During its Dec. 8 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees agenda included: 

Spotlight on Learning: River Place Elementary School

Students, staff and a parent from River Place Elementary School showcased the story of the Titan community and how they are focused on impactful family engagement. This includes partnerships with the PTA and an emphasis on student leadership.

Go Titans!

Board Recognition

The Leander ISD Board of Trustees celebrated the appreciation weeks for American Education Week (Nov. 14–18) and School Resource Officers (Dec. 5–9). 

In addition, the Board recognized the UIL state cross country achievements from Vandegrift High School senior Kevin Sanchez, who won first place at 6A, along with the second-place finishes of the VHS Boys Team’s at the 6A level and of Cedar Park High School junior Isabel Conde De Frankenberg at the 5A Girls level.

The Board also highlighted the district’s continued marching band excellence as Vandegrift HS took the top prize at the recent UIL 6A state competition, accompanied by a fifth-place finish from Vista Ridge High School.

Lastly, recognition was given to the district’s Finance department for the team’s receipt of the Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO International). 

A special acknowledgement to two Cedar Park Middle School media students – Linnea Hagen and Charles Corson – for leading the recognition efforts in this meeting’s video.

Board Approves Retention Payment for LISD Staff

Employee Retention

🎬 8.C.1. Consideration and Possible Action Regarding Approval of Employee Retention Incentive and Related Action

The Board approved a retention incentive payment of $1,000 for full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees, with the inclusion of crossing guards, to be paid out this month, December 2022.

This retention payment was made possible by Board action in May 2022, when the Board placed parameters of 1) setting a tax rate to initiate a Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE) of at least 9 pennies and 2) passing that VATRE.

“Do I wish we could do more? Of course,” said Board Vice President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D. “The reality is what our budget can afford. We so appreciate and value the work of our teachers and staff amidst the wide range of challenges seen in recent years.”

The district plans to recommend a separate, additional one-time lump sum retention payment for special education staff in January. 

The district will also continue to monitor the budget through the spring semester, and if at the end of the fiscal year the fund balance is expected to increase, then administration may come back to the board with a recommendation for an additional one-time lump sum retention payment.

Attendance Zoning Charter Approved for Middle Schools and High Schools

Attendance Zoning Charter: Secondary School Zoning for Relief

🎬 8.B.1. Consider Approval of Attendance Zoning for Secondary School Relief Process and Charter

Originally presented in the Nov. 15 meeting, the Board approved the charter for the rezoning of the middle school and high school levels.

Unlike attendance zonings of the past that often centered on the opening of a new school at the respective level, this upcoming rezoning is meant to accomplish the following two main objectives:

  • To provide relief to current enrollment numbers
  • To defer the timing of future school construction

The district looks to push out the need for a seventh high school and a 10th middle school – each with hefty price tags to the tune of an estimated $426 million and $165 million, respectively. To do so, a holistic approach to secondary attendance zoning will be needed to relieve schools over capacity and better utilize schools that have available space.

Board Secretary Anna Smith stressed the importance of community input through the zoning process, adding an amendment to the charter to include memorializing the feedback process into the charter itself.

“We need to ensure we’re capturing the community’s voice,” Smith said. “This rezoning will be part of the district’s 10-year plan and it’s really going to set the stage for that long range plan.”

Initial scenarios will be presented to the community in January with the finalized plans to be implemented in the 2024–25 school year. Throughout the process over the following months, there will be many opportunities for community feedback before a recommended set of plans is brought to the Board in May and June.

Student Panel Described Experiences in Special Programs

Special Programs student panel

🎬 8.A.1. Special Programs Update: Student Voice

Who better to present on the student experience in Special Programs than the students themselves. Special Programs & Services Executive Director Kimberly Waltmon assembled and moderated a panel of five students to offer firsthand insight.

“Student voice is the best voice,” Waltmon said, “and when they speak, we need to listen.”

The students answered questions ranging from what they wished people knew about them to what makes them feel included in their learning environment.

“I want people to know that if you’re patient with us, we will show potential in the future,” said Kirk Frantz, a student with autism in 18+ Transition Services. “And I think we will flourish with time.” 

“I feel included when my teacher has everything ready for me in class, like my notes and anything else that’s in my accommodations, so that I don’t have to interrupt class to express my needs,” said Vandegrift High School sophomore Madison Totaro, who shared her special education qualifications of ADHD and dyslexia.

The students on the panel gave a specific shout out to inclusion teachers, case managers, and the teachers who have put in the extra effort to support their academic success.

Strategic Plan Formative Review: Impactful Family Engagement

Impact Family Engagement

🎬 8.A.2. Impactful Family Engagement Formative Review

As the district continued its formative review process of presenting each goal within the Strategic Plan and the District Improvement Plan, the goal of Impactful Family Engagement took center stage at Thursday’s meeting.

The Impactful Family Engagement goal to engage our diverse community by fostering positive relationships through reciprocal communication and collaboration contains the following systems responses:

  • Review and redesign systems to improve trust, mutual respect and shared responsibility
  • Strengthen partnership opportunities within the community to benefit students
  • Improve processes for reciprocal communication at all levels and to all audiences

The focus is to continue to create meaningful relationships with all who are encompassed in the #1LISD family: students; parents and guardians; staff; and community members.

When campuses, programs and events throughout the district all work together, that’s when you see #1LISD united in purpose and in passion.

“How can we encourage the people in our community who are not directly attached to LISD – not as a parent, student or staff member – to be engaged with LISD and know what is happening in the district?” Trustee Sade Fashokun asked.

An increased presence of district representatives at community events is but one approach to this question, an identified opportunity for growth in connecting with this audience.

Legislative Priorities Remain at Forefront as Texas Legislative Session Approaches

Texas Capitol

🎬 8.B.2. Legislative Update

As the 88th session of the Texas Legislature prepares to begin, the Board received an update on key dates and how their outlined legislative priorities will fit into the process.

The pre-filing of bills began Nov. 14 with approximately 920 bills filed on the first day. Other key dates include:

  • Jan. 10: The start of the session
  • March 10: The bill filing deadline
  • May 29: Sine die to mark the end of the legislative session
  • June 19: The end of the governor’s veto period

“As a Legislative Committee, we know relationships play a huge role in this process,” Board President Trish Bode said. “For this 88th Legislative Session, we want to continue building out relationships intentionally focused on coordinating efforts to address local needs for our students as identified in the district legislative priorities.”

The Board also expressed specific interest in again participating in PTA Rally Day Feb. 27 at the Texas Capitol.

Leander ISD Welcomes New Principal of LEO Center

Leander Extended Opportunity (LEO) Center: Principal Jeff Strickland

The Leander ISD Board of Trustees approved the hiring of Jeff Strickland for the position of principal for the Leander Extended Opportunity (LEO) Center.