At its Dec. 16 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees reviewed a districtwide attendance zoning exercise to balance school enrollments, discussed 2022–23 budget parameters and academic calendar feedback, and considered the next steps in creating an Early College High School program.

The Board also heard from campus leaders at Block House Creek Elementary School as part of the Spotlight on Learning.  

View the agenda here and the video here.  

Districtwide zoning exercise explores impacts of balancing campus enrollments

Growth is coming and we must manage it. The district’s facilities team conducted a zoning exercise showing what an attendance zoning scenario could look like if we prioritize balancing enrollments and maximizing building utilization. We have not formally started an attendance zoning process and this discussion is intended to inform decision-making regarding future elections and facilities master planning. Key features of this exercise include:

  • Impacts 10,000 students, including moving campuses multiple times,
  • Requires to build fewer schools (with regards to the most recent bond, it removes the need for more high school capacity, adds just two elementary schools and delays the need for a 10th middle school), and
  • Adds specific impacts to transportation, program and operational needs.

“I think what I see is this gives us a platform for discussions about where we want to go,” Board President Trish Bode said. “I appreciate serving on a board where trustees dedicate time reviewing reports on rapid growth in our district and discussing the zoning exercise. It’s useful to ask questions like, ‘OK, now we know what it looks like if we did maximize (facility usage); now, where do we go from here? How do we stay focused on our core beliefs that students must be at the heart of these decisions, which includes all elements that impact their overall student experience?’”

When the district starts a zoning process, we first launch an attendance zoning-specific survey and listening initiative before an official project charter comes to the Board, setting the parameters for attendance zoning modifications. We will not be making any additional changes to the 2022-23 school year attendance zones, beyond the changes approved in Spring 2021 with the opening of Elementary School #29. 

We take the results of a failed election very seriously, but we also do not believe our voter feedback is calling for a complete reversal of our commitment to strong neighborhood schools. While rezoning students to utilize existing classroom space remains an option, we are hopeful we still have opportunities available that avoid widespread disruptions that could negatively impact student opportunities and experiences. 

We want our community to remain engaged by following our Board meetings, reviewing the attendance zoning exercise presentation, participating in our surveys open through Jan. 3 (ThoughtExchange, Let’s Talk), and coming to our events to speak with us directly (Dec. 16 Board of Trustees meeting or Jan. 6 Board Cafe event). 

Trustees directed administration to bring back more information on zoning factors, such as parameters to keep kids closer to their school, transportation impacts, and creating schools of choice to balance enrollments. While Board members appreciated elements for efficiency in the exercise, they shared concerns about the amount of disruption and examples where students within two miles of their zoned school get moved. 

2022-23 Academic Calendar discussion focuses on community and staff survey feedback

As we continue the process of putting together the 2022–23 academic calendar, we conducted community surveys, consulted with principals and held community listening sessions in November and early December.

Community feedback signaled continued support for:

  • building in time for professional learning, trainings, teacher planning and collaboration;
  • ending school by Memorial Day;
  • starting school a week later than in 2021 to align with other Central Texas districts;
  • a short first week of school;
  • sticking with current holiday schedules;
  • additional breaks in the fall; and
  • early release before winter break and last day of school

“I think we all agree that more time in schools means more time for education to happen,” Trustee Aaron Johnson said. “I just want to make sure that we’re moving in a direction that supports that principle of optimizing instructional minutes. For me, the bigger question is simply ‘How do we prepare our kids effectively through the whole school year and take advantage of all the opportunities we have and maximize those minutes?’”

Staff will present 2022–23 calendar drafts for Board consideration at the Jan. 13, 2022, meeting with potential Board approval at the Jan. 27 meeting.

Trustees examine budget parameters for 2022–23 

Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn led a discussion around establishing budget parameters and assumptions that will be used as a starting point in building the 2022-2023 budget, including: 

  • Student enrollment of 43,720; moderate growth model 
  • Average daily attendance rate of 95% (reduced from 96%)
  • Property value growth based on 18%
  • 2% pay increase for staff and $5 million for pay adjustments
  • Campus per-student allocations are maintained
  • Funds to open Elementary 29 in 2022–23
  • $6 million for major maintenance transfer
  • M&O tax rate of $.8546 and I&S tax rate of $.4650
  • Budget parameter of 4% (level of deficit approval)

The conversation centered on the district’s acceleration towards paying into the state’s system of recapture (Chapter 49) of excess funds as property values continue to rise. 

District ready to apply for Early College High School designation 

We’re excited about the potential launch of an Early College High School for the 2022-23 school year. The Early College High School (ECHS) initiative is an open-enrollment program that blends college and high school coursework, enabling students to earn up

to two years of college credit (60 hours), tuition-free, while enrolled in high school.

Leander ISD has been on a journey towards more student choice since the 2018-2019 school year with the development of the Program Advisory Committee (PAC). Leander ISD in collaboration with Austin Community College (ACC) has been working to review the ECHS blueprint, create systems to implement an Early College High School in Leander ISD, and is now ready to submit for official Early College High School designation.

Next steps include:

  • Board vote to approve our application for ECHS designation
  • Apply for designation prior to Jan 29 (opened Nov. 3)
  • Build dual-language website, physical and video marketing materials
  • Informational and planning sessions with middle schools

Elementary School 29 Naming Committee presents results for Board consideration

The school naming committee for Elementary School 29 in the Bryson subdivision of Leander presented its recommendations to the Board.

The eight-member ES 29 School Naming Committee was made up of representatives from the school’s attendance zone and met on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7. They reviewed the qualified candidates (per CW policy) and voted on the following two nominations.

#1 Carol North Elementary School: Named after a former kindergarten teacher at Block House Creek and Knowles elementary schools. Her legacy goes above and beyond being a teacher, she was a champion of foundational literacy. The impact of her being an elementary school teacher in a foundational year. Teaching kindergarten is hard, and she did it for 22+ years, all in Leander ISD.

#2 Bryson Hills Elementary School: Neighborhood where the school is located. Hills are present in the community, and the neighborhood is the “gateway” to the Hill Country. It matches “Larkspur” in being named after a neighborhood.

Members of the Leander ISD community could submit names for consideration through an electronic form from Nov. 19–Dec. 5, 2021. We received 199 submissions. Trustees could vote on the school name at the January 13, 2022 meeting.

LISD takes legal action amid 8-year delay in placing a second access road to Vandegrift HS, Four Points MS 

Trustees voted to instruct district administration to take formal legal action as part of its pursuit to place a second access road to Vandegrift High School and Four Points Middle School, addressing a safety concern for more than 4,000 students, teachers and staff. 

The complaint against the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) is due to the agencies’ failure and refusal to further process the application for a permit to design and construct the access road. The district’s legal counsel expects to file the complaint in federal court in mid-January 2022. 

Read more about the district’s efforts here. Click here to view a map showing where the district hopes to build a road.

LISD welcomes first Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, new principal at Wiley MS  

Accomplished diversity and equity leader DeWayne Street will become the district’s first Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Street comes to Leander ISD from Round Rock ISD where he served in the same inaugural role.

Leander Middle School assistant principal Ebony Parks will join Wiley Middle School as its new principal. Ebony replaces Angela Hodges, who is set to become the district’s newest area superintendent.