During its Oct. 26 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees agenda included:
- Spotlight on Learning: Henry MS Honor Band
- Board Approves Bond Oversight Committee’s recommendation of Early Childhood Center
- Bond 2023: Project Funds Released For Campus Modernizations
- Demographic Report Continues to Show Growth, Rate Slower than Previous Years
- Legislative Committee Provides Special Session Update
- Community-Based Accountability System 2022–23 Report (Part 2)
- Overview of Academic & Student Performance Data
- Global Languages & Cultures Department Showcases Vibrant Emergent Bilingual Services
Spotlight on Learning: Henry MS Band
The Henry Middle School Honor Band has become synonymous with excellence. The program was recently recognized as the state honor band, designating the top middle school band in Texas. When a school receives top honors, they have to wait four years before submitting into the blindly judged competition again. The HMS band has received this distinction four times in a row across a 16-year period of time, and Band Director Robert Herrings has been with the program throughout. Way to go, Hawks!
Board Approves Bond Oversight Committee’s Recommendation of Early Childhood Center
🎬 7.C.2. Consider Approval of the Bond Oversight Committee Recommendation to Build an Early Childhood Center with Bond Fund
🎬 7.C.3. Consider Approval of an Architect for the Proposed Early Childhood Center
The Board approved the Bond Oversight Committee’s recommendation to build an Early Childhood Center on land LISD owns off of Halsey Drive in northern Leander and to consider other early childhood programs during the design phase. This project, aimed at relieving schools in the northern part of the district, uses $60 million of Bond 2023 repurposing funds.
The idea to use Bond 2023 repurposing funds for an Early Childhood Center originated in the LISD’s Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC), as presented to the Board at the Sept. 21 Board Meeting. It then moved to the Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) in early October for further review. The BOC agreed with LRPC’s recommendation.
“The level of community input through representation on both committees – along with the process this project took to come forward for approval tonight – is to be commended,” Trustee Francesca Romans said. “Each committee played a pivotal role and provided important perspectives that Trustees and I truly value in making these decisions.”
The bond passed in May 2023 included $161 million for the repurposing of underutilized campuses. Accounting for the newly allocated Early Childhood Center budget, the remaining repurposing money totals $101 million. LRPC discussions will continue on how best to optimize facilities while focusing on the student experience.
After approving the Early Childhood Center, the Board also approved O’Connell Robertson as the architect for the project. The district will bring forward a recommendation for the construction manager at a future meeting.
- Sept. 21, 2023: Long-Range Planning Committee recommends building early childhood center in northern area of district
- April 13, 2023: Review of Bond Oversight Committee Process & Membership
Bond 2023: Project Funds Released Toward Campus Modernizations
- 5.D. Consider Approval of Guaranteed Maximum Price #1 for Bagdad Elementary School Modernization
- 5.E. Consider Approval of Guaranteed Maximum Price #1 for Cedar Park High School and South Performing Arts Center Modernization
- 5.F. Consider Approval of Guaranteed Maximum Price #1 for Running Brushy Middle School Modernization
- 5.G. Consider Approval of Guaranteed Maximum Price #1 for Vista Ridge High School Modernization
Following the passing of all three propositions in the May 2023 bond, LISD immediately started the vetting process for architects and construction contractors for projects included in the 2023 Building Program. At the Aug. 24, 2023 Board meeting, Trustees approved construction managers for a slate of projects. At Thursday’s meeting, Trustees approved the first Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) contracts for four modernizations projects, allowing for the release of Bond funds already allocated for these projects.
These GMPs will go toward equipment, services or materials that must be secured well in advance and early project startup needs. These projects will have additional GMPs as they progress.
- Bagdad ES: $1,607,981.00
- Running Brushy MS: $4,306,111.00
- Cedar Park High School & South Performing Arts Center: $10,918,545.00
- Vista Ridge High School: $9,053,988.00
Modernization of an existing facility involves the replacement of major building sub-systems including but not limited to roofing, elevators, air conditioning, lighting, electrical, plumbing, fire protection systems, built-in specialties and playground equipment at elementary schools, interior finishes, and furniture that is at the end of the expected service life.
Construction work on these projects is anticipated to begin in Summer 2024.
Previous Bond 2023 Updates
- Oct. 5, 2023: Vendor Selection Process for Bond 2023’s Artificial Turf Projects Moves Forward
- Aug. 24, 2023: Architects, Construction Managers Approved for Slate of 2023 Bond Projects
- May 11, 2023: 2023 Building Program Moves Forward Following Successful Bond
Demographic Report Continues to Show Growth, Rate Slower than Previous Years
In an annual update to the Board, representatives from Population and Survey Analysts (PASA) shared their latest findings. Leander ISD is currently made up of 42,589 students. PASA develops three growth scenarios – low, moderate and high – looking out over the next 10 years. In the moderate-growth scenario, LISD would hit 49,286 students in 2033.
“I’m fascinated by the data and enjoy taking a deep dive into these numbers each year, oftentimes referring back to previous-year reports for additional context,” Vice President Anna Smith said. “Hearing more about PASA’s methodology and how they start from the ground up each year reassures me that we are receiving the most accurate projections possible. Incorrect assumptions from previous years aren’t compounded as they build the new set of projections”
PASA’s process includes a host of complex research and analysis, including:
- The study of background data, such as Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping information and a study of past enrollment
- The study of housing and economic data
- The study of past and current student population
This year’s report highlights the following student projection factors:
- New housing construction
Drives the majority of growth, adding 1,000–1,500 students per year
- Birth rates
Births have been stable until recent uptick that will show up in LISD’s 2027–28 kindergarten class
- Incoming kindergarten class size
Recently, LISD has seen smaller kindergarten classes each year. They have not returned to a pre-COVID class size.
This happens when younger families — with elementary-aged children — move in to replace empty-nesters whose kids have already been through the LISD system and graduated. Regeneration is occurring, where student grade-level cohorts – for example, 2nd grade in 2022 and 3rd grade in 2023 – gain students year over year. However, this is undercut to a greater extent by smaller and smaller kindergarten classes coming into LISD.
- Charter schools
Four new charter schools and one expanded new location are planned within LISD’s boundary in the next five years. It’s estimated this could pull 2,000 students from LISD.
These projections inform the work of the Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) for Leander ISD, which is focused on student learning while maximizing resources in the years ahead. After reviewing this newest batch of demographic data, the LRPC and district administration will update the Long-Range Facilities Plan and present an update at a later Board meeting.
Legislative Committee Provides Special Session Update
Education funding sits at a standstill as the special session of the 88th Texas Legislature nears the back end of the 30-day duration. Gov. Greg Abbott called the special session in part to provide private schools with subsidies, also known as vouchers or Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Left off of the call was any inclusion of funding for public education.
In the Texas House of Representatives, a bill – House Bill 1 – has been filed. This bill contains a number of items that would increase and adjust public school funding formulas. Because of the governor’s current special session parameters omitting funding for public education, the bill is outside of the scope and cannot advance further in the House.
Meanwhile, in the Texas Senate, a pair of bills – Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2 – address vouchers and public education separately. In the voucher bill, a listed $8,000 would be available per private school student. For comparison, the basic allotment for public schools has stayed flat at $6,160 since 2019.
As the Nov. 8 expiration of the special session approaches, Trustee Trish Bode shared her appreciation for the wide range of support of public schools.
“I wanted to thank some of our LISD Trustees for being active and engaged up at the Capitol. It does make a difference,” said Bode, also applauding teachers and the community who have made their voices heard. “We hope that everyone will stay engaged in this topic. This is the start of the conversation. We’re not done by any means.”
- Oct. 12, 2023: LISD Superintendent Advocates for Public Schools
- Oct. 5, 2023: Board Approves Updated Legislative Priorities for October Special Session
- Sept. 21, 2023: Legislative Committee Shares Update Ahead of Anticipated Special Session
- May 25, 2023: Legislative Update
- April 27, 2023: Legislative Update
- Feb. 23, 2023: Legislative Update
Community-Based Accountability System 2022–23 Report (Part 2)
The Board received Part 2 of a presentation on 2022–2023 Community-Based Accountability System report, now in its second year. Rooted in #1LISD’s vision, mission and core beliefs, this comprehensive report features alignment to the district’s Strategic Plan. The report showcases LISD’s commitment to a shared educational vision created by families, staff and students, and it focuses on the indicators our community has stated are meaningful to them beyond what is measured in state accountability.
This meeting focused on the remaining three of the five goals.
LISD has a stated goal of attracting, growing and retaining first-rate employees. Zooming in on retention efforts, the teacher turnover rate showed a year-over-year decline from 21 percent to 17 percent. This positive decline in turnover also could be seen in the group of teachers with 0 to 5 years of experience, with a drop from 35 percent down to 21 percent. In an area like special education where targeted teacher retention efforts included stipend adjustments – and sign-on incentives for new employees – the turnover rate went from 22 percent in 2021–22 to 19 percent in 2022–23.
Impactful Family Engagement
Coming out of transformative years in 2020–21 and 2021–22, an overarching goal in the Impactful Family Engagement section was to build trust. Through fostering positive relationships and demonstrating mutual respect for the diverse perspectives found in our district, the results from the annual student and parent climate surveys show trends in the right direction with increases in each dimension.
Safe & Innovative Learning Environments
In Leander ISD, we know students need to feel included, accepted and safe in order to access their learning. The district has focused on implementing relational practices and creating a positive learning environment. Part of that is through celebrating not only students’ academic achievements but also when they model behaviors found in our 10 Ethical Principles.
The passing of the 2023 bond paved the way for other improvements in both technology and security. With bond funds, the interactive panel project is ongoing on the technology side of things while a combination of bond funds and grants have made the following security enhancements possible in the near future:
- Forced entry-resistant film on windows
- Heightened fences around the perimeter
- Auto closing & locking mechanisms on exterior door handles
- Digital mapping of schools to assist law enforcement response in the case of an emergency
- Panic alert system
- Security cameras
- Cybersecurity improvements
- Oct. 5, 2023: CBAS 2022–23 Report Part 1
Overview of Academic & Student Performance Data
Trustees received an overview of student academic performance data on state and national standardized assessments from leaders within the district’s Teaching & Learning department.
While state accountability scores reflect previous-year data from the STAAR test, the district uses universal screener data points – such as NWEA MAP Growth for math and Istation’s Indicators of Progress (ISIP) for reading – from the beginning of the year to make instructional plans looking forward.
In state accountability language, “Approaches” is the passing level and “Meets” exceeds that passing level. The charts in the presentation reflect this higher “Meets” level.
The overview also included college and career readiness data, along with student group breakdowns in each area.
- June 15, 2023: Redesign of Reading Intervention to Raise Scores
- June 8, 2023: Discussion Continues on LISD’s Leading Measures for Student Performance
- May 25, 2023: Progress on District’s Leading Measures
Global Languages & Cultures Department Showcases Vibrant Emergent Bilingual Services
The Global Languages & Cultures department presented an annual update of the emergent bilingual students in LISD, served through either the English as a Second Language (ESL) program or the Dual Language Enrichment (DLE) program.
Enrollment data shows that in the past five years, the share of LISD students in this emergent bilingual category has doubled, growing from 7 percent to 14 percent of LISD’s overall enrollment. This group of students is represented by more than 65 languages spoken. The Top 7 languages other than English include:
The DLE program seeks to produce bilingual, bi-literate and bi-cultural individuals across all content areas. This program is currently offered at three early childhood locations, four elementary schools and will look to add its third middle school, with a new location at Running Brushy Middle School anticipated for the 2024–25 school year.