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LISD discusses financial audit report; treated to music

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Creekside Elementary first and second grade student council members entertained the board with musical selections. Courtesy photoCreekside Elementary first and second grade student council members entertained the board with musical selections. Courtesy photo

By Brian Besch
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The Livingston ISD Board of Trustees December meeting was highlighted by committee appointments, financial audit reports and a performance by the elementary choir Tuesday.

LISD Board President Bea Ellis appointed members to committees. John Allen Slocomb, Kevin Wooten, and Mandi Pipes will serve on the finance committee. Slocomb, Wooten, and Kevin Grimm will serve on the facilities committee, and Ellis, Scott Paske, and Andrew Boyce will serve on the policy committee. At the conclusion of each committee meeting, a synopsis is to be provided for all board members. Any needed action items will be presented to the board in draft form prior to the monthly meeting.

Eric Carver with Axley and Rode presented the financial audit and offered a clean, unmodified opinion.  

“We do a risk assessment and a statement if fraud exists and there were no findings,” Carver said.

LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins said he has worked with multiple accounting firms over 15 years as superintendent. 

“Our district has a $42 million budget, and Axley and Rode, which is one of our local businesses, does an outstanding job of digging very deeply into the finances and every area of the district’s holdings. It’s very advantageous to keep the same firm as the auditor, so there is no learning curve for auditors new to how our district operates. The lead auditor changes each year, but the rest of the auditing team is familiar with the district and is able to give a very thorough and objective look each year.”

 Livingston ISD Director of Student Services, Lana Smith, presented the 2022-2023 district safe and supportive schools survey. Smith reported that the survey is anonymous and positive, given the times in which the district operates.  

“Livingston ISD is in its third year of our campus safety audit, and this survey helps our school safety committee modify or revise the school safety plan.” 

There were 76 questions on the survey with the domains of engagement, safety, and environment. Smith also presented the 2022-2023 district stay survey. This is the second year that the district has sent out a “stay survey” to its employees that gives them the opportunity to give input on why they continue to invest their professional lives in the district. Employees are asked to complete the district climate survey in the spring to collect data used in staffing decisions, as well as the district’s attempts to ensure an improved campus climate.

Hawkins said the fall semester completed five separate district audits for dyslexia, career and technical education, special education, federal grant report auditing, and school safety.  

“We are due a curriculum audit, and it’s recommended that we conduct it in the fall because of the volume of audits we have received, also out of respect to staff that are dealing with a state assessment that has changed and the accountability refresh that is occurring this year.”  

Hawkins also shared an update from Texas Education Agency A-F refresh. The STAAR test has changed, but TEA is known for changing the test due to mandates. TEA Commissioner Mike Morath is attempting to improve upon the assessment system and accountability, which should have a positive impact on students.  

As a result of House Bill 22 that states the commissioner will solicit input statewide from district boards, administrators and 

teachers, Morath will adjust the STAAR test cut scores. The philosophy is that students and staff are resilient, and if he doesn’t raise standards, improvement will not take place. Because House Bill 3 had the school board set goals based on the standards, the test results cannot be compared to last year, which has district goal-setting implications. The college, career, and military readiness (CCMR) will affect goals set by the board in late January 2023. The CCMR component student achievement measures high school graduates’ preparedness for college, the workforce, or the military.  

“Of these components, industry-based certifications are sunsetting, and this will lead to some changes in the course offerings and the way that we function in both the classroom and academic advising offices,” Hawkins said. “TEA has reinstated military designations, which means that will be included in the accountability score as campuses receive credit for those students’ career choices. As you look at the data presented by Commissioner Morath, it is clear that to see that our vision is putting our campus and students in the correct direction. Using the data of students who are in school two years after graduation shows that students who take dual-credit courses and successfully pass the TSIA give strong correlations for future success. The investment that our district has built around the vision now has data to support it. We know that some districts give similar opportunities. Still, the commitment level of what you see in our district makes us a leader in this area that far outpaces what the accountability system can truly accentuate.”

Livingston ISD Director of Personnel Ben Wilroy presented a report on the teacher incentive allotment. The program was created through House Bill 3 in June 2019, but the Texas Legislature is still tweaking the program.  

“Our application was approved in 2021,” Wilroy said. “TEA will notify teachers of their designations of recognized, exemplary, or masters by May 2023. They will also be notified of the allotment. Teachers receiving a “recognized” distinction can receive an allotment of $3,000-$9,000, which are the top 33% of teachers in the state. A teacher receiving an “exemplary” designation by receiving an allotment of $6,000-$18,000 and ranking in the top 20% of the teachers in the state, and a “masters” distinction can receive an allotment in the amount of $12,000-$30,000 and is ranked in the top 5% of the state. This is an outstanding opportunity to reward teachers who show evidence of high performance with student outcomes. We have several teachers on our staff that are being considered for this designation, that TEA will release the final results later in the year. We did have some teachers that retired that would have been eligible for consideration.”

The board passed items on the consent agenda, including minutes from previous meetings, financial statement and payment of bills, property donations, overnight trips, the quarterly investment report, and moving board meetings to Monday evenings.

Under action items, the board approved the financial audit as presented and approved an amended agreement with Lone Spur Solar Energy, pushing their timeline to 2024-2025 and 2025-2026.

The board employed two new staff members, Sarah LeBlanc and Justin Terry, on professional teacher contracts, as they will become part of the staff in January.

The meeting opened with Christmas song performances by Creekside Elementary first and second grade student council members. Area officers of Livingston High School Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) thanked the board for their continued support and gave highlights of their upcoming year.

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