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Livingston board hires new high school principal

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By Brian Besch

Livingston ISD’s December meeting was highlighted by naming a new high school principal, a financial report and results of a teacher survey.

After reconvening from executive session in regular session, LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins recommended Dr. Derrick James for the position of Livingston High School Principal.

  James will begin Jan. 4, 2022, replacing Dr. Paul Drake, who is the lone finalist for the Chester ISD Superintendent position. James has served as associate principal for Lufkin Middle School since 2016 and has 26 years in education. He was also a primary school principal and elementary school assistant principal in Lufkin ISD.

Justin Matthews with Axley & Rode issued a non-modified opinion of the LISD financial audit. Matthews shared how the optimal amount of the unassigned fund balance is 25%. Yet, LISD has 34% — surpassing the state’s recommendation. After reviewing activity accounts, he offered an unmodified, clean opinion, where material deficiencies were not found. The net position of the district increased more than last year’s growth.  

Under action items, the board approved the financial audit and quarterly investment report. 

LISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson presented the quarterly investment report. The balance on Aug. 31, was $28,861,805 and the Nov. 30 balance was $31,578,935. The interest earned in September was $5,644, October $5,927, and November $6,291 at a rate of 0.25%. 

LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins presented results from the employee survey, a tool used in planning the 2022-2023 school year. There were 315 respondents to the district survey, a participation increase by employees from the previous year.  

“This survey was very positive, and extremely positive considering we are in a pandemic,” Hawkins said. “The answers are anonymous, because we want people to speak freely. Ninety percent of employees agreed that bullying is not tolerated by the district and 94% of employees reported that they know how to report bullying. We have a student code of conduct in place and policy is being followed according to the employee’s perceptions of the data.  

“In January, we will be taking a hard look at the district from a personnel perspective and the survey results reflect that 95% intend to return next school year and only 16 people do not intend to work for the district next school year. We have worked extremely hard to improve the area of compensation and we dominate in the county and geographic area from the top to the bottom of the salary scale. By being fiscally responsible, we are able to keep a focus on improving in this area.” 

Respondents gave a 90% approval rating to the board of trustees, which Hawkins said was an “unbelievable positive score” and shared how they always find a way to handle things professionally. 

Reflecting on survey results back to 2015, Hawkins said, “You can see a 9-10% positive trend in the district employee surveys. I am appreciative of the employees that took the 91-question survey and proud of the positive climate of our district as evidenced by the survey. This does not mean that we have completed the job, but rather consistently continue to improve our district. We live in a society where the constant news media and toxic content on social media paint a dire narrative, but when the employees of our organization face tough times — yet positive results come from this survey — it emphasizes how special our people are here. We may not be perfect, but we are lucky to be Lions.”

The superintendent also delivered the district health and technology initiative.  

“By monitoring social media and even the information shared with me by our parents, we have found when schools are not in session, drug use by students increases. I am extremely passionate about combating this with our student body outside of school. Young people today are engaging in the use of vapes in alarming numbers. The negative effects of vape use have been documented and, due to the vaping epidemic, the consequences for vaping have been increased at the junior high and high school levels. One alarming issue is that with vapes, they can easily have more potent drugs added to their use. The district started looking at vape detectors years ago as one more weapon for LHS to use in decreasing the number of vapes on campus. 

Hawkins announced that vape detectors will be installed at the high school and ready by the time class begins Jan. 5, 2022. 

“These detectors have been in operation in other schools for some time. While there is no better tool than boots on the ground, but the detectors help us work smarter. The detectors also detect noise, which often correlates with inappropriate behavior beyond a certain point. We are trying to do our part in making sure that the district takes all steps necessary to curtail the use of vapes.”

Cole Gann, a sophomore at Livingston High School, expressed his appreciation for board members’ continued support toward Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). Gann serves as the FCCLA Region IV Vice President of Competitive Events and Public Relations. He briefed the board of the upcoming FCCLA spring competition held in Galveston. 

The board approved items on the consent agenda including district copier contracts, purchases of Timber Creek Elementary air handlers, and fresh air units with controls in the amount of $556,343 to Ferrara’s Heating and Cooling.

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