ISD committee recommends $35 million bond package


By Lauren Jette

The Liberty Hill school board heard recommendations from a community committee on facilities suggesting placement of a $35 million bond package on the ballot for voters, which they say will not change the current property tax rate.

The main expense for the bond package is a new elementary school, which will cost $29 million. Land for the building has been set aside in the Rancho Sienna subdivision, located off Ronald Reagan Boulevard, south of State Highway 29.

According to a demographic report presented by Superintendent Rob Hart, the need for the school is great, as the two current elementary schools are projected to be above capacity by the 2017 school year.

The committee also looked at other needs throughout the district and recommended improvements and updates to Liberty Hill Elementary School, such as new paint, new ceiling work and security measures. Bringing science labs up to compliance and other structural improvements at Liberty Hill Intermediate School were also among the recommendations.

The committee also recommended some much needed improvements to the agriculture facility, including building a new show arena with a lab, repurpose the old show arena to house more animal pens, add perimeter fencing and improve drainage. The cost of the agriculture facility project is about $2 million.

Committee co-chairs Gerald Lorance and Chelle Harrison told the Board that this bond package will not change the current tax rate of $1.54 per $100 property valuation, and recommended that the Board call for the election during its February meeting.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” said Trustee Shawn Roberts.

“I think the biggest sell will be the tax rate,” said Trustee Mike Bowles.

The committee is comprised of parents, teachers and community members from Liberty Hill, who met four times between October and this month, Lorance said.

To coincide with the upcoming May election, the Board approved election agreements with the city and the county to run the election.

Board members approved a new Academic Life Skills teacher position at the intermediate campus. Dr. Hart said the position has become necessary with so many “high needs students moving into the district.” The facility for these students was built with the last renovation and now the need is great enough to hire this position.

There was also a public hearing on the Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR), which shows how the school district did academically for the 2014-15 school year.

Overall, the report showed that the district earned a “met standard” rating, and broke down results by grade level and subject.

Curriculum Director Claudeane Braun walked the Board through the report and showed members that Liberty Hill performed better than the state average in almost all subject areas, with a few exceptions. Braun said she is looking into those areas where the district fell below the state average carefully to see how they can improve those areas.

Braun also said the report can be found on the district website, under the “About LHISD” header, and Performance and Accountability subheading.

January is School Board Recognition Month, and school board members were honored for their service to the school district.

Junior High Principal Annette Coe gave each member a superhero button on behalf of the students, while Elementary Principal Melanie Bowman presented members with framed superhero drawings created by students.

Intermediate Principal Kathy Major shared letters written by students with each board member, and High School Principal Bobby Mabry invited members to enjoy a meal prepared by the culinary arts class after the February board meeting.

“It’s great to work with such a good board,” Dr. Hart said. “I get to listen to horror stories from other superintendents and just smile.”

The Board also approved the resignation of sixth grade math teacher Paula Gamble and the employment of Douglas Hambrick, Special Education Inclusion at the Intermediate campus; Pamela Pond, Special Education English at the high school; Madeline Dreier, English at the high school and current junior high teacher and coach Josh Curtis as Assistant Principal at the Intermediate campus.

Board member Greg Thrash was not present this week.