During its Jan. 12 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees agenda included: 

Spotlight on Learning: Four Points Middle School

Four Points MS shared how a new approach to the Leadership class through martial arts helps students recognize strengths and weaknesses, set goals and grow! How inspiring to see the way equitable access has positively impacted #1LISD students.

Board Recognition

The Leander ISD Board of Trustees celebrated the outstanding season of Vandegrift High School’s football team, which accomplished the deepest playoff run in school history by finishing in second place at the UIL 6A Division II level. Hear more from VHS Head Coach Drew Sanders on the team’s magical season.

Board Approves Retention & Sign-On Incentives for LISD Special Education Staff

Special Education Employee Retention: The Why

🎬 8.C.5. Consideration and Possible Action Regarding Approval of SPED Employee Retention Incentive and Sign-On Incentive for new SPED staff and Related Action

The Board approved a retention incentive payment for special education teachers, itinerant-related staff, and special education instructional assistants in order to address critical shortages and remain competitive in the market for retention of high-quality staff. These lump-sum payments, outlined below, come in addition to the December-approved incentive payments distributed to all district staff.

  • Full-time special education teachers/itinerant related staff will receive $2,000
  • Part-time special education teachers/itinerant related staff will receive $1,000
  • Full-time special education IAs will receive $750
  • Part-time special education IAs will receive $375

These incentive payments will be paid out by the Feb. 24 payroll distribution. 

Note: The incentive amounts approved by the Board – $750 and $375 for full-time IAs and part-time IAs, respectively – are higher than the amount listed in the Board agenda materials after the Board amended these amounts during the meeting.

The incentive package also includes sign-on payments of lesser amounts for newly hired special education employees.

While Thursday’s Board action was intended to address the current 2022–23 school year, work has already begun to make continued enhancements while shaping the 2023–24 budget.

“We know the special education team has been holding up so much, and this is just a piece of how we plan to honor that hard work,” said Board Vice President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D. “Thank you to our special education team for all you do. And thank you to district administration for providing us as Board members with the information and the options of what we can do within our budget.”

As referenced in the December meeting, the district will 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.

Options for 2023–24 Academic Calendar Come into Focus

Academic Calendar draft recommendation

🎬 8.A.1. 2023-2024, 2024-2025 Academic Calendar Discussion

Staff presented the 2023–24 calendar draft for Board discussion and consideration. The Board could opt to formally approve the calendar at its Jan. 26 meeting. Key features of the calendar include:

  • First day of school is Wednesday, August 16, 2023, the same week as in 2022–23
  • Last day of school is Friday, May 24, 2024, keeping it on a date before Memorial Day
  • Preserves two dedicated teacher workdays incorporated into the schedule before school starts
  • Student early release days for teacher work time: Dec. 22 and May 24
  • Continuous Improvement Conference shifts from October to Nov. 6–7, aligning with Tuesday student holiday for Election Day.
  • Staff development days during the school year will balance new learning with teacher planning and collaboration time: Sept. 25, Oct. 9, Jan. 8, Feb. 19, March 18 and April 1

When constructing the 2023–24 academic calendar, specific focus was placed on the winter break, given the dates of when holidays occur during this timespan. In the administration-recommended version of the calendar, the last day of the fall semester would be Dec. 22 and students would return for the spring semester Jan. 9, with staff returning one day sooner on Jan. 8. This version aligns with a feedback-supported guideline of two full weeks for winter break and starting the break on a Monday, resulting in three complete weekends.

Additional draft options were also presented showing the winter break beginning one full week earlier and also one where the start and return of the break happen midweek.

“I am so appreciative of the feedback from our LISD family on how this calendar impacts student learning and our partnership with parents on providing an education that meets a multitude of needs,” Board President Trish Bode said, “The challenge with discussions tonight and when we possibly vote at our next board meeting is determining what calendar meets as many as possible of the communicated needs.”

To put together the 2023–24 academic calendar, the district conducted community surveys, consulted with principals and held community listening sessions in December.

Community feedback signaled continued support for:

  • ending school by Memorial Day
  • a short first week of school
  • early release before winter break and last day of school
  • a full week for Thanksgiving
  • two full weeks for winter break

Trustees Begin Planning for 2023–24 Budget Cycle by Approval Budget Parameters

Budget Timeline and Next Steps

🎬 8.C.3. Discussion and Consideration for Possible Approval of 2023-2024 Budget Assumptions

Trustees approved the budget assumptions and parameters that will be used as a starting point in building the 2023–2024 budget, including:

  • Student enrollment of 43,423 based on the moderate growth model in the latest demographic update
  • Average daily attendance rate of 94%, reduced from 95% in 2022–23
  • Property value growth based on 15%. For comparison, 2022 values increased by 27%
  • Recapture estimated to increase to $70+ million
  • 2% pay increase for staff and $5 million for pay adjustments
  • Nearly $4 million in increases for Special Education stipends & staffing
  • Maintenance & Operations (M&O) tax rate of $0.9317 and Interest and Sinking (I&S) tax rate of $0.33 for a combined total tax rate of $1.2617
  • Budget parameter of 4%, the level of deficit approval

As referenced earlier, this is only the start of the budget process, with a near-final budget targeted for May and an adopted budget in June. During the time in the middle, many variables will become clear, including the biggest factor of all: Texas’ 88th Legislative Session. Any legislative changes to how schools are funded could have a direct impact on this work-in-progress budget.

“A preliminary budget like this, where the district is looking for ways to continue to support our teachers and staff financially, is only possible because of our community’s decision to pass the Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE) in November,” Trustee Christine Mauer said. “Without that, we would have been looking at massive cuts to bring down a deficit.”

It’s important to note that according to the state funding formula, as a district’s property values grow, the district produces what the state refers to as “excess local revenues.” When a district’s property values generate too much “excess local revenues,” the district must send the excess to the state via recapture. For 2023–24, LISD’s recapture payment is estimated at $73.8 million, up from $50.1 million for the year prior.

District Seeks Community Input as Part of Instructional Resources Adoption Process

Feedback Opportunities

🎬 8.A.2. Instructional Materials Selection Update

This spring, LISD will consider and select new instructional resources for six courses:

  • American Sign Language I-IV
  • Chinese I-IV
  • AP Calculus AB & BC
  • AP U.S. History
  • African-American Studies
  • Mexican-American Studies

This Instructional Materials Selection Process now turns to gathering community feedback as members of our community have opportunities to provide feedback on these resources from Jan. 17–Feb. 17 through in-person viewing at Central Office and Cedar Park High School, or by viewing the materials virtually on the district website. We will host three Q&A Zoom meetings Feb. 7 with district curriculum experts that allow community members to explore the options, ask questions and provide feedback.

“How we gather community input on this topic – from our students, from our staff, from our parents – is something we made great strides on over the past few years,” Board Secretary Anna Smith said, “and I’m excited to see those opportunities continue, ensuring everyone has a seat at the table.”

The final recommendation will be presented to the Board for approval in March or April.

An Update from the Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC)

CFAC Subcommittee Recommendation Totals

🎬 8.C.2. Discussion: Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee Update

The co-chairs of the Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee, a group made up of more than 100 community members when totaling members on the steering committee and the six subcommittees, shared a status update with the Board.

The purpose of CFAC is to develop a three to five-year facility plan to meet the needs of our fast-growth school district in conjunction with the work conducted to create the district’s Long Range Plan.

The committee kicked off in September, and last week, the subcommittees presented to the steering committee their assessment of each project, sorting them into tiers. 

Since then, the steering committee continues to meet in order to present a recommendation to the Board at the Jan. 26 meeting. The deadline for the Board of Trustees to call for a May bond election is Feb. 17.

“The CFAC committee members carefully analyzed the facility improvements that best serve the students, teachers, and the community,” Trustee Sade Fashokun said, “and we thank these volunteers for their time and willingness to get involved to help shape the district’s future.”