Leander ISD Trustees reviewed community feedback on the district’s 2021–2023 academic calendar options, solidified budget planning parameters for the upcoming fiscal year and considered long-range facility planning at their Jan. 14 meeting.  

View the entire agenda here. Watch the video here.

Families rally behind new school year calendars for upcoming years

Families, teachers, staff, and students prefer a different-looking academic calendar for the next two school years, according to several surveys and forums. Now, the Board will decide which new-look calendar to put in place starting next school year. 

Chief Academic Officer Matt Bentz, Ed.D. presented the top two choices selected by the community for the next calendar. One option is similar to the current year calendar with the addition of two extra days off from school. The second option is most similar to the calendar implemented to support teachers during the pandemic: one that includes early release days on most Wednesdays throughout the year. Trustees will select the calendar during their Jan. 28 meeting. 

After a three-month feedback process, the district published three options for parents, students, teachers, and staff to rank order through Jan. 5. Based on that feedback, staff presented Trustees with two draft calendars for discussion: standard calendar with early releases (received the most votes) and standard calendar with two additional student and staff days off (tallied the highest weighted score).

“As a parent, I worry about the consistency in day-to-day scheduling with the early release (on Wednesdays),” Board Vice President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia said. “At the same time, we saw what was most important to our principals was having that time for professional development. So I’m grappling with these two issues right here.” 

Both scenarios:

  • Meet state requirement for instructional minutes
  • Release before Memorial Day
  • First day of school mid-week
  • Follow current daily bell schedules

Standard calendar with early-release days:
Wednesday 90-minute early releases throughout the year (most weeks)

  • This time would be used for:
    • Teacher professional development and training
    • Time for teachers to meet with their Professional Learning Communities
    • Teacher planning

Standard calendar with two additional student and staff days off:

  • Start date: Wednesday, Aug. 11 instead of Thursday, Aug. 12
  • Adds a student and staff day off on Friday, Oct. 8 on top of the professional learning/non-school days on the following Monday and Tuesday.
  • Adds a student and staff day off on Feb. 21
  • Makes Tuesday, Jan. 4, a student day off combined with Monday, Jan. 3, as two professional learning days after the winter break.

District to establish parameters, bring focus to blurry budget

The district faces a budget deficit for the next school year and the extent of budget cuts is still to be determined. 

Board members discussed budget assumptions/parameters that will be used as a starting point in building the 2020–21 budget. LISD staff will continue building the budget according to this framework and take into consideration the following estimates:

  • Student enrollment of 41,749  (3% growth)
  • Property value growth based on 3%  
  • 2% pay increase  
  • Campus per-student allocations are maintained with adjustments to Fine Arts allocations 
  • Funding Major Maintenance out of bond savings (2007 and 2017)
  • M&O tax rate of $.9590 and I&S tax rate of $.4625 

These assumptions are the starting point and are subject to revision as additional data becomes available during the budget development process. 

Addressing growth, student choice with long-range facility planning

With uneven growth and growing demand for choice in school programs, Trustees discussed the framework to develop a long-range facilities plan. 

The planning proposal looks ahead to campus enrollment trends over the next decade, focused on:

  • Manage Growth and Facilities
  • Expand Student Choices and Experiences

“I’m excited because I think our district is ready for this conversation; I think it’s time we consider schools of choice,” Trustee Anna Smith said. “I think now more than ever public schools are going to have to get creative to keep our students. We know charter schools are coming, so we need to be thinking what can we do as a community to ensure our facilities and our schools can be the best they can be? But most importantly, how can we provide access for everybody?”

Trustees focused on equity and access for all students, prioritizing the need to give them “a voice and a choice” in how and what they learn.  

“School choice gives families alternatives to their zoned, traditional schools that provide unique and targeted experiences, based on a student’s interests,” said Chief Academic Officer Matt Bentz, Ed.D. “Choice programs can also fill under-enrolled schools and relieve crowded schools, allowing LISD to manage growth and increase building utilization.”

A community-led Citizen’s Facilities Advisory Committee will begin meeting soon with the goal of bringing forth recommendations to the Board for new facilities and renovations.

Trustees finalize core beliefs 

The Board of Trustees approved a set of core beliefs to guide decision-making, strengthen their efforts to vision for the future, and set aspirational goals for the district.

As a public school organization, we hold these truths as our core beliefs:

  • Each and every student is at the heart of our decisions. This requires a focus on students and all elements that impact their overall student experience in order for them to reach their maximum potential.
  • LISD life-changers (each and every staff member) should be empowered so they can inspire our students to own their learning.
  • Our LISD family, which includes our students and their families, life-changers, board, and community members, thrives when we ensure a welcoming, safe, and caring environment in which we treat one another with integrity, respect, fairness, and acceptance while appreciating our differences.
  • A deliberate and intentional focus on relevant and deeper learning for each student will optimize individual outcomes and personal growth.
  • Developing and maintaining meaningful, collaborative relationships between all our LISD family is vital for a whole child, student-driven experience.

“I’d like to thank the board members for engaging in a dialogue that is sometimes a bit challenging, because you’re wanting to not step on someone’s toes but explain your point of view” Board President Trish Bode said. “Y’all dove in, and I think that’s evident in the product that we have.”

The approval of core beliefs comes after months of discussion and deliberation with Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D., and Assistant Superintendent Sarah Grissom. The district has several strategic planning initiatives in the works, including updates to the graduate profile, planning for facilities, and addressing equity and racism in schools.