During its March 25 Leander ISD Board of Trustees meeting, the Board:
- Discussed revisions to the instructional materials selection process, including English/Language Arts book club offerings
- Expanded PreK to include eligible 3-year-olds for a half-day program
- Examined hazardous bus routes for next school year
- Continued budget discussion for the 2020–21 school year
- Recognized the outstanding efforts of LISD students, teachers and staff
Board reviews updates to high school student-choice book club vetting, review process
Addressing concerns from the community seeking greater transparency in how high school student-choice book club selections are vetted and approved, staff updated the Board about the ongoing book club review process and the next steps.
We are committed to:
- a thorough literature selection process involving parents;
- publishing a list of approved titles;
- developing a consistent process for parent communication;
- providing an opportunity for parents to identify titles not to be read by their student; and
- a clear process for reconsideration of instructional materials
English 1-4 classes offer two book club units per grade level, approximately 8-10 days of instruction, to encourage reading and to create thoughtful discussion between students. Through our instructional materials adoption process, teachers and community members vetted various vendors and selected themes for those book clubs in alignment with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The district will continue to offer books by authors of various backgrounds and with various perspectives so students can see themselves in their reading.
The Community Curriculum Advisory Committee (CCAC) continues to review books, currently in their fourth and fifth cycles of review. The Board will also consider policy updates in the coming months.
“The state is directing and pushing us to make sure that we get more diverse materials in the hands of our children,” said Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. “I think that’s important. So we have to go through a process of selecting those materials; we want to make sure we deal with that effectively. The way we’ve done that is through the CCAC. It’s a slow, steady exercise because it takes time to review every one of those titles and make sure that we have accurate data to make those selections.”
District expands early childhood education to include 3-year-olds
We will welcome 3-year-olds to our PreK program in 2021-22. Working to minimize opportunity and learning gaps for students, Trustees approved the expansion of early childhood education to include a half day program for 3-year-olds who qualify based on federal guidelines such as household income, language, or other requirements.
The expansion provides early access to high-quality services, consisting of 3-year-old children participating daily on campuses with 4-year-old pre-kindergarten communities from 7:40 to 1:15. The district will be eligible for half-day state funding for all 3-year-olds who participate.
“Expanding our early learning option is a tremendous opportunity our district can provide to young families and our learners,” Board President Trish Bode said. “The Board will continue its focus on the needs of our diverse student population. I consider this expansion another important step as the Board and district leadership continue their focus on personalized learning.”
We did not continue discussion around centralizing the ELE/ESLE program to select campuses to maximize resources. Staff are talking to parents and considering this option for the 2021–22 school year to join our PreK communities.
Registration for 2021–22 school year for all PreK, including the tuition based option for families who don’t meet qualifications, opened earlier this week.
Hazardous Bus Routes plan for 2021–22 takes shape
Current bus routes for students that reside within two miles of their assigned school will remain intact for next school year. Trustees reviewed the district’s annual assessment of hazardous routes, which included the addition of two routes for 2021–22.
The state provides funding for public schools to bus students to and from campuses that are two miles or more from their home. In Leander ISD, families living closer than 2 miles from their assigned school are in the “Not Eligible for Transportation Zone,” or NETZone. Students in the NETZone are only provided bus service if their route to school is rated as hazardous. Trustees could vote to approve the plan at their April 8 meeting.
Amid uncertainty, budget conversations center on state funding projections
We continue to face budget cuts for the 2021-22 school year as uncertainty looms around the pandemic, enrollment growth, and the state’s distribution plan for federal stimulus funding.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) will continue to fund school districts at current enrollment levels for the rest of the spring semester, assuming the district hits in-person learning participation numbers required for the funding. We do not know how the state will distribute the recently passed state stimulus, but history seems to suggest it will use the money to replace existing funding and not provide new money to cover the additional costs.
Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn presented a set of projections for the current 2020-2021 fiscal year. After staffing schools based on enrollment projections set before the pandemic and not hitting those numbers, in addition to other additional COVID-19 related expenses, we cut funding and analyze where enrollment will be next school year. With approximately 86% of our budget coming from staffing, we are currently looking at a $2.8 million reduction in payroll costs with potentially $7 million more to cut in order to hit parameters set by the Board earlier this school year.
The Board recognized the following athletic programs and students for their state or national awards:
- National Cheerleading Association National Champions – Cedar Park HS
- Boys Basketball 5A State Medalists – Glenn HS
- Girls Basketball 5A State Champions – Cedar Park HS
- State Swimming and Diving Medalists- Cedar Park HS and Rouse HS