Katy ISD trustees approve social media threat monitoring service, consider shifting dual credit GPA weight: takeaways from the April 23 meeting

The Katy ISD Board of Trustees approved several major contracts at the April 23 meeting.

The Katy ISD Board of Trustees approved several major contracts at the April 23 meeting.

The Katy ISD Board of Trustees took action on several contracts at the April 23 meeting, including approving a new social media threat service and districtwide upgrades. Here are a few takeaways from the meeting:

Social media threat monitoring service contract approved
Trustees approved an $80,000 three-year contract for a new social media threat monitoring service called Social Sentinel.

Social Sentinel monitors 12 different social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and uses a library of threat indicators to match any potential threat to a specific geographic region through geo-location and keyword association, according to district officials.

Representatives from the Katy ISD technology department said the service could ultimately help identify a potential active shooter, a student who is struggling with self-harm issues and other life-threatening situations.

"When a possible active shooter or self-harm post is identified, an alert is sent to predefined users in the district via text and email," representatives from the KISD technology department said at the April 16 meeting. "In addition, a daily report is emailed of all identified threats to a predefined set of users in the district."

Social Sentinel monitors only social media profiles that are available to the public-no private profiles can be accessed or monitored. No Katy ISD data-students, staff or otherwise-is shared with Social Sentinel.

Director of compliance for special education appointed
Trustees appointed Gwendolyn Coffey the new director for compliance of special education.

"Ms. Coffey will direct the district's special education program to ensure provision of a continuum of comprehensive services for students with disabilities for 0-21 years of age," Maria Corrales DiPetta, KISD communications media relations manager said in an email.

Multi-bell schedule update
Trustees were provided transportation plans that coordinate with the new multi-bell schedule in which elementary schools were divided into two groups for the 8 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. start times.

The schools recommended to trustees for group 1, or an 8 a.m. start time include:
Wolfe Elementary, Katy Elementary, Memorial Parkway Elementary, Bear Creek Elementary Cimarron Elementary, Winborn Elementary, Nottingham Country Elementary, Sundown Elementary, Hayes Elementary, McRoberts Elementary, Alexander Elementary, Williams Elementary, Rylander Elementary, Exley Elementary, Rhoads Elementary, Franz Elementary, Griffin Elementary, WoodCreek Elementary, Stanley Elementary, Shafer Elementary, Randolph Elementary and Campbell Elementary.

The schools recommended to trustees for group 2, or an 8:20 a.m. start time include:
West Memorial Elementary, Hutsell Elementary, Mayde Creek Elementary, Pattison Elementary, Golbow Elementary, Fielder Elementary, Creech Elementary, King Elementary, Schmalz Elementary, Kilpatrick Elementary, Stephens Elementary, Morton Ranch Elementary, Holland Elementary, Wilson Elementary, Wolman Elementary, Davidson Elementary, Jenks Elementary, Bethke Elementary and Bryant Elementary School.

Officials recommend shifting dual credit GPA weight
Officials from the Department of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction provided trustees with an update on dual credit courses after a survey and several reports were conducted to analyze the district expanding its dual credit options.

Among the recommendations to the board, officials asked trustees consider developing a district-wide recruitment plan to increase the number of Master's teachers available to teach dual credit classes. Trustees were also asked to consider shifting the GPA weight for dual credit courses from 4.0 to 4.5 beginning with the Class of 2022, or incoming 9th graders in 2018.

Trustee Courtney Doyle argued students will prefer to take AP classes in order to earn 5 credit points instead of 4.5.

"If we want to have dual credit enticing to our students, I don't think that a 4.5 is going to be enticing, because it's going to have to be a 5.0 credit," Doyle said. "The kids that are working that GPA game, that are going to want this course as a college credit, are going to want it to be a 5.0 credit. So why are we choosing this to be a 4.5 versus a 5.0.?"

Cazilda Steele, executive director for the department of secondary curriculum and instruction, said after working with an AP district advisory council and KISD staff, the 4.5 credit is what was agreed upon by dual credit teachers and principals.

Trustee Rebecca Fox showed support for the GPA shift but asked why it was recommended to wait until 2022 to implement the change.

"The major reason why are waiting and we are doing it with a class of students is to that every student has the same advantage," Steele said.

Districtwide contracts approved
Trustees went on to approve several district-wide contracts, including a $798,000 contract for maintenance and operations center parking that would expand parking lots for district vehicles, equipment parking and staff parking, according to DiPetta.

Trustees also approved a $2.9 million contract for districtwide lighting upgrades that include implementing all LED lighting and upgrading the existing light fixtures and lighting control systems.

Trustees went on to approve a $2.3 million contract for 41 total portable buildings to be relocated or replaced at up to nine campuses. Officials said funds from the General Operating Fund and the 2017 Bond will be used for the buildings.

"A portable building is a financially responsible way to manage enrollment growth and campus program needs," DiPetta said. "At Katy ISD, new portable buildings are used as classrooms and there are two portables per building. At other campuses, which are not facing increased enrollment, portables can be used as storage until they are needed again as classrooms."

Language labs contract approved
Trustees approved a $306,794 contract to upgrade or install additional language labs at all eight district high schools. A language lab is an audio resource used for an aid for world language teaching, according to DiPetta. The new labs are needed to bring high schools up to district standards, as some Katy ISD labs are 10 years old, according to DiPetta.

"The lab environment is mainly a tool for students in our advanced languages courses," DiPetta said. "This will provide teacher access to a language lab system that will improve their instructional time by allowing them to record and listen to students speaking in the interpersonal and presentation mode, both individually and in pairs or groups."

Updates to existing labs will be made at Cinco Ranch High School, Morton Ranch High School, Taylor High School, Katy High School. New labs will be installed at Tompkins High School, Mayde Creek High School and Paetow High School. One lab will be updated at Seven Lakes High School and a new lab was also be installed at that campus as well.

Trustees will meet again for a work study meeting 6:30 p.m. May 21. 6301 S. Stadium Lane, Katy. http://www.katyisd.org/Pages/default.aspx


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