Schools encouraged by Abbott’s school security plans


Superintendents at multiple Wise County school districts were encouraged by the security plan announced by Texas Governor Greg Abbott Wednesday.
Abbott’s plan included proposals for increasing law enforcement presence at schools, strengthening school security and providing mental health evaluations to identify students at risk of harming others. Abbott also suggested a “red flag law” that would allow law enforcement, family members, school employees or a district attorney to file a petition seeking the removal of firearms from a potentially dangerous person.
“The plan is a starting point, not an ending place,” Abbott said in a press release with his 40 recommendations and proposals. “It provides strategies that can be used before the next school year begins to keep our students safe when they return to school. This plan will make our schools safer and our communities safer.”
Abbott held a series of discussions last week with victims from multiple mass shootings in Texas along with parents, educators, lawmakers and law enforcement. The roundtable and subsequent proposals followed the shooting at Santa Fe High School earlier this month that left 10 people dead and 10 others injured.
Since the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., several local districts have looked at enhancing security at its campuses.
“It is encouraging. Some of the things discussed by the governor are some of the discussions we’re having here on a local level,” said Boyd ISD Superintendent Ted West. “It’s more of a proactive approach with the additional counseling. It’s encouraging to see everyone on the same page.”
Abbott’s proposals were divided into four areas. The first was to provide immediate aid to Santa Fe with counselors and mental health providers to work with victims and first responders.
The second area was making schools safer. He called on districts to work with law enforcement for heightened police presence at the schools. He proposed increasing the number of school marshals that can be appointed per school and providing adding funding for training for the marshals. Abbott also wants to see active shooter and emergency response training and infrastructure improvements to prevent security threats. He said $62.1 million in federal funding will be available for safety improvements, law enforcement patrols and the implementation of mental health programs.
“Any time the state is looking to add funding is a good thing,” said Paradise ISD Superintendent Paul Uttley. “The fact that the governor is discussing how to protect our kids is fantastic. Whether every single aspect of that plan works, well, we’ll see how it plays out. But six months ago or a year ago we weren’t even having these conversations.”
The third area addressed is preventing threats in advance. Abbott called for increasing mental health resources, including evaluations to identify students at risk of harming others, providing school personnel with training on behavioral threat assessments, and giving students more access to counselors to help with mental and behavioral issues.
Abbott wants schools to expand the list of offenses for which students can be expelled or placed in a disciplinary alternative educational program and put in place a zero-tolerance policy for students committing assault.
He also put forth plans to expand the campus crime stoppers and increase the use of the Department of Public Safety’s “iWatch Texas” reporting system to enable and encourage parents, students and teachers to report suspicious activity on campus.
“The plans laid out are very comprehensive and consider a lot of aspects from counseling to mental health,” said Decatur ISD Superintendent Judi Whitis. “To me, it’s a proactive approach and looking at preventative measures before a catastrophic event occurs. There are some new ideas. We’ve all talked about metal detectors and buildings. These new thoughts are not just about structures.”
The fourth area called for enhancing firearms safety with the possible “red flag law” and closing gaps in federally mandated background checks.
Whitis and others hope to see the legislature follow through with more funding for many of the governor’s suggestions.
Many districts are already enhancing buildings and security efforts. Decatur ISD added a second school resource officer (SRO) at the high school. Boyd ISD recently hired a SRO through the Boyd Police Department.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin approached Paradise, Alvord, Chico and Slidell about increasing security and adding an additional SRO.
Uttley said he appreciated Akin talking to the schools about safety and security earlier in the year, after the Parkland shooting in Florida.
“Wise County is fortunate to have Sheriff Akin, who recognized these issues and is working within the schools’ budgetary restrictions,” Uttley said. “He was being proactive about this before the governor.”
In a statement, Northwest ISD officials expressed appreciation for Abbott’s focus on school security and pointed out that the district committed $14 million to security enhancements from the 2017 bond package. The enhancements include improving the security of school entrances, upgrading classroom doors with an intruder safety function and enhancing security systems.
“Most of the dollars being spent to enhance safety in our school district mirror Governor Abbott’s call to ‘harden campus facilities,’” the statement said.

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Back to school: Superintendents channel first day excitement

Back to school: Superintendents channel first day excitement


WELCOME BACK — Dr. Judi Whitis welcomes students to Carson Elementary on the first day of school. This was Whitis’ first, first day of school with DISD. She’s had a total of 43 since she started kindergarten, including her professional career.

With the ring of the first school bell, Wise County superintendents are stepping out to greet parents and students.
The top school officials get just as excited about the first day as the kids, and they can’t wait to set foot in the classroom, greeting kiddos. Many of them have been “going back to school” for decades.
The Messenger decided to ask superintendents a few questions to kick off the 2017-18 year. Keep reading to find out your superintendent’s favorite school supply as a child, learn more about their first day traditions and gain insight from their favorite back-to-school memories.

BROWN

Alvord ISD
Dr. Randy Brown
39 first days
Favorite school supply: I always liked picking out a lunch box with a matching thermos, although I ate at school most of the time. My favorites were Evel Knievel and the Incredible Hulk.
First day tradition: I always enjoy taking my own kids to school on the first day. I then visit each campus. It’s always great to welcome everyone and feel the excitement of a new school year.
Favorite first day memory: My sister and I usually couldn’t sleep much the night before the first day of school. We would get up and get completely dressed and ready and then go back to bed and surprise my mom when she came to wake us up. My mom was a teacher and my sister is an elementary school counselor. Our family has always loved school.

WEST

Boyd ISD
Ted West
35 first days
Favorite school supply: Lunch box
First day tradition: I enjoy being at the elementary school during the morning dropoff on the first day of school. Seeing the excitement in our pre-k and kindergarten students on the first day is what it is all about.
Favorite first day memory: I remember vividly my first day of kindergarten. My mother walked me into my classroom and sat down with me at a table while I started playing with a toy boat. I’m not sure how long I had been playing, but I turned around and my mother was nowhere to found. I really don’t think I paid much attention to suddenly being away from my parents’ side for one of the first times in my life. I am reminded of that scene every ‘first day’ when I see it replicated numerous times. It reminds me of the importance and magnitude of our role in students’ lives.

PEAVEY

Bridgeport ISD
Brandon Peavey
40-plus first days
Favorite school supply: Trapper-Keeper notebook
First day tradition: Going to the elementary school and seeing the new kids (pre-kindergarten and kindergarten) for their first day of school.
Favorite first day memory: My sons’ first days of school.

 

 

Chico ISD
Don Elsom
45 first days
Favorite school supply: The Big Chief Tablet. The Indian was so cool.
First day tradition: To be visible and make sure I have at least a Snickers bar available.
Favorite first day memory: My favorite memory is seeing the faces of the pre-k and kindergarten parents. They are more scared than their children and then seeing them the next few years as the fear becomes joy and relief.

Decatur ISD
Dr. Judi Whitis
43 first days
Favorite school supply: Box of crayons. It’s so much fun to think and create.
First day tradition: Start the day early and go out to every campus and classroom.
Favorite first-day memory: Every first day is exciting. There is an energy and anticipation like no other day of the year.

Northwest ISD
Dr. Ryder Warren
49 first days
Favorite school supply: In the 1970s, it was crucial to find just the right lunch box – that was a major factor on how the school year would go.
First day tradition: I always start off on campuses for the first week of school. I like helping out with the car lines to be able to see kids, staff and parents.
Favorite first day memory: One of my favorite memories was not long ago. We built three new elementary schools in a previous school district, and these were the first new campuses built in more than 20 years. The look on all of the faces, both students and adults, was priceless as we opened those new buildings.

Paradise ISD
Robert Criswell
66 first days
Favorite school supply: That would be a toss-up between my new tennis shoes called PF Flyers or my new lunch box, which was a Buck Rogers space cadet model.
First day tradition: As a child it was to get up early after a sleepless night and rush to get dressed and off to school. As a career educator, I still get here early and try to get to as many campuses as I can to see all the kids come in fresh and shiny in new clothes, shoes, backpacks and supplies. Absolute favorite time.
Favorite first day memory: One of my favorite memories of the first day of school was taking my oldest son to school on his first day in kindergarten. His mom and I dropped him off to his classroom and proceeded to leave the school. Upon turning the corner, we saw him running out the back door headed for the street home. That was an early sign of school not being his favorite place.

ENIS

Slidell ISD
Greg Enis
54 first days
Favorite school supply: I don’t recall any specific favorites. Our family really enjoys this time of year as we help support our students and families as they prepare for the first day of classes.
First day tradition: While I grew up in a family of educators, I reflect back on my first year as a teacher — coach at Mart High School and how that tremendous opportunity fundamentally changed my belief system.
Favorite first day memory: My most vivid first day of school coincided with my first day as superintendent in Slidell ISD – August 2004. I remember driving that bus route not knowing for sure exactly where to stop. I remember a Spanish speaking kindergarten student crawling up the steps of the bus and looking me square in the eyes. Her courage made me lose all apprehension about the route as my problem was minor in comparison to the challenge she faced in terms of getting on the bus for the first time without any reservations. This young lady graduated from Slidell in May 2017 as our salutatorian with many distinguished awards and accomplishments. She will be starting her college career this fall.

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Alvord ISD considers ‘ideal’


Alvord ISD is considering contracting with an energy-saving service to reduce the district’s energy cost over a 15-year period.

Ideal Impact, an energy conservation consulting company, claimed at Monday’s board meeting to be able to save Alvord 19 to 26 percent of the district’s energy bill, up to $1,200,000 in 15 years. Company representatives said they’d reviewed AISD’s bills and contracts and looked at the school’s energy system to determine where improvements could be made.

If hired, Ideal Impact would formulate a four-year guaranteed energy plan to cut back energy costs. If the company could not save AISD money on its energy bills in those four years, the cost of modifications to the school’s energy systems would be covered by Ideal Impact.

Trustees decided to table the contract for further consideration.

PAY SYSTEMS REVIEW

The board approved a Texas Association of School Boards pay systems review, modifying the district’s 2015-2016 budget by $7,200 to cover the cost.

TASB could either create a hiring or salary scale for AISD to use. A salary scale would set a pay grade for each classification of employees. Employees already making more than their pay grade permits will have their salaries frozen.

The pay systems review applies to all employees of AISD, not just teachers.

The review and subsequent budget amendment were unanimously approved by the board.

In other action, the board:

  • approved a tax collection contract with the Wise County Appraisal District;
  • declined a TASB staffing review;
  • approved $25,000 to be removed from the general fund to cover a worker’s compensation claim; and
  • set the next board meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16.
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Alvord ISD faces budget deficit


Alvord Superintendent Dr. Randy Brown proposed Monday a 2015-16 budget with a $450,000 deficit.

In his first week on the job, Brown said much of the budget legwork was done by former Superintendent Bill Branum and interim Superintendent Lloyd Treadwell.

Brown told the board that the budget is a conservative estimation.

“This is not something that anybody likes to see, but we’ll chip away and hopefully have a balanced budget in the future,” Brown told the board. “This is a lean budget. We’re trying to be conservative, almost pessimistic.

“I would rather come back with good news saying, ‘we’re better off than we thought’ rather than coming back with bad news,” he said.

One of the “good news” items that could help the budget is the impact of aid received from the federal government for the Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands.

Because the grasslands are owned by the federal government and non-taxable, the school district receives PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) dollars.

Last year the district budgeted $150,000 in PILT money and received $431,000.

Though the grasslands aid was budgeted at $200,000 for this year, if the district receives the same amount as last year, it would almost eliminate the deficit.

The most notable difference from last year’s budget is the $587,836 less the district is expected to receive in state revenue.

Last year the district received approximately $1.7 million from the state, but this year it will be closer to $1,147,551, according to Brown.

“Changes from the last legislative session are still up in the air,” he said. “We want to focus on what we can control with this budget.”

Brown also mentioned that the fund balance will be around $4 million.

The Alvord School Board will meet Monday night to consider adopting the budget.

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Brown takes reins


Strolling through the halls of Alvord High School, new superintendent Dr. Randy Brown doesn’t look like this is his first day on the job.

Dr. Randy Brown

With 23 years of education experience, including stints as an assistant principal and principal in Levelland and superintendent at Motley County, Coahoma and Snyder, the West Texas native said Alvord was a perfect fit.

“We like small schools,” he said. “We like this part of Texas. We’re close to the Metroplex without being right in the middle of it, and we really like the lakes and the trees that we don’t have in West Texas.”

Brown said he grew up in Levelland. After playing football for Eastern New Mexico University, he began teaching and coaching and eventually returned to school at Texas A&M Commerce to earn a master’s degree and Texas Tech University for his doctorate.

Brown said his early experience in the classroom taught him about the importance of personal growth. He hopes to carry that over into his new role at Alvord.

“As a first-year teacher, I didn’t know a whole lot,” he said. “I taught for nine years. By that ninth year, I was a lot better. I had colleagues and administrators that helped me get better through staff development and watching them work. I think that’s what our goal is – each year we want everyone to be that little bit better.”

Brown said that means putting value into everyone involved in the education process.

“As educators, I don’t think any of us would be in this if it wasn’t for the kids,” Brown said. “But what I’ve learned over the years is that we always have to care – both about the kids and each other.”

With two children of his own, Brown’s investment in promoting that attitude plays a role in how he plans to carry out his job.

“What my job is as superintendent is to make sure our kids are successful but also to make sure our staff is successful,” he said. “That’s what gratifies me. I want my kids to be in a good district.”

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Back to School: Alvord


ALVORD MIDDLE SCHOOL

  • Melinda Epperson, special education, Gainesville
  • Jenna Twiner, counselor, Gainesville

ALVORD HIGH SCHOOL

  • Sheryl Townsend, science/physics/chemistry, Seguin
  • Janet Seymore, family consumer science, Saint Jo

COACHES

  • Cheyenne Gibson, elementary/middle school PE teacher/assistant girls coach – volleyball, basketball, track, first year
  • Jeffrey Alexander, high school U.S. history/boys coach – high school offensive coordinator football, special teams coordinator, middle school football, head powerlifting, head boys track, middle school boys track, Valley View
  • Berry Williams, high school social studies/boys coach – assistant football, middle school football, high school assistant basketball, middle school basketball, high school assistant baseball, head junior varsity baseball, first year
  • David Beckham, elementary/middle school art/boys coach – head cross country, assistant basketball, assistant track, Selwyn College Prepatory in Denton

BACK-TO-SCHOOL EVENTS

AUG. 13

  • Freshman orientation is 5 p.m. at the AHS cafeteria.
  • Sophomore, junior and senior orientation is 7 p.m. at the AHS cafeteria.

AUG. 17

  • Alvord Middle School orientation is 4:30 to 6 p.m.

AUG. 20

  • Classroom lists will be posted on the front window of the elementary after 8 a.m.
  • Title I Parent Meeting is 6:30 p.m. in the elementary cafeteria.
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Alvord ISD hires Brown as superintendent


After weeks of interviews, the Alvord school board unanimously agreed to name Dr. Randy Brown the lone finalist for the superintendent position Thursday night.

“There were several outstanding applicants,” Board President Vic Czerniack said. “This was a very difficult choice, only because there were so many strong candidates. The second round was even harder.”

Though the number of strong candidates made the selection process challenging, Czerniack said that Brown’s philosophy and thought process allowed him to stand out.

“His ideas and logic just edged the competition,” Czerniack said. “All of the candidates were really strong and a credit to their profession.”

John Schedcik proposed the naming of Brown, and Lance Thweatt seconded before the unanimous vote was cast.

Brown was superintendent at Coahoma ISD for three years before taking the superintendent position at Snyder Aug. 22, 2011, where he stayed until applying for the Alvord job.

He has also worked at Levelland ISD (his alma mater) as a principal, and Motley County ISD.

Brown received a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern New Mexico University before earning a Masters of Education degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce.

He earned a Doctorate of Education in Education Leadership from Texas Tech University.

Brown’s wife, Andrea, is a registered nurse and the couple have two sons, Zachary, 14, and Jaxon, 8.

Alvord ISD must wait a state-mandated 21 days before the hiring becomes official.

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Alvord superintendent search continues


According to Alvord interim superintendent Lloyd Treadwell, the school board’s search for a permanent superintendent remains on schedule.

The board had three interview sessions with five candidates last week and will interview one more candidate Monday, to conclude the initial interviewing process.

“The second round of interviews will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” Treadwell said. “Then they will meet on the 28th for a regular board meeting and name a lone finalist.”

Once a finalist is named, the board will wait the mandated 21 days before offering a contract.

While the school board goes through the superintendent hiring process, Treadwell is working on this year’s budget.

“We should have it ready for approval by Aug. 31,” Treadwell said. “We can’t spend any money until the budget is done.”

Treadwell said he hasn’t seen any unusual expenses in the budget so far, and they are simply adjusting the current budget, getting it ready for auditors.

The board is looking to fill two positions after the resignations of high school science teacher Jennifer Peek and elementary art teacher/coach Garrett Yuen.

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Treadwell accepts interim job


After 24 hours of uncertainty, Lloyd Treadwell officially accepted the interim superintendent job at Alvord ISD.

The school board approved his hire with a 5-0 vote Monday night, but Treadwell’s availability was uncertain due to another job opportunity on the table.

He accepted the Alvord post Wednesday.

Moving forward, Treadwell understands his role as a caretaker until the permanent hire is made, but he is happy to be in Alvord.

“An interim knows he’s only going to be there for a few months so our role is to make sure the district is operating according to the school board and administration,” he said. “I’m very excited about it. It’s a wonderful little district and I’m ready to get started.”

Treadwell has been involved in education for 50 years, and he will serve at Alvord until a permanent replacement is found.

Treadwell is replacing Bill Branum, who announced his retirement May 4. His contract runs through June 30.

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Alvord ISD gets a high B on FIRST report


The folks in Austin love to create “report card” evaluation instruments for school districts.

The Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) is exactly that – a compilation of financial data from school districts’ audits and other information they submit on spending in various areas, debt service, reserves, etc.

This year, Alvord ISD got 63 out of a possible 72 points – 87.5 if it were a 100-point scale.

Superintendent Bill Branum reported the numbers to the school board Tuesday night.

“The area we cannot get – ever, the way it’s currently comprised – has to do with debt service,” Branum said this week.

He said given Alvord’s size, and the amount of bonded indebtedness the district took on a few years ago to build the new middle and high school campuses, the district is likely to be “over the cap” per student for a long time.

“There’s nothing we can do about that,” he said. “We’re just out of luck. We have to pay the debt, and we’re well able to pay it.”

He said the only other area where points were deducted is in the classification of debt service payments.

Alvord ISD used “maintenance tax notes” to pave parking lots and make other improvements over the past couple of years. Those, the auditor said, should be paid out of a debt fund in the budget, not out of a maintenance fund.

“We looked at it as deferred maintenance, like with the parking lots,” Branum said. “We didn’t go out and, from scratch, build new parking lots. We took the existing parking lots and poured concrete on them. But they look at it differently.

“We’ll make sure we pay it out of that account from now on.”

COMPENSATORY EDUCATION REPORT

Branum also reported to the board on the district’s compensatory education report – another state-required document that highlights what districts are doing with state funds they receive.

“They asked us to develop a plan of needs within each of those programs,” Branum said.

The district then put together a group of employees to target each of the programs, on each campus, assess needs and develop a plan to meet those needs, then come up with evaluative methods to be able to measure the success of each of those programs at the end of the year.

“State compensatory education funds are used to build up areas where kids need extra work,” Branum said. “We’re trying to get each student on or above grade level in a timely way.” The board’s next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 20.

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Alvord school district targets archery


With a rodeo team and volleyball now among the offerings, Alvord ISD continues to look at programs that may interest its students.

Next up? How about archery?

Superintendent Bill Branum told the school board Tuesday night that there is not only interest in starting an archery program – there’s already been a $1,000 donation toward that goal, and additional grants may be available.

“If we have kids who are genuinely interested in something, and we can do it, I think we should,” he said. No votes were taken and no concrete proposals offered, but board members, in general, agreed.

Branum said Alvord High School teacher Sharon Sacket had tentatively agreed to instruct the program, which would likely start out as an extracurricular activity.

Kits can be purchased for just more than $100 each that would include bows, arrows and targets. The teacher would need to go through a course and be certified, but that training is not expensive either, Branum said.

“It would cost about $2,700 to start it, and I think we can cover that with donations and grants,” he said. “We might start it out as a club and see how it goes.”

He said it would fit in well as an activity in the PE classes – not necessarily just at the high school level – and can include and support various other curriculums including math and science.

Branum said it was surprising to him how many other school districts do offer archery programs.

“If we make it part of the curriculum, then kids will have to keep up their grades in order to compete,” he said. “As you know, studies have shown that when kids have something like this that they’re interested in, they will work harder.”

The board gave Branum the go-ahead to continue looking into it and bring back a proposal.

OTHER BUSINESS

In a fairly quick meeting, the board also:

  • approved guides, parent agreements and permission forms for parents to sign for the new Chromebook notebook computers, which are due to be issued Monday to high school and middle school students;
  • named trustees Larry Nivens, Charlie Matthews and Lance Thweatt as authorized signers on the John H. Walker Scholarship Fund account, which had to be moved recently to Legend Bank after the Citibank branch closed;
  • heard an update on the greenhouse that is due to be built this fall – including a discussion over whether to let the contractor install the watering system or to handle that with district personnel;
  • heard reports from principals at all three campuses on enrollment, attendance and upcoming activities;
  • hired Miranda Jeter for a half-day to teach pre-kindergarten after high enrollment at that level made it necessary to split the class; and
  • discussed needs like air conditioning the volleyball practice gym at the old elementary school and a new scoreboard at the AHS football field.
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Alvord ISD gets ready to pass out Chromebooks

Alvord ISD gets ready to pass out Chromebooks


In a storage room at Alvord High School, where servers hum and metal shelves are piled high with hard drives, cables and old computers being scrapped for parts, 400 brand-new notebook computers sit neatly stacked, ready to go into the hands of students.

Any day now.

Alvord ISD waited longer than most districts to put a “one-to-one” solution into place – that is, to put a computer into the hands of every student.

Ready for the Rollout

READY FOR THE ROLLOUT – Technology Director Charlie Mann is about to place a Chromebook computer in the hands of every middle and high school student in Alvord. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

But at a June 26 school board meeting, district Technology Director Charlie Mann told the board about Chromebooks – notebook computers which hold minimal software and data, but provide “cloud” access through the Google Chrome browser. They are specifically designed for classroom use.

On the administration’s recommendation, the board approved a three-year lease-purchase of about $50,000 a year.

Since then, Mann has upgraded the wireless Internet access points in all three AISD campuses, set up a system to check out the computers, and taken delivery of the devices, cases and – just this week – charging carts.

Sometime in the next few days, he will put one in the hands of every high school and middle school student in Alvord ISD.

“They’re ready to go,” he said last week. “They’re set up on the network, configured out on the cloud – basically it’s just a matter of handing them out.”

Each unit is barcoded and will be assigned to a specific student, with its own slot in the charging cart. Students will be asked to sign an updated authorized user agreement, and those under 13 will need parent permission to get email.

Once that’s all done, the students will be able to use them – but only at school.

“We won’t take them home this first year, just to see how it goes,” Mann said. “This is a way for us to do this without having to tell the parents we need to charge them something for insurance.”

And, he noted, if the kids have access to a computer at home, they’ll have access to everything that’s on the Chromebook.

“There’s a thing called Google Classroom, which is basically a virtual environment to turn work in, to do assignments,” he said.

Mann said when a teacher makes an assignment, Google Classroom will automatically create that assignment on their drive.

“It’s almost like somebody’s walking around with the kid all day with file folders, and every time they do something, he creates a file folder and puts it in their thing,” he said. “It keeps them organized without them even having to be organized. I think that’s huge.”

And unlike computer nightmares of the past, the students can’t lose their work. There’s no “save” button – it’s being saved as they go.

“Staying organized, staying on top of things – I think that’s really what’s going to help the kids,” he said.

Mann, a former classroom teacher himself, said the administration insists that technology be a help, not a burden, to teachers.

“Academically, Alvord really excels already,” he said. “I don’t want the technology to cause any problems. You want it to help the teachers, not hinder what they’re trying to do. You want to take it to the next level without them having to take 10 steps back.”

And, he said, because the Chromebook is a fairly inexpensive system, teachers can feel free to use it as much or as little as they wish.

“If they don’t need to use it during that class period, it’s OK. It may not be the most effective thing,” he said. “It’s like any other tool you use – pliers might do the same thing as a crescent wrench. You have to choose when to use that tool.”

Mann, who takes care of phones, computers, smartboards, security systems and all the other technology at Alvord ISD, said the district has come a long way since he started in December 2011.

“In the last two-and-a-half years, by leaps and bounds, we’ve moved Alvord into the 21st century,” he said. “It’s not just me – the administration, school board and superintendent have really just embraced it and said ‘We need to get going.’ We’re really doing a lot of things.”

Including, sometime this week or next, putting Chromebooks into the hands of 400 kids.

“The students are going to embrace it,” Mann said. “They’re going to take to whatever you put in their hands. You just need to put something in their hands – something they can use.

“I think we’re really moving in the right direction.”

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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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