TASA Conference – Monday

by Coy Holcombe.  

Today we heard from a variety of people. Some of the sessions were over funding, one was specifically over the federal stimulus funds, and a couple of topics centered around the new accountability bill that was passed this session. Some highlights from these sessions:

First, school funding became more complicated when the state utilized stimulus funds to fund increases to districts. These funds are going to have to be accounted for with federal coding. This means budgets will need additional codes to accommodate these funds. Second, since these are federal funds, districts are going to have to apply for these funds. Usually state funds are flowed to the districts based on ADA, WADA, and FTEs. With the federal funds supplanting state funds, this flow will continue, but the federal government is going to want to know how these funds are expended. Districts will have to fill out electronic applications that designated how these funds will be expended at the district level.

Second, while there was an accountability bill passed, any thoughts that Texas is moving away from test driven accountability system are false. The TAKS test, and in the future the end of course tests, will still figure prominently in the overall accountability system. In reality, the accountability system has become even more complex than before with ten additional measures added to the system. There were some very positive aspects of the bill also. For example, students that earn their GEDs will no longer be counted as dropouts. 

Third, there is still much uncertainty about many aspects of the accountability bill and the finance bill. Many different questions will need to be answered before districts have a clear picture of what is actually happening.

Overall, a very informative day. Tomorrow, we are going to look at the funding template developed by Omar Garcia and talk more about the events of the 81st legislature.


TASA Conference – Sunday

by Coy Holcombe.  

We were able to hear two national speakers today. The first was Phil Schlechty. Dr. Schlechty has done educational research for a number of years. Lately his focus has been on "working on the work". He believes that in order to engage students and to motivate students to want to learn the work must be something that is meaningful to the students. Technology must become part of the background. It must be a given that students have the means to access the wealth of information that is available and to create their own material.

Frank Kelly, director of programing for the SHW Group, was the next presenter. Recently he co-authored a book entitled, Teaching the Digital Generation: No more cookie-cutter high schools. The presentation emphasized how educators can address the needs of learners that are immersed in the digital environment. He explored several different alternative models of high schools that address 21st century skills.

The last session of the day was called the New Tech High School. Presenters from Coppell High School and Manor ISD made the presentation. The New Tech High School focuses on project centered instruction. Both of of these districts reported substantial gains in achievement as well as attendance at the high schools that had implemented the New Tech program. The superintendent of Manor reported that they now have their own MySpace page in which students proudly display the results of their work.

More tomorrow…


Impact of Recent Legislation

by Coy Holcombe.  

We received two emails from TEA regarding bills passed in the last legislative session. One of the bills, HB 3646, which is also the bill that changed the finance formulas, included a provision that stated that school districts would not be required to pay the tuition or other related costs for students enrolled in a dual credit course in order to count those students for ADA purposes. The reason that this was addressed centered around a decision made before the beginning of last school year by TEA that stated in order for a school district to count students enrolled in dual credit courses for their ADA, the district would have to pay the cost of the college tuition. This was not a decision that had been discussed among school districts. This came as quite a surprise to all districts that offered dual credit classes. The impact of this decision would have forced districts to either pay these costs (which, because of the timing of the decision, were not budgeted) or discontinue dual credit classes. The other alternative was to not count these students in ADA calculations. None of these options are good options. Dual credit courses are important to our children and parents. The ADA is important to our district because of funding implications. Fortunately, this decision was recanted long enough to allow the legislature to look at the issue. The section of the bill that deals with dual credit expires in 2011.

The other bill, HB 3, repealed the section in the Texas Education Code related to expenditure targets.Expenditure targets were an attempt to normalize the spending in categories among school districts based on community types. While the intent was good, any system that seeks to establish norms related to spending fails to take into account the individual needs of school districts. Sometimes things just happen and school districts need to react accordingly. A prime example is the increase in the cost of fuel. I don’t think that there is a school district in the state that wants to pay more for the fuel to run their buses; however, school districts cannot control the cost per gallon of fuel. We can make sure that fuel is not being wasted and adopt policies that encourage fuel savings; but, we also must purchase the fuel to allow our buses to operate.

Other news:

The weight equipment for the new gym arrived yesterday. I will try to get some pictures and post those next week.

Our maintenance crews are busy installing new playground equipment at the Primary. The equipment was purchased a couple of years ago from a grant from the Murchison Foundation. Due to the construction at the Primary, this is the first opportunity to install this equipment.

Volleyball camp ends today. Some of our younger volleyball players have had an opportunity to work with coaches and varsity players this week.


Optional Homestead Exemption, Part 2

by Coy Holcombe.  

Yesterday, we talked about the fact that TEA announced plans to fund the optional homestead exemption for districts that offer such an exemption. Today, we will look at the impact that this will have on EISD. Below is the breakdown that compares using the T2 values (without the homestead exemption being funded) with the T4 values (with the optional homestead funded):

With T2 value:
Available =           $372,317
Foundation =       $4,982,453
Total =                  $5,354,770
With T4 value:
Available =          $372,317
Foundation =      $5,017,696
Total =                 $5,390,013
Gain = $35, 243
This gain is a result of an increase in Tier I funding and an increase in Tier II funding. The Tier I funding increase occurs because our local share decreases. The local share is subtracted from our total Tier I aid. So, as it decreases, our state aid increases. The Tier II aid is based on tax effort. With a lower overall value, but with the same tax base, we would have more tax effort. This increases our Tier II yield.
While any additional state aid is appreciated, the $35,243 is a very modest increase. Why isn’t the increase more? After all, our T2 value was $437,968,189 and our T4 value decreased to $417,510,752. That’s a difference of over $20,000,000. To see why this decrease in value did not affect our state aid more, we need to look at a number in the calculations called "Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction" (ASAFTR). This funding amount was introduced to compensate schools for the loss of local tax revenue when the tax rate was compressed. It is also a driving component in the hold harmless system. Under the 08-09 funding system, districts are funded based on target revenue. Anything that increases funding in one area is likely to decrease the funding in another area, especially the ASAFTR.
With the T2 values, our ASAFTR was $1,527,435; however, when we substitute the T4 value into the formulas, the ASAFTR decreases to $1,329,672. Bottom line: while we will realize a modest increase in state funding, unless the calculations are changed, the majority of the increase will be offset by a corresponding decrease in the funding amount for ASAFTR.

Optional Homestead Exemption

by Coy Holcombe.  

EISD is one of 215 school districts in the state that offers an optional homestead exemption to the taxpayers of the district. Several years ago, the state routinely subsidized this additional exemption by allowing school districts that offered an optional exemption to use a lower tax value in their state aid calculations. This resulted in additional state aid for districts offering this exemption to the taxpayers.

Because of budget constraints, the state, in recent years, no longer automatically funded this exemption. There was a provision in state law that stated if funds were available the commissioner of education may choose to fund this exemption. EISD was notified yesterday that the commissioner will fund the optional homestead exemption for the 08-09 school year. As a result, EISD will be allowed to use what is called the T4 value from the comptroller in state aid calculations. Usually, school districts are required to use what is called the T2 value. The T2 value is defined as the "taxable value after the loss to the additional $10,000 homestead exemption." The $10,000 is a statewide homestead exemption. The T4 value is defined as "T2 minus 50% of the loss to the local optional percentage homestead exemption." EISD offers an additional 20% homestead exemption in addition to the $10,000 exemption.

The bottom line is that now instead of having to use the larger T2 value of $437,968,189 as the value in the funding formulas, we will be allowed to use the smaller T4 value of $417,510,752. This will increase our state funding – not by a large amount – but our state funding will be increased. We will look at the impact that this has in future posts.


Preliminary FIRST Rating

by Coy Holcombe.  

The 2007-2008 preliminary Financial Integrity Rating System (FIRST) of Texas for EISD has been released. The district has been rated "Superior Achievement" again. While this is considered a preliminary rating, for EISD, there is no reason to believe that this rating will change at all from now until the final ratings are released.

FIRST is a rating system that evaluates a district’s financial status based on 24 separate indicators. Indicators are rated on a yes/no format, a number scale of 1 to 5, or a number scale from 1 to 3. A perfect score would be 85. EISD scored 81.

Some may wonder why we are just now being rated on the 07-08 school year. This has to do with the calculations that are involved in the FIRST ratings. Almost every calculation is dependent on our audit report for the 07-08 school year. This audit report is due to TEA at the first of each calendar year. So, for the 07-08 school year, our audit report was due around the last part of January 2009. The information from this report must be uploaded in order to do the required calculations. This is done by TEA and is a rather time consuming task.

I would like to thank everyone in our business office for contributing to this achievement: Carol Warren, business manager, Debra Meyners, payroll supervisor, and Kara Weaver, accounts payable supervisor. Special recognition also needs to go to our board of trustees for their leadership and decision-making with regards to our finances.

A copy of the preliminary FIRST report is attached.

Summer Stuff

by Coy Holcombe.  

So what exactly happens in a school district during the summer? I won’t speak for every school district in the state, but I will talk about what we try to accomplish in EISD during the summer.

One of the main priorities in the summer is working on the budget for the next school year. Revenue must be estimated and expenditures examined. Salaries are always a major consideration. These figures are checked, re-checked, and checked again. A spreadsheet is constructed with these numbers that will eventually be uploaded into our financial accounting software. Throughout the process, the Board of Trustees review the figures. Also, tax worksheets from the comptroller’s office must be prepared and presented to the board. Tax and budget information must be published in the newspaper. In August, we will have a budget hearing, that is open to the public, in which all of the financial data is summarized and presented to the board. At this time, a tax rate and a budget is adopted for the 09-10 school year.

Our administrative office is busy closing out the 08-09 school year and getting prepared for the 09-10 school year. Invoices must be paid and new salary information entered. Our bank records must be reconciled and budget amendments prepared for our auditors and board.

Our principals are busy filling any vacant positions and working on schedules for the next school year. Scheduling of students is done at the High School and Middle School. Counselors are working on these schedules also. Counselors are also working to make sure that any necessary re-testing is done correctly.

Coaches are busy with the summer workout program. Right now, in addition to the summer workout program, cross country workouts are on-going. Camps occur throughout the summer. Currently, soccer camp and basketball camp are being conducted. Volleyball camp will occur later in the summer. Coaches are also making sure that inventories are complete,  supplies are in place to start workouts in August, and that there schedules are filled.

Some teachers are busy teaching summer school classes. Other teachers are attending workshops and conferences during the summer months. The Intermediate hosts a summer reading program each Tuesday evening throughout the summer.

Our technology department is taking care of any issues with computers and our network. Currently, work is being done on the security cameras in the district and on decreasing the appearance of network wiring throughout the district. Negotiations with various computer manufacturers are taking place in order to secure the best quote possible for netbooks for students. These quotes will be presented to the board in July.

Our maintenance and custodial staffs are busy giving all the buildings a thorough cleaning. The maintenance department is also in the process of painting certain areas. There are always summer projects that must be completed. For example, our maintenance crew just completed pouring a concrete flume in an area at the Primary where the soil was eroding badly. Our maintenance crews must continue their up-keep on the grounds. This summer, our maintenance crews will also be working at the new transportation facility. In order to cut construction costs, they will be doing the majority of the inside construction.

The summer is a vital part of the overall school year. Many necessary activities occur behind the scenes during the summer months. All of these activities are in preparation for the students and staff arriving in August. If you have any questions on our summer activities please feel free to contact me at cholcombe@eustaceisd.net.



Board Report

by Coy Holcombe.  

Last night the EISD Board of Trustees met for their regular monthly meeting. During the meeting the board:

  • Approved minutes of previous board meeting
  • Presented a proclamation to Josh Felty for his accomplishments in UIL Current Events. Josh placed 8th in the state in class 3A.
  • Heard a report from athletic director Doug Wendel.
  • Heard financial reports, committee reports, and general reports from the superintendent.
  • Voted to accept the bid from Texas Kids First for student accident insurance for the 09-10 school year.
  • Heard an update on the budget.
  • Reviewed and approved the district investment policy.
  • Approved Update 85.
  • Approved the bank depository bid from Prosperity Bank.
  • Reviewed the student handbook and code of conduct for the 09-10 school year. No action was taken because this was the first reading.
  • Heard an update on attendance and enrollment
  • Accepted resignations of the following employees: Ruth Adame, Phillip Smith, Laura Belt, Alene Gragowski, John Gragowski, Aimee Johnson, and Ronnie Nobles.
  • Employed Karey Smith as a High School Spanish teacher and employed Deidre Lancaster as a High School business/technology teacher.
  • Approved the salary schedule for auxiliary employees and professional employees as amended.
  • Adjourned at 9:50 PM.

The July board meeting will be on July 21.

Board Meeting Tonight

by Coy Holcombe.  

Tonight the Eustace ISD Board of Trustees will hold their regular monthly meeting. The meeting will start at 7:00 PM and be held in the High School library. Everyone is invited to attend. Agenda items for tonight include:

  • Student recognitions – Chelsea Truitt and Josh Felty. Chelsea finished second in state in the pole vault competition. Josh placed 8th in state in current events.
  • Athletic report from AD Doug Wendel
  • Financial Reports and general reports that include: 2009 Appraisal/Collection Budget Allocation for Van Zandt County, Preliminary TAKS scores, 2009 preliminary appraisal values, local education determinations, and PaySchools.
  • Consider proposals for student accident insurance for 09-10.
  • Update on 09-10 budget
  • Review district investment policy
  • Consider Update 85 (second reading)
  • Consider bank depository bids for 09-10
  • Review student handbook for 09-10 (first reading)
  • Updated on attendance and enrollment
  • Closed session: personnel
  • Action on closed session items
  • Adjourn

New Look on the Website – Michelle Cavaozos, our web designer, has updated our website with new colors and new fonts. Check it out at www.eustaceisd.net.


Saturday and Other Things

by Coy Holcombe.  

There were approximately 500 in attendance for Mr. Kirk’s funeral on Saturday. Chuck Powers did an excellent job conveying many memories of Mr. Kirk to the audience. James and Robert Cook and Mike McConathy did an outstanding job with the songs. There were many beautiful plants and flower arrangements.  I want to thank everyone for their work in putting this service together. I want to especially thank Jack Wallace and all the maintenance and custodial personnel for their help in getting the gym ready for the services on Saturday. Goodbye, Mr. Kirk. You will be missed.

Summer is always the time that school districts work on budgets. The planning process actually starts as far back as November or December for the upcoming school year. With the passage of a new school finance bill this past legislative session, school districts are having to slow down the process a little this summer. Districts estimate the amount of state funding that they will receive each year from a template written by Omar Garcia, formerly with TEA, and now with Region 13 ESC. Whenever the funding formulas are changed, the template has to be changed. We received version 1 of the template last week. We are already at version 3 today. Omar does an outstanding job of developing this template; however, with so many variables to consider, corrections and revisions are always necessary. Over the summer, we will be looking at this new template and comparing the state funding EISD will receive under the new finance bill with what we would have received under the old finance bill.

Board Meeting – Tomorrow evening, the EISD Board of Trustees will hold their regular monthly meeting. The meeting will take place at 7:00 PM in the High School library.

I hope everyone has a great week.