During its Sept. 21 meeting, the Leander ISD Board of Trustees agenda included:
- Spotlight on Learning: SELF 18+ Transition Services
- Long-Range Planning Committee recommends building early childhood center in northern area of district
- Board authorizes LISD to join TEA A-F Accountability lawsuit
- Legislative Committee provides update ahead of anticipated special session
- Leander Educational Excellence Foundation Annual Report
- Instructional Materials Selection Process underway for 2024–25
Spotlight on Learning: SELF 18+ Transition Services
Students from LISD’s SELF 18+ Transition Services offered first-hand experiences of how they have met personal goals and developed new skills. The program seeks to provide young adults, 18 to 22 years old, with the tools necessary for successful transition into community and adult living on a journey of independence. Thanks to work-based skills, self-advocacy & person-centered planning, these students are thriving!
Long-Range Planning Committee Recommends Building Early Childhood Center in Northern Area of District
The Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) was originally created during the 2021-2022 school year to make recommendations on how to manage growth, while also optimizing current district buildings. In the spring of 2023, the LRPC expanded to include wider representation from our community. The expanded group now includes 61 people:
- 10 Students
- 26 Parents
- 4 Community Members
- 3 Board Members
- 11 Campus Staff
- 7 District Staff
This committee has been meeting monthly since June to create understanding of the LRPC scope and current reality of growth and needs throughout the district.
During the LRPC’s last two meetings, the committee engaged in discussion related to addressing growth in the northern portion of our district in order to bring a recommendation before the Board. The district originally presented three options to consider, and in a true show of empowerment, the committee helped develop a hybrid fourth option, which ultimately gained consensus among its members.
Details of Option 4 presented to the Board are outlined below, but in order to seek a greater understanding of this option and all of those considered, it’s well worth your time to watch Superintendent Bruce Gearing’s whiteboard demonstration during the meeting.
“It was great to see the communication and the vulnerability from our committee members,” said Board Secretary Christine Mauer, one of three Trustees sitting on the LRPC. “People want to have their voices heard and really feel like they are part of the process.
“When we have those face-to-face conversations in these committee meetings with members of our community, that’s where the real magic can happen,” she added. “That’s where our community can come together for the betterment of our entire district.”
Recommendation: Option 4
- Begins with building an Early Childhood Center (ECC) at land LISD owns off of Halsey Drive in northern Leander
- Creates the quickest relief for elementary schools in the northern portion of the district with that ECC opening 2025–2026
- Allows more time for repurpose conversations with the community regarding potential Cedar Park locations for New Hope High School and the LEO Center
- This approach would require additional bond funds to repurposing LEO as an ECC in the future
The recommendation will come back before the Board at the Oct. 5 meeting for approval.
The concept of Early Childhood Centers expands on the district’s current approach to prekindergarten where students are clustered together into 18 different PreK Communities at existing elementary schools across the district. With an Early Childhood Center, the same community approach would pull these young students from multiple elementary attendance boundaries into a facility specifically designed and constructed with them in mind.
ECCs can then better serve our youngest learners while also addressing LRPC’s focus of managing growth.
- April 27, 2023: Long-Range Planning Committee update and plan for expanded membership
- April 27, 2023: District Reiterates Commitment to Neighborhood Schools
- April 19, 2023: Update to the Long-Range Plan
- April 11, 2023: Video from Board President & Superintendent
- April 6, 2023: Beginning to Redefine Repurposing
- March 23, 2023: 10-Year Long-Range Plan Review
Board authorizes LISD to join TEA A-F Accountability lawsuit
At the end of closed session deliberation, Trustees authorized Leander ISD to join a coalition of school districts taking legal action against the Texas Education Agency related to changes to the state’s A-F Accountability system.
In particular, the lawsuit takes issue with the state failing to properly notify districts of revisions to the state accountability system.
“The current status seems antithetical to the goal of providing transparency and clarity in the accountability system,” LISD Board President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia, Ph.D., said. “We believe we have no other choice but to join this lawsuit in an ultimate desire to accurately reflect the success and improvements of #1LISD.”
Earlier this month, TEA announced a temporary delay of releasing 2023 A-F Accountability Ratings, originally scheduled for Sept. 28. TEA said the postponement of ratings for approximately one month will allow for a further re-examination of the baseline data.
In 2022, Leander ISD set in motion the creation of a Community-Based Accountability System, a measure of excellence that goes beyond test-based accountability. The 2021–22 report provided initial benchmarks, and the report for 2022–23 report will be released later this month.
Legislative Committee Shares Update Ahead of Anticipated Special Session
In recent remarks from Texas’ governor, he has all but called for a special session on education, representatives from LISD’s Legislative Committee said Thursday.
Projected for mid-October, the session – or multiple sessions – is expected to center on Education Savings Accounts (ESA), a voucher-like system where taxpayer funds could be used to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling, private tutors or online courses.
For comparison’s sake, Texas public schools receive a basic per-student allotment of $6,160. A proposal during the regular session this spring, which did not pass, involved a private school per-student allotment for an ESA of $8,000.
The legislature has not increased basic allotment for public schools since 2019. School districts would need about $1,000 to keep up with inflation and ultimately match the changed economic environment in the four years prior.
“Last summer, well before the start of the 88th session, we came together as a Board and agreed that ‘increased funding for hiring staff and providing the professional development necessary to meet student needs’ would be our top legislative priority,” Trustee Trish Bode said. “There are different avenues the legislature can take to send additional funds to public schools in Texas, but it cannot be emphasized enough that the underlying need is there and growing.”
Another funding discrepancy highlighted during the presentation centered on the special education allotment, which is based on formulas that have not been adjusted since the 1990s. Across the state, Texas districts spend $1.8 billion more on special education than the state funds.
- May 25, 2023: Legislative Update
- April 27, 2023: Legislative Update
- Feb. 23, 2023: Legislative Update
LEEF Annual Report
The president of the Leander Educational Excellence Foundation, Devin Williams, and LEEF Executive Director Coleen Brighton presented the annual report, highlighted by the organization’s mission to enrich the educational experience for all.
Over the past five years, the foundation has raised more $2.6 million, investing $1.8 million into Leander ISD programs and classrooms. That’s 228,000 students impacted and 350 teacher grants awarded.
In the last year, LEEF investments back into the LISD community included:
- $68,000: Student Services
- $54,000: College & Career Readiness
- $23,000: Literacy
- $25,000: Uncharted Learning
- $120,872: Teaching Grants
“Our education foundation hits all sectors of Leander ISD, and we’ve only seen those efforts increase in recent years,” Board Vice President Anna Smith said. “You’re out at district events providing books to families, and kids are so excited to get a book. As someone who didn’t have access to books growing up, it’s such a powerful thing to have an education foundation that’s making sure those needs are met.”
Looking ahead to the coming years, the foundation identified the following focus areas as they strive to be a million-dollar foundation:
- Increase funding through monthly giving, grant writing, and business community support.
- Increase awareness of the foundation amongst LISD’s campus communities.
- LEEF Board to evaluate and measure effectiveness of currently funded programs.
- Collaborate with LISD to understand the student priorities in order to shape future fundraising.
- Broadening base of donors and deepen relationships with existing
Visit leeftx.org to learn more about LEEF and how you can help.
Instructional Materials Selection Process Underway for 2024–25
As part of its yearly review of the instructional materials of a rotating selection of courses, the district will again follow a process in accordance with Texas State law, Texas Education Agency guidelines, and LISD Board Policy. The process places an importance on opportunities for community feedback and aligning vetting criteria with Board Policy EF (Local).
Courses included during the 2023–24 school year, for Fall 2024 implementation:
- AP Government
- AP European History
- AP Economics
- AP Psychology
- AP Chemistry
- K-12 Science
- Astronomy (tentative new course)
- Career & Technology Education
- Technology Applications (6-8)
- Principles of Education and Training
- Instructional Practices
- Human Growth and Development
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Medical Microbiology
- Medical Terminology
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Health Science Theory
- Forensic Science
- Computer Science I
- AP Computer Science
- Cybersecurity Capstone
- Digital Forensics
- Fundamentals of Computer Science
*Additional courses may be added to the list based on the LISD New Course Proposal process.
The Board will receive a progress update in early 2024. Opportunities for the community to give feedback will be available in person and virtually in the months of January and February. Visit the Instructional Materials Selection page for more information.