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June 6, 2019

GISD Superintendent Report


Students, parents, and community members can take pride in a number of improvements to our public education system during the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature. 

Chief among these is House Bill 3, which provides $6.5 billion to fund public education and educator salaries.  The legislation also includes $5.1 billion intended to lower property taxes as the state seeks to increase its share of educational funding from 38% to 45%. 

By increasing the basic allotment per student, the bill will allow Chapter 41 property-wealthy districts, like Granbury ISD, to keep more local tax revenue – rather than sending money to the state to redistribute to other school districts.  For GISD, this amounted to $8.5 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year.  We expect that, with the new law, this will be eliminated for 2020 and amount to less than $1 million in 2021. 

There are some big academic achievements, too.  For instance, the state will fully fund full-day pre-kindergarten for low-income students.  This will go a long way to giving these children the early academic help they need to be successful. 

There is also high-quality reading standards for grades K-3 so that students read by at grade level by 3rd grade.  The legislation provides phonics curriculum for reading instruction in these grade levels, and principals and teachers in these grade levels must attend a literacy achievement academy. 

The Texas Education Agency will be evaluating the current State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests.  One bill changes the U.S. History end-of-course exam by requiring it to include ten randomly selected questions from the national citizenship test.  Other legislation will eliminate writing tests currently administered for grades 4 and 7.  In addition, state exams will no longer be scheduled for the first instructional day of the week. 

HB 3 directs more funds to assist under-served students, including dropouts and students in special education.  The bill also creates the first state dyslexia identification program.  Also included is acceleration of student achievement through College, Career & Military Readiness (CCMR), dual-language program, and extended year summer programs for low-income students. 

Regarding salaries for teachers and others, districts must spend 30 percent of new funding from the state on compensation increases to full-time district employees other than administrators: 

  • 75 percent of the new money must be spent on classroom teachers, full-time librarians, full-time school counselors, and full-time school nurses, prioritizing differentiated compensation for classroom teachers with more than five years of experience.
  • 25 percent of the new funding may be used as determined by a district to increase compensation paid to other full-time district employees who are not administrators.

The legislation also helps to increase contributions to the Teacher Retirement System, making the fund actuarially sound and that educators can expect reliable pension benefits.  

In the area of school safety, Senate Bill 11 establishes a school safety allotment to fund secure facilities, technology, personnel, and training. Districts must expand emergency operations plan to so that employees have direct communication with emergency personnel.  Districts must also appoint a threat assessment team to evaluate threats and implement new safety procedures.  Providing mental health services for students is also a priority to prevent harm to themselves or others.   The legislation also expands the School Marshal program and also creates a “Do Not Hire” registry to protect children in the classroom. 

GISD is already ahead on many of these safety and security measures thanks to proactive measures adopted by our school board trustees.  Over the last year, we have working to implement a comprehensive system and plan to ensure that all students and staff are safe and secure. 

Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, Jeff Hastings is moving to Chief and Safety and Security to oversee deputy constables, campus security personnel, and school marshals.  We have interlocal agreements in place with both the Granbury Police Department and Hood County Sheriff’s Office allowing for controlled access to district security surveillance systems for the limited purpose of responding to emergencies in or around school property.  Plus, we are working on implementing a crisis communication app available for all classroom personnel. 

To address mental health issues, the district is hiring a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) to work hand-in-hand with a Behavior Assessment Team (BAT) to analyze threat assessments and early intervention before a crisis arises. The LPC will also work alongside our academic counselors to help students and staff dealing with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, as well as problems at home or other places outside of school. 

With school finance, pay for teachers and other campus educators, academic improvements, and campus security, this proved to be a very good session for public education.  We thank our legislators and state officials for coming together to find consensus on these important issues that will ultimately improve education for all Texas schoolchildren.