Fort Bend ISD received a superior score on the Texas Education Agency’s Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas, a measurement that examines school districts’ financial management practices, staff said at Monday’s board of trustees meeting.

Board members also reviewed proposals to hire five additional personnel to support the 2018 bond program and schematic designs of a new elementary school in Aliana.

  1. FBISD financial accountability rating

FBISD scored 98 out of 100 possible points on a rating system measuring the quality of its financial management policies and practices for fiscal year 2015-16, obtaining “superior achievement” standing, FBISD Chief Financial Officer Steve Bassett said.

The district’s performance was based on 15 indicators measuring its critical financial components, financial solvency and financial competency, said Dina Edgar, the executive director of business and finance.

The indicators compared the school district’s current assets and current liabilities, examined whether it complied with terms of all debt agreements, and reviewed its annual financial report and data among other things, according to meeting documents.

“We’re just happy to report that everything’s on track,” Bassett said. “This is the 15th year that we’ve received the highest rating allowed.”

2) 2018 bond program update

The board reviewed staff’s proposal to hire five additional personnel to support and execute the 2018 bond program, including a design manager, a logistics specialist, project manager, contract specialist, and executive assistant.

“There’s a lot of pre-work that goes into a bond program,” said Amanda Bubela, FBISD’s director of external communications and media relations.

For the previous bond program, the school district worked with these specialists and professionals through an outside consultant, FBISD Chief Operations Officer Oscar Perez said.

Trustee Jim Rice brought up FBISD’s budget shortfall and questioned the rationality of these new hires.

“It [costs] approximately $150,000, and we’ll go ahead and use bond 2014 funds, then eventually switch over to [bond 2018 funds] once it passes,” Perez said. “These five positions reduce five outside consultant positions.”

It would not affect the FBISD maintenance and operations budget, he said. These are not all new positions because some refer to promoted positions.

“The advantage of it is we’ve been hiring qualified people that can do this work,” Perez said. “It will cost a lot less to go ahead and manage them in this manner.”

For the 2014 bond program, the school district works with a contractor, Jacobs Egnineering, who has control over who they bring on for these projects, Perez said.

“Right now, the way the contract is written, Jacobs [Engineering], in this case, has that ability,” he said. “They know when they bring on project managers. They know when they release them, and the benefit is not really to the district. We’re paying a fixed fee at this point to Jacobs.”

Hiring these additional personnel and bringing them “in-house” rather than going through a consultant would allow FBISD to exert more control in management, Perez said.

“We utilize them during the duration of the time that we need the position, and we can scale back,” he said. “It cuts our costs.”

3) Elementary School 51

A representative from AUTOARCH Architects, Inc. presented schematic designs for a new two-story elementary school in the Aliana community. The preliminary budget for this project is nearly $42 million, according to meeting documents.

“Elementary School 51 is based on Madden Elementary School but with some very deliberation distinctions,” said AUTOARCH principal Farrah Sabouni said. “There is an increase in size to a core to serve 1,000 students with the current design for 850 students—that is expandable to 1,000 students.”

The design incorporates observations and notes taken from site visits and meetings with principals from nearby schools, Sabouni said.

“It’s a school that’s going to incorporate the lessons learned from recent elementary school designs that were built in the district and a school that can be built economically,” she said.

The exterior design includes two sites for optimal student pickups and drop-offs, long driveways for queue lines, and circulation for better flexibility and mobility, Sabouni said.

The design plan also emphasizes outdoor learning spaces, folding partitions for assemblies of various sizes, wider corridors for better traffic flow, and open activity spaces for small and large group instruction, she said.

“The design of this future elementary school encourages flexibility in use and offers opportunities for growth,” Sabouni said. “It is a school designed for learning to take place both inside and outside the classroom.”