During its Nov. 9 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees agenda included:
- Spotlight on Learning: Wiley MS
- Board Recognitions
- One-Time Retention Payment Approved for LISD Staff
- House Bill 3: Armed Security Officers
- Formative Review: Empowered Student Learning
- Academic Calendar Discussions Underway for 2024–25
- Counseling Services Team Provides Proactive, Comprehensive Support
- School Psychologists Partner to Support Students’ Learning & Behavior Needs
- Hiring Announcements: Stiles MS principal; LISD area superintendent
Spotlight on Learning: Wiley MS
Wiley Middle School showcased the robust impactful family engagement and empowered student learning happening on campus, including everything from their mxINCedu entrepreneurship class to service opportunities through NJHS. These community partnerships have Coyotes becoming compassionate members of our society.
Special thanks to the Steiner Ranch Elementary announcements duo of Mason and Kellan for helping celebrate stand-out individuals and accomplishments around #1LISD.
The Board recognized the following:
- School Psychologists Appreciation Week
- Maintenance Appreciation Week
- National Merit Semifinalists
- Finance team’s “Superior” FIRST rating
One-Time Retention Payment for LISD Staff
The Board approved a retention incentive payment of $1,000 for eligible full-time employees and $500 for eligible part-time employees to be paid out in December 2023, acknowledging teachers and staff’s dedicated service to the students of our community.
This retention payment was made possible by Board action in May 2023 when they placed the following condition in the 2023–24 compensation plan for issuing this type of payment:
- The district’s other financial obligations and issuance of the one-time lump sum payment would not create a financial hardship for the district.
The estimated revenues exceed expenditures for the 2022–2023 school year by approximately $15.6 million, minus $5 million transferred out in June 2023. This creates a scenario where the retention payments will not create a financial hardship.
“As we near the end of the calendar year, we hope this financial incentive serves as a nicely timed boost,” said Board President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D. “In operating within our means and the budget constraints set by the state, this Board will always maximize every available opportunity to send additional compensation to all of our amazing teachers and staff.”
In order to be eligible for the payment, an employee must be employed by the district in a regular part or full-time position, including Teacher Fellows, and they must be in active status on Nov. 17, 2023. The one-time lump sum payment is not eligible for TRS creditable service.
LISD Continues Pursuit of In-House Police Department in Response to HB3
The passing of House Bill 3 in the 88th Texas Legislature’s regular session requires school districts to place an armed security officer at each campus, among other requirements. Citing a lack of funding and available personnel, Trustees approved a resolution to claim a “good cause” exception at the Sept. 7 board meeting, allowing the district time to implement an “alternative standard” in order to comply with new state mandates in the bill.
In pursuing the alternative standard, LISD administration proposed a resolution and budget amendment to create the Leander ISD Police Department, with the following staff:
- 10 Marshals
- Chief of Police
- Assistant Chief of Police
- Administrative Assistant
For the initial phase, the estimated cost is $1.1 million as itemized in the presentation.
“As we continue discussions related to forming an LISD police department, Trustees are focused on moving forward in a manner where the presence of LISD-employed law enforcement members not only enhances the safety and security of the district but also fosters safe learning and teaching environments in our schools,” Vice President Anna Smith said.
The district currently has a School Resource Officer at each comprehensive high school and a sergeant at one middle school, and this arrangement will continue for the foreseeable future as a potential transition to an LISD-run police force takes place.
It’s important to note that armed security is only one aspect of this house bill. LISD will continue to maintain current safety protocols in place, including weekly door audits and standard response protocol drills. Additional security projects are in the works, including force-resistant film for ground-level windows and windowed doors, storage function door latches for interior and portable doors, digital mapping of LISD buildings for emergency responders, additional cameras at all levels, and exterior fencing.
- Sept. 7, 2023: Good cause exception approved for House Bill 3 compliance
- Aug. 24, 2023: Next steps in addressing House Bill 3 Safety & Security Requirements
Formative Review: Empowered Student Learning
Throughout the 2023–24 school year’s Board Meeting calendar, LISD will present a formative review of one goal within the five-year Strategic Plan and the District Improvement Plan. In this meeting, district administrators reviewed the Empowered Student Learning goal; one focused on deeper learning and calibrating the LISD Graduate Profile.
Through this goal, students will have agency over their learning to grow as individuals, all while building a growth-centered mindset and feeling empowered to pursue their dreams.
During School Improvement Visits, administration is able to see firsthand progress on each part of this goal and identify bright spots.
Academic Calendar Discussions Underway for 2024–25
Thursday’s meeting marked the beginning of the feedback process for the 2024–25 Academic Calendar’s development. The district will use the 2024–25 draft created during last year’s process as the starting point.
The drafted 2024–25 calendar that will soon gain additional feedback has the following attributes:
- Short first week with a Wednesday start – Aug. 14, 2024
- Last day of school before Memorial Day weekend – May 23, 2025
- Student early release day at the end of each semester
- Full week off at Fall Break
- Two weeks off for Winter Break
- Spring Break aligned with UT and ACC
The feedback process will include conversations with principals, the Superintendent Student Advisory Committee (SSAC), the Districtwide Educational Improvement Council (DWEIC) and the School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). To gain feedback from the community, a survey will be made available later this month, along with Listening Session opportunities Nov. 27 and Dec. 1.
Following this thorough series of feedback steps, the district plans to bring a recommended calendar to the Board at the Jan. 18, 2024 meeting and for approval at the Feb. 1, 2024 meeting.
- Jan. 26, 2023: Board Approves 2023–24 Academic Calendar, Draft of 2024–25
Counseling Services Team Provides Proactive, Comprehensive Support
The district’s Counseling Services department shared an annual update and overview at Thursday’s meeting, highlighting essential ways they support the whole child and create a unique student experience.
This team consists of campus counselors and licensed clinical social workers, along with licensed professional counselors who are members of the Student and Family Support Team (SFST). LISD also has four campus-based social workers (CBSW), a new position created in December 2022. These CBSWs are licensed master social workers who supplement the school counselor position.
As part of a years-long initiative from the Counseling Services team, LISD now has a catalog of more than 100 Mental Health Minute videos used weekly at both the elementary and secondary levels. These videos cover a range of topics and are aimed at promoting mental health awareness and reducing the stigma of seeking help.
“The United States Surgeon General identified an epidemic of loneliness and isolation, these factors in childhood increase the risk of depression and anxiety both immediately and in the future for our student population,” Trustee Trish Bode said. “I’m delighted to hear our counseling team is proactively looking for ways to support students’ social well-being.”
LISD provides a comprehensive counseling program outlined by the Texas Model and the
American School Counselor Association. In addition, the team members also assist with implementing the Second Step resources on the elementary campuses and work with our secondary students to discover pathways of interest. The SFST team provides individual counseling and school-day therapy to students – with parental consent – while also collaborating with campus staff and responding to crises when they arise.
School Psychologists Partner to Support Students’ Learning & Behavior Needs
The Board received an update from LISD’s team of school psychologists – formerly called Licensed Specialists in School Psychology or LSSPs – who apply their expertise in mental health, learning and behavior to collaborate across their campuses to support students served in special education.
Among other responsibilities, these highly trained individuals work in partnership with educational diagnosticians, speech-language pathologists and other special education personnel to complete evaluations – with parental consent – for students who are referred for learning or behavior needs by parents or campus teams.
They help teach students with identified disabilities skills to reach their academic goals and to lead more independent lives.
LISD Welcomes New Stiles MS Principal & LISD Area Superintendent
Leander ISD is pleased to welcome Jayme Spexarth in her new role as principal at Stiles Middle School and Paul Johnson as an area superintendent, after the Board approved the recommendations at Thursday’s Board meeting.