The Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees brought the school year to a dramatic end Monday night June 4, full of impassioned pleas for school safety and last-minute motion changes from the dais.
After much discussion, the board approved a 2 percent raise for most school employees and a 3 percent raise for instructional support staff, who are hit harder by recent insurance changes. The board also approved a stipend for Hedrick Elementary School staff to remain in the campus’ final year, the payout for which should total about $99,000.
After recognizing outstanding students, the board was addressed by community parents on both sides of the debate on arming teachers. Schools have had the option to appoint a trained school marshal in Texas since 2013.
Nick Wisner, who spoke to the board after the Parkland County, Florida shooting in February, spoke again in the wake of the Santa Fe shooting. He talked about aid options that were available for installing more security and asked again for the district to begin appointing school marshals, or teachers specially trained to carry firearms. He also requested additional school resource officers and metal detectors.
“The simple truth is if the board is willing to make the necessary safety changes, then LISD can remain the district of real innovation and limitless opportunity,” he said. “One school marshal, one SRO stops an active shooter or a metal detector helps an official’s confiscating one weapon of an individual intending harm, and anyone will agree the investment is worth it.”
Immediately afterward, Chris Cortopussi with the Denton County chapter of Moms Demand Action, a national organization focused on reducing gun violence that sprang up win the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013, urged LISD to not adopt the school marshal program.
“There has been a lot of talk about arming Texas teachers in this town, and I want to make it clear that members of the community do not want that to happen,” she said.
Cortopussi said the Denton County chapter was established this February.
On the consent agenda later in the evening, the board would approve the continued use of local law enforcement agencies for school resource officers and increase the number of officers it would contract out. It also approved the application of a low attendance day waiver for Marcus High School Feb. 16, when attendance dipped to less than 60 percent due to anxiety over the Parkland County shooting and social media traffic about a potential shooter at Marcus.
In the months since the Parkland County shooting, superintendent Kevin Rogers has stated several times that LISD maintains a close relationship with area police departments, and every local agency they work with is firmly against arming teachers. Two days after the meeting, Rogers sent an email asking for volunteers for a district-wide safety and security task force. Community members may apply to serve here.
Slightly more than an hour later, opinions clashed again when board member Tracy Scott Miller proposed a 3 percent raise for eligible employees, instead of 2 percent as designated on the agenda. The board was recommended to authorize a 2 percent raise, down from previous years, as part of district-wide belt tightening as it enters recapture. None of the members were happy about approving a lower raise, and the measure was discussed at length during a workshop session last week. Miller said he would push hard for a 3 percent raise.
Miller, who has been on the board for four years, said he consistently sees staff prepare for the worst possible outcomes by making conservative estimates of income and liberal estimates of spending. He said that because of this, the district is in a better position than it’s giving itself credit for, and they should spend that to give staff the usual raise. He doubted the projected expenditures LISD would face due to recapture. The difference between a 2 percent raise and a 3 percent raise is $3.4 million to the district’s bottom line this year.
“Here’s what I know to be true. It’s that when we budget … we underestimate the amount and we overestimate spending. The second thing I know to be true is that other than this year we have put money back in the fund balance, quite a substantial amount of money,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t see us depleting our fund balance by $20 million next year and $50 million the year after.”
Rogers said the upcoming expenses would not be overestimated, and are instead calculated by the state.
“The difference, I promise you, is there won’t be money to put back in the fund balance after this next budget year. The difference is the $37 million going back to the state in recapture,” Rogers said.
Other board members in turn said they would like to approve a larger raise, but did not think it was fiscally responsible. Kristi Hassett said the district was entering “a new era” because of recapture. Jenny Proznik, who seconded Miller’s motion thereby making it eligible for discussion, said she was frustrated that she and staff had been hearing 3 percent until recently, though Rogers said staff had not been saying the raise would be 3 percent. Kronda Thimesch and board president Angie Cox said raises represented a long-term investment and it was too risky to give 3 percent right now.
Miller’s motion failed 6-1. Allison Lassahn moved for a 2 percent raise with a 3 percent raise for instructional support staff. Miller tried to raise the baseline to 2.5 percent, but eventually, the 2 percent raise was passed unanimously.
In other action items, the board approved almost $2 million in combined spending on several software and hardware purchases. These included $532,540 for maintaining the Skyward student information system, setting $112,350 as the new maximum price point to install fiber optic cable in Marcus High School’s Dixon Sports Complex — it had previously been approved at $93,500 — approved a contract of a maximum $25,630 for a district-wide video streaming system, $99,979 for the installation of wireless presentation tools for classroom projectors and $1.2 million for the first year of the district’s audio-visual refresh, which is provided for in the 2017 bond package.
The Lewisville ISD school board meets once monthly during the school year, with several informational meetings interspersed throughout.