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LFISD Board Approves Special Education Upgrades for Curriculum and Safety

Arisa Benavides, Captain of the LFHS Gold Stars team, shared some concerns with the LFISD School Board during the last regular meeting held last Monday night. Photo: Alma Martinez Botello/Facebook

Standing room only crowd attends meeting with concerns

by Stefania Trimboli-Wright/LFN

The La Feria ISD School Board of Trustees had their regular meeting on Monday, August 13th, 2018 covering a wide agenda. By the time the meeting began at 6:30pm, the room was spilling out in to the hallway, leaving only standing room. Not one, of the approximately fifty seats, was left to spare. There was plenty of lively chatter with the parents and community. Friends, acquaintances, and board members passing out smiles, hugs and handshakes, while attendees arrived up until the very last minute. In the front row sat at least a dozen, of the twenty-one, Gold Star young ladies with their signature maroon and gold bows in their hair. President Juan Briones called the meeting to order and Vice-President Katie Johnson recited the prayer over the Board to “make decisions that are the best for all”.

President Briones moved up Item D regarding Property Casualty Insurance, to the first order of business. The PCI coverage period begins September 1, 2018 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and the proposal for renewal was submitted by Shephard Walton King. “Good news is that they lowered the rate for this school year.”

commented Superintendent Cathy Hernandez, making the cost for the fiscal year at $126,466.
The Open Forum, which is allotted thirty minutes, had a few speakers. Arisa Benavides, Captain of the Gold Stars team, shared some concerns she had with some of the Board’s decisions regarding the placement of the Gold Stars team during football games as well as a change in the number of performances they will have during the year. Arisa was “respectfully questioning” the Board about their decision that seemed to teeter-totter going “back and forth”.

She expressed concerns over the “mockery and belittling” that was taking place at her school and wanted to bring to light that the changes themselves weren’t the issue, “we don’t mind the changes, it’s about being fair”. A second speaker walked up to the podium, a proud parent wearing her “Meagan’s Mom” t-shirt shared a passionate letter to the Board concerning her Sophomore daughter who is a member of the Gold Stars team. “My child is being bullied by adults and I’m not going to tolerate that.” Former Board member Gloria Casas was the third speaker during the Open Forum and raised some valuable points for the Board to consider. She mentioned that “public education is the workhorse of the future” and how “it’s important that every single program get the support it needs”.

She also mentioned how the Board should consider looking outside of the city limits of La Feria and engage with the community at large to open pathways for the graduating seniors of La Feria high school to generate opportunities outside of La Feria. “With over 200 graduating seniors, La Feria does not have enough jobs to employ them all.”
Moving along on the Agenda was regarding the Workers Compensation Insurance, starting the new fiscal year on September 1, 2018. Texas Association of Schools Boards (TASB) is the current insurance provider and the premium for this year will be $214,238.

Item E concerned NINOS, Inc (Neighbors in Need of Services). Some of the services provided by NINOS are: health and nutritional assessment; medical and dental follow up; pre and post-natal education for pregnant women; nutritional meals and snacks; the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities; individualized infant, toddler and pre-school “school readiness”; and transportation (where available). The goal of this program is for NINOS, Inc to work together with La Feria ISD to collaborate on meeting the educational needs within the school district at Sam Houston Elementary, David G. Sanchez Elementary, and C.E. Vail Elementary campuses by together operating the six classes serving the co-enrolled three-year olds.

The District will also be providing half day sessions for each of these classes. Three classroom teachers and three paraprofessionals will be provided by the La Feria School District to service the Early Education 3-year-old program. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining the responsibilities between the two entities was reviewed and provided by the Administration.

Policy Service for TASB Policy Update 111 began mailing packets to districts in July 2018, with approximately seventy legal policies to be updated. Update 111 includes revisions made to legal and local policy made by the Texas Administrative Code. A new code, which became effective May 3, 2018 addresses TAC rules to establish a procedure allowing school districts to determine if students qualify to graduate and earn a high school diploma. Update 111 will also include a few local policies: board member training and orientation; financial ethics; contractor’s criminal history checks; compensation plans; employee searches and alcohol/drug testing; employee welfare; and compulsory attendance.

An update discussed at the meeting Monday evening was regarding the recommendation to leave a certain policy the way it is: any vehicle on school property with a gun must be out of sight and unloaded. President Briones made the comment to “leave the guns unloaded” and gave an example which highlights how an untrained gun carrier could “make it more dangerous” than a trained gun carrier. Noting the sensitivity to the topic of guns and schools, Superintendent Cathy Hernandez mentions how we “have to find ways to protect our students”.

There were three important discussions on purchase orders over $25,000 that will improve the quality of education for the students of LFISD. The first was for the purchase of the I-Station License/Reading software program to assess students in Reading grades PK-4th grade. According to the I-Station website “students who use I-Station make greater gains compared to those who do not use the curriculum”.

This award-winning e-learning program serves over 4.4 million students in 48 states and several countries around the world. Cathy stated that, “the testing is to see where students are at, and how they’re progressing. My recommendation is to renew.” From the sound of it, the program has been a great success. The cost of this program comes out to $30,434 for the fiscal year.

Next on the purchase order list was for the Special Education security cameras, provided by Calence Physical Security Solutions, for the classrooms at W. B. Green Jr. High School. The request was made by a parent to add the cameras to the classroom at W.B. Green and as per TEC 29.022, “upon the request of a parent, schools must place cameras in special education self-contained classrooms or other special education settings to promote safety for students with disabilities”. The cost of the cameras for W.B. Green will be $12,732 in addition to the first set of cameras added at David G. Sanchez at the same cost, bringing the total cost of cameras at both schools to $25,465.

The third item being covered under the purchase orders was for Special Education Playground equipment provided by PlayWell. The request and ultimate approval was for the purchase of special education playground equipment for the four elementary campuses in LFISD, costing the district $37,500. Updates to the Special Education student body come from the Special Education budget.

The final item on the agenda, before breaking for the Closed Meeting, was a change being made to the staff and student per diem rates during travel. With the current rates being $36 and $21 for staff and students, respectively. Board member, Javier Loredo mentioned it was a “struggle to feed the kids”.

Under the new rate system staff and students will each receive a total of $50 per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

With that, the board adjourned for a Closed Meeting to discuss personnel matters such as: resignations/retirements; employment contracts; and discussion of public officers.

LFISD holds their regular School Board meetings every second Monday of the month at 6:30pm at the Central Administration Office at 505 N. Villareal Street in La Feria.

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