Dripping Springs ISD Superintendent Holly Morris-Kuentz, Deputy Superintendent Elaine Cogburn and Assistant Superintendent Karen Kidd gave a State of the District presentation at the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce lunch April 26.

The district shared how it’s planning for growth, its current financial standing, staffing and how students find success.

Planning for growth

DSISD is a rapidly growing district, with a total of an approximate 11,000 new homes planned within the district’s boundaries, according to Morris-Kuentz. From 2016 to 2021, the district grew by 29.9%.

Three campuses are overcapacity, including Walnut Springs Elementary, Dripping Springs Elementary and Sycamore Springs Middle School, according to Morris-Kuentz.

To address the overcapacity at these campuses, Sycamore Springs Middle currently has three portable classrooms with a total five projected to be on the campus next year. Dripping Springs Elementary currently has one portable and will have three by next year. Walnut Springs Elementary does not have portables, but is using space at Dripping Springs Middle School for the fifth graders.

“The growth of these schools is really one of our biggest challenges in our district and one of the things that we're working on,” Morris-Kuentz said April 26.

The district is currently up for a $223.7 million bond, which will address overcapacity issues and capital improvements.

After a $481.13 million package was rejected by voters in November, the district lessened the package cost by $257.43 million for this May election.

“If the bond doesn’t pass, that’s going to pose a bigger challenge,” Morris-Kuentz said. “We definitely have a lot of growth in our area, and that growth is not going down. With the neighborhoods that are coming in, it will mean more portables, which for us means that we'll move more money out of the bond side of our budget into the operations side of our budget.”

Early voting began April 24. Election day is May 6.

Finance and operations

The district has a $100 million budget that is managed annually, with $30 million-$80 million invested each year.

DSISD is financially strong, according to Cogburn. Board policy requires the district to have four months of operating expenditures in the fund balance at all times, and currently the district has seven months worth.

“The biggest challenge I think all districts are facing right now is rising property tax bills,” Cogburn said.

The district’s current tax rate as of 2022 is $1.2929 per $100 of property value.

Priorities for finances and operations for the district include:
  • Teacher pay, retention and recruitment;
  • Filling positions in services such as transportation, food services, custodial;
  • Accommodating student growth; and
  • Bond planning.

Hiring staff is currently a challenge for the district, according to Cogburn. Amongst custodial, transportation and food services, there is at least a 25% vacancy rate.

As of April 19, the district needs 20 bus drivers to reach a full staff. Last summer, DSISD implemented no-service zones for each campus in the district, where students closest to their zoned campus are unable to receive bus services.

A transportation committee consisting of 27 community members including district staff and parents meet to discuss possible solutions amongst staffing shortages.

Curriculum and student achievement

DSISD currently has a 93/100 or A accountability rating from the Texas Education Agency, according to Kidd. This rating measures what students are learning and how well they are prepared for success after graduation.

The district’s investments in relation to curriculum and student success include:
  • Instructional resources, $906,000;
  • Professional development, $134,000; and
  • Student mental health and well-being, $2.96 million.
“We're preparing our students for success,” Kidd said April 26. “It doesn't matter if they're college bound, career bound or military. We're trying to get them ready for whatever their future is.”

For more information on DSISD visit www.dsisdtx.us.