LISD Trustees, Superintendent find common ground

2020-21 calendar, new courses  approved at board meeting  

Leander Independent School District Superintendent Bruce Gearing shares conversations had by the administration regarding performance objectives for the District Improvement Plan with the LISD Board of Trustees at the Dec. 12 board meeting. APRIL S. KELLEY

By APRIL S. KELLEY, Hill Country News

The Leander Independent School District Board of Trustees approved new course proposals, adopted the academic calendar for the 2020–21 school year, talked budget, and received a construction update at the Dec. 12 board meeting.  

Also the LISD board and Superintendent Bruce Gearing are finding some common ground when it comes to their collaborative effort to redefine performance objectives for Goals 1-7 of the District Improvement Plan that was approved at a prior meeting in November. 

“We need to determine, as a system, what our wildly important goals are,” Gearing said. “I’m asking the board to be an active participant in determining what that is.” 

Though no decisions have been made yet to approve any new defined performance objectives for the District Improvement Plan, the trustees and superintendent seemed to agree that there should be a focus or priority on early literacy in the district. 

Gearing said research has shown that if a student is reading on grade level by grade 3, it ensures more opportunities for success for that student. 

LISD Board Vice President Aaron Johnson said he agreed that a focus on literacy by the third grade was important.

“A real laser focus on K-3 literacy presents a whole host of opportunities for self-guided learning that aren’t present if that literacy is not present at that level,” Johnson said. 

LISD Board President Trish Bode said she agreed with Johnson and looks forward to more conversation and information about early literacy in the district. 

2020-21 academic calendar

Students, teachers, staff, and parents can plan for a similar school calendar in 2020-21. 

With no changes or revisions required by the Texas Education Agency and with college schedules set, the LISD Trustees approved the 2020-2021 academic calendar at last week’s board meeting. The calendar had been in draft form and posted on the district website since January 2019. 

LISD calendar highlights include:

Aug. 13: first day of school for students;

Oct. 12 – 13: staff development;

Nov. 23 – 27: Thanksgiving holiday;

Dec. 21 – Jan. 1: winter break;

March 15 – 19: spring break (UT Austin spring break expected March 15-19);

April 12: bad weather makeup day; and

May 27: last day of school/early release (all schools).

“It’s always the board’s intention to give our community as much time as possible to plan around our academic calendar,” said Bode, who is a Steiner Ranch resident. “We believe that this calendar continues to honor that while maintaining our commitment to continuous improvement and professional learning.”   

New advanced, skills learning courses 

Students will have more opportunities for advanced skills development with the LISD Board of Trustees approving new course proposals, including practicum level courses in law enforcement, technology and digital communications.  

Budget discussion 

Also at the Dec. 12 meeting, new LISD Chief Financial Officer Elaine Cogburn outlined the timeline and framework for the Board’s 2020-21 budget development. The budget timeline changed to a July 1 fiscal year start date. 

“The fact that Leander ISD has consistently earned superior financial ratings is no accident,” said Elexis Grimes, trustee “It is always our goal to be deliberate and conservative in our budgeting process to make efficient use of tax dollars while providing the very best resources for our students.”

The district also presented its perfect Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas annual financial management report.

A public hearing – for which there were no public comments – was held after a presentation of the School FIRST.

School FIRST is the state’s financial accountability rating system, used to ensure quality performance in the management of school districts’ financial resources. For the 2018-19 school year (2017-18 data), LISD achieved the highest rating of “A = Superior,” scoring a maximum 100 points on a 100-point scale. LISD has received perfect schools for the last few years on the School FIRST report.

Construction review

Cedar Park High School’s girls’ locker room is slated for completion this month, while the construction of the fieldhouse focuses on the interior of the structure. 

Vandegrift High School’s new classroom addition is underway with the forming, pouring and erecting of tilt-wall panels. The two schools highlight a review of the district’s 2017 Bond projects and ongoing major maintenance. 

Construction on Danielson Middle School, the district’s ninth middle school, continues. This school – with a large, open common area in the middle of the campus and wings of classrooms designed for collaboration – will welcome its first batch of students during the 2020–21 school year. 

Leander ISD’s Board Briefs were used in this report.