Should Leander ISD prominently place the state accountability system in its district improvement plan? The Board of Trustees discussed its goals, approved a new evaluation tool for bus service to students living within two miles of school, and took action on construction projects tied to the 2017 bond referendum. 

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Trustees consider a change to board goals, options for community accountability

The district administration and a community committee of teachers and parents recommended the removal of Goal 1 from the district improvement plan, removing targets for state accountability scores from the report. 

Trustees and new Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. discussed the impacts of placing scores on the STAAR and end of course exams on the state-required document for all school districts.

“It’s time for us to wake up and understand that if we don’t change the way we do public education and address individual student needs, we’re going to fail our next generation,” Gearing said. “If we’re not connecting to the kids we’re responsible for, we’re failing them.”  

Area Superintendent Sarah Grissom recounted the Districtwide Educational Council meeting Oct. 10 where more than 100 teachers and parents gave feedback and approval, as required, that the district’s improvement plan is in alignment with the seven district goals. Ultimately, DWEIC agreed with administration that the goal of maximizing academic growth for each student (as measured by standardized test scores) could be achieved by faithful pursuit of the remaining six goals, and voted to remove that goal from the district improvement plan.   

“In DWEIC, I thought it was a very good conversation; members were asked what learning should look like,” ,” Board President Trish Bode said. “Board collaboration is going to be key as we move forward talking about our goals and if we’re going to do community-based accountability.“

The Board will continue discussing the department and campus improvement plans at their Nov. 11 meeting. 

Trustees review hazardous bus routes rating tool, transportation scenarios

The Board considered bus driver shortages and transportation challenges that go along with LISD’s status as a fast-growth district. Trustees approved the hazardous routes evaluation tool the district uses for households within two miles of their assigned campuses. A citizen-led committee worked for over a year on the matrix, which LISD Transportation staff will use to assess hazardous conditions for the 2020–21 school year. 

The state requires public schools to bus students to and from campuses that are more than two miles from their home. Those within a two-mile radius from a school are in what is known as the “Not Eligible for Transportation Zone,” or NETZone. Students in the NETZone are only provided bus service if their route to school is rated as hazardous. 

“With the potential reduction in riders with this new instrument, I’m interested to know what the effect is on number of buses required,” Board Vice President Aaron johnson said. “From a capital outlay perspective, we obviously spent a lot of money on new buses, particularly ones with air conditioning.”  

The district will start evaluating routes in December and January and notify families that could be impacted after the evaluation process. This does not impact the transportation services provided for special needs students when specified in the Individual Education Plan.

Final Bond 2017 security upgrades get underway as construction continues across the district

The Board approved architects to design security upgrades as part of the 2017 Bond at the remaining secondary campuses in Summer 2020. Those campuses are: Glenn High School, Rouse High School, New Hope High School, Leander Extended Opportunity (LEO), Canyon Ridge Middle School, Four Points Middle School, Henry Middle School, Running Brushy Middle School, Stiles Middle School and Wiley Middle School.

This past summer security upgrades that were part of the 2017 Bond Authorization were completed at Cedar Park High School, Cedar Park Middle School, Leander High School, Leander Middle School, Vandegrift High School and Vista Ridge High School. 

After the busiest summer of construction in the district’s history, various projects continue through the fall with Trustees approving the guaranteed maximum price for Vandegrift High School additions, including Incubator renovation and security upgrades.