It’s hard to believe six weeks of school has already come and gone. Things are rolling right along. The Punchers of 2012 are following right along in their predecessors’ footsteps with a 5-0 record, the band is gearing up for their marching contest in Brady on October 20th and Cross Country is in full swing.
In the classroom, there have been changes made to the jr. high and high school schedules and some of those changes have required some adjustments on the part of students and staff. The principals and teachers are monitoring the students’ progress very closely in relation to the schedule changes made and while we have not yet gotten past the adjustment period, rest assured student success is our number one priority. There were several factors contributing to the decision made to go from the modified block schedule (which is somewhat like a college schedule) of last year to a traditional 8-period day schedule. Some of those factors include: assessment results that were received on the day before the last day of school in May, additional opportunities for remediation for those students who did not pass their state-mandated assessments, attention spans of most teenagers, no clear cut research supporting either type schedule, our own research revealing schools that are successful under both systems, increased time per class by approximately 18 minutes per week, and 14 staff members shared between the two campuses. We will continue to monitor the students’ progress and make adjustments as necessary.
I’m sure the majority of you with children in school have noticed or been told about the changes in the cafeteria. Last spring I spent lots of time visiting other cafeterias who serve approximately the same number of students as MISD. What I discovered was not only were other schools offering more menu choices, they were also staffed with half as many employees. Historically our cafeteria has operated “in the red” to the tune of around $30,000 per year. After looking at many options, the board and I decided to hire Aramark Education as a consulting firm to reorganize and restructure the operating system in our cafeteria. In the current budget the local subsidy for the cafeteria was reduced from $31,000 in the 2011-12 budget, to just over $7,000 with the reduction of staff. As school began, it became apparent there was more training to be done requiring more time from Aramark. Of course, that figure will have to be adjusted to meet those demands. It will take some time for the staff to become accustomed to the new structure. During this adjustment period we ask that parents and students be patient and please let us hear from you if you have concerns. Our goal is to serve our students a healthy lunch they will enjoy while still meeting the very strict federal and state guidelines. The cafeteria staff is working diligently to achieve this goal.
MISD just completed an on-site review conducted by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). We were randomly selected out of the schools in Region XV for this review. Specifically the review was monitoring our progress and compliance in the areas of Special Education, Bilingual/ESL program, Career and Technology Education and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Two TEA monitors spent approximately three days interviewing staff and parents as well as reviewing records for the four programs mentioned. I am happy to report we are in compliance in all areas and the TEA team was very complimentary of our staff, our school and our programs.
The comptroller’s office recently published the 2012 FAST ratings based on data from the 2008-09, 09-10 and 10-11 school years. The ratings “identify school districts and campuses that use resource allocation practices that contribute to high academic achievement and cost-effective operations.” Mason ISD received a four-star rating. A five-star rating is the highest rating possible. When compared to other districts of similar size and demographics, MISD continues to rank among the top.
Just as a reminder, the voters in 2004 passed a $2 million, twenty-year bond issue to ease the MISD financial burden of that time. While the bond is not due for repayment until 2024, the board of trustees and I have remained steadfast to the promise made by former superintendent Matt Underwood, to repay the bond in ten years which will be February of 2014. I am happy to report we are right on schedule to be able to do just that. Our bond repayment fund balance is approximately $99,000 short of the $2 million mark. Our plan is to add the remaining $99,000 to the fund balance at the end of this budget cycle. While the past two years have been quite challenging with the funding cuts made by the state, our enrollment continues to increase. Funding is directly tied to enrollment. When enrollment increases, funding increases. Our net enrollment increase as of now is close to 40 students putting us at a total enrollment of approximately 720 students.
The enrollment increase is just one more piece of evidence supporting what we all know is true about our community—this is a great place to live and raise kids. Our kids are great because our parents, school system and community insists and expects them to be nothing less. Thank you for your continuing support of our schools.