LHISD Trustees agree to waive tuition for transfer students

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By SHELLY WILKISON

With two new faces seated at the dais Monday, Liberty Hill school trustees voted unanimously to continue to allow students to transfer into the school district without paying tuition.

After accepting the Oath of Office, newly-elected Trustees Greg Thrash and Anthony Buck took their seats at the dais, replacing 12-year trustee Leslye Pogue and Alfie Perrin. Perrin was not present Monday, but Pogue received an award of appreciation from the Board for her years of service.

Superintendent Rob Hart said that charging tuition would move Liberty Hill into a “wealthy school district” status under the State’s current school finance model thereby requiring it to pay a portion of local property tax revenue to the State.

If the district were to charge tuition to transfer students, the weighted average daily attendance (WADA) would be an estimated $348,023 — well above the state’s equalized wealth level of $319,500. In that scenario, Hart said the State would be able to recapture local property tax revenue.

Without charging tuition, the district would be at $305,742 WADA. Those estimates are based on the current academic year’s number of non-resident students — 373.

The Texas Education Agency set the annual tuition limit for LHISD at $2,113 for 2014-2015.

“I recommend we continue to accept out-of-district students without tuition,” Hart said, adding that the policy still best suits the district from a financial perspective.

Non-resident students seeking to transfer to Liberty Hill schools must apply and go through an interview process with campus administrators before starting to school. Annually, their application is reviewed for continued admission.

With continued growth expected at the elementary levels, the Board voted unanimously to create two new teaching positions at Liberty Hill Intermediate School and one at Bill Burden Elementary School. The positions will be filled for fall 2015.

Hart said an additional teacher for second grade would reduce the average class size from 22.4 to 20.5 students, allowing some room for growth, which is anticipated before the start of school.

An additional teacher at both the fifth and sixth grade levels will have a similar impact.

“It gives us a cushion. These grades are really getting hit, averaging 7 percent increase the past few times,” he said.

Hart said a lack of classroom space at the elementary campuses will become the next challenge. In previous meetings, he has discussed the need for a possible bond election in 2016 to construct a new elementary campus.

Also Monday, the Board adopted a resolution allowing for the immediate implementation of Senate Bill 149, which affects about five students in this year’s graduating class. Hart said the students were caught in a gap between the state’s old and current graduation requirements relating to end of course exams. With implementation of the new state law, they can graduate with the class if they have not failed more than two end of course tests.

Curriculum Director Claudeane Braun said the resolution may not be needed at all because results in the coming days may show the students finally passed the requried exams.

Also Monday, the Board approved the 2015-2016 school calendar, which shows the first day of school for students as August 25, and the first day for teachers as August 18. The class of 2016 will graduate on June 3, 2016.

The Board approved the district’s application for a three-year waiver that if approved by the State would allow for 177 instructional days as opposed to the required 180 days. The district will use the three non-class days as professional development days for teachers and staff.

Trustees also approved a plan for summer classes for Limited English Proficient students. Students will attend class for 15 days from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Two teachers will be assigned to the program.

The Board also approved a resolution extending the district’s depository contract for two years with Prosperity Bank. Hart said no other bank submitted proposals.

The Board canvassed the votes in the May 9 trustee election prior to administering the Oath of Office to Thrash and Buck.

Incument David Nix, who ran unopposed in Place 3, was not present Monday to take the oath.

In Place 4, Thrash reeived 147 votes to Jim Dillon’s 15 votes. Thrash replaced Pogue, who chose not to seek re-election.

In Place 5, Buck was elected with 105 votes, while candidates Cathy Oshel received 45 and Melissa Gauna, 7.

After new members were seated, the Board reorganized itself, but re-elected Clay Cole as president and Nix as vice president. Replacing Pogue as Secretary is Mike Bowles. There were no contested nominations for any of the positions.

Following a 70-minute closed session, the panel approved the resignations of Mike Benson, assistant principal at Bill Burden; Jennifer Hallam, theatre arts teacher at Liberty Hill Junior High; Scott Hawkins, English teacher and coach; Mary Lou Lively, kindergarten teacher; and Kim Williamson, a counselor at Liberty Hill Elemetnary School.

The Board approved the employment of the following: Kerry Morton as speech language pathologist supervisor; Gerald Foster as 6th grade teacher; Lori Lauper, 5th grade teacher; Aimee Kuhlmann for LHJH math; Ruth Hedges, as American Sign Lanaguage teacher at the high school; Thomas Garza as LHJH social studies/coach/PE; Sarah Beauchamp as LHJH theatre arts; Robin Graham as diagnostician; David Griffin as LHHS sicience teacher/coach; Anna Klose for 6th grade math; Elissa Esch as LHJH language arts/coach; Daniel Haggard as LHHS biology teacher; Amberlee Martin as LHHS math teacher; and Patricia Rodriguez as speech pathologist.

In other business, the Board:

– Recognized winners of the Future Chefs competition in February sponsored by Sodexo, the district’s food service provider. Those winners were featured in a previous edition of The Independent. Also recognized were the high school’s Culinary Arts students who placed well in the Culinary Arts Throw Down.

– Trustees also heard a presentation by Agriculture Teachers Mike Rempe and Travis Filipp on the conditions of the ag barn and future needs for the department.

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