LHISD consider personnel, hear reports



Liberty Hill school trustees took action Monday to fill positions before school begins next month, and heard reports on technology improvements and district/community engagement.

Following a one hour and 40-minute executive session, the Board of Trustees accepted the resignations of six employees and approved the employment of nine.

Those resigning were Stacey Splawn, first grade teacher; Elaine Maclauchan, seventh grade ELA; David Mechell, seventh grade science; Megon LeStourgeon, Junior High reading/coach; Robert Headrick, special education at Bill Burden Elementary/Intermediate; Vickie Peterson, high school tech ap/business.

The Board approved the employment of Zachary Brown as high school Agriculture Science teacher; Melissa Janisheck, Functional LifeSkills at Bill Burden; Melissa Harrington, high school Athletic Trainer; Terri Cole, high school Anatomy & Physiology; Kimbra Shephard, first grade teacher; Daniel Paschal, high school Engineering/Technology; Elizabeth DeFrancisis, Assistant Principal at Bill Burden; Amber Taylor, seventh grade ELA; and Natalie Roe, seven grade science/girls coach.

With less than one month before school starts for teachers and staff, the Board heard a report from Jay Olivier, director of Instructional Technology for the school district, about progress made at the campus and district levels in the department’s first year. Olivier was hired last summer to create the department with the purpose of helping teachers better utilize technology in the educational experience.

Olivier said educators attended training in June and will have a second opportunity in August to learn ways to implement available technology in the curriculum.

“Instead of talking at them, the focus has changed to show them how technology can be used,” and then allowing them to practice by crafting a project during the training session, he said.

During the department’s first year, bandwidth increased from 150 MB districtwide to 1 GB, making students’ experience more positive.

Olivier said 1,068 Chromebooks are in use districtwide, with 1,000 of those being used by students in the classroom. Students use the laptop computers to create videos and other projects, and he said the hardware had been durable.

Students also had access to create work using Google Docs. He said from February through May, 31,253 documents were created.

Last academic year, 11,728 emails were sent between students and teachers. Olivier added that the district contracts with a service to screen email messages for appropriate content.

Currently, Olivier and the instructional technicians assigned to each campus are working on projects to improve student account automation, improve imaging services, re-evaluate all software in use in the district, improve classroom projection upgrading to flat-panel televisions.

Toni Hicks, the district’s new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum/Instruction/Accountability, shared with the Board the results of an internal assessment that showed LHISD and each campus rated exemplary in the past academic year when it came to student/community engagement.

She explained that under House Bill 5, school districts are evaluated in a number of areas. Among those is a self assessment completed by an appointed local committee that reviews district and campus interaction with the community.

Hicks said the survey showed exemplary ratings at district and campus level in the areas of Fire Arts, Wellness and Physical Education, Community and Parental Involvement, 21st Century Workforce Development, Second Language Acquisition, Digital Learning Environment, Dropout Prevention Strategies, Educational Program for Gifted & Talented Students, and Statutory Reporting, Policy Compliance.

Liberty Hill professional staff returns to work August 9, with professional development scheduled for teachers new to the district on August 5. Classes begin early this year on August 22.

Bonds for the construction of the new Rancho Sienna Elementary School were sold July 13. Superintendent Rob Hart said the interest rate was 3.373 percent.

“All of them sold,” Hart said, adding that the interest rate was good in light of recent fluctuations in the market in late June and early July.

“We will be funded August 4,” he said.

Prep work has already begun at the Rancho Sienna school site. Construction is scheduled for completion in July 2017.

Also Monday, the Board approved resolutions designate the district’s investment officers and granting authority to those agents to conduct financial transactions. The action was necessary following the retirement this summer of longtime Chief Financial Officer Frank Watson. Jennifer Hanna is the district’s new CFO.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Jolana Rivas urged trustees to put a stop to four-hour written practice tests that students were taking prior to the official STAAR test date.