By Brian Besch
The Livingston ISD Board of Trustees heard reports on academic performance and approved the school calendar for 2023-2024 during School Board Recognition Month Monday in the high school library.
During public hearing, LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins presented information on the Texas Academic Performance Report, which reflects a “B” rating for the district.
“The state uses a comprehensive reporting system defined by statute that was developed to provide a snapshot for our parents and community,” the superintendent said. “The report reflects the state average attendance at 94.9 percent, and the district ranked a tick higher at 95.3%. The college, career, and military readiness increased by 15.7% over last year’s rating. LISD graduation rate was 87.3%, and the six-year rate averages 93.4. The state mobility rate was 13.6%, and LISD was higher at 19.8%.
“This figure reflects that our students are more mobile than the state average. This requires the district to spend more money on interventions to make sure our students are successful. Last year, the district was 78% socioeconomically disadvantaged, and this year the number has dropped to 58.4%. While the numbers reflect that our families became wealthier, this number was changed because our families were required to fill out free lunch documentation online which depressed the completion rate. Our grant allows us to feed all LISD children for free, so we did not receive completed forms indicating the income status of our families. This impacts the funds we receive from grants, as well as our accountability ratings. It caused our district to be compared to more affluent districts.
“Our staff turnover rate was 27%. A short time ago, 50% of our teaching staff was made up of teachers with zero to five years of experience. Now, we have a healthy distribution of experience that makes up our teaching staff. When I arrived in the district 10 years ago, the district was ranked in the bottom-third of per-pupil revenue. Now we are in the top-third in the state and above the state average in teacher salaries. It has been a climb for everyone in the district to get to this level, but a priority the board set to achieve.”
Texas Association of School Boards designates January of each year as School Board Recognition Month.
“We recognize the importance of the role of a school board member,” Hawkins said to the board. “It is a crucial job in serving the students of LISD.”
The board received gifts, cards, letters, signs, and videos from students on every campus. The role of a trustee is possibly the most misunderstood, serving as trustees and not representatives. They are responsible for the oversight of the management of the organization.
Hawkins reviewed the Annual Performance Report with board members, highlighting the last two years of the district receiving “B” ratings, while maintaining an academically acceptable “C” rating for the previous 24 years.
“I’m so proud of the accomplishments in this report, as it is truly heartwarming to see the impact that has been made on our students,” he said. “This hard work accentuates the teamwork going on in this district and deservingly created the best report in the district’s history.”
The report highlights the decreasing tax rate over the last 10 years, bond refunding savings, and the low administrative cost ratios when compared to many other districts.
“A lot of administrators are wearing multiple hats, which gives us an advantage in keeping costs low,” Hawkins said. “We have a lot to be proud of – a robust teacher salary schedule, improved district safety, and improved curriculum practices. We honor our fine arts, academic, and student-athletes who competed above the district level at the Parade of Champions. We celebrate an incredibly low incident rate in the transportation department. Our 60 bus routes are covered by exceptional drivers, who travel a combined total of 4,026 miles each day, which is the distance from Livingston, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska.
“Our second biggest cost to the district behind salaries is energy costs. The LISD Energy efficiency project saved $1,449,589 over the last four years. The Class of 2022 completed 350 academic dual-credit courses and earned 380 certifications. Research indicates students completing 24 college credit hours will complete a degree. The Class of 2022 was the first class to be offered 60 college credit hours paid by the district, and they also were the first class to be offered CTE dual-credit courses in cosmetology, and HVAC heating and air conditioning.
The 2023-2024 LISD School Calendar was created by the District Advisory Committee. Hawkins said the perimeters of the calendar are provided by the state. Members of the District Advisory Committee submitted many versions of the proposed calendar, with some including a four-day school week. The board policy committee met and gave the recommendation to continue to study school districts that are the same size and geographical makeup to see how they manage a four-day week. The board policy committee narrowed the calendar choices to two. The decision between the two calendars was given to the employees of the district, and 65 percent of the vote selected the final version of the LISD school calendar. Board action approved the 2023-2024 school calendar.
In addition to minutes from previous board meetings, financial statement, payment of bills, and overnight trips, the consent agenda included a purchase amendment of over $50,000 for the purchase of a CTE vehicle.
“Each year for the last three years, we have had an agenda item to purchase a vehicle, but the order was filled,” Hawkins said. “We would like to purchase a vehicle from a local car lot.”
The consent agenda was approved unanimously.