By Brian Besch
The Livingston School Board approved purchases from the 2022-2023 school supply list for Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grades, highlighting the regular meeting for June.
Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins closed Monday’s meeting expressing his appreciation.
“Our students will continue to need backpacks, and we will work to get the word out in our community,” he said. “Each year, many churches, community-based organizations, and individuals give out hundreds upon hundreds of backpacks to our students. Livingston High School does not have a school supply list, but their supplies are extremely dependent on what classes they take and minimal in volume. We appreciate the board approving this purchase to help our families.”
The meeting opened with student recognition. The Parade of Champions extended into Monday to include the Livingston baseball team on their successful season. Not only were the Lions district champions, they also earned bi-district and area championships, advancing to the regional quarterfinals. Team members include Chevy Peters, Caden Vickery, Damian Ruiz, Lane Ward, Ta McNeal, Gage Morris, Luke Jones, Blyson Vallejos, J.T. Smith, Kolton Clack, Stephen Scott, Jordan Bush, Kason Nelson, Josh Smith, Mitchell Hathaway, Jordan Huson, Cody Patranella and Copeland Bush.
Also recognized was Livingston All-American cheerleaders Shelby Flannery, Ashley Moore, Ja’Nayah Pickens, Savannah Ruiz, Lilly Haynes, Maci Hill, Mallory Lester, Jaxson Potter, and All-American mascot Jayson Potter. The cheer coach is Casey Fleming.
The board recognized Maci Hill for winning National History Day first place in Senior Division Individual Documentary. Leading up to the national competition, Hill earned first place at the regional history day event and at Texas History Day in Austin with her documentary titled “Communist in the Cornfields: Roswell Garst’s Citizen Diplomacy.”
The board approved an amendment to the 2022-2023 LISD School Calendar, which will eliminate flex days and add a five-day break in the month of October. Bad weather days are scheduled for the end of the school year, with a tentative graduation date of May 20, 2023.
“We will include semester final exams with an opportunity for students to earn an exemption based on good attendance and other factors,” Hawkins said. “Wehave always offered Saturday school, but students will need to make up attendance and credit as they fall below the threshold and not wait until the end of the year. We will have to be more proactive, and it will take the school, students, and parents to make this more effective. This new calendar will give much-needed breaks, allowing for recovery time for students and staff during the school year. The pandemic stresses have made an impact collaterally on all of us, and we must acknowledge this in how we operate.”
The quarterly investment report was presented by Ben Davidson, LISD Chief Financial Officer. The beginning balance on Feb. 28, was $41,015,391, and the ending balance on May 31 was $37,811,347. The interest earned in March was $9,592.64, April was $15,606.94, and May was $28,376.83. The board approved the quarterly investment report. The board also approved the adoption of an order authorizing and providing for the defeasance and redemption of certain outstanding obligations of LISD, authorizing the execution of an escrow agreement and containing other related provisions. The adoption will include redeeming the last maturity of the series 2017 bonds and saving $30,000.
Hawkins presented the personnel report, sharing a recent survey from a state teacher organization.
“Fifty percent of the members surveyed are either looking at retirement or walking away from the profession,” Hawkins said of the survey. “In February of 2022, the Bureau of Labor and Statics noted there were 380,000 educational jobs open. The Texas Association of School Boards noted after two years of uncertainty due to the pandemic, coupled with the ongoing challenges in the current educational environment, teachers are at a breaking point.”
The data observed by the Texas Teacher Shortage Task Force found compensation, student behavior, lack of institutional support, and lack of respect from community and parents were main causes for leaving the profession.
According to Texas Education Agency’s Commissioner Mike Morath, 69% of Texas teachers in classrooms that were certified for the 2021-2022 school year were alternative certified. Twenty percent of the teachers were certified through traditional means, entering college with plans to become a certified teacher.Morath presented data that teachers with four or more years of experience yielded students that performed better. Teachers with less than five years of experience and those alternatively certified make up a large portion of those leaving the field.
Over the past three years, the district turnover rate has been below or at the state average. At LISD, there have been 87 professional positions hired over the summer, which is an increase from the average of 50 normally hired. The teacher turnover rate this year is 31.6%, and paraprofessionals are at 28.5%.
“As a school board, you have done everything that is necessary to keep the district competitive,” Hawkins told members present. “Our employee salary schedule is competitive. You gave the district the flexibility to hire employee pools. If these things were not in place, we would have been like many of the districts in other counties with pages of openings and no pool to draw from, and unfortunately, they will open school with vacancies.
“This morning, we had three professional openings. We have more new teachers who are buying houses and investing in our community, and the vast majority of this group that we welcome are experienced teachers. We have a small group of new teachers that are LHS graduates, which is a reflection of hard work by everyone to recruit Lions back to Lion Country. It’s important to hire students that we ‘grow.’
“We have had turnover, but we have fortunately hired staff that we feel will be a good fit with our current staff. You have to take great pride that we are part of the most recruited school district in a 60-mile radius. Folks want our staff as teachers and administrators. This is a huge compliment, as I see it as the ultimate flattery of Lion Country. Our results speak for themselves, and we are only getting better each year.”
Under the consent agenda, the board approved an articulation agreementby Culinary Institute LeNotre and Livingston High School.