The Board of Trustees met for their monthly agenda review meeting on June 11, 2020, to discuss the diversity and equity report, the 2020-21 school year budget, and the hazardous routes plan for bus service.

Review the entire agenda and presentations

Board hears presentation, recommendations for next steps to address equity, racism

The district discussed the next steps for addressing racism and equity across Leander ISD based on recommendations by two equity and diversity researchers who led town hall meetings and a survey in March. 

The report recommended two phases of action. Read the entire report

Phase one includes a district-wide equity audit to assess systems and programs across all schools and departments. It also includes districtwide training, the creation of a lead equity staff member from all department teams, and a districtwide student-led taskforce. 

In phase two of the recommendation, the district develops a strategic recruitment and retention plan, refines strategic communication to reach families without technology, and conducts school-specific audits to campuses identified by families, staff, and community members.

“We want to openly and transparently bring to our Board and community a report about what our community is saying about racism,” Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. “As we move forward, we do so as one community with strong leadership.”

Cherie Dawson-Edwards, Ph.D. from the University of Louisville, and Bradley Carpenter, Ph.D. from Baylor University led community conversations on March 3 at Henry Middle School and on March 9 at Wiley Middle School. In their independent analysis, the following themes emerged:

  • Sense of Belonging
  • Differential Treatment Based on Identity
  • Lack of Knowledge/Awareness of Diversity & Inclusion Issues

Continuing on the conversations and sharing from students, staff, families, and community members about their experiences with racism and discrimination, Carpenter and Dawson-Edwards distributed and analyzed a survey of LISD. In their independent analysis, the following themes emerged:

  • “The LISD teacher population lacks diversity”
  • “LGBTQIA discrimination is pervasive in LISD”
  • “LISD struggles to communicate effectively with all parents”
  • “LISD does enough to celebrate diversity”
  • “LISD teachers work hard to celebrate diversity”

“It’s a long journey,” said Board Vice President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D. “It does take time to change people’s perceptions. It’s important that we are addressing issues of racism and equity with all staff members. I think we’re past hiding this problem. It’s here, and we want to do something about it.”

Trustees asked questions and were eager for meaningful reform to start, calling for immediate action, long term planning, and a transparent process. The district will also move forward in expanding its equity and diversity task force. 

“We appreciate the recommendations and the work from the two researchers who helped us start this work,” Gearing said. “We are emboldened and accountable to the stories by students and staff members who experienced racism and discrimination in our school system. Working with our Board, we know there is more work to do. We have to develop our response and actions moving forward to do what’s right for Leander ISD.”

Detailed discussion for 2020-21 school year to come June 18

Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. provided a short update to the Board on the district’s continued response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) with a promise for more details during the June 18 meeting. The discussion next week will include plans for re-opening, adjustments to remote learning, and plans for athletic, arts, and extracurricular programs. 

Budget planning for 2020-21 continues as the district prepares for a vote before month’s end

Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn outlined three options for the final 2020-21 budget decisions. As the Board finalizes the operational budget for the next fiscal year, starting July 1, the district is proposing a budget that reduces the two-year draw on fund balance by $3.2 million. 

The budget reduces class sizes for elementary schools, adds positions for special education, expands PreK from a half-day to a full-day program, adds positions to serve an expected 1,500 new students, and increases compensation for key positions, including substitute teachers, bilingual teachers, and special education teachers in self-contained classrooms. The budget also opens Danielson Middle School, the district’s ninth middle school located across from Glenn High School.

The Board approved a compensation plan that increases the employer contribution to health benefit plans so employees won’t realize increases to insurance premiums. A year after approving historic raises of more than 7% for teachers and 4% for other employees, Trustees adopted a compensation plan that provides all employees the equivalent of a 2% pay increase in a single, lump sum in the fall, contingent upon enrollment and economic conditions. 

After Trustees shared concerns about the long-term, economic impacts of COVID-19 and the uncertainty around the next state biennial budget, LISD reduced its budget requests by $3.4 million, including cuts to non-critical facility projects and travel for professional development. 

Cogburn also presented options the Board could consider in future years, should it face significant shifts in state funding. 

“I want to commend our Board for this important work as we consider all of the scenarios and uncertainties regarding the future of public school funding,” Board President Trish Bode said. “

Trustees will continue the discussion and possible adoption of the budget during the June 18 meeting. 

Board discusses hazardous routes plan and its impact on bus service in 2020-21

Trustees are considering a hazardous routes plan that continues bus service for 24 current routes and removes service for 18 routes. The hazardous routes plan covers bus service for students living within two miles of their assigned school. Each year, the district must evaluate routes using a districtwide evaluation tool to determine if the route qualifies for service.

The transportation team considers various criteria for evaluating routes. 

Trustees discussed the impacts of removing service from families during the global health and economic crisis from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  Trustees will consider the plan during their June 18 meeting for possible action. 

The following neighborhoods have routes recommended for discontinuation:

  • the Catalina Ranch subdivision for Akin Elementary School and Stiles Middle School; 
  • Mason Creek, Trails at Leander, and Magnolia Creek subdivisions for Camacho Elementary School;
  • the Shenandoah subdivision for Naumann Elementary School; 
  • the Benbrook Ranch subdivision north of Halsey Rd. for Plain Elementary School; 
  • the Leander Crossing subdivision for Pleasant Hill Elementary School; 
  • the River Place subdivision for homes on River Place Blvd. and Big View Dr. at River Place Elementary School; 
  • the Meritage Apartments for Steiner Ranch Elementary School; 
  • the Westside at Buttercup Creek subdivision for Westside Elementary School; 
  • Mason Hills and Connelly’s Crossing subdivisions for Whitestone Elementary School; 
  • Headlands, Fairways, and Belcara Monterrey subdivisions for Canyon Ridge Middle School; 
  • the Cypress Canyon subdivision for Cedar Park High School; and
  • Benbrook Ranch and Benbrook Ranch North subdivisions for Glenn High School. 

LISD only receives partial state funding for bus routes covered in the hazardous routes plan. The district has diligently reviewed and reassessed routes included in its plan after an extensive review and redesign of the evaluation tool and community outreach to families. 

Bode remains President in restructure vote

As part of its annual process to review and vote on its leadership positions, Trustees approved Trish Bode to serve as its President for a second consecutive year. They also voted Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D., as Vice President and Elexis Grimes as Secretary.