During its April 25 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees agenda included: 

Spotlight on Learning: Cox ES

Students and staff from Cox Elementary School shared how their school’s STEM lab creates a safe place to experience frustration, setback and failure, because they are developing a passion for learning.

Way to go, Comets! Great job embracing challenges and using it as an opportunity to own your learning.

Board Recognitions

Special thanks to Four Points Middle School students Madison and Mary for helping celebrate stand-out individuals and accomplishments around #1LISD.

The Board recognized the following:

  • UIL Soccer State Medalists
  • Heller Awards for Young Artists
  • Career & Technical Education (CTE) Achievement: Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA)
  • Career & Technical Education (CTE) Achievement: SkillsUSA
  • Career & Technical Education (CTE) Achievement: JROTC
  • Career & Technical Education (CTE) Achievement: Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)
  • Administrative Professionals Week, April 22–26

Approved $2 Million Empowerment Fund Shows Belief in Staff

Empowerment Grant Fund: Process slide

🎬 7.C.6. Discussion and Consider Approval of Establishing an Empowerment Grant Fund

A focus on student learning lives at the heart of LISD’s Learning Model. In a continuous effort to empower students to own their learning comes a new grant program open to all district employees to apply.

The Board approved a $2 million transfer into the Empowerment Grant Fund. This fund represents a belief in teachers and staff’s creativity, passion and dedication. These grants are intended to act as one-time catalysts for transformation aligned to the Strategic Plan, creating opportunities to pilot an idea and then expand that across our campuses once it catches on.

In a time of shrinking budgets to school districts while funding from the state falls further and further behind inflation amidst the state’s unprecedented surplus, LISD has been forced to go a different route in supporting the type of the learning that will help students prepare themselves for anything when they graduate from our system.

“Thank you for being willing to bring forward ideas like this,” Trustee Francesca Romans said. “It’s frustrating to need programs like this when our state has such an incredible surplus, but I appreciate the fact that our district is willing to put forward new ideas and to allow our teachers to innovate.”

The district will continue working with its education foundation, Leander Educational Excellence Foundation (LEEF), to partner in managing what the grant and application process will look like.

Hear more from Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D., in the video below, as he sketches out the vision for this exciting new opportunity for LISD’s life-changing workforce.

Previous Updates

2024–25 Budget Comes Into Focus

"Where We Are" Slide. Comparison to Olympic Runner Dave Wattle

🎬 7.C.1. 2024-2025 Budget Development Update

As part of an in-depth update of the budget development process underway, the district shared changes to the assumptions the Board adopted in January.

Changes to Assumptions

  • Projected Student Enrollment
    The district will continue to use moderate growth projections when looking at the number of students next year. In January, the estimate did not include PreK numbers. In 2024–25, there will be 14 additional PreK sections across seven campuses, increasing the enrollment projection by 210 students to a new total of 43,249.
  • Police Department
    Due to the timing of hiring a Chief of Police, the district was able to reduce the allocation for the new police department. The original allocation was $3.3 million.
  • Elementary School #31
    Enrollment projections show that the district’s 31st elementary school could be pushed out beyond its currently slated 2025–26 opening. The Long-Range Planning Committee continues to meet to look to see what adjustments will be recommended to the 10-year facility plan. As a result, the amount originally budgeted for start-up salaries will not be factored into the 2024–25 budget.
  • Senate Bill 2
    This legislation centered around providing property tax relief, which led to the lowering, or compression, of LISD’s maintenance and operation (M&O) tax rate, the side used to fund day-to-day expenses.

    Public schools in Texas are funded through both local and state tax dollars. As local tax collections decrease, funds from the state increase to offset the amount needed for school districts to meet the Basic Allotment (BA), an amount set by the legislature guaranteeing a certain amount of funding per student based on attendance. The BA has remained stagnant since 2019.

    For some districts, the compression of the M&O tax rate from SB2 took the districts out of Tier 1 Recapture. For these districts, like Leander ISD, the increase in state funding was less than the reduction in local tax collections. TEA updated their formulas to account for this anomaly, and as such, LISD’s projected revenue increased by $6 million.

    For more information on how public schools are funded in Texas, visit LISD’s Smart Money Finance 101 page.

Unchanged Assumptions

  • Average daily attendance rate of 94%
  • Property value growth based on 7%
  • 2% pay increase for staff and $1.5 million for pay adjustments
  • Maintenance & Operations (M&O) tax rate of $0.7569 and Interest and Sinking (I&S) tax rate of $0.33 for a combined total tax rate of $1.0869, a more than $0.02 reduction from the current fiscal year.
  • Budget parameter of 3%, the level of deficit approval

“The work that your team has done on this budget has been phenomenal,” Trustee Trish Bode said of the Business and Financial Services department. “Added to that, I think the Board having intentional goals and the community supporting our VATRE in 2022 has put us in a position where we’re not being forced to look at programs to cut or considering a reduction in force.”

The district continues to work to identify adjustments in order to arrive at a deficit total within the approved budget parameters. The budget is on track to come before the Board for approval in June.

Previous Updates

Board Reviews Employee Compensation Package

Compensation: Total Recommendation Costs

🎬 7.C.2. Discussion of 2024-2025 Total Compensation Recommendation

Leander ISD remains committed to recruiting and retaining top-notch employees in order to best serve our students. The presented compensation plan provides details on pay raises for every staff member in the 2024–25 budget.

Based on the current budget forecast, the 2024–25 budget built in an across-the-board 2% increase. Under this 2-percent increase at midpoint, every teacher would receive an additional $1,232. The starting salary for teachers would increase to $56,687.

As part of the compensation analysis each year, the district also conducts in-depth salary scale reviews on a rotating basis. This year, the scales examined were for Auxiliary and Office / Paraprofessionals, and the presented plan includes additional modifications to those scales and some stipend adjustments.

In addition to looking at a 2% across-the board increase, included in the presentation were summaries for what a 3%, 3.5% and 4% increase would look like. 

The district also presented changes to employee benefits, detailing impacts to the wide variety of available health insurance plans.

“We’re the great district we are because of the people in it,” said Board President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D. “This Board will always look for how to support our teachers and staff to the fullest while staying within our means financially given the absence of needed funds from the state.”

The Board is scheduled to take action on the full compensation plan and continue budget deliberations at the May 23 meeting.

Previous Updates

Strategic Plan Formative Review: Safe & Innovative Learning Environments

Bond projects: Safety & Security

🎬 7.A.1. Safe and Innovative Learning Environment Formative Review

Each month, LISD has presented a formative review of one goal within the Strategic Plan and the District Improvement Plan. During this meeting, district administrators presented the Safe & Innovative Learning goal, to provide safe, supportive, inclusive, and innovative environments to inspire each individual learner.

Through a series of grants and funding from the 2023 Bond, a number of safety and security projects have shown significant progress this year. For example, LISD has completed a project to install entry-resistant film to glass exterior doors and windows adjacent to a door on the ground level not in a secured area. A new alert notification and panic system has also been activated at each of our schools.

Visit the Bond: Security page for a complete list of projects underway that seek to bolster the district’s safe learning environments.

While these projects show important action to help provide a safe learning environment for students, the district also looks at yearly data to see whether students feel safe. At both the elementary and secondary levels, these metrics have seen positive trends.

Previous Updates

Hazardous Routes for 2024–25 Approved

🎬 7.C.2. Discussion of 2024-2025 Hazardous Routes

As part of the consent agenda, the Board approved the district recommendations for Hazardous Routes for 2024–25.

This year, a particular focus was given to neighborhood codes impacted by construction along walking routes and by the rezoning taking effect next year. The neighborhood codes listed in the presentation included those rezoned from Henry Middle School and Vista Ridge High School to Cedar Park Middle School and Cedar Park High School, along with a couple of elementary neighborhood codes attending Hisle Elementary, LISD’s new school opening in the fall.

Additional information on this topic was included in the April 11 edition of Board Briefs.

Previous Updates

LISD Welcomes New Principal at Parkside Elementary

Parkside Elementary School: Announcing Principal Kelly Looman

Leander ISD is thrilled to welcome an established district educator and leader, Kelly Looman, as principal of Parkside Elementary School, after the Board approved the hiring at Thursday’s meeting.