Leander ISD Trustees approved a policy update for staff discrimination protection, considered a stipend for all employees to cover expenses incurred during the pandemic, and reviewed a report on the district’s Special Education services at their meeting Thursday night.
Board considers amended compensation plan that includes PPE stipend for employees
The Board is considering an administration recommendation to pay all employees an $800 Personal Protective Equipment Stipend (PPE) to cover employee expenses for the PPE during the pandemic.
The Compensation Plan adopted by the Board in May 2020 outlined a 2% one-time payment to employees based on the criteria that student enrollment met or exceeded 41,300 as of the PEIMS snapshot date (Oct. 30, 2020). Because enrollment is about 1,000 students short of this number, the 2% one-time payment isn’t an option. In order to honor employees’ PPE expenses during the pandemic, the administration is recommending a PPE stipend payment in lieu of the 2% one-time payment.
This one-time $800 PPE Stipend payment would be paid to eligible full-time employees (FTE) as outlined in the LISD Compensation Plan. An employee who is employed as a 0.5 FTE or less will receive half of the payment. The payment would be made in December 2020 to all full-time/part-time employees who were employed by the district at the time the payment is authorized by the Board.
“I know they [teachers and staff] are working harder than they’ve ever worked, I saw that in our listening tour,” Trustee Elexis Grimes said. “They’re putting in an unbelievable amount of hours and an unbelievable amount of [personal] resources. This is one small gesture of kindness that we can do. These other issues will still be here for us to tackle, but for right now, this is something we need to do for them.”
The budget currently includes $5.4 million that would have covered the 2% one-time payment. This amount covers the recommendation of an $800 payment to all employees as well as the estimated cost of hiring a third party vendor to provide substitute teachers at a 100% fill rate.
During teacher listening sessions held across the district, the administration heard many times the need for additional substitutes and disappointment that employees were not going to see the 2% one-time payment. This payment is not considered salary; therefore, it is not eligible for credit in accordance with the Teacher Retirement System.
More help is on the way for schools
The district will be contracting a service to increase its fill rate on open substitute positions, Chief Human Resource Officer Karie Lynn McSpadden explained in the presentation on compensation. The new service provider will work with current LISD substitutes and recruit new substitute teachers to improve the district’s ability to fill substitute requests.
Teachers and staff requesting substitute teachers will still use the current system to make requests. More details will be released when the service agreement is finalized. This item will not require Board action, but it does align with the Board’s directive to administration to support teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board updates staff discrimination protections policy
Following the recommendation of its recently formed Board Policy Review Subcommittee, Trustees adopted an update to the district’s discrimination protections for staff. Policy update 115, as recommended by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), is focused on bringing the district’s Title IX procedures into compliance with the new federal Title IX regulations. In essence, it is an update to how the district processes complaints of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. It does not adopt any curriculum or have any bearing on student athletics participation.
“Let us hold a little bit of grace,” Trustee Jim MacKay said. “This is one piece of a policy that adds protections to our employees and brings us into compliance with current law. How do we not approve that?”
Prior to the pandemic, the Board took up an aggressive schedule to review all district policies, as pointed out in February 2020 Board Briefs. However, the Trustees temporarily halted those efforts to focus on emergency items related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
District continues improvement efforts around special programs, special education services
After hearing from parents concerned about their child’s receipt of special education and special program services, the district is continuing improvement efforts to address concerns from a third-party review.
Executive Director of Special Programs Kimberly Waltmon presented an update on the district’s progress to address the seven recommendations from that report, known as the COPIA Report. The report focused on the actions of the special programs to address communication, parental engagement, and professional development for inclusive classrooms.
District to review high school reading materials
After hearing from concerned parents about book selections for high school English Language Arts (ELA) courses, the district will be reviewing materials, emphasizing the choice students and parents have if they have concerns regarding reading materials and rolling book selections into the district’s Citizen’s Curriculum Advisory Committee’s work.