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WISD votes no on chaplain counselors

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WISD Meeting 1 25A Woodville Elementary student presents a box of cookies to WISD trustee John Wilson. Students from all WISD campuses presented the board members with tokens of appreciation at Monday night’s meeting as part of School Board Appreciation Month. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, the Woodville ISD Board of Trustees opted to not hire chaplains to serve as counselors in the district.

WISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg has brought the issue before the board and provided three options for the trustees to adopt a policy pertaining to chaplains serving as counselors. Option one would have approved the employment of chaplains in counselor positions throughout the district; option two was not applicable to WISD, as it referenced an existent local policy pertaining to chaplains on the books and option three was to not allow chaplains to be hired as counselors.

Meysembourg, who has presented information on the topic to the board for several months, summarized some of the concerns that have arose with the hiring of chaplains as counselors. All of this has come from a bill passed last legislative session (Senate Bill 763) which governs the employment, or acceptance of volunteer services, of chaplains by public school districts. Per the new law, school districts in Texas have until March of this year to vote as to whether or not they will accept chaplains to provide mental health services to students.

Meysembourg said that some of the concerns on the issue owe to the difference in training between chaplains and counselors who provide non faith-based counseling, as well as the potential conflicts between religions and schools. “We had put this off waiting to see what other schools are doing,” Meysembourg said. She added that it has been about “half and half,” so far, with some opting to hire chaplains and some not.

She said that there are “wonderful chaplains” in the community who are available to help students, as well as their families, in the event of emergencies or crises. WISD currently has counselors on staff for the students, including one specifically for social and emotional services.

WISD trustee John Wilson said that with the existing staff and support network available, the third option made the most sense for the district, and he motioned for WISD to adopt that option. The motion passed 6-1, with Josh McClure abstaining from the vote.

Audit draft shared

WISD assistant superintendent and head of finance Cody Jarrott shared the results of a draft of the fiscal year 2023 comprehensive financial report.

Jarrott reported that the draft had just been received Monday afternoon, and overall, the result of the audit was that the financial position of the district was “unmodified,” which is the highest opinion that an entity can receive.

The findings indicated that WISD has a “good financial position” with positive fund balances and a surplus of close to a quarter million dollars of revenue over expenditures from the previous fiscal year, which ended on August 31, 2023. In the district’s general fund, there were $8,298,574 in total assets; $4.6 million in the debt service fund and a fund balance of $5,852,335.


Facilities update

Brayden Griffin, of Gallagher Construction, was on hand at the Monday night meeting to share a progress update on the new facilities construction. The pad for the new elementary school is set, and Griffin said concrete should start to be poured in a week or two.

The renovation for the CTE building was the topic for most of the reporting from Griffin. Gallagher will begin on the project on May 1, and the date to have it completed by is Sept. 30. Meysembourg said the district anticipates it being complete sooner than that, but that date is set for contingencies.

While the building is being worked on, CTE students will have classes in the old Woodville Middle School gymnasium, which Meysembourg said, eventually, will be where the WISD maintenance department will be located.

There was discussion concerning four additional classrooms to be added onto the CTE project at an estimated cost of $618K. There is enough money in the interest gained from the bonds ($2 million) to pay for the classrooms, and while that topic was discussed, Meysembourg said she would have more numbers for the board later so that a decision could be made.

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