Following a 70-minute closed session Monday, the Liberty Hill school board voted unanimously to approve an Interlocal Agreement with Chisholm Trail Special Utility District to provide water to the new high school.
While the Board had previously authorized the school superintendent to proceed with negotiations to obtain water service from Chisholm Trail, the issue has become a point of contention between the school district and the City of Liberty Hill, which was also vying to be the water provider for the new facility. The district has claimed that connecting to Chisholm Trail will cost about $1 million less than using the City’s water system.
While The Independent requested a copy of the Interlocal Agreement through the Open Records Act, it was not provided by press time Wednesday. Superintendent Dr. Rob Hart said the document would not be available until it is also executed by Chisholm Trail. LHISD trustees authorized Hart to execute the contract without seeing a final version of the document, he said. There was no discussion on the matter among Board members in open meeting.
On Feb. 13, Hart and Trustee Clay Cole addressed the City Council asking for approval of the district’s request for wastewater service to the new school. The Council discussed the request with the City’s attorney in executive session, but did not discuss it in open meeting. No action was taken at that time, but if at some point the Council approves the district’s request it will be granting a variance to its ordinance that requires wastewater customers to also be customers of the water system and be annexed into the city’s corporate boundaries.
Council member Jack Harkrider made a plea to school trustees Monday for representatives of the two entities to meet and negotiate an acceptable compromise. Harkrider addressed the Board during the public comments portion of the meeting — minutes after the panel voted to approve the agreement with Chisholm Trail.
Clarifying that he was speaking as an individual member of Council and not for the entire group, Harkrider said he was concerned that the Council’s inaction on the district’s request the week before might have been misinterpreted.
“We weren’t ignoring the school district’s request,” he said.
Harkrider explained that during the Council’s executive session, he and Council member Byron Tippie proposed that a meeting be arranged between them, two school board members, Hart, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa and city engineers to negotiate a compromise.
He said the City has prepared a proposal for utility services to the new campus that will be presented to district officials this week.
“I have heard the Board doesn’t want to meet with the Council and I hope that’s heresay,” Harkrider said. “I’m asking you to take the proposal, and if it looks feasible, agree to the meeting so we can work out the details. I ask you to give serious consideration to the proposal.”
As is typical for the public comments portion of regular board meetings, trustees did not respond to Harkrider’s comments.
Also Monday, the Board heard a report on the administration of the state-mandated STAAR achievement test.
Curriculum Director Claudeane Braun said Liberty Hill High School students will take the end-of-course exams this spring, but the results will not impact the school’s or the district’s performance ratings. In the first year of the new testing program, Mrs. Braun said the district will retain its Recognized ratings based on student performance on the TAKS last school year.
She presented the Board with a District Improvement Plan as required by the state for the current academic year. The plan outlines goals that the state requires each district to meet. In response, the Board voted unanimously to approve those goals and objectives.
Also Monday, the Board adopted an order calling for the Board of Trustees election May 12. Three positions are up for election — Place 3, currently held by David Nix; Place 4, currently held by Leslye Pogue; and Place 5, now held by Alfie Perrin. The Board also adopted a Joint Election Agreement with the City of Liberty Hill.
In other matters Monday, the Board adopted a change order from two completed construction projects — the parking lot at Bill Burden Elementary School and a cafeteria expansion at Liberty Hill Elementary School. The change orders returned a total of $8,182 to the district. Hart explained that the projects came in under budget and the savings goes back to the district. The projects were part of an $81 million bond package passed by voters in 2010.
The Board recognized Elias Ledezma, a junior at LHHS, who has been selected to attend the Bert Corona Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. this summer. The Institute is an opportunity for migrant students from across the country to learn more about the federal government, Congress and tour the nation’s capitol. Ledezma is a migrant student who travels with his family from May to October each year working in the agriculture industry. He was recommended by school officials.
Trustees also heard the annual report from the School Health Advisory Committee. Kim Hofstetter presented a synopsis of the committee’s activities during the past 12 months and shared the committee’s recommendations to the Board that physical education classes continue to be a top priority at all grade levels.
In other business Monday, the Board voted unanimously to extend the employment contracts by one year for Central Office and all campus administrators, as well as Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Jerry Vance.
Board President Tony Stephens was not present Monday.