LISD tables lunch price increase, schedules middle school five minutes earlier next year

The board and audience applauded Trisha Sheffield in her final meeting April 16. (Photo by Leopold Knopp)

At its April 16 regular meeting, Lewisville ISD officially joined the Denton and Tarrant County local elections scheduled for May 5, pulled middle school start times up by five minutes and narrowly authorized the refinancing of almost $20 million in bond debt from 2009 and 2010.

Though it was recommended that the board increase the cost of full-price lunches by five cents as the USDA’s lunch equity tool was expected to call for, that item was tabled. It appears that the FY 2019 version of the tool has not been released yet.

The board still voted to extend the contract with food service provider Aramark Educational Services, with which it has contracted for 18 years. Its proposed fees for the next school year are a combined $682,917.

The board voted to bump up the middle school start and end times five minutes earlier. Next year, the middle school day will run 8:55 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. instead of the current 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. This comes a year after all school start times were radically staggered in order for buses to make all their routes more consistently. Chief schools officer Joseph Coburn said that after a year with the new schedule, they found five minutes worth of efficiencies for the middle school block.

Coburn said middle schools have to be accessible early in the morning, and they have to make sure that time is valuable to the students.

“We are looking at some more innovative things we can do. Can we bring virtual learning forward? Can we bring zero hour?” he said. “It is about that valuing of instructional time. We’ve already spoken with athletics about making sure we can value that time at the end of the day, so we feel like that paradigm shift to the mornings might even get some students home with their families a little bit more often at the end of the day.”

Board member Trisha Sheffield noted that the board has not voted on schedule changes in the past. Board president Angie Cox said it needed to be put to a vote this time because it has been discussed at length publicly across several meetings at that point.

The board voted to refinance $20 million worth of bonds from 2009 and 2010, taking out $8.9 million of 2018 bonds and $10 million in cash from the debt fund balance to do so. The move is expected to save the district $1.9 million in the long term, according to background material. District CFO Mike Ball said that the district has saved about $66 million on outstanding bond debt in similar transactions.

Ball said that the initial recommendation was that BOK Financial Securities Inc. and RBC Capital Markets serve as the underwriting team for the transaction, but the district learned last week that its main contact with BOK was leaving the company. As such, the it was replaced by Piper Jaffray & Company, with RBC taking the lead.

The choice of underwriters did not sit well with board member Jenny Proznik. She, Katherine Sells and Tracy Scott Miller all voted against the transaction, which passed by only one vote.

“I won’t be supporting this because I personally have given direction to staff regarding who we use in these transactions, and I cannot approve the firms that we’ve chosen,” Proznik said.

The board also voted to rename the facility in which it was sitting. The Bolin Administrative Center will now be known as the Lewisville ISD Administrative Center. Superintendent Kevin Rogers said the William T. Bolin name will be recycled for a professional learning center.

The board also discussed a continuation of the stipends for Hedrick Elementary staff. The school is closing to make room for an expansion of the attached Hedrick Middle School as part of the 2017 bond package, and the district has been offering stipends to keep staff in their positions for the sake of continuity for the students. The district has said throughout this process that all teachers and staff will be retained and relocated within the district after the school’s closure.

Professional and administrative staffs for the school are scheduled for stipends of $1,500 and $750 at the end of the year, respectively. Current staff levels would have the total payout at about $99,000, according to board background material.

Cox read out the total continuing education hours for each board member over the past year. The Texas Education Agency requires experienced school board trustees to take at least eight hours of continuing education courses each year. On LISD’s board, Kristi Hassett lead with 90 hours, which was 15 more than Sells in second place. Miller had the fewest logged hours with 28, more than three times the requirement, and no one else had fewer than 50.

“I think you can see the board spends a lot of time at work continuing education and keeping involved in the district,” Cox said.

The evening opened with a goodbye to Sheffield, who was attending her last board meeting. She’s not seeking re-election, and will be replaced by David Hernandez, Allison Lassahn or Denise Riemenschneider by the time they next convene. Board members made a point of waiting for her to make the motion on the consent agenda, the last item of the evening. At the start of open session, Sheffield gave an almost tearful farewell.

“There’s a saying that the closer you get to public education the better it looks, and I will say that is just so true,” she said. “I developed such a deeper respect for the things that our educators do every single day … the work that’s put in is just amazing, and we are so blessed in this district to have just a wonderful superintendent and a leadership team that just works every day to do what’s best for kids.”

Sheffield’s place 2 seat, as well as the place 1 seat currently held by Kronda Thimesch, will be up for election May 5 with early voting starting April 23. Thimesch is running again, opposed by Sandra Weinstein. The Board of Trustees meets one Monday out of the month at the newly renamed Lewisville ISD Administrative Center, with frequent informational sessions between meetings. The next regular meeting is scheduled for May 14.