Launch of business incubator program, district of innovation vote, bus routes top education accomplishments for 2016

Education updates Lake Travis | Westlake Tom Leonard has served as Eanes ISD superintendent since April 2014.[/caption]

Eanes ISD

Big developments in 2016

  • Launch of new programs
    The launch of Westlake High School’s business incubator and the Adult Transition Services Program’s Project Search are both programs that provide  opportunities for students to learn.

  • Eanes Education Foundation
    The Eanes Education Foundation revealed a  record-breaking $2.03 million gift that funded 40 teachers and staff as well as provided tuition assistance for teachers currently earning their master’s degrees.

  • Winning the Lone Star Cup
    Westlake High School won the Lone Star Cup for the first time since 2002. The Chaps tallied 94 points, which included a state championship in girls swimming and diving, as well as being state runners-up in football, boys swimming and diving, and girls golf. The Chaps also earned points with a third-place finish in boys golf, being a regional finalist in boys basketball and a winning a district championship in academics.The Lone Star Cup is awarded annually to one high school in each University Interscholastic League classification based on athletic performance.  Westlake High School competed in the University Interscholastic League Conference 6A.

Top issues for 2017

  • Results of the 85th Texas legislative session
    The outcomes from the 85th Texas legislative session could greatly affect Eanes ISD. In particular, EISD supports: balancing the state’s responsibility to fund education with respect for taxpayers’ local investment; revising the Cost of Education Index, or CEI; counting 100 percent of CEI in the formula for Weighted Average Daily Attendance; adjusting state funding weights to match current costs of educating unique student populations; and allowing Chapter 41 districts to claim transportation allotments as a credit against recapture.

  • Balancing the district budget
    Working toward a balanced budget will continue to be a priority for EISD. With unknowns such as taxable assessed valuation, health care costs for staff and legislative actions, the district will watch how these variables affect the budget and use of its fund balance.

  • Enrollment and facilities plan
    Eanes ISD is beginning to study a five-year enrollment and facilities plan. This study will identify facility capacities and how the district is utilizing its campuses, factoring in enrollment projections, the use of portables and looking at future utilization of spacing within district facilities.

A question for Tom Leonard, superintendent

How has Westlake High School’s business incubator course opened the door for other opportunities for the district?

The Westlake business incubator program has connected Eanes ISD to some of Austin’s most successful business people in a variety of areas. Their invaluable expertise benefits our students, providing opportunities well beyond the classroom. The program has also created connections to partners who may not have children in our schools, which broadens our reach to share accomplishments, challenges and opportunities. The incubator program will be a catalyst and model for other innovative courses in various levels and curricular subjects throughout Eanes ISD.

Education updates Lake Travis | Westlake Brad Lancaster has served as Lake Travis ISD superintendent since December 2011.[/caption]

Lake Travis ISD

Big developments in 2016

  • District of innovation vote
    On Dec. 13, the Lake Travis ISD school board agreed to become a district of innovation. The designation allows LTISD to change school start and end dates, review minimum attendance requirements for class credit or a final grade, equalize class-size ratios, add flexibility to teacher certification for those courses that are difficult to fill, examine options for teacher and principal appraisal systems, and investigate probationary teacher contract lengths for future hires. Staff will share more information about the impact of its district of innovation designation beginning in January with the expected school board adoption of the 2017-18 instructional calendar.

  • Preparing for the 85th Texas legislative session
    LTISD senior staff prepared for the 85th legislative session. Prior to each session, the school board adopts a set of district priorities, which is shared with key legislators and their staffers. These priorities best represent the district’s needs in the areas of school finance, local governance and instruction.The school board will consider the following priorities for adoption in January: the loss of Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction, or ASATR; funding the local optional Homestead Exemption Credit;  updating the Cost of Education Index; and  funding the transportation allotment for all school districts.

Top issues for 2017

  • Possible bond election
    The school board may consider calling for a November 2017 bond election for up to $220 million in projects, which may include the construction of a third middle school, as well as a seventh—and possibly eighth—elementary school. It would also cover certain upgrades, renovations and repairs to existing facilities, and fund new school buses and technology.Superintendent Brad Lancaster said the new schools  and repairs can be done without an increase to the district’s current tax rate, a rare occurrence in school bond elections.  The zero impact to the current tax rate comes as a result of LTISD paying down its current debt early.Over the past five years, Lancaster said LTISD has saved its taxpayers more than $27 million in interest through aggressive debt management, resulting in increased capacity for future bond programs.

  • Possible tax ratification election
    The LTISD board may consider a tax ratification election, or TRE, that would ask voters to approve a maintenance and operations tax rate increase, which would then be paired with an equivalent decrease in the debt service rate. That process is referred to a penny exchange. The election would result in maintaining the current total tax rate of $1.4075 per $100 valuation. Whether the school board calls a bond or TRE, Lancaster said the district’s tax rate will remain the same.

A question for  Brad Lancaster, superintendent

As a fast-growth district, what added challenges does Lake Travis ISD face?

Lake Travis ISD is an exemplary school district, and judging by our student enrollment, families want to be here and they are going to keep coming. In fact, over the last 10 years, our student enrollment has increased by approximately 76 percent. As a result, school districts like ours must find a careful balance between honoring current educational priorities and commitments while staying ahead of the curve as it relates to student enrollment and capacity.

Education updates Lake Travis | Westlake 2017 Leander ISD board of trustees, from left (front row): Don Hisle, Place 2; Pamela Waggoner, Place 3; Will Streit, Place 7; Trish Bode, Place 1; Aaron Johnson, Place 6; Grace Barber-Jordan, Place 4; Jim MacKay, Place 5.[/caption]

Leander ISD

Big decisions made in 2016

  • Bus route sections canceled
    Trustees voted to discontinue portions of some bus routes in spring 2016 because the Texas Education Agency does not provide funding for buses to pick up students who live less than 2 miles from their school unless the routes are deemed hazardous. The areas affected included routes to Christine Camacho Elementary School, Westside Elementary School, Whitestone Elementary School, Cedar Park Middle School, Henry Middle School, Leander Middle School, Leander High School and Vista Ridge High School.

  • New high school
    LISD’s sixth high school, Tom Glenn High School, 1320 Collaborative Way, Leander, opened in August as an open-concept school with a collegiate-style campus.

  • New superintendent
    The LISD board of trustees unanimously approved Dan Troxell to assume the role of superintendent in August following the departure of former Superintendent Bret Champion.

  • Higher taxes
    LISD’s board of trustees voted to maintain the fiscal year 2015-16 tax rate for FY 2016-17 in August, but because property values are higher, homeowners in the district will likely owe more. The rate is $1.51187 per $100 valuation.

Top issues for 2017

  • Early release days in question
    At a Dec. 15 meeting, some trustees called mid-week early release days a burden on parents of elementary and middle school students. LISD staff members said they would investigate the value of early release days to teachers and administrators and report back to the board in January.

  • More growth
    LISD will open its 26th elementary school in August on Barley Road in Leander. Demographers say LISD will need six more elementary schools, two more middle schools and one more high school in the next eight years.

  • Support of new legislation
    The board and superintendent expressed their intent to support certain legislation if it comes before lawmakers during the 85th legislative session. The district’s priorities include streamlining the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which is a set of skills that each student must learn that differs by grade; supporting an increase in funding without attached mandates on how the new funds can be used; and supporting legislation that adds funding to and improves statewide mental health services, programs and treatments, especially for students, young adults and their families, and youth-related support agencies.

What will the Texas Education Agency’s new A-F accountability ratings mean for LISD?

Previously, districts and campuses received ratings of “met standard,” “met alternative standard” or “improvement required.” The official 2016 state accountability rating for each LISD campus and the district is “met standard.”

These ratings will be replaced with an A-F system for all Texas campuses and school districts. Districts and campuses will receive a rating of A, B, C, D or F in each of five domains and for overall performance, including student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps, postsecondary readiness, and community and student engagement. The new system will officially be implemented in August 2018.


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