A lease agreement for laptops, Head Start COLA (cost of living adjustment) for Head Start and a school naming policy were among the items Sulphur Springs ISD trustees approved during their regular board meeting Monday night.
The school board, minus two members who were at the high school watching the honor society induction ceremonies their students participated in, made short work of the regular agenda in less than an hour.
Head Start COLA
Head Start Director Angela Edwards reported the Sulphur Springs program is eligible to apply for an additional $17,348 cost-of-living adjustment through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 for fiscal year 2021, a 1.22 percent increase from 2020. Typically, this funding is used to increase staff salaries and fringe benefits, recommended to be 60-80 percent and to offset higher operating costs, and would be retroactive with the start of the 2021 budget period and retroactive if that period has already commenced.
Edwards noted that the district already budgets “comparable salaries for designated positions within” Head Start, according to a Wage Comparability Study. SSISD increases salaries for all staff annually based on years of experience, degree and/or credentials earned, and position held. Increasing each staff salary 1.77 percent would exceed comparable salaries for like/similar positions within not only the district, but also the surrounding area, according to Edwards.
Thus, the Head Start program is asking to be allowed to use the COLA funds for other purposes, such as installing playground equipment, such as standing panels and another ADA ramp to the playground, so that those with disabilities or limited mobility will have a shorter distance to go to get there.
Trustees granted the request to spend the funding, as allowed, for purposes other than pay increases or benefits.
Edwards too reported that the Head Start program recently received notification they could apply for a “pot of money” with only a short time to apply for the grant. The request for $53,873 in Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act funding had to be turned in on Friday. The funding could be expended over a 2-year period.
Additional supplemental funding to the tune of $1,100 per student is also anticipated to be received from the American Rescue Plan signed March 11. That’d come out to almost $197,000 for Douglass Early Childhood Learning Center campus, to be spent over 24 months, the Head Start Director/Douglas ECLC Principal told SSISD trustees during their regular April meeting earlier this week.
Instructional Materials Allotment
SSISD Assistant Superintendent Lisa Robinson asked the trustees to approve the 2021-22 Instructional Materials Allotment and TEKS Certification Form. Essentially, the form certifies that SSISD is using instructional materials to cover TEKS, as has been the case since it became IMA (no longer textbook funds). Typically, the district has only had to answer yes that they are being used for that purpose. This year, the process changed a little bit, with more information required.
The adopted materials in each of the four core areas now must be listed to show the main materials used. Too, the form requires educators to explain the district’s approach to cover 100 percent of TEKS standards in math, reading language arts, science and social studies using the materials to be purchased with the funding, as well as implementation approach used, Robinson explained.
SSISD adopts a locally developed curriculum and aligns purchased materials to the district scope and sequencing in all four core areas and all school leaders are required to implement that approach, which is noted in the grant application.
SSISD Board of Trustees Monday night, April 12, approved the IMA TEKS certification form as presented by Robinson.
SSISD Technology Coordinator Rodney White presented for board consideration a three-year lease purchase agreement to replace laptops used by middle schoolers, part of SSISD’s 1-to-1 technology plan. Overall, the district received six bids from four vendors. Two vendors, CPI and CDWG, submitted two bids each. Bids ranged from $556,875 total with a $193,553.04 annual lease payment to $765,697.50 total with a $267,778.82 annual lease payment.
Demo laptop models were sent from manufacturers for each of the five laptop models so the technology department staff could thoroughly examine. Middle school teachers then had the opportunity to test each demo laptop model and provide feedback. The district tried a Dell Latitude, an HP and two Lenovo Yoga 11E models.
Each bidder was required to provide a laptop with an 11.6-inch touch screen, Intel Pentium processor, 8 GB of ram, 128 GB solid state hard drive, a three-year accidental damage protection plan and a e-year lease agreement with a $1 buy-out, which would allow the district to own the devices after 3-years.
While all laptops tested met minimum requirements and performed well, the unanimous choice based on price, performance and feed back was the Dell Latitude 3120, which also happened to be the low bid, according to White. Dell will provide 1,125 Dell Latitude 3120 laptops for a total of $556,875, which comes out to $495 per unit, with a $193,553.04 least payment due annually from the district for the next three years.
White noted while that’s bit higher than officials a few years ago anticipated this second round of technology for middle school would cost, the district should be able to handle the extra cost thanks to different grants the district has been able to receive this year for the purchase of technology so that all district students have their own device to use, a precaution due to COVID-19.
The devices purchased during the first cycle for middle school should be OK for this year, but are running on fumes as they are entry level devices. That is, they are not meant to do everything they are being used for. That’s why when a bid for high school was approved a couple of years ago, the middle school was upgraded to “nicer devices.” The devices preferred this year for SSMS have a touch screen; the current devices do not. White said he is confident the new laptops will be on par with high school and will last the three-years.
Most of the devices do not come with the software needed for student use. Each level typically uses the district’s software licenses to equip the various devices as appropriate.
The trustees approved the low bid from Dell to provide laptops at the agreed upon rate, with the option to buy all the devices outright for $1 each or at the district’s cost send laptops back at the district’s cost at the end of the three-year lease term.
School Naming Policy
Sulphur Springs ISD Superintendent Michael Lamb asked the board to consider approving a policy establishing criteria by which school facilities may be named.
Trustees and administrators discussed a school naming policy in the March 22 board meeting. At the last meeting Lamb advised the district had a working policy drafted, but sought trustees’ feedback before finalizing and presenting it for board approval.
The document submitted for board approval April 12 is very similar to the working draft Lamb presented for first reading on March 22, Lamb noted. The main difference is the opening paragraph which not only gives the school board sole discretion for naming or renaming a facility, but specifies that the trustees will use “due diligence” in selecting the name, ensuring the name meets one of the following categories:
- A geographical location, including a street location, an established neighborhood, or community zone;
- The use of the facility, such as academic alternative center, early literacy center, etc.;
- A name of historical significance to the geographical area or to local, state, or national historic events;
- A District graduate who has gained prominence on a local, national, or international scale;
- A distinguished educator or Board member who has retired from service to the District;
- In recognition of a significant contribution of resources, equaling or exceeding 50 percent of the total value of the complex or facility.
“It’s no secret at this point that we intend, in some degree, to in the next meeting bring forth the possibility of renaming a campus after Mrs. Rowena Johnson,” Lamb said. “We didn’t have a policy, so we needed a policy before we do anything like that. So, if you approve this tonight. We’ll have the policy. It will create dialog over the next month. There’s been dialogue to this point about this process. A due diligence is being done, possibly conversations about this being done. So, my intention is if you approve this tonight, you’ll probably see from me next time a request along those lines.”
Rowena Johnson served SSISD students for 50 years, starting as a third grade teacher at Houston Elementary teacher in 1970. She served as a third-sixth grade teacher at Bowie Elementary from 1971 to 1991, and reading specialist from 1991 to 1993 at Travis Elementary. Johnson became the first SSISD female African American Elementary Principal at Lamar Elementary in 1993, a position she continued to serve in until her retirement in June 2020.
Under Johnson’s leadership, Lamar received the top rating of exemplary from the Texas Education Agency for 14 consecutive years. Her school received recognition from “Just for The Kids” and many Distinguished School honors as well. She also received several honors, including being named Teacher of the Year, a Region 8 Nominee for the National Distinguished Principal of the Year, and Educator of the Year, and Administrator of the Year.
SSISD Board of Trustees approved CW (local), school naming policy.