Bleacher, parking lot project approved

Despite a couple of concerns, the Decatur School Board Monday approved a project to add a section of bleachers and add parking spaces at Eagle Stadium.

The bleachers will be added to the north side of the home bleachers, providing 160 seats for the band and drill team. The parking lot improvements would add spaces north of the stadium.

With the project expected to take 120 days, the board needed to make a decision at this month’s meeting in order to have the work done before football season. If the work began around April 1, it would be complete around Aug. 1.

The district received four estimates for the project, and Superintendent Rod Townsend recommended awarding the project to the company that provided the lowest estimate of $158,221: J&D Dodd Construction.

At least a couple of board members were concerned.

“If we go with the contractor you recommended, I’d like to see the penalty clause raised up substantially because we got snake bit on that last project. It’s imperative that this thing is done by football season,” board member Jeff Elder said.

He was referring to the agricultural science facility at the high school, which was also built by J&D Dodd Construction. That project ended up taking several months longer than expected.

The penalty clause includes a dollar amount penalty per day for every day the project goes past the alloted 120 days. Elder recommended the penalty be increased to $200 per day.

Board member Marsha Hafer said she was in favor of moving forward with one part of the project but not the other.

“This is just my opinion, but I’m personally more comfortable at this point in time going forward with the bleachers as opposed to everything at once,” she said.

She cited concerns over added costs for the parking work and the need to make sure the work is finished in time for football season.

The board ended up agreeing to offer the job to J&D Dodd Construction with the increased penalty of $200 per day. If the company does not agree to the contract, the board will offer the job, with the same penalty clause, to FX5.

The board also honored senior Katy Rowden for reaching the state finals in swimming all four years of high school and the ag mechanics team on its recent success.

High school English teacher Jennifer Smith was honored as educator of the month and Kristy Hammons as support staff employee of the month.

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Decatur School Board approves ’15-16 school calendar

Perhaps motivated by a girls basketball playoff game beginning in a couple of hours, the Decatur School Board might have set a record for its quickest meeting on Monday.

While it only lasted about 15 minutes, several items of business were addressed.

The consent agenda, which was approved with no discussion, included the 2015-2016 school calendar. Among the highlights:

  • Students will begin classes on Aug. 24 and finish on June 2.
  • Students and teachers will be off the week of Thanksgiving, Nov. 23-27.
  • Winter break is Dec. 21-Jan. 1.
  • Spring break is March 14-18.

The District Education Improvement Committee Calendar Committee presented two options for the calendar, and the one approved by the school board was favored by 82 percent of the 160 votes submitted by staff members.

The board also took care of the routine business of calling a trustee election for May 9, which also included a joint election agreement with the city of Decatur, approving a lease agreement for voting machines with the Wise County Elections office and appointing election officials.

Decatur High School student Stevi Perkins was honored for all-state choir selection. Angela Baker from Rann Elementary was honored as educator of the month, and Dana Henderson with the child nutrition department was honored as support staff employee of the month.

It was the second school board meeting in less than a week. Last Wednesday, the board called a bond election for May 9. Also at the Feb. 11 meeting, all administrators and directors received contract extensions.

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Decatur calls $13.5 million bond issue

The Decatur school board has spent months evaluating the needs of the school district and deciding what is the most important.

Now, it’s decision time for residents.

Trustees unanimously called a $13,488,500 bond election Wednesday. The bond packages will address transportation, security, technology and facility upgrades.

All but one item will be included in Proposition 1. Proposition 2 will feature an indoor multipurpose practice facility at an estimated cost of $3.5 million.

“The impetus for the bond came from recognizing our aging bus fleet as well as identifying security improvements for our schools,” Superintendent Rod Townsend said in a prepared press release. “While we have upgraded some of our facilities, we feel this is an opportunity for us to renovate other facilities. We will be working diligently to educate our community about specifics in each package. Then it will be left up to voters.”

PROPOSITION 1: $9,988,500

In 2005, the school district began operating its own bus fleet rather than contracting with an outside company. At that time, the district bought its own fleet of buses. While four buses have been replaced over the past few years, the vast majority of the buses have reached the age where they need to be replaced, Townsend said.

The bond will include $2.5 million for 25 new buses and another $250,000 for other vehicles for transporting smaller groups of students or educators.

Under security improvements, the bond would provide $323,500 for card reader systems for every school facility. Currently, only Young Elementary has this type of system in place.

Townsend said he had heard from high school students that cameras were needed in the parking lot, so funding for wireless cameras is also included.

Total security costs, including network equipment, servers and installation, comes to $873,500.

Under technology, the bond will include funding for the next four-year replacement cycle for elementary and McCarroll Middle School iPad programs, the laptop program at the high school and teacher laptops. It would also include funding for replacement of computer labs and projectors in the district, which are on a five-year replacement schedule.

Other technology items include wireless network enhancements and fiber optic cable replacement.

In total, the bond proposal contains $2,845,000 for technology.

Every campus except Young, the district’s newest campus, will receive various facility upgrades. The oldest campus, McCarroll Middle School, would receive more than a half-million dollars in improvements, including roof replacement and plumbing repairs.

The bond includes $600,000 for what is listed as the “dining hall/gym solution” at Rann Elementary. Currently, the gym and cafeteria seating area share space, unlike the setup at the other two elementary schools.

“Right now, we’re leaning toward a new dining hall so that gym area can be used solely for P.E. classes,” Townsend said.

The proposal also includes money for additional parking at Carson Elementary. Townsend explained what he had observed during student pickup earlier in the week.

“Cars were parked solid back down to the road and down Business 287,” he said. “They also had the road blocked on the south side of Carson on the road that leads to the high school. So we’ve got an issue there. This would provide some additional parking as well as some additional traffic lanes.”

The support services building would also receive numerous upgrades, including a new roof, HVAC replacement and new windows and wall repairs. Townsend said the plan is to buy a new freezer for the old cafeteria portion of the building so that it would become the new districtwide handling point for the food service department.

The old cafeteria seating area would also receive upgrades to provide for training space.

Athletic facility improvements would include resurfacing the tennis court at the middle school, resurfacing both the Thompson Street and high school tracks, adding to tennis courts at the high school and press boxes for the baseball and softball facility. A restroom facility would also be included at the baseball and softball facility.

In total, $3,520,000 would be spent on facility improvements.

Proposition 2: $3,500,000

The single-proposition item is for an indoor multipurpose facility to be built at the high school. Although it was not discussed in detail at Wednesday’s meeting, Townsend had previously said the facility could be used by not only athletic programs but band, cheerleaders and drill teams as well.

See the sidebar for the full list of bond items and estimated costs.

TAX RATE EFFECT

The district estimates the bond will add 4.2 cents per $100 valuation to the debt service tax rate. With an average home value of $117,000 in the district, that would equate to an annual increase of $49.14 in taxes.

Homeowners age 65 and over who have applied for and received an exemption would not see an increase in their tax rate, unless they make improvements that increase the value of their home, Townsend explained.

The district plans to hold town hall meetings to provide information to the public. Presentations will also be made at each campus for employees.

WHAT’S IN THE BOND

PROPOSITION 1

Transportation

$2,500,000 – 25 buses
$250,000 – other vehicles

Security

$323,500 – card reader systems at Rann Elementary, Carson Elementary, McCarroll Middle School 6th grade campus, multipurpose building, McCarroll Middle School 7th/8th grade campus, support services building and Decatur High School
$250,000 – network equipment
$200,000 – IP cameras
$50,000 – servers
$50,000 – installation

Technology

$300,000 – elementary iPad program refresh (one 4-year cycle)
$360,000 – McCarroll Middle School iPad program refresh (one 4-year cycle)
$1,000,000 – high school laptop program refresh (one 4-year cycle)
$250,000 – computer lab refresh (one 5-year cycle)
$260,000 – teacher laptop refresh (one 4-year cycle)
$200,000 – projector refresh (one 5-year cycle)
$250,000 – wireless network enhancement/refresh
$225,000 – fiber optic cable replacement

Facilities
Rann

$600,000 – dining hall/gym solution
$20,000 – motion sensors for lighting

Carson

$100,000 – parking lot
$20,000 – motion sensors for lighting

McCarroll Middle School 6th grade

$20,000 – motion sensors for lighting
$30,000 – soffit and soffit lighting
$150,000 – roof and gutters

Multipurpose Building

$28,000 – dishwasher replacement
$30,000 – public address system and intercom

McCarroll Middle School

$300,000 – roof
$100,000 – repair plumbing
$50,000 – remodel/paint hallways
$60,000 – resurface tennis court
$12,000 – restroom remodel and repairs

Support Services Building

$15,000 – replace north and west exterior doors
$100,000 – HVAC
$300,000 – new windows, plaster, repair brick walls
$60,000 – parking lot expansion
$40,000 – freezer
$50,000 – training room
$10,000 – landscaping
$300,000 – roof

Decatur High School

$200,000 – two additional tennis courts
$250,000 – resurface high school track

Baseball and Softball Facility

$100,000 – baseball/softball press box
$375,000 – restrooms

Thompson Street Track

$200,000 – resurface track

PROPOSITION 2

Decatur High School

$3,500,000 – indoor multipurpose center

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Meeting Agendas for Saturday, February 14, 2015

BRIDGEPORT – The Bridgeport School Board will decide Monday whether or not to create a soccer program. They will also approve the school calendar for 2015-2016 and will discuss stadium renovations and the animal science barn. The meeting is 7 p.m. at 2107 15th Street. The meeting is open to the public.

DECATUR – The Decatur School Board’s open session will take place earlier than normal Monday. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. with the closed session at the end of the meeting. The closed session usually takes up the first hour of the meeting. The open meeting agenda items include calling a trustee election and routine items such as monthly recognitions of students and employees, employment of personnel, superintendent communications and financial information. The meeting will be at the DISD Administration Building, 307 S. Cates St. It is open to the public.

CHICO – The Chico School Board will consider calling a bond election at its meeting Monday night. They will also call an election to fill three trustee positions and will hold a public hearing on the 2013-2014 Texas Academic Performance Report. The board will consider accepting donated materials, supplies and labor to construct two batting cages for softball and baseball. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in Chico Elementary School, Room 150, 1120 Park Rd. The meeting is open to the public.

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Meeting Agenda for Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DECATUR SCHOOL BOARD – The Decatur School Board is expected to call a bond election at a special meeting tonight. The agenda also includes the annual evaluation and contract decisions for administrators, principals, the athletic director, technology director and health services director. The meeting at the DISD Administration Building, 307 S. Cates, begins with a closed session at 6 p.m. All action will be taken in open session.

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Decatur School Board revises bond packages

Decatur school trustees whittled on possible bond packages Wednesday night until they had cut $2.6 million from previously discussed totals.

They walked into this week’s meeting with two potential propositions valued at $16,086,925 and left at 11 p.m. with two valued at $13,488,500.

“I’m hopeful that everyone can support the way we put it together,” said President Kevin Haney, addressing fellow board members. “I want everyone comfortable with how we’re packaging it.”

Earlier discussions about a bond focused on dividing it into three different packages, but at the last meeting Superintendent Rod Townsend suggested to the board that they consider just one package or two, at the most.

He presented a two-package option at this week’s meeting to kick off the discussion.

At the end of the night the consensus was to move forward with a $10 million package that includes $3.5 million for facilities, $2.7 million for transportation, $2.8 million for technology and $900,000 for security.

They also agreed that package two would have only one item – a multipurpose indoor practice facility with an estimated pricetag of $3.5 million.

They arrived at the final numbers after a lengthy discussion, the bulk of which revolved around turf at Eagle Stadium. Eventually that item was removed from the bond entirely, along with turf at the high school practice field, with the understanding that it could be installed at some point in the future using construction funds.

Early in the discussion, one of Haney’s arguments for turf was that it would eliminate the need for $810,000 in improvements at three other district locations. Those improvements wouldn’t be needed because the teams that use those facilities could use Eagle Stadium instead.

He said the installation of turf would happen eventually, “if for no other reason than water is getting scarce.

“How long are we going to water this field?” he said.

Board member Diana Mosley said she felt they were “pushing it with turf.” She explained that she was concerned some voters might reject the bond because of turf and in turn, prevent the district from being able to address other needs.

“I think we’ll be at risk of not getting the buses we need for our students,” she said. “I think there will be people concerned about how this is packaged.”

Board secretary Jeff Elder said turf at Eagle Stadium would save work at the Thompson Street field, and he felt like it would be the most bang for their buck.

At a certain point, bond advisor Jeff Robert of First Southwest suggested that something deemed controversial, like turf, could be pulled out of the bond and possibly done later with regularly budgeted construction funds. It was an idea most board members seemed to like, and they began reconfiguring the packages with that in mind.

In addition to turf, several other items were removed from the bond. Those include:

  • press box at Eagle Stadium
  • band bleachers at Eagle Stadium
  • tennis court concession stand and restrooms
  • extra work at the sixth grade campus, including a practice field, irrigation and bleachers
  • track fencing and parking lot at the high school
  • restrooms at the Thomas Street field
  • repaving at McCarroll Middle School and work on other parking lots

Townsend said any or all of these projects could be done independently of the bond with construction funds, but he said if the bond does not pass, those funds would likely be used to address the more critical transportation and security issues.

The board made a tentative plan to meet sometime next week to call the bond election. They have until Feb. 27 to do so.

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Decatur ISD to consider calling bond election

After months of discussions about needs of the Decatur school district, the school board is expected to make several bond election-related decisions at tonight’s meeting.

In addition to deciding whether to call a bond election, the board must make other decisions – such as what to include and whether to include those items in one or more packages.

Among the items discussed in recent months that could be included in a bond election are the following:

  • 25 buses and other vehicles
  • security measures such as card readers at all campuses and security cameras
  • adding another four-year replacement cycle for iPads at the elementary and middle school levels and laptops at the high school, wireless network enhancements and fiber optic cable replacement
  • facility improvements district-wide including motion sensors for lighting, expanded parking at Carson, new roof and gutters at McCarroll Middle School, numerous upgrades at the Support Services building including a new roof and HVAC unit, a stand-alone gym at Rann Elementary and additional parking at the high school
  • athletic facilities such as resurfacing the high school and middle school tracks, a press box and restrooms for the baseball/softball facility, synthetic turf at Eagle Stadium and the high school track, additional tennis courts at the high school, a concession/restroom facility near the tennis courts, an indoor multipurpose practice facility and the expansion of the press box at Eagle Stadium

Wednesday’s agenda also includes the usual monthly reports and recognitions.

Anyone wishing to address the board can do so in public forum, which is also included on the meeting agenda.

The meeting will be at the DISD Administration building, 307 S. Cates, and begins with a closed session at 6 p.m. followed by the open meeting.

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District extends superintendents contract

Decatur ISD Superintendent Rod Townsend received a vote of confidence from the school board Wednesday night.

After meeting in closed session for more than four hours for the annual superintendent evaluation, the board emerged to take action on his contract.

“The consensus of the board is, we are very pleased with Mr. Townsend’s performance,” said board President Kevin Haney. “We appreciate the work he is doing for the district. We feel like he’s doing an outstanding job for us and hope he sticks around for a while.

“We didn’t want anyone to have the perception that since we were back there a long time that we were thinking any differently,” he added. “Everything is going smoothly in the district, and we credit a lot of that to him and we appreciate what he does.”

The board voted 7-0 to add another year to Townsend’s contract, extending it through 2018.

In addition, the board voted to raise Townsend’s salary $4,500 and, upon his request, move his auto and medical benefits into his salary figure.

BOND TALK

Since it was about 10:20 p.m. before the board moved to the next item of business – discussion of a possible bond election – Haney said they would defer further discussion “until we are a little more fresh.”

Townsend did provide the board with updated information, including new estimates on some possible bond items.

Jim Winton with Winton Engineering, who worked on the administration building renovation, provided Townsend with some estimates on possible items related to athletic facilities.

At Eagle Stadium, Townsend said rather than replacing the current press box, it is possible to expand it. Winton advised the press box could be expanded forward, taking out about three rows of bleachers, to double its size and make it a two-tiered press box with a sloped window – all for around $150,000.

If the board decides to add an indoor multipurpose practice facility at the high school, Winton told Townsend that would cost around $3.5 million.

Townsend said it would probably need to include a storage room and a couple of classrooms where athletes could gather to watch film, since that is currently done in the dressing room. The costs could be kept lower by not adding HVAC or restrooms, he said.

Winton also told Townsend that upgrades at the middle school track could be done for about half of the original estimate. He advised that track replacement could be done for about $150,000.

It’s possible a stand-alone gym at Rann Elementary could also be added for less than the original estimate of $2.5 million, Winton told Townsend. Winton estimated that a basic metal building could be constructed for $740,000 to $1 million.

Earlier discussions about a bond focused on dividing it up into three different packages. But advice at last month’s meeting from Jeff Robert of First Southwest, as well as his own research, have persuaded Townsend to suggest the board might want to look at just one or two packages at most.

Townsend looked at schools similar in size to Decatur who have held bond elections the past two years, and out of the 26 schools, only one had multiple propositions on the ballot.

“My thought is we should not do three,” Haney said. “It kind of waters everything down, gets too confusing.”

Townsend said he would look at different options with two bond packages for the board’s consideration. The board is expected to vote on calling a bond election at its regular January meeting, which was moved from Jan. 19 to Jan. 28.

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Meeting Agendas for Wednesday, January 14, 2015

BOYD – The Boyd school board will discuss agriculture barn construction bids, budget amendments and elementary school playground equipment Thursday night. The meeting is 6:30 p.m. at 600 Knox Ave. It’s open to the public.

DECATUR – The Decatur school board will meet Wednesday night for the annual superintendent evaluation and consideration of his contract. The special meeting will also include a board work session on a potential bond election. The board is expected to make a final decision on calling a bond election at the Jan. 28 regular meeting. Note that the regular meeting was rescheduled from its orginal date of Jan. 19. Wednesday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. with a closed session for the evaluation before reconvening into open session. It will be held at the DISD Administration Building, 307 S. Cates.

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Voters might have multiple bond choices

Around this time next month, the Decatur school board is expected to take action on a proposed bond issue.

There are still several decisions to make before then.

At Monday’s meeting, the board and Superintendent Rod Townsend continued to look at items to include in a possible bond package. Those items have been prioritized, and up to three packages might be considered by voters.

A proposed package #1 contains items that are considered to be the most pressing need or highest priority for the district. That includes $2.75 million for 25 new buses and other vehicles; $1.2 million for security upgrades such as card readers at all campuses, security cameras and related technology infrastructure; $3.2 million for technology including one “refresh” of computers districtwide, wireless network enhancements and fiber optic cable replacement; and nearly $2.5 million for “priority one” items related to facilities.

Those priority one facility items include motion sensors for lighting, roof and gutter repairs or replacement, plumbing repairs, numerous upgrades at the support services building, resurfacing of the high school and middle school tracks, a baseball/softball pressbox and restroom at the baseball/softball complex.

Proposed packages #2 and #3 each contain additional facility-related items.

Proposed package #2 includes nearly $6.2 million for items such as field turf at Eagle Stadium, two additional tennis courts and concession stand/restroom facility at the high school tennis courts, restrooms/concession stand at Thompson Street track, and an indoor multipurpose center at the high school.

Proposed package #3 includes nearly $3.7 million for items such as field turf at the high school track, track fencing and parking lot at Decatur High School and a separate gym at Rann Elementary.

The items included in the bond are subject to change, and Townsend said he expects some of the items might not make it into the final bond packages.

Some of the items in a package might be contingent on the passage of another package. For instance, if field turf at Eagle Stadium is approved by voters, then junior high games can be held there instead of the Thompson Street field, eliminating the need for the restrooms/concession stand project there.

The merits of presenting a single bond package rather than multiple bond packages was also discussed.

Jeff Robert, financial advisor with First Southwest, said it is rare to see more than two packages presented to voters.

“If you could package them together and you feel that it could pass, I would rather see you do that,” he said. “But if you’ve got those items that are maybe less critical that could defeat the whole package, a multiple proposition is probably the way to go.”

It is still up to the board to decide if the bond issue features one, two or three packages. Trustees are expected to vote on calling a bond issue at the January meeting.

In other business the board:

  • approved the annual audit report;
  • honored the Decatur High School volleyball team on their state championship;
  • honored the winners of the district’s Christmas card contest;
  • honored Jami Petty, a first grade teacher at Carson Elementary, as the district’s educator of the month;
  • honored Ann Boyles as the support staff employee of the month; and
  • recognized the work of Learning Ladder daycare.

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Decatur School Board continues discussion of possible bond issue

Bond talk once again took up the majority of the time at Monday’s Decatur school board meeting, as trustees continue to look at the district’s needs.

Superintendent Rod Townsend gave the board a presentation on what he sees as needs for the district. He divided them into two groups. “Package one,” as he described it, were definite needs for the district. “Package two” were items that might be considered more “wants” than “needs.”

It was clear what was the most pressing item in Townsend’s eye.

“The district is going to have to do something with transportation in the near future, so there’s about $2.5 million in transportation that will be the driving force behind this bond issue,” he said.

Transportation needs could include 25 buses as well as other, smaller vehicles.

In addition to transportation, technology items were in Package One. Items identified for a possible bond issue would address the district’s needs for the next 10 years, including refreshing its computers.

Security needs are also on the list, including card readers for all facilities that don’t currently use the technology.

“It would allow us to lock every door there and be able to track everyone coming and going and allow us to keep only the front doors open for traffic coming in and out,” Townsend said.

Only teachers would have cards, not students, Townsend said.

Security upgrades would also include more cameras outdoors and in parking areas, as well as inside buildings.

Townsend said each campus was examined to determine its facility needs. A few of the needs by campus included:

RANN ELEMENTARY – energy-efficient motion sensors for lights

CARSON ELEMENTARY – motion sensors and additional parking in front of the building to ease traffic issues

6TH GRADE CAMPUS – motion sensors, new roof and gutters

MULTIPURPOSE BUILDING – new dishwasher, public address system

MCCARROLL 7TH/8TH GRADE CAMPUS – motion sensors, repainting hallways, fixing plumbing issues, resurfacing tennis courts, restroom remodel and repair

SUPPORT SERVICES BUILDING – new roof, new air conditioning system, new windows, new exterior doors, parking lot expansion, freezer, training room, landscaping, repairing brick walls

HIGH SCHOOL – two additional tennis courts, tennis concession stand and restrooms, resurfacing high school track, adding fencing and parking areas

BASEBALL/SOFTBALL FIELD – new press boxes, restrooms

THOMPSON STREET TRACK – restrooms/concession stands, resurfacing track

DISTRICTWIDE – repave, seal and paint parking lots; field turf at high school track.

WISH LIST INCLUDES TURF

“Package two” items included a gym for Rann Elementary as well as upgrades to the sixth grade practice field, bleacher awnings and roll-up doors for batting cages at the baseball/softball facility, general infrastructure upgrades for technology, field turf at Eagle Stadium and an indoor multipurpose practice facility at the high school.

The decision of whether to call the bond election, and what to include, is still up to the school board.

“It seems to me that some bond is going to be in order even if it is just for transportation, if that is what the board ultimately decided,” board President Kevin Haney said. “If we are going to do some of these other things, I think some priority needs to be given to them … If Feb. 27 is the deadline for calling a bond, we really need to make a decision in January.”

The board decided to hold a workshop to discuss the issue at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3.

In other business the board:

  • learned that student enrollment has reached 3,010, the highest it has been all year;
  • heard an update on the new agriculture facility, which is expected to be completed next month;
  • learned that all teachers at all campuses meet the 100 percent highly qualified requirement as part of the No Child Left Behind Act;
  • honored the Decatur High School girls cross country team and the FFA Quiz team for their recent success at competitions; and
  • honored Young Elementary kindergarten teacher Donae Raymundo as educator of the month and Rann Elementary’s Michelle Hornback as support staff employee of the month.

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Bond price tag could top $8 million

The Decatur School Board Monday continued discussions about a possible bond issue to address the needs of the district.

They now have a possible price tag to go with it: just over $8 million.

Superintendent Rod Townsend said that is an estimate of needs in four different areas: transportation, technology, security and facilities.

The biggest need appears to be in transportation, which features an aging bus fleet. When the district decided to bring transportation in-house instead of contracting it out in 2005, Decatur purchased 25 buses at a cost of nearly $1.6 million. Those buses are now nearly 10 years old, and some have as many as 186,000 miles on them.

Enrollment growth since 2005 has also required the district to add five regular education routes and one special education route.

“Something will have to be done,” Townsend said. “A decision will need to be made in the next one or two years.”

His suggestion is to purchase 25 buses, plus a couple of other vehicles at an estimated cost of $2.75 million.

Technology upgrades could cost an estimated $2.3 million, Townsend said. That would include upgrading computer labs at all three elementary schools. He said the upgrades are needed because the state is moving toward online assessments.

Other technology upgrades would include infrastructure, such as replacing fiber-optic cables that are nearly 15 years old.

Security enhancements could cost an estimated $1.2 million. That would include card-reader entry on every campus and extra surveillance cameras at the high school and a couple of other parking lots around the district.

Facility upgrades, which could carry a price tag of around $1.8 million, include:

  • a parking lot at Carson Elementary
  • lighting sensors at all campuses
  • cafeteria upgrades
  • resurfacing tennis courts at the middle school
  • districtwide freezer for food services
  • HVAC at the special services building
  • addressing parking lot issues at the seventh and eighth grade campus
  • adding two tennis courts at high school
  • recarpeting at Rann, Carson, the sixth and seventh and eighth grade campuses
  • repainting hallways
  • replacing sewer lines at the middle school
  • a new roof for the middle school
  • replacing HVAC, exterior doors and windows at the support services building

Board members have until Feb. 27 to call a bond election next spring, but Townsend said a decision needs to be reached by December or January.

In other business, the board:

  • learned the district had received the “superior achievement” designation with the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). The district has received the highest rating each year since the system was started nearly a decade ago.
  • approved a bid for two Chevy Cruze vehicles from James Wood Motors. The cars will be used for transporting teachers to training, coaches to games and small numbers of students to competitions.
  • received an update on the new agriculture facility project, which is a little behind schedule. The project is now expected to be completed in early to mid-December.
  • honored Debbie Shaw from Rann Elementary as educator of the month and Camaron Garrett as support staff employee of the month. Decatur High School choir students were also recognized.

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Decatur School Board reviews needs, ponders bond

Voters in the Decatur school district might be asked to approve a bond issue next spring.

Decatur ISD Superintendent Rod Townsend gave a presentation to the board at Monday’s meeting outlining the district’s most pressing needs.

Under transportation, Townsend listed the need for about 25 buses at an estimated cost of $2.5 million – about $250,000 a year moving forward.

After several years in a row of budget tightening, with revenues and expenditures running about even, the money just isn’t there, board president Kevin Haney explained.

“With the buses, we’ve reached the end of their useful life, and we have to start putting more money into them,” he said. “That’s probably the most pressing thing is the age of our bus fleet. If we don’t have enough money rolling in to the general fund to pay the cost of those, we have to look into either raising the M&O rate or issuing bonds and raising the I&S rate to pay for that.”

The M&O, or maintenance and operations, tax rate is used to fund the day-to-day operations of the district. Because Decatur ISD is considered a property wealthy, or Chapter 41, district, funds put into this part of the budget are subject to recapture.

The I&S, or interest and sinking, portion of the tax rate is used to pay off debt. These funds are not subject to recapture by the state.

Townsend explained how raising the rate on either side would work when applied to the current year’s budget.

“If you do a TRE, tax ratification election, and you get a five-cent increase, you put it on M&O side, and you are going to generate some money,” he said. “It’s going to be about a million dollar increase, but you are going to end up paying about $491,000 of that back to the state. You’ll only be able to keep about $630,000 of it.

“If you take that same nickel and add it to the I&S side, it will raise about $1.9 million and you get to keep all of it.”

To increase the I&S tax rate would require a bond election.

Buses were one of several items “we feel we need but are going to be hard to pay for out of regular fund balance,” Townsend said. Other items include security upgrades at the middle school and high school. The high school upgrades could be quite expensive, Townsend warned.

“There’s about 44 exterior doors that at any point in time every one of them are open,” he said. “To go in there and put automatic locks and card swipe systems and then have a plan in place for students to come and go throughout the day, we will have to have some designated entry and exit points to be able to do that. It will be expensive, but how do you put a price on security if it keeps our kids safe?”

The security upgrades will also require technology upgrades, primarily in infrastructure.

Repairs to some of the older facilities in the district are another need. Townsend specifically mentioned air conditioning at the support services building and an old roof at the middle school that need to be addressed.

Because discussions are still in the early stages, a firm price for all the needs is not known, but Townsend presented an estimate of $10 million to give the board an idea of how much a bond issue might cost.

Using that figure, with a 12-year payout, the board would need to increase the I&S tax rate five cents to pay for the bond issue. Townsend pointed out a couple of times during the discussion that the board decreased the tax rate by a penny for the 2014-2015 school year.

With an average home worth around $117,000 in the district, taxpayers would see an average increase of $51.29 a year.

The next available election date would be May 9, meaning the board has until Feb. 27, 2015, to decide if it wants to call for a vote.

“I don’t think we have any choice,” board member Wade Watson said. “Unless everyone wants to start volunteering to bring every kid to school, we’ve got to have buses.”

Townsend said he could have more specific price estimates by the next school board meeting.

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Council Previews for Saturday, September 13, 2014

BUDGET, AIRPORT IMPROVEMENTS GET CITY’S FOCUS - The Bridgeport City Council will adopt its 2014-2015 tax rate of $0.5875 per $100 valuation at its meeting Tuesday, 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at 900 Thompson Street. The council will also discuss a uniform rental agreement with G&K Services and consider an agreement with TxDOT’s aviation division for improvements and repairs to the Bridgeport Municipal Airport.

DUGOUTS, AG BARNS ON AGENDA - The Bridgeport ISD will meet 7:30 p.m. Monday night at 2107 15th Street. At the meeting, the board is expected to discuss baseball dugouts, agricultural science barns and electronic message boards for each campus.

CRIME LAB, RESIGNATION ON COMMISSIONERS’ AGENDA – Wise County Commissioners face a lengthy agenda when they meet at 9 a.m. Monday on the third floor of the courthouse in Decatur, among them a request from Sheriff David Walker to acquire a building to be used as a future crime lab, and a “notification letter” received from Election Administrator Lanny Noble “for his resignation.” Other agenda items include bids on property sold in the recent “struck off property” auction, a final plat for Montecito Estates, cleaning out county road right-of-way to improve public safety and a discussion of conditions that might call for renewing the county’s burn ban. The meeting is open to the public.

DECATUR SCHOOL BOARD MEETS MONDAY – Decatur ISD administrators will provide the school board with their district and campus improvement plans at Monday’s meeting. The consent agenda includes the usual monthly items as well as approval of out-of-state travel for the National FFA Convention. The superintendent’s communications include a report on resignations/new hires, principals’ reports, directors’ reports, enrollment report, the high school ag project center and bond election. The meeting will take place at the DISD Administration Building, 307 S. Cates with a closed session at 6 p.m. followed by the open session at 7.

CHICO SCHOOL BOARD MEETS MONDAY – The Chico School Board will consider the Dads for Dragons program at Chico Elementary School at Monday’s meeting. In addition to the routine monthly items, the board will consider the sale of real estate, designation of 4-H activities as extracurricular school events and Extension agents as adjunct staff members, and district goals for the 2014-2015 school year. A work session with WRA Architects will take place following the board meeting in the elementary library. The regular meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in Room 150 of Chico Elementary School, 1120 Park Road.

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Decatur budget includes money for vehicles, ag barn

If the 2014-2015 Decatur school budget looked a lot like the 2013-2014 budget, that was by design.

“When you take salaries out of the budget and take recapture out, and look at day-to-day expenses, there’s almost no difference from last year to this year. The budget is almost exactly the same,” said DISD Deputy Superintendent Gary Micinski, who handles the district’s finances.

The school board adopted a balanced general fund budget of $29,452,207 at a special meeting Wednesday. That’s a decrease of $76,144 from last year’s budget.

The general fund budget includes 71 percent for labor and benefits, 11 percent for recapture, 9 percent for contracted services and utilities, 6 percent for supplies, 2 percent for travel and fees and 1 percent for capital expenditures.

Capital expenditures is one area that has increased over last year, from $10,000 to $401,000. The 2014-2015 budget include two vehicles for instructional services, another vehicle for maintenance, a bus – and money to help pay for the new agriculture facility currently under construction.

The budget also includes an overall average salary increase of 2.5 percent for teachers, nurses and counselors.

The total budget including the food service fund and debt service is $36,495,034.

After adopting the budget, board members also adopted a total tax rate of $1.29 per $100 valuation. That includes $1.04 for maintenance and operations and 25 cents for debt payment. The tax rate represents a penny decrease from the 2013-2014 tax rate.

No one from the public attended or spoke at the public hearing on the budget and tax rate.

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GPA policy change affects Decatur freshmen, sophomores

Decatur school officials hope changes in the way grade point averages are calculated will put less emphasis on grades and more emphasis on preparing students for life after high school.

That goes for incoming sophomores as well as freshmen, following action taken Monday by the Decatur school board.

Changes to the GPA policy were made in March, to affect classes beginning with incoming freshmen. The six-point scale will be eliminated, and only advanced courses such as pre-AP, AP and dual-credit courses will carry a potential five points. Core classes – English, math, science, social studies and a foreign language – will be on the four-point scale.

Incoming juniors and seniors will continue to use the previous GPA policy.

Last month, the board discussed the possibility of applying the new GPA policy to incoming sophomores as well. Notifications were sent to sophomore parents over the past month to inform them of the possible changes and to get feedback.

Judi Bell, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said she had received only one phone call from a parent asking for more explanation.

“What we want parents to understand more than anything else is we are trying to broaden the choices for that sophomore class,” Bell said. “We really feel like this is a better GPA system that allows students to pursue the electives they want.

“It seems to be a detriment (under the old system) if they had to take a 4-point class, and it would actually bring down their GPA if they were trying for all the advanced classes,” she added. “This way, they can try an elective, take things they might not otherwise take without penalty to their GPA.”

The changes are taking place as schools across the state implement the required changes to graduation plans outlined in House Bill 5. Gone (at least beginning with the incoming freshmen) are the minimum, recommended and distinguished plans. Students will now be required to take the foundation plan. They will also be able to earn an endorsement on one of five “pathways” designed to help students take courses to prepare them for a college or a career.

Under the new GPA policy, grades earned for courses not calculated into the GPA will still be listed on the student’s transcript, meaning colleges will still be able to see those grades.

One hope with the policy change is that students will be encouraged to take tougher classes.

“At some point, the kids have to understand they have to look past today,” board president Kevin Haney said. “They’ve got to look at those electives, even if they are harder, it’s going to prepare them for either college or going into a work environment as opposed to taking some class that is easy. They need to challenge themselves.”

Board member Diana Mosley repeated concerns she had expressed at an earlier meeting about eliminating the six-point scale for AP courses. She said students who put forth the effort for the rigorous course should still be rewarded with the higher grading scale.

High school counselor Neal Hall told the board the school is prepared for schedule changes due to the new policy, adding that it’s not uncommon to deal with schedule changes in the summer and beginning of school.

The board voted 5-1 to apply the new GPA policy to sophomores as well as freshmen. Mosley cast the opposing vote.

PERFORMANCE INDEX SUMMARY

Bell also gave a presentation on the preliminary Performance Index Summary, which has replaced the AEIS data in the state’s school accountability system. She explained that the performance indicators are grouped into four indexes:

  • student achievement (STAAR results),
  • student progress,
  • closing performance gaps, and
  • postsecondary readiness.

She cautioned board members that comparing this year’s results to last year’s was like comparing “apples to oranges” since the scoring system is different.

All DISD campuses received a “met standard” rating except for McCarroll’s sixth grade campus, which was rated “improvement required.”

Bell explained that the campus missed meeting the standard by one point in the scoring system. She said six students were not counted in the rating since their scores from last year could not be located as a point of comparison on the student progress index.

Bell said those students likely transferred into the district and were entered into the system by a different name or some other coding error. Of the six, four passed the STAAR test.

The district will attempt to correct those errors and appeal the rating in hopes of bringing the campus up to the “met standard” level.

The school board also recognized the district’s three school resource officers – Zachary Berrier, Kevin Flake and Richard Hale – as support staff employees of the month.

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GPA policy change back on Decatur School Board agenda

The Decatur School Board Monday is expected to make a decision on applying a new grade point average policy to incoming sophomores as well as freshman.

Changes in the way GPA is calculated were approved in the spring, with the understanding that the changes would begin with this year’s incoming freshman.

However, at last month’s meeting, the board discussed the possibility of applying the changes to sophomores as well. They delayed action on the item in order to get the information out to, and feedback from, parents of sophomore students.

In other business, the board will hear a report on the preliminary school accountability ratings recently released by the Texas Education Agency.

One campus, McCarroll Middle School’s 6th grade campus, was the only school in the district to receive an “improvement required” rating. The district is considering appealing that rating. All other schools in the district, and the district as a whole, received the “met standard” rating.

The public portion of the school board meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the DISD Administration Building, 307 S. Cates.

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Decatur proposes new GPA rules for sophomores

Incoming Decatur High School sophomores may find themselves under the new grade-point average rules the school board recently approved for freshmen.

Back in March, trustees approved changes in the way grade-point averages are calculated. The six-point scale will be eliminated, and only advanced courses such as pre-AP, AP and dual-credit courses will carry a potential five points. Core classes – English, math, science, social studies and a foreign language – will be on the four-point scale.

The changes are designed to give students more flexibility in their schedules and allow them to take courses based on their interests rather than just to boost their GPA, administrators said in March.

Under the old system, students entered a dual credit and an AP course on a five-point scale. If a student successfully completed the AP exam, he or she was bumped up to the six-point scale.

When the changes were approved in March, the change applied only to incoming freshman rather than students who have already started taking high school courses under the old GPA system.

Incoming juniors and seniors will continue to use the old GPA calculations, but Monday, the board considered applying the new GPA calculation to sophomores as well as incoming freshmen.

“The real advantage I see, from a curriculum standpoint, is we are going to have some sophomores who may want to get into pathways for graduation, and if they do, they are more likely to do it when they have this (new) GPA calculation in place instead of the other one where they are playing the game, choosing the courses to get the best GPA rather than pursuing their passions through those pathways,” said Judi Bell, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The pathways she referenced stems from a new education law taking effect this fall. House Bill 5 laid out five different endorsements – or pathways – for schools to offer. Those include:

  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),
  • public services,
  • business and industry,
  • arts and humanities, and
  • multidisciplinary studies.

Schools are required to offer at least one of those endorsements.

Bell explained that last year’s freshmen courses will be calculated on the old scale while this year’s sophomores will move to the new scale, creating a sort of hybrid calculation system for that class.

High school counselor Neal Hall said the GPA change might cause a few students to make schedule changes for the coming year, but he expects it won’t affect the scheduling of the majority of students.

With school scheduled to start in a month, board member Diane Mosley said she wanted to make sure parents of incoming sophomores were given information about the changes and allowed to give feedback.

“I’d like to give the community an opportunity, especially the parents of the sophomores, to be informed of those changes,” she said. ” … They are three years away from graduation and have already made some decisions. I’d like to get that out to the community before we make some decisions.”

Other board members said they liked the proposal and were ready to move forward.

“I’m fine going ahead with it,” trustee Jeff Elder said. “There will always be negatives along the way no matter what we do. … This is going to smooth some things out. It’s going to take some gamesmanship out of it. It’s going to make it easier for parents to figure it out. Plus, I’ve talked to a lot of people already, parents and teachers both, and everyone’s been really in favor of it.”

Ultimately, the board decided to have administrators write up a new policy on the new grade point average calculations applying to incoming sophomores and bring it back for board approval in a few weeks. In the meantime, the school will notify the parents of incoming sophomores in order to get their feedback.

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Weight room improvements approved by Decatur School Board

The girls’ weight room at Decatur High School will soon receive an upgrade.

The school board Monday approved spending nearly $37,000 for the project, which will include taking out a wall to expand the room, the purchase of new equipment and installation of a rubber floor. The weight room is located on the south side of the gym, underneath the visitors stands.

Superintendent Rod Townsend explained why the upgrades are needed.

“The girls’ weight room was never furnished like it should have been when the high school was built (in 2006),” he said. “It just had some old, dilapidated equipment that was put in there. It served its purpose, but right now we have a problem getting people scheduled, getting girls scheduled. They have to go to the fieldhouse to lift weights.”

Townsend said district maintenance employees could remove the drywall and make the necessary ceiling repairs.

Half the money from the project will come from current budget funds, while the other half will come from the construction fund balance.

BOARD REORGANIZATION

Each May following the election, the school board votes on new officers for the year. All of the officers were re-elected: Kevin Haney as president, Jeff Alling as vice president and Jeff Elder as secretary.

At the beginning of the meeting, Alling and newly-elected board member Jim Lamirand were issued the oath of office.

CAREER AND TECHNOLOGY REPORT

Townsend gave a presentation on the status of the high school’s career and technology program, which he said has been growing in recent years.

“It’s not just about animals,” Townsend said. “It’s about a lot of different things. Currently, we have about 360-370 kids taking part in our career and tech program. I don’t think there is a program up there that has that many involved in it as career and tech. It’s growing, and I think there are some good things to come.”

He pointed out that in the current year, 214 students had earned industry-recognized certifications such as ASE (Automotive Service Excellence), OPAC (Office Proficiency Assessment Certification), floral design, beef quality and master gardener. Another 74 certifications have been issued from Weatherford College, including gas metal arc welding and welding safety tools equipment.

LUNCH PRICE ADJUSTMENTS

As part of the consent agenda that drew no board discussion, changes were approved to the pricing of school lunches.

Current lunch prices are $2.35 at the elementary, $2.60 at the middle school and $2.80 at the high school. The new pricing structure will include only two tiers: $2.50 for the elementary school and $2.75 at the secondary levels (middle and high schools). That represents a 15-cent increase at the elementary and middle school level and a 5-cent decrease at the high school level.

Recognitions and honors

The following students, teachers and groups were recognized at the meeting:

  • Carson Elementary teacher Danielle Scroggins as DISD educator of the month;
  • Alicia Flick, office secretary at McCarroll Middle School, as support staff employee of the month;
  • valedictorian Laura Nicholson and salutatorian Katie Isham;
  • members of the Superintendent Student Advisory Council;
  • state golf qualifiers Drew Jones;
  • boys state track meet qualifiers.

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Alling, Lamirand elected to school board

Decatur School Board incumbent Jeff Alling cruised to re-election while a three-person-race to replace board member Alan White was a bit closer.

Alling won his third term in place 4 with 72 percent of the vote. His opponent, Charles Ross, received 28 percent.

Decatur Voter Turnout

Jim Lamirand claimed place 3 with 54 percent of the vote. His closest opponent, Ricky Stutt, got just shy of 42 percent while Peter Rivera received 4 percent.

Voter turnout was light. Slightly fewer than 4 percent of registered voters in the school district cast a ballot in the election.

Alling said he was happy to be re-elected to a job he truly enjoys, and he offered some advice to his opponent.

“Charles Ross is my friend, and I think he ought to keep running,” Alling said.

He said he also looked forward to working with new member Lamirand, who he said he’s known for awhile. He offered him some advice as well.

“My advice is to go to school board school,” he said. “You learn a lot there. But the best advice is to be patient and keep the interest of the teachers and kids at heart.”

New place 3 trustee Lamirand said he’s looking forward to getting to work on school business.

“I’m really excited to get on board with it and learn. I think this is going to be fun,” he said.

Stutt, who came up 45 votes short of election, said he is concerned the school district does not offer enough variety of career and technology programs at the high school.

“Programs like building trades and criminal justice and programs that work alongside of Weatherford College in the medical industry,” Stutt said as an example, adding, “DISD has very little to offer the young ladies of our district.

“I think more turned out in support of the idea ‘everyone is going to college,’ and ‘get a scholarship through athletics.’ That thinking has changed at the state and national level.”

White did not seek re-election this year, retiring after 15 years on the board.

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