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Superintendent Message (Aug. 2, 2016)

Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations

Aug. 2, 2016

Dear SAISD Staff,

It’s been a busy summer as we prepare for the upcoming school year, which is just a few weeks way. I am looking forward to working with you in Year 2 and hope you are feeling some of the same excitement. 

I shared with you previously that a community-based Blue Ribbon Task Force was at work reviewing district priorities for facilities and academic programs, an effort that aligns with our District’s pillar of fiscal management.

At last night’s school board meeting, the task force presented its recommendations to the Board of Trustees to pursue a $450 million bond proposal and to increase the District’s Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax rate by 13 cents, which would require a Tax Ratification Election (TRE).

The committee recommended that the increased operating revenue from the TRE be used to fund the District’s 21st-century classroom initiative throughout all of its schools, as well as extended afterschool programs and other academic initiatives.

Some of you might be aware that school district tax rates in Texas have two parts: the M&O tax, which pays for day-to-day operations, such as salaries, utilities and supplies; and the Interest & Sinking (I&S) tax, which is used to pay down bond debt used to finance school construction and renovations – but may not be used for daily operating costs.

The committee recommended the bond election fund renovations at seven high schools, four middle schools and two elementary schools. The 13 schools are: GW Brackenridge, Burbank, Edison, Sam Houston, Jefferson, Lanier and Fox Tech high schools; Davis, Irving, Tafolla and H. Rogers middle schools; and J.T. Brackenridge and Bowden elementary schools.

Members of the task force were charged with examining the District’s future operating and capital needs and providing feedback about how to fund and meet gaps in funding. The 16 task force members approached their work with both passion and commitment. They met weekly, including touring the high-priority schools to assess their needs. The group also received extensive briefings from the Associate Superintendent of Facilities Services, the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Financial Officer.

Trustees plan to vote on the recommendations on Aug. 15, and I will share more about this in an upcoming message.

Also big this summer is our talent management effort, another one of our five pillars. We have a robust professional development schedule. Among our development opportunities were a  GT Institute for K-12 teachers last month that was led by national Gifted & Talented expert Dr. Richard Cash, as well as a Leadership Summit that brought together all of our principals and District leadership to engage in conversation about creating a culture of achievement. This week, we are holding a weeklong Assessment Academy featuring national assessment expert Susan Brookhart, who will lead K-12 teachers in taking an in-depth look at current assessment practices and sharing best practices.

In short, we are continuing to lay a solid foundation for success. Our goal is meaningful and lasting change for our District. This requires thoughtful and deliberate action, as well as persistence. Together, with the continued support from a community that has solidly been behind us in the last year, we will reach our goals.