During its Aug. 24 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees agenda included: 

Spotlight on Learning: New Hope HS

Current and former New Hope High School students shared inspiring stories during the Spotlight on Learning, offering a great testimony to relationships and the pathway to success NHHS provides.

“I don’t want more schools like New Hope,” NHHS student Anastasia Abeyta said. “I need more schools like New Hope. We need more schools like New Hope.”

Board Recognitions

Special thanks to the CPHS News team for helping celebrate the hard work and exceptional achievement happening in #1LISD!

The Board recognized the following list of accomplishments:

  • National High School Musical Theatre Jimmy Awards for Best Performance by an Actor – Langston Lee, Rouse HS graduate
  • Leader in Me Lighthouse Recertification – Westside ES
  • Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) 3C State Honor Band – Henry MS
  • Texas Educational Theatre Association (TxETA) Exemplary Award of Distinction – Lorri Boyd, Henry MS
  • Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP) Region 13 High School Assistant Principal of the Year – Wendell Mills, Vista Ridge HS
  • Resolution from Texas Rep. John Bucy Recognizing Homebound Teacher Mike Sanders

Board Lowers 2023 Property Tax Rate by More Than 16 Cents From Previous Year

Tax Rate History from 2017–2014

🎬 7.C.6. Consider Approval of an Ordinance Adopting the 2023 Property Tax Rate

The Board approved a total property tax rate of $1.1087, representing a decrease of more than 16.5 cents from the previous year and creating significant tax relief for LISD property owners.

“I want to offer credit to my fellow Trustees and the work of previous Boards for setting the district on a path where we can continually lower the tax rate, as we’ve done now for seven straight years,” Board Vice President Anna Smith said. “LISD’s sound fiscal management and recent successful elections passed by our community have the district on a solid footing amidst funding uncertainties at the state level and larger economic trends.”

This tax rate is the combined total of $0.7787 on the maintenance and operations (M&O) side  of the tax rate, which is used to fund the district’s day-to-day expenses, along with $0.3300 on the interest and sinking (I&S) side, which pays for bond debt.

During the latest legislative session, lawmakers increased the maximum compression rate, which essentially reduces the property tax rate on the M&O side. The district is proposing a tax rate that would save homeowners $820 compared to the previous year on an average value home in LISD.

As promised throughout the spring bond election, the I&S side of the tax rate will remain flat at $0.33. Due to rising property values the rate will generate additional funds to cover the annual I&S payment – including the 2023 Bond payment – and any remaining funds will be used to pay down the debt.

Previous Updates

Next Steps in Addressing House Bill 3 Safety & Security Requirements

Alternative Standing Recommendation for HB3

🎬 7.C.5. Discussion of House Bill 3 – Safety & Security

During the recently concluded legislative session, the passing of House Bill 3 requires school districts to place an armed security officer at each campus, among other requirements.

Due to a lack of funding and available personnel, LISD is pursuing a “good cause” exception, allowing the district time to implement an “alternative standard” to meet the requirements of the bill. The district’s alternative standard recommendation includes the formation of an LISD police department.

Funding and logistical challenges aside, an in-house police department would come with its own set of benefits. Existing practice has LISD with School Resource Officers (SROs) at each high school through partnerships with the Leander and Cedar Park police departments and the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. 

“With an in-house police department, it could be easier for us to hire these roles compared to the staffing challenges faced by surrounding law enforcement departments,” said Executive Director of Student Support Bryan Miller, relaying feedback they have received through community partners on LISD’s Safety & Security Committee. “It also would simplify internal communication and collaboration processes by having one system compared to the current model of working with three and sometimes four entities.”

To meet the requirements of HB3, the creation of an in-house police department would encompass 35 SROs for middle school and high school, along with 32 Single Role Marshals for LISD’s elementary and alternative schools.

This would happen over a nine- to 18-month process and would incorporate an application and inspection by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE); the purchase of uniforms, vehicles, weapons and other necessary equipment; and a series of training requirements.

Funding from HB3 would provide LISD with approximately $1.1 million. Preliminary budget estimates for the armed security officer requirement – not the only requirement in the bill – project an ongoing cost of $4.8 million, with an additional $2.8 million of start-up costs.

At the Sept. 7 meeting, the Board will consider a resolution for a good cause exception. More deliberation over what the district’s alternative standard will look like and planning for the possibility of an LISD police department will take place over the coming months. The district will publish additional information as it becomes available.

Architects, Construction Managers Approved for Slate of 2023 Bond Projects

List of architects per project
List of construction contractors per project

🎬 7.C.2. Consider Approval of Architects for the 2023 Building Program
🎬 7.C.3. Consider Approval of Construction Managers At Risk for the 2023 Building Program

Following the passing of all three propositions in the 2023 bond, LISD immediately started the vetting process for architects and construction contractors for projects included in the 2023 Building Program. The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process for architects and the Request for Proposal (RFP) process for construction contractors yielded the following recommendations, which were approved by the Board:

New facilities:

  • Elementary School #31
    • Architect: O’Connell Robertson
    • Construction: Joeris General Constructors
    • Estimated Start of Design: August 2023
  • Elementary School #32
    • Architect: Pfluger Architects
    • Construction: American Constructors
    • Estimated Start of Design: Spring 2024
  • Science Materials Center and Special Education 18+ Transition Services Facility
    • Architect: VLK Architects
    • Construction: Joeris General Constructors
    • Estimated Start of Design: Fall 2023
  • Plant Services Mechanics Shop
    • Architect: PBK Architects
    • Construction: Bartlett Cocke General Contractors
    • Estimated Start of Design: Fall 2023
  • Middle School #10 *
    • Architect: O’Connell Robertson
    • Construction: American Constructors **
    • Estimated Start of Design: Winter 2024
  • High School #7 *
    • Architect: Pfluger Architects
    • Construction: American Constructors **
    • Estimated Start of Design: Fall 2023
  • Early College High School *
    • Architect: Pfluger Architects
    • Construction: American Constructors **
    • Estimated Start of Design: Fall 2024

* actual construction costs would be included in a future bond
** approved for construction when funded

Additions and renovations to existing facilities:

  • Leander High School: Masterplan Redesign (Construction of Phase 1; Design for all phases); Roof Repairs; Band Practice Field Fence/Bollards
    • Architect: Pfluger Architects
    • Construction: American Constructors
    • Estimated Start of Design: Fall 2023
  • Cedar Park High School Modernization
    • Construction: Bartlett Cocke General Contractors
  • Vista Ridge High School Modernization
    • Construction: American Constructors
  • Running Brushy Middle School Modernization
    • Construction: Joeris General Constructors
  • Henry Middle School Modernization *
    • Construction: Joeris General Constructors **
  • Bagdad Elementary School Modernization
    • Construction: Joeris General Constructors
  • Don Tew Performing Arts Center Modernization
    • Construction: American Constructors
  • South Performing Arts Center Modernization
    • Construction: Bartlett Cocke General Contractors
  • Grandview Hills Site: IT Broadband Network Node; South Transportation Center; Plant Services Ancillary Renovation
    • Architect: PBK Architects
    • Construction: Bartlett Cocke General Contractors
    • Estimated Start of Design: Fall 2023

* actual construction costs would be included in a future bond
** approved for construction when funded

A new website to track the status of 2023 Bond projects and house all of this information in a single location will be published and shared with the community in the coming weeks.

Previous Updates

Naming Process for Elementary School 30 & Other Facilities Continues to Take Shape

School Naming Policy CW (LOCAL)

🎬 7.B.1. Discussion of School Naming Charter Process for Elementary #30 and Other Facilities

Elementary School #30 broke ground in May 2023, and with its scheduled opening in August 2024 comes the opportunity for the Board to name the building.

Based on policy CW (LOCAL), the authority for naming schools lies with the Board of Trustees. The administration would like to utilize the following process:

  1. Establish a charter for the naming process with the Board of Trustees to include the names of a school naming committee made up of representatives of their respective communities.
  2. Collect nominations from the entire community through a digital form.
  3. Work with the committee to review nominations and make a recommendation for the Board of Trustees to consider.
  4. Present to the Board an action item for final naming.

“I remember when we named Carol Ann North Elementary,” said Board Vice President Anna Smith, a resident in the Bryson subdivision where the school is located. “The process that committee – made up of families whose kids would attend that school – led to a deep understanding of the importance of school naming, and it produced a school name recommendation with buy-in from those residents.”

Board members expressed interest in a charter to name ES30 and a separate charter to name district facilities included in the 2023 Bond. This topic will go back before the Board for review at the Sept. 7 meeting.

Previous Updates

A Closer Look at How the Demographer Develops Enrollment Projects

Demographic Report Background Data

🎬 7.C.1. Discussion of the Population And Survey Analyst (PASA) Process to Develop Enrollment Projections for Leander ISD

Each year, representatives from Population and Survey Analysts (PASA) present enrollment projections to the Board through three growth scenarios: low, moderate and high. Before PASA presents their 2023 findings later this fall, this meeting provided the opportunity to dig into the work and methodology that goes into developing these yearly enrollment projections.

Enrollment Growth over time

The process includes a host of complex research and analysis, including:

  • Background data
    • Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping
    • The study of past enrollment, including
      • Births compared to the kindergarten class five years later
      • Changing kindergarten class sizes over time
      • Growth and decline of LISD students by neighborhood
      • Changing proportions of young versus older students
  • The study of housing and economic data
    • Projecting future new housing construction
  • The study of past and current student population
    • More than 20 years of historical student population data
    • Calculating a ratio of students per housing unit for every subdivision and apartment
    • Analyzing the impact of private and charter schools
  • Generating projections
    • Develop three scenarios of growth: low, middle and high
  • Analyze long-range implications for facilities
    • Look at residents compared to enrolled students

These projections inform the work of the Long-Range Planning Committee for Leander ISD, which is focused on student learning while maximizing resources in the years ahead.

“As a member of the LRPC, this is vital data to support the committee’s work,” Trustee Trish Bode said. “Getting on the same page of the methodology that goes into PASA’s yearly demographic projections will equip the LRPC and the Board for critical discussions on maximizing resources in the upcoming years.”

PASA will return in October to present the latest demographic data for the district.

Previous Updates

Waiver Approved to Allow HR to Employ Teachers Working Toward Certification Requirements 

Leander ISD expectation for teachers on a certfication waiver

🎬 7.C.4. Consider Approval of Texas Education Agency Certification Waiver for Teachers

Throughout Texas and the nation, there is a shortage of qualified teachers, and Leander ISD is no exception. Despite increased recruiting efforts, LISD continues to struggle to find highly qualified, certified teachers for many positions.

Primary areas of critical need include mathematics, science and elementary.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Board approved a Certification Waiver for Teachers, a waiver the Texas Education Code has in place to allow an individual to serve as a teacher without the necessary certification requirements for the assigned position for a term of one to three years. The waiver allows the Human Resources department to employ candidates deemed qualified based on their education and/or experience to serve as a teacher while working toward their certification requirements. Note: A waiver is not permissible for special education or bilingual positions.

“In Leander ISD, we’re committed to bringing in the highest quality teachers we can find for our students,” Board Secretary Christine Mauer said. “This waiver gives our HR department another option in doing that.”

The district would provide teachers brought in through this waiver with a variety of support as a first-year teacher to ensure high-quality classroom instruction. 

  • Teachers will be provided all new-employee professional development opportunities and supports, including mentors for new to profession teachers.
  • HR will work with the campus to monitor progress toward certification at least quarterly.
  • LISD HR will provide the teacher 240 Tutoring, an online test preparation program, to assist with the certification exams, when available and requested.

Teachers hired under this waiver will have the following expectations: 

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Related education and/or experience in the assigned area
  • Enrolled in an Alternative Certification Program or holds a Standard Teacher Certification outside of assigned area

An Update on Professional Learning in LISD

Beginning of Year Staffing

🎬 7.A.1. Update on Professional Learning

As a learning institution, Leander ISD’s strong commitment to continuous improvement is apparent when looking at the students who enter our schools each day. That same philosophy of continuous improvement extends to the teachers and staff of the district – how can we get better each and every day?

The Instruction and Professional Learning and Curriculum departments played pivotal roles in driving this Professional Learning work, most heavily concentrated over the summer and through the weeks immediately preceding the start of the school year.

Professional learning experiences and programs sought to provide LISD staff with choice, voice and autonomy, offering varied modes of instruction along with in-district and national presenters. In total, more than LISD staff earned more than 12,000 hours of continuing professional education. This included targeted learning opportunities in reading and math to dig deeper into LISD’s initiatives in those two subjects.

The district is also piloting a Learning Leaders program aimed at maximizing opportunities for teachers to learn from teachers and leveraging the expertise of our teaching staff. There are 31 LISD master teachers in its first year with more than 100 hours of peer-to-peer learning in the three weeks leading into the school year.

“I get so excited seeing investment in leadership roles for teachers who want to stay in the classroom,” Trustee Trish Bode said. “I love how we continue to look for ways to support teachers’ leadership journey right where they are at.”

This year, Leander ISD welcomed 930 new employees of which 680 are campus-based. That includes 300 new-to-profession teachers in the larger pool of 500 new teachers across the district. During their first days, new employees are exposed to the culture of the district and of their home campus. A new experience of “Learning Environment Day” complemented curriculum orientation, along with activities designed for returning staff, like Convocation and Professional Learning Community (PLC) days, among others.

Previous Updates