During the May 21 remote meeting, Leander ISD Board of Trustees approved a compensation plan for teachers and staff. They also approved new start times to accommodate academic and social-emotional needs, heard feedback from the district’s remote learning survey and hired a new Chief Technology Officer.

Review the agenda here. Watch the meeting here

Board approves compensation plan to support teachers, employees

All teachers and staff will see a $1 million investment into the employee benefits fund, allowing the district to maintain or decrease health insurance premiums and offer a $0 insurance plan option. The Board’s approval also leaves open the possibility for a one-time payment to all employees, equivalent to 2% of salary, if enrollment and economic indicators allow for it in November. 

The Board considered the one-time payment in lieu of traditional raises in order to avoid locking into additional fixed costs when there is uncertainty regarding the economy and to better absorb potential funding cuts in the next legislative session.

“I want to thank the Board for taking the time to discuss and consider these options,” Board President Trish Bode said. “We all want to reward our teachers and educators, who have acted heroically during this crisis and have cared so deeply for our kids. We want to be forward-thinking, fiscally responsive, and prepared for what comes next. Our Trustees were phenomenal in their debate and decision, as everyone focused on the best interests of students.”

In addition to the one-time payment and investment into the health care fund, the Board also approved salary adjustments for select positions, including substitute teachers (a $5/day increase to $90/day) and an additional stipend for special education teachers in self-contained classrooms (from $1,000 to $2,000 per year), to keep up with compensation plans in nearby districts. 

The 2020–21 budget comes one year after the Board granted a historic salary increase of over 7% for teachers and 4% for other staff.

“I want to commend the Board for their action and collaboration regarding this crucial topic,” Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. said. “Thanks to this Board’s prudent fiscal planning and our status as a fast-growth district, I believe we are in a position to support our teachers and school teams during these unprecedented times, with the flexibility to make adjustments as we learn more about the state’s economy and the impact of COVID-19.” 

Trustees will continue their discussion on the budget in the June meetings before approving a final budget by June 30. A tax rate, which is expected to decrease by an additional $0.02, setting it at $1.42 per $100 valuation, will be set in September. 

Trustees approve a plan to support academic, social-emotional needs of students through new school start times

Students will return to school for the 2020–21 school year on new school start times and with additional time in the school day. 

Trustees approved a plan to extend the school day by 10 minutes for elementary, five minutes for middle, and 15 minutes at high school in order to meet the academic needs for career and technical education (CTE) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes at high school and to loosen elementary school schedules to allow for more social or playtime.  

“I had an opportunity to speak with some of our principals and they reaffirmed this work,” Trustee Pam Waggoner said. “It’s been a two-year process with lots of stakeholder feedback and consideration, focused on improving services and giving our educators more time to support student success.”

The new plan also creates more space in-between bus routes, allowing for more drivers to operate three routes versus two, creating more efficiencies for scheduling and reducing delayed pick-ups and drop-offs. 

Under the new start times, schools would run on the following schedules:

  • Elementary 7:40 a.m. – 2:55 p.m. 
  • Middle 8:10 a.m. – 3:25 p.m. 
  • High 8:40 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 

The district shares remote learning feedback

Parents, students, and teachers shared varied feelings about remote learning and appreciation for the work of teachers and schools during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, according to a survey released by the district earlier this spring.

Director of Research and Evaluation Sarah Martinez, Ed.D. shared a report of the results, detailing the thoughts and opinions of over 11,000 members of Leander ISD about remote learning. Responses included a desire from teachers and students to interact with each other in more authentic ways, while also supporting the district’s flexibility and efforts to launch an emergency remote learning plan with minimal time to plan. 

The survey found that the top barriers facing students with learning included parents needing to balance time between their work and their student’s learning, motivating students in online learning, and supporting independent work for students in their own homes. 

Overall, 90% of teachers said they felt supported by the district for resources to lead remote learning, while 66% of students and 75% of parents were satisfied with remote learning resources. The district, schools, and teachers earned high levels of satisfaction for communication during the closing of buildings, totaling 88%, 82% and 81% satisfaction rates, respectively.  

Board hires new Chief Technology Officer with corporate and large school district experience

Dallas ISD Director of IT Infrastructure Jason Miller is joining Leander ISD as its new Chief Technology Officer.

The Board of Trustees announced Miller’s hiring during its May 21 meeting. In his new role, he will lead the Technology Services departments as well as the district’s vision for technology and innovation. 

Prior to his time in education, Miller spent several years in the telecommunications industry. In his five years at Dallas ISD, he helped craft the district’s master plan for Technology Services as well as oversaw the planning and implementation of IT projects. Miller says he thrives at bridging IT solutions with challenges in education. 

Area Superintendent Laurelyn Artebury, Ed.D., stepped into the vacant role at the beginning of the year. Miller will start his new position July 6.