The Van Alstyne ISD Board of Trustees delved into STAAR testing results and the 2013 budget before taking a summer break of sorts. The Board voted to cancel its July meeting and meet a week early in August – the 12th to be exact – so Monday night’s meeting offered trustees and Superintendent Dr. John Spies a good opportunity to wrap up another school year and open discussion on next year’s finances.
STAAR testing results were at the top of the Superintendent’s Report as issued by Spies. The three school principals – Lanette Dyer (elementary), Ryan Coleman (middle school) and Brown – were on hand to present and discuss their schools’ results. Across the board the results were positive; in particular, seventh grade math scores which were 25 percent higher than the state average and eighth grade science scores which were 24 percent higher overall and 25 percent higher for the economically disadvantaged and Hispanic sub-groups than the state averages.
Other highlights of STAAR testing showed fourth grade math scores that were 20 percent higher than the state average and ninth and tenth grade writing scores that were 17 and 18 percent higher, respectively, than the state average. In STAAR testing, writing, in particular, seemed to be the scourge of students across the state. At the elementary and middle school levels the state average score was barely above 70 percent while at the high school level it was in the 50’s on average. All VAISD overall writing scores were above 70 percent.
The Board also discussed the Texas legislative session as it pertains to education, particularly House Bill 5 which decreases end of course (EOC) exams and changes requirements for high school students. Brown spoke about what it means to high school students and said it was a good day for some of the students who are struggling. The bill effectively cuts the number of EOC exams required from 15 to five. Senate Bill (SB) 1, of which Governor Rick Perry signed off on the finance piece, was also discussed. Spies reported that the Van Alstyne school district is expected to be in the top five percent of districts for increased revenue per student. However, the flip side is that VAISD is still in the bottom 20 percent of districts in terms of revenue per student.
The 2013 budget was brought forth for discussion – this was not an action item on the agenda. Highlights of the new budget presented by Spies include: a $471,845 increase in personnel over the span of two years; a $20,000 increase in technology over the past two years; $4,300 still owed on the park lease with the city; $170,000 spent on high school electricity (“Energy management systems are still doing their job.”); $30,000 earmarked for carpet and paint improvements; a six percent revenue and expenditure increase and a projected quarter million dollars from the state without growth factored in for next year.
“We’re in better shape than before the cuts were made,” said Spies, referring to cuts in school funding made by the state of Texas.
During the budget discussion, Spies also mentioned the possibility of getting a part-time student resource officer. The budget for this peace officer would be $12,000 per year with a 15-hour per week schedule during the school year. Spies is talking with Van Alstyne Police Chief Tim Barnes regarding filling the position.
Spies reported that the budget was based on average daily attendance numbers of 1,230 students. The district averaged that number in 2012-13.
“I’m excited with what we’ve been able to do with personnel over the last two years,” said Spies.
MEETING NOTES: Spies congratulated VAHS Principal Dr. David Brown and his staff on a smooth graduation night. VAHS held graduation ceremonies on June 7…Enrollment across the district was up 22 students from the end of last year…Local Policy Update 97 was approved by the Board…Trustees voted to allow Spies to hire professional personnel without board approval before the August 12 meeting…The Board approved an additional English teacher at the high school next year to double block freshman English as writing scores are needing improvement. The request came from Brown and Spies termed it “an innovative idea.”