By KIM ESTES, Four Points News
Dr. Bret Champion, superintendent, laid out results of planning and programs in Leander ISD telling an audience of some 250 that, “Student learning is at the center of everything we do.”
Champion’s remarks were part of the annual LISD “State of the District” meeting sponsored Friday by Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation at Hill Country Bible Church, Lakeline.
Champion started with a quick overview of statistics noting that LISD is the 11th fastest growing school district in the state. In last year’s State of the District meeting, he reported LISD ranked 14th in growth statewide.
Growth has slowed, however, compared to previous years. The district swelled 177 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to previous reports.
Other interesting statistics showed LISD bus drivers travel an average of 13,318 miles a day transporting students to-and-from school, the food service department dishes out an average of 24,565 meals a day and custodians and maintenance employees keep up with 6.3 million-square-feet of building space, including the district’s 25 elementary schools, eight middle schools and five high schools.
Not only is LISD large, it is also on the move.
College and career readiness
LISD continues to outpace the state and nation on College Board exams.
“Our schools are a means to an end. Our students are going somewhere,” Champion said.
The average score of LISD seniors on the 2015 SAT test was 1086 compared to a national average score of 1006 and a state average score of 956. Seventy three percent of LISD seniors took the exam.
Forty two percent of LISD students sat for the ACT, averaging a score of 23.9, beating national and state averages of 21 and 20.9 respectively.
Champion noted that in the last five years LISD scores have increased 178 percent to earn increased accolades like National Merit Commendation and National Hispanic Recognition awards.
The district’s most recent college enrollment data is based on the Class of 2012, of which 69.5 percent entered college the fall after graduation, 5.8 percent enrolled a year later and 4.1 percent the next year. 20.6 percent were “not found in college.”
For a glimpse into the future, PSAT scores from the LISD junior class of 2015 beat the national average by 7.5 points, 146.3 to 138.8. The state average PSAT score was 131.5. (All LISD juniors took the PSAT.)
Champion broke down district expenditures per dollar including 0.594 for teachers and supplies, 0.095 for custodial/maintenance, 0.058 for office staff, 0.037 for curriculum and training and 0.026 for electricity/AC/heat.
He praised district leaders for savings in the amount of $129 million from two previous bond revenues.
Next, in a bit of forecasting, Champion told the audience that additional facilities would be needed to accommodate growth.
“We will have a future conversation about this,” he said.
LISD officials predict another high school, two middle schools and seven elementary schools will be required within the next 10 years.
Champion noted that Glenn High School is on schedule to open in August. The school, located in Leander, was part of the 2007 bond.
In other finance news, Champion said the district earned recognition in several areas including the 2014 Platinum Leadership Circle Award from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and, from the School Financial Accountability System, LISD received the highest ranking possible.
Moreover, for the first time in its history, LISD submitted its budget for review to the Association of School Business Officials International to earn the Meritorious Budget Award.
The district has had a 16 percent enrollment increase since 2010, adding 831 new students in 2015 for a total population of 37,070.
On the decline, however, is kindergarten enrollment. New kindergarten students decreased by 14 percent from 2010-2015.
This is due to a dwindling number of young families moving into LISD. “Those are not starter homes you see going up. Students are coming in, but in the older grade levels,” he said.
Champion noted that LISD is “outperforming” state averages in all STAAR/EOC subjects.
LISD exceeds state passing rates in Science/Social Studies – 88 percent to 78 percent, math – 92 percent to 81percent and in English/Reading/Writing – 87 percent to 76 percent.
Attendance was slightly down in the district in 2015, 95.8 percent, compared to 96.2 percent in 2014.
Acknowledging there is a link between attendance and state funding, Champion added, “It’s not just about funding though. You can’t teach students who aren’t in school.”
Regarding safety in the learning environment, the superintendent reported that 93 percent of parents surveyed said their campus provides a safe and supportive learning environment. Among students, 93.8 percent said they feel safe in the classroom.
Students are, however, heavily involved in extracurricular activities. “Test scores matter, they do – but there is a lot more to (school) experience,” Champion said.
“When we think about our high school experience sometimes we think about geometry, but a lot of times we remember being in one-act play.”
Champion reported that almost 78 percent of LISD students in 6th – 12th grade participate in UIL extracurricular activities.
He noted that Vandegrift High School won the “prestigious” UIL Lone Star Cup in 2015, as did Cedar Park High School in 2013.
In the area of technology, all LISD high schools offer a robotics program, with six middle schools offering robotics clubs.
For three years running, Champion said, a VHS robotics team has placed in national competition.
Champion reported that almost 400 volunteers are committed to reading with LISD students 30 minutes per week.
Specifically, about 800 students receive weekly reading mentoring at nearly every campus for 630,000 minutes spent growing fluency and a love for reading.
Since 2011, LISD has had a 5 percent increase – from 75 to 80 percent – of students who read at or above grade level by third grade.
And finally, mLISD, the district’s mobile learning initiative, reports a 1:1 average ratio of mobile digital learning devices to middle and high school students and 3:1 ratio at the elementary level.
The mobile learning project is aimed at providing students with increased access to digital content, resources and devices to support anytime, anywhere learning, according to Champion.
The complete 2015 State of the District report is available at: www.leanderisd.org/users/0001/docs/Supt/Final_SOD_2015.pdf