Here's a look at Katy ISD's priorities in 2017

The 2016-17 Katy ISD board of trustees, from left: (top row) George Scott, Charles Griffin, Superintendent Lance Hindt, Treasurer Bryan Michalsky, Sergeant-at-Arms Henry Dibrell, (seated row) Vice President Ashley Vann, President Rebecca Fox and Secretary Courtney Doyle

The 2016-17 Katy ISD board of trustees, from left: (top row) George Scott, Charles Griffin, Superintendent Lance Hindt, Treasurer Bryan Michalsky, Sergeant-at-Arms Henry Dibrell, (seated row) Vice President Ashley Vann, President Rebecca Fox and Secretary Courtney Doyle

Top issues for 2017

  • Opening three more new schools: KISD will open another three new schools for the 2017-18 school year: Paetow High School, Stockdick Junior High  School and Bryant Elementary School. Paetow and Stockdick will be located in northwestern Katy, and Bryant will be located in southwestern Katy. Combined with the three new schools that opened for the 2016-17 school year, they cost 47.7 percent of the roughly $748 million 2014 bond package.

  • Boundary modifications: In preparation for the three new schools that will open for the 2017-18 school year, the KISD board approved attendance boundary modifications for 2017-18 at its Dec. 12 meeting. Paetow High School will absorb students from Katy and Morton Ranch high schools; Stockdick Junior High School will take on growth from Katy and McDonald junior high schools; and Bryant Elementary School will provide relief for Katy and Wolman elementary schools.

  • District of innovation designation: KISD is in the process of pursuing a district of innovation designation. If the district becomes a DOI, it would be exempt from state law in three ways: having a flexible school calendar, eliminating the position of campus behavior coordinator and removing the certification requirement for instructors in certain areas of study. The board adopted a resolution to explore a DOI designation at its Sept. 26 meeting. At the time of publication, the board was expected to approve on the district’s Local Innovation Plan at its Jan. 23 meeting. The LIP will be in effect for up to five years.

  • Legislative priorities: The district’s Legislative Priorities Advisory Committee presented its official recommendations to the board Nov. 21, and the board approved them at its Dec. 5 workshop. LPAC’s four priorities include increased funding for state mandates, equitable accountability and transparency for all state-funded schools, streamlined Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills—also known as TEKS—and the removal of the state’s 8.5 percent cap for students receiving special education services.

Big decisions made in 2016

  • Hiring of new superintendent: Lance Hindt signed a contract July 1 to become Katy ISD’s newest superintendent. He replaced Alton Frailey, who held the position for nine years. The most recent stop in Hindt’s decades-long career in public education was with Allen ISD, where he served as superintendent since March 2014. His base salary was set at $375,000. Additionally, Hindt’s wife, Kathryn, was hired as a math instructor at Wolman Elementary School.

  • Opening of three new schools: KISD opened three new schools for the 2016-17 school year—Jenks and Bethke elementary schools and Tays Junior High School. Excluding alternative education facilities, the district now has 60 schools, including 39 elementary schools, 14 junior high schools and seven high schools. KISD’s current enrollment is projected at over 75,000 students. To accommodate growth and improve existing facilities, there are multiple  renovation and construction projects throughout the district.

  • Opening of Simon Youth Academy at Katy Mills: In partnership with the Simon Youth Foundation and Katy Mills, the district opened Simon Youth Academy at Katy Mills on Sept. 22. The facility is a nontraditional high school that was constructed in what used to be a 5,000-square-foot mall storage space. The foundation also added KISD’s Martha Raines High School to its network as part of the partnership. The foundation—which now has 29 academies in 12 states—has produced more than 14,000 graduates and awarded $16 million in scholarships.

  • Naming rights deal: The district announced Dec. 12 it had signed a 10-year, $2.5 million naming rights contract for its student activity complex with Academy Sports+Outdoors. The sponsorship agreement applies to the portion of the complex encompassing Rhodes Stadium, the second stadium and common areas. For example, Rhodes Stadium will now be known as Rhodes Stadium at Academy Sports+Outdoors Student Activity Complex. Founded in 1938 in San Antonio, Academy Sports+Outdoors is headquartered in the Katy area in an unincorporated part of Harris County.

  • Shaw Center international award finalist: KISD’s Robert R. Shaw Center for STEAM—a $5.4 million, 24,000-square-foot facility that houses several of the district’s science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics programs—was one of three finalists for the 2016 MacConnell Award. Named after James D. MacConnell, who is widely considered to be the father of educational facility planning, the international award is given out annually to the project that best meets community engagement, innovative programming and functional adaptability criteria.

  • Budget and tax rate: KISD’s budget broke the $800 million threshold for the first time for fiscal year 2016-17. Approved by the board of trustees at its Aug. 23 meeting, the budget includes a 1 percent employee salary increase plus a one-time lump sum payment of an additional 1 percent that was distributed midyear. The district also kept the property tax rate at $1.5166 per $100 valuation—which includes $1.1266 for maintenance and operations and 39 cents for debt services. The debt services rate was lowered 1 cent in the FY 2015-16 budget after staying at 40 cents for several years.

  • Board election: George Scott upset 27-year incumbent Joe Adams in the May 7 board election. Following a May 24 recount, Scott received 1,479 votes, or 50.1 percent, to Adams’ 1,473 votes, or 49.9 percent. Scott ran on the platform that “The school board needs to do a more effective job of holding its administration accountable.” Scott is serving a three-year term in Position 1 on the board. Fellow board member Rebecca Fox was also  re-elected to Position 2 on May 7, and she was named president May 31.