By SHELLY WILKISON
Liberty Hill school trustees voted unanimously Monday to continue to waive tuition for students transferring in from outside the school district.
Currently, 373 students are attending Liberty Hill schools but living outside the district boundaries. They comprise about 12 percent of the district’s 3,023 students.
Superintendent Rob Hart recommended the Board continue to waive tuition for transfer students for 2014-2015. He said charging tuition would place the district nearer to the point where the law would require the district to pay the State in order to reduce the wealth per student. The Robin Hood plan for school financing adopted in 1993 by state lawmakers, which is now Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code, attempted to equalize funding for public schools. Once schools districts reach certain levels of property value per student, they are required to pay the State recapture funds.
“It still benefits us to accept them (transfer students) without paid tuition,” said Dr. Hart. “We get more state funding this way because we have more students to divide out.”
The school district was notified by the state earlier this month that its wealth per resident student average daily attendance (weighted ADA) is projected to exceed the equalized wealth level of $319,000 established by law. If the district were to charge transfer students tuition, the wealth level of WADA would exceed that requiring it to pay recapture costs. Without charging tuition, its weighted ADA would be $292,000.
Hart predicted that LHISD may be moving closer to a time when charging tuition will be the preferable option if property values continue an upward trend.
Candidates for transfer into the district must apply for admission and be approved by the campus principal. Administrators consider grades and disciplinary history, and conduct interviews with applicants before making recommendations for admission. Every year, the transfer student’s status is reconsidered.
Also Monday, the Board approved the creation of five new positions within the Special Education program. The district will hire a Deaf Education teacher, a Lead LSSP, Adapted PE/Homebound teacher, PPCD Behavior teacher, and a physical therapist.
Dr. Hart said the district is currently contracting out for those services and the move to bring the jobs in-house will save money. The jobs, estimated to cost the district an average $50,000 each in salary and benefits, are full-time positions.
The Board also approved the allocation of $641,000 for instructional materials for the upcoming academic year. Curriculum Director Claudeane Braun said the materials will include printed textbooks as well as digital materials designed to supplement textbooks.
Mrs. Braun said that although the instructional materials allotment may now be used for technology, including equipment and digital resources, administrators agreed it was best for LHISD to use the funds on books and accompanying digital materials.
She said the school district’s partnership with Dell Computers provides for classroom computers.
“Districts were hoping for open source textbooks, but those didn’t materialize,” she added. “A lot of people thought we may have bought our last paper copy of books, but we have to provide individual access to the (instructional resource such as a book). Even publishers have not moved to a totally digital option, so we’re not quite there yet.”
Mrs. Braun explained that lawmakers removed the maximum costs for instructional materials hoping that free market competition would keep prices low as publishing companies compete for business.
“The free market didn’t work in this situation,” she said.
LHISD will purchase science books and materials for grades kindergarten through 12, and math materials for grades kindergarten through eight. At the high school level, class sets will be purchased. Staff is researching a conceptual physics textbook to make sure it complies with TEKS requirements before recommending purchase.
In other business this week, the Board approved the schedule for Limited English Proficient Summer School that inclues 120 hours of instruction.
Following a 55-minute closed session, the Board accepted the resignations of Bonnie Reichert, a Business/Technology teacher at the Junior High; Shawn Joseph, a Behavior teacher at the Junior High; Rachel Howard, LSSP; Tabatha Reeves, a Resource/Behavior teacher at the Intermediate School; and Amy Klein, a Tech Ap/Business teacher at the High School.
New employees approved include Shirley Benavides, a Deaf Education teacher; Vanessa Conner, for High School English and Journalism; Jolie Jennings, for Intermediate School Librarian; Bryan Taylor, Lead LSSP; Terri Jeanne Ingram, LSSP; Tanza Rawls, Physical Therapist; and Phillip Walker, Junior High Special Education teacher.
Because Trustees Clay Cole and Mike Bowles were unopposed for election this spring, the election was cancelled. However, the officials were sworn in anew on Monday. The Board also re-elected its current officers — Cole will remain president, David Nix will remain vice president and Leslye Pogue will remain secretary.
The Board also recognized students who participated in the Future Chef Competition and the Culinary Throw Down team at the high school. To learn more about those students and the programs, see previous editions of The Independent online at www.LHIndependent.com.
Trustees Shawn Vickers and Alfie Perrin were not present Monday.