The proposed School Improvement Plan (SIP) was presented during the SISD (Sweetwater Independent School District) Board of Trustees meeting on Monday night, Oct. 17, 2011 at the Administration Building.
SHS (Sweetwater High School) principal Stacy Jones presented the TEA (Texas Education Agency)-required plan to the board, outlining the three-faceted plan which detailed the plan of action taken by the school following their drop in ratings, largely due in part to poor test scores from two target groups in Mathematics. The plan will assist in preparing students for the new state-mandated test known as the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness).
A stronger focus on curriculum, instruction and student support make up the SIP, with assessment coming through the curriculum system CScope, which was implemented this year. The plan includes strategies — such as the utilization and monitoring with CScope as well as tutorials and details how the plan will be implemented through lesson plans, walk-throughs and the use of Flex Days.
In addition, the SIP forecasts the impact made through the plan, such as raised scores on benchmark tests, higher attendance numbers and a decrease in discipline concerns. The resources that will be utilized for the plan will be campus administrators, teachers and counselors.
An in-depth discussion took place among the board with Mr. Jones on the plan, specifically on benchmark testing and the reaction noted among teachers, parents and students. Benchmark tests, though implemented this school year, were clarified to be unit tests which examine the student's comprehension over concepts taught.
SHS Testing Coordinator Jennifer Jones, who was also in attendance, noted that CScope has brought teachers to a deeper insight of testing than in previous years, which in turn has strengthened classroom instruction. CScope is used to prepare the benchmark test, through teacher and administrative collaboration, with release questions from the STAAR test and even mimics the test format.
One of the main differences between STAAR and the previous TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) is that while TAKS posed a question to find an answer, STAAR delves into deeper thinking with multi-step questions in order to find the solution. However, from the first benchmark test to the second benchmark test, results have already been seen.
A concern that was presented among parents was how they could help their student prepare for the benchmark tests, since books have become obsolete to the classroom and review sheets for tests — which used to copycat tests — are being done away with. Mr. Jones shared that regular teacher contact and study groups can be of assistance, while Mrs. Jones suggested that students summarize their class lessons in written form and come up with questions to present to teachers when they ask for help.
While a public hearing was held to receive comments on the plan, no one was in attendance to offer input. The board then adopted the SIP, with the stipulation that any future revisions would be authorized by SISD Superintendent Terry Pittman and would not require adoption by the board.
Another public hearing was held during the meeting to receive comments on the proposed redistricting plan for the proposed new boundaries for SISD Board of Trustee districts. However, no one was in attendance to offer input and the forum was closed. Final approval for redistricting will take place at a future, upcoming meeting.
Other items presented and discussed in the meeting were regarding the Cool Schools grant, which the district recently acquired. The $1.1 million grant will be used to replace antiquated air conditioning units around the school district. Also with the grant, SISD qualified for a $75,000 grant from Oncor.
While the average age of the equipment is 19 years, one particular unit stands at 39 years old. But in order to use the funds, the renovations will be on a very limited timeline. As a result of the grant, the district should see savings over $100,000 yearly in energy costs.
No action was taken regarding the Cool Schools grant, but further discussions will take place on how to use the Oncor funds as well as determining what other items will be replaced in the future.
One item, which was brought back from the regular September meeting, was the consideration of joining the school finance lawsuit which regards equity funding. About 200 schools have joined the effort, and the board approved for SISD to get involved. The district will now join the lawsuit and offer financial support at $1 per weighted average daily attendance (WADA), which comes to around $2,900.
Furthermore, nominations were approved for the Appraisal District Boards for both Nolan and Fisher Counties. For Fisher County, five names were presented from the list: Richard Gaona, Raford Hargrove, Vick Buck, Terry Coker and Preston Martin.
In Nolan County, the nominees who will return to the board are Ben High, Jerry Rozzlle and Randall Smith. For the final nominee, three names were presented and the nominees will be asked to consider joining this group.
The board also approved to continue their Eminent Domain authority. The new law states that if renewal is not made then the right to retain eminent domain can be lost, thus leading to the approval.
District and Campus Improvement Plans were emailed to the board members, which were drafted by each campus. The board approved the plans and the principals at each campus were praised for their work toward the plans.
The consent agenda was also approved, which consisted of the minutes from the September 19 regular meeting and two special meetings on Sept. 14 and 27, the financial statement and bills from September 2011 and the investment statement. One professional reassignment was noted and approved as well.
In the Superintendent's Report, it was noted by SISD Assistant Superintendent Kathy Smartt that enrollment numbers are still strong. 30 more students have been added since the previous month, totaling an addition of 99 students from the first day of classes. The enrollment number currently stands at 2,289 students for the entire district.
Tax collections were also presented by SISD Business Manager Nathan Elhert, in that the new year for collections has started. Currently, the number stands at $15,298.15, but the collections are expected to rise significantly in the next four months.