilton last June.

After administering the oath, the board will reorganize and elect officers.

Principals will report, and Superintendent Bill Branum will update the board on the district’s investments and plans to build a greenhouse to be used in science classes.

Other items on the agenda include:

  • roof work at the high school, to be done with committed fund balance;
  • a contract with the Education Service Center for 2014-15;
  • purchase of two school buses, also with committed balance;
  • naming selection committees for faculty and principals;
  • authorizing a public auction for properties that have been struck off the tax rolls; and
  • moving the Walker Scholarship fund from CitiBank to Legend Bank;
  • updating the superintendent evaluation form;
  • changes in authorized signers for various bank accounts;
  • an executive session to discuss the vacancy at middle school principal.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the administration building at 100 Mosley Lane. It is open to the public.

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Challengers win big in school trustee election

Voters on both sides of the Alvord school board race stuck together as they elected two new trustees Saturday.

Charlie Matthews defeated incumbent Jeannette Ward by a 400-151 margin for place 7.

Alvord Voter Turnout

In a three-person race for place 6, Lance Thweatt garnered 396 votes to 152 for Tracy Barclay Parker. A third candidate, Lex Williams, unofficially withdrew from the race and threw his support to Thweatt.

Three voters didn’t get the memo, or Thweatt’s margin of victory would have been a single vote different from Matthews’.

Matthews said the message from voters was clear.

“The school district is tired of the turmoil,” he said. “My agenda would be to get that calmed down. If the school board is not together, the school’s not together. We just need to work on teamwork and get the school board together.”

Ward, who served two terms on the board, was philosophical after the votes were counted.

“It’s obvious the voters wanted a change,” she said. “I hope this produces the change they want.”

She noted that when she won her first term, six years ago, it was because of the same feeling.

“I have to respect the fact that they wanted change,” she said. “When I ran the first time, that’s how I got in. I hope they get back on track, come together and bring the community together.”

Thweatt said the margin of victory surprised him.

“It does give you a lot of confidence going in there,” he said. “People wanted some new ideas, new faces on the school board.”

The vast majority of voters cast their ballots early. Thweatt and Matthews both got exactly 308 early votes, while Ward got 117 and Parker got 115.

Thweatt defeated Parker 81-23 on election day, and Matthews outpolled Ward 84-21. On the absentee ballots that were mailed in, Parker won 14-7 and Ward won 13-8.

The turnout was somewhat higher than in past elections, as the community and school board have been embroiled in a battle recently over the contract of head football coach Curtis Enis.

In their last meeting prior to the election – the fifth meeting in just over a month – the board voted unanimously to renew Enis’ contract as head football coach but to relieve him of the duties of athletic director – putting that task on Superintendent Bill Branum.

Enis got a one-year contract to coach football and may be assigned other duties as needed, Branum said.

Three board members – Ward, board president Larry Nivens and board secretary Kevin Wood – had opposed action by trustees Jim Looney, John Schedcik, Vic Czerniak and Randy Hamilton to non-renew Enis’ contract.

Those efforts sparked a petition drive and drew crowds to the normally sparsely-attended meetings. They also prompted several lengthy closed-door sessions as trustees wrestled with the legalities of teachers’ contracts and the rights and responsibilities of board members.

Adding further interest was the fact that Hamilton, who resigned from the board last June, came back in April and once again took part as a voting member of the board. That was after trustees discovered a little-known clause in the Texas Constitution that stipulates an elected official still holds office until a replacement is appointed or elected.

Hamilton’s return broke the 3-3 deadlock on the board, but he was not a candidate for his old seat, which went to Thweatt.

Thweatt said he hopes the controveries are over.

“The main thing is to just try and get all that behind us and get everybody going in the same direction,” he said. “The thing with Curtis is behind us, the election is behind us – it’s time to get everybody working together, going in the right direction.”

Matthews said the focus needs to be on the classroom.

“I know there’s a lot of different ideas about things that need to be done,” he said. “My goal is just to get our kids a good education and take care of them. That’s the priority.”

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Board to meet Wednesday and canvass votes

The Alvord school board will meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to canvass votes from Saturday’s election.

Two new members were elected to the board. Lance Thweatt won place 6, vacated by the resignation of Randy Hamilton last June, and Charles Neal Matthews was elected to place 7, unseating incumbent Jeannette Ward.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at the Alvord ISD administration building, 100 Mosley Lane. It is open to the public.

The new members will be sworn in at the next regularly-scheduled meeting May 22.

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Board re-hires Enis for football job

Curtis Enis will head up the Bulldog football program for at least one more year, but his tenure as athletic director will apparently end June 30.

After a brief closed meeting Thursday night, the Alvord school board voted unanimously to renew Enis’ contract through 2015 – but only as head football coach. A separate item that called for “giving notice of intent to propose non-renewal” of the athletic director’s contract was stricken from the agenda.

Both motions were made by trustee Randy Hamilton, and both votes were unanimous.

Superintendent Bill Branum said Enis will continue to serve as AD through the end of his current contract on June 30. Branum said he will “take care of” the AD job after that.

“The agenda actions taken only leave Mr. Enis as head football coach, or an assistant if we need him in some other boys’ sport,” Branum said. “There’s no athletic director associated with his job, going forward, after June 30. He may be an assistant in track if we need him to.”

Branum said that since the AD job was separated from the head football coaching job, there was no need to provide notice of non-renewal to Enis. Branum will take care of the AD duties himself, or assign them to someone else.

“I think it’s the board’s intent that I do it,” he said.

The decision brings an apparent end to more than a month of controversy swirling around the position – although not a satisfactory end according to Matthew Dunn, who led a petition drive for Enis’ removal.

“The fact that he’s not AD doesn’t matter to us,” Dunn said Friday. “I’ve talked to a lot of people and they’re still [unhappy].”

One woman in the audience was heard to mutter, “What a joke!” and trustee Vic Czerniak handed out a prepared statement after the meeting ended.

“This entire situation should never have happened,” it said. “This town has been torn apart again by individuals that thrive on controversy, who don’t even live in this community, some faculty involvement and the kids being given false information.

“I have said publicly to many people that no one wanted or wants to see anyone lose their job,” the statement continued. “Sadly, some have seen it necessary to distort the issue and make it a ‘witch hunt’ against members of the board who are acting as representatives of the citizens.”

He ended on a hopeful note, however.

“This board can and will continue to grow with and for this community and the kids. All board members must exercise high levels of integrity, forget about their personal agendas and try to gain back the confidence and trust of the community, students and especially faculty.”

The board has met five times in the last five weeks, with most of the meeting time devoted to this issue. After they deadlocked 3-3 on non-renewing Enis’s contract March 27, Hamilton re-joined the board despite having resigned his seat last June.

A little-known provision in the Texas Constitution said that as long as the seat had not been filled, it still belonged to the elected officeholder. Hamilton’s return broke the 3-3 tie and at their April 14 meeting the board voted 4-3 to non-renew Enis’s contract.

Then, after two hours behind closed doors, they unanimously rescinded that vote.

A meeting April 21 was entirely closed to the public, and at an April 24 meeting the board voted again to table action on the contract.

Each meeting has been attended by a fairly large number of citizens, divided between Enis detractors and supporters.

With two board seats on the ballot for May 10, those on both sides are awaiting the will of the voters. Hamilton’s place 6, which is sought by Lance Thweatt and Tracy Barclay Parker, is on the ballot along with place 7, currently held by Jeannette Ward. She faces one opponent, Charles Matthews.

Thursday’s meeting went fairly quickly, with just a few non-Enis-related items to attend to.

Those were:

  • adopting textbooks for the 2014-2015 school year;
  • tabling action on the high school roof project;
  • approving budget amendments to provide $10,500 in funding for start-up expenses for the volleyball program, which will begin in August;
  • approving an oil, gas and minerals lease with Pioneer Natural Resources, USA;
  • and transferring two teachers to different jobs: Mary Ann Leasman from 6th grade language arts to 6th grade math, and Garret Yuen from middle school coach/inclusion to elementary art.

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Alvord school board non-renews AD, then rescinds

It took the Alvord school board just 11 minutes Monday to OK a roof replacement, approve a joint election agreement with the city of Alvord, appoint election judges and vote to non-renew the contract of its athletic director.

But that last item became the topic of a closed-door session that lasted two hours and 24 minutes, while a crowd of around 50 citizens, students and district employees stood and sat out in the hallway.

When they came back into open session, the board quickly – and unanimously – rescinded the motion on the athletic director’s contract and voted to table it until their next meeting, which should be April 24.

If the discussion that took place in the open is any indication, the closed session was probably a lively one.

Board president Larry Nivens kicked things off by stating that the agenda item to “consider renewal or giving notice of proposed non-renewal of athletic director’s contract” was worded that way on the advice of the district’s attorney. It was not, he said, stated the way board members Vic Czerniak and John Schedcik had requested it.

“Mr. Czerniak and Mr. Schedcik requested this meeting for that item specifically,” he said. “That is not their wording. That is the wording of our attorney because that meets the legal requirement if we’re going to pursue non-renewal. That’s why it’s listed that way.”

A brief discussion followed in which Czerniak wondered if all contracts would now have to be considered individually.

“Is that going to be standard verbiage from now on, for all contracts?” he asked.

“If it’s a proposed non-renewal, yes,” Nivens answered.

Board member Jeannette Ward attempted to clarify the issue.

“If we propose another non-renewal, then it has to be individualized,” she said. “But to renew you don’t have to individualize.”

Superintendent Bill Branum said contracts had to be considered individually “only if there’s a possibility that the board is going to propose non-renewal of someone.”

But when Czerniak made a motion that “the contract for the athletic director not be renewed,” Ward called a point of order, asking for the board to go into closed session “to hear a complaint or charge against an officer or employee” and citing the law.

But Schedcik quickly seconded Czerniak’s motion. Board member Kevin Wood called another point of order.

“Mr. President, according to our attorney, this is a notice of proposed non-renewal,” he said. “We’re not voting on non-renewal; we’re voting on a notice of proposed non-renewal.”

Czerniak insisted on a vote on his motion, just as he worded it.

“We are voting on non-renewal,” he said. “That was the motion that was seconded. We have to vote on the motion. You had an opportunity to say that before it was seconded.”

“I’m sitting here trying to listen to what’s going on back and forth,” Wood said. “I just know this is what the attorney said, this is the way it has to be worded. I don’t know what the problem is in saying proposed non-renewal.”

Finally, Nivens called for the vote, and the motion passed, 4-3.

Prior to the vote, Branum pointed out that a district is required to give notice to an employee whose contract is being non-renewed. The employee then has 15 days to respond and can request a hearing before the board.

“We have a motion and a second,” Nivens said. “But I would reiterate that our attorney said this is not in the best interest of the district to pursue it in this manner. But we have a motion to not renew the contract of the athletic director.”

After the vote, Nivens looked at the superintendent.

“Anything else, Mr. Branum?” he asked.

“Well, yeah,” Branum replied. “We need to go into closed session because you guys have got to say why you’re doing it. The employee’s got to have notice and an opportunity to respond.”

After the two-hour-and-24-minute closed session, the board opened the doors at 7:35.

It was Czerniak who quickly moved to “rescind the motion to not renew the contract of the athletic director.”

Wood followed with a motion to table the agenda item until the board’s next meeting.

Both measures were approved unanimously, without discussion.

Several board members stayed around to explain their action to Matthew Dunn, who had brought petitions calling for Enis’ dismissal to the previous meeting and had served as a spokesman for those seeking the coach’s ouster.

“The motion was made, the motion was seconded,” he said. “It was voted on. You called the vote, the vote was done. How’d it get rescinded?”

“It was voted on again,” Nivens said.

Czerniak explained that “there was a motion to rescind the previous motion.”

“So when are they going to re-vote on this? When are we going to get this renewal thing ironed out? When do you plan on putting it back on the agenda?” Dunn asked.

Nivens noted the agenda for the next meeting had not been set but said it would “probably” be on that one.

“The next meeting will be the fourth Thursday of the month?” Dunn asked. “OK, here we go again.”

RESIGNED BOARD MEMBER RETURNS TO BREAK THE TIE

The special called meeting, which started at 5 p.m., was the first one since last June to have seven members present.

Place 6 trustee Randy Hamilton, who resigned from the board June 3, 2013, was back in attendance and there was no debate over his presence.

An earlier communication indicated Hamilton could still exercise the duties of his office because no replacement was ever named. It cited the Texas Constitution, article 16, section 17 which states that “all officers within this State shall continue to perform the duties of their offices until their successors shall be duly qualified.”

A 1996 Attorney General opinion backed that up, stating, “an officer whose resignation has been effected but whose successor has not been appointed retains the position as a ‘de jure’ officer.”

Hamilton’s return is only until the May 10 election, as his place is on the ballot along with that of Place 7 trustee Jeannette Ward.

Lance Thweatt, Lex Williams and Tracy Parker are seeking Place 6, although Williams announced last week that he wishes to withdraw and throw his support to Thweatt.

Charles Matthews is contesting Ward’s run for re-election.

Hamilton’s return promised to break a stalemate in the controversy over the contract of Alvord ISD athletic director and head football coach Curtis Enis. At its March 27 meeting, the board deadlocked 3-3 on a proposed renewal of Enis’ contract.

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Board to consider AD’s contract

It’s only a four-item agenda, but one item may take a while.

The Alvord school board will hold a special called meeting 5 p.m. Monday, April 14, at the administration building on Mosley Lane. After talking about replacing the roof on the original Alvord High School building, the board is expected to approve a joint election agreement with the city of Alvord for the May 10 election and appoint election judges and clerks for that election.

Item four is, “Consider renewal or giving notice of proposed non-renewal of athletic director’s contract.”

That business stems from the board’s last meeting, when a proposed renewal of athletic director Curtis Enis’ contract died on a 3-3 tie vote. The action, according to a legal opinion sought by Superintendent Bill Branum, did not renew the contract, but did not non-renew it, either.

If no further action were taken, Enis’ contract would renew automatically under the law.

Chapter 21, section 206 of the Texas Education Code requires a school board to give notice of non-renewal, in writing, to a teacher at least 10 days before the end of the current school year. For this year in Alvord ISD, that date would be somewhere around May 23.

Failure to give notice “constitutes an election to employ the teacher in the same professional capacity for the following school year” according to the code.

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District considers election, volleyball, missed days

When the Alvord ISD trustees meet Thursday, they’ll have several issues to consider.

After hearing reports from the campus principals and Superintendent Bill Branum, they will consider calling an election for places 6 and 7 on the board, and holding that election on May 10 in conjunction with the Alvord City Council election.

So far, Jeannette Ward has filed for re-election to place 7, with Charles Neal Matthews also seeking that spot, and Lex Williams has filed for Place 6, which has been unfilled for about a year.

Filing ends this Friday.

The board will look at changing the current school calendar and seeking a waiver for two missed instructional days due to bad weather. They will also discuss compensating district employees for those bad-weather days.

Trustees will continue a discussion on adding volleyball to the school district’s sports offerings.

Several other routine and financial moves are on the agenda. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the administration building at 100 Mosley Lane. It’s open to the public.

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Alvord school board approves improvement plans

With one seat unfilled and one member absent, the Alvord school board breezed through a Thursday-night meeting with every vote 5-0.

Topping the agenda were 2013-14 Campus Improvement Plans for each campus and the 2013-14 District Improvement Plan.

The plans relate to goals for each campus and the district as a whole for things like state test scores, attendance, college entrance exam scores, campus safety, and parent and community involvement. The district’s plan also addresses needs assessment, attracting and keeping qualified teachers and aides and eliminating bullying.

Trustees also approved a contract for the assessment and collection of property taxes with Wise County Appraisal District and heard an update from board president Larry Nivens on board member training hours.

It was noted that all of Alvord ISD’s current teachers are “Highly Qualified” by state standards.

The board approved the 2013-14 textbook committee, which will recommend science, math and technology applications textbooks later this year for use beginning in 2014-15.

It was also noted that the district will be looking for an art teacher to begin work Jan. 21.

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Board to make up iced out meeting

After its regularly scheduled meeting was canceled Dec. 9 due to icy weather, the Alvord ISD board of trustees will make it up tomorrow at 7.

The agenda contains a routine list of items including reports from principals, Superintendent Bill Branum and board members. After a look at minutes, bills and the tax collection reports, the board will consider:

  • campus and district improvement plans;
  • the annual contract with Wise County Appraisal District for tax assessment and collection;
  • appointments to the appraisal district boards in Wise and Montague counties;
  • a report on continuing education for board members;
  • a report on the Highly Qualified Teacher program;
  • policy updates;
  • appointments to the textbook committee and
  • personnel recommendations.

The meeting in the administration building at 100 Mosley Lane is open to the public.

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