GAINESVILLE – Gainesville Independent School District officials are in regrouping mode following the November 8 defeat of a $68.7 million bond package.
Proposition A was a $68.7 million package which included security updates, classroom additions, cafeteria expansion at certain locations and roofing, HVAC and plumbing work. Proposition B was for a $25 million package that included a 600-seat auditorium which would also serve as a storm shelter for Gainesville High School.
Proposition A had 770 votes for and 1,114 against while Proposition B fell by a vote of 648 for and 1,242 against.
Addressing the bond, Superintendent Dr. Des Stewart thanked those who voted.
“Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short,” he said. “But you know I try to find key takeaways in any situation… Looking at the last bond election we had compared to this bond election, you know, we’ve gained a lot of voters.”
Voters denied a $70 million bond proposal in 2021 after a 2020 $35.1 million bond proposal was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said he has hope voters will eventually support a bond.
“You know, I think slowly but surely our community is coming around and they’re understanding the needs,” he said. “My team and I, we’ve started the process of debriefing. I’ll be meeting with some other members of our community just to talk through what went well, what may not have gone so well if hopes of kind of revising our game plan moving forward.”
“Even though the bond failed, the needs of the schools have not gone away,” he said.
High priority issues include replacing a failing roof at Gainesville Junior High at a cost of around $3 million. Other projects that were part of the bond will be examined.
“Unfortunately, we do not have the financial means to take care of all of the projects,” he said. “So, we’re going to have to eat this elephant one bite at a time.”
Stewart also talked about state legislation involving House Bill 1 and House Bill 2. He noted legislators are in their fourth called special session.
“Right now, it looks as if we’re probably going to see a voucher program coming forward,” Stewart said, adding Governor Greg Abbott has tied the voucher program to additional funding for needs including teacher salaries.
He said historically, school voucher programs start out small. “And then they grow incrementally over time,” Stewart said creating a new financial commitment for the state while public schools are already underfunded.
“This continues to be a source of concern amongst superintendents but at this point, it’s really kind of out of our hands,” he said. “We continue to address our legislators, our representatives, we can write letters and what not but the fight is going on in Austin as we speak.”
He also presented updates on enrollment and attendance.
Enrollment continues to closely mirror last year’s numbers with 3,099 total enrollment compared to 3,095 at this time last year, he said.
Attendance is on an upward trajectory at 95.24 percent this year compared to 93.75 at the same time last year.
The board also heard a report from finance director Alyce Greer. Greer noted the district received an “A” rating on the 2022-2023 Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas Report.
The ratings are based upon analysis of staff and student data reported for the 2021-2022 school year in addition to budgetary and financial data for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The district earned 100 out of 100 points, according to the district.
Leopard Pride Students of the Month for November were Joseph Fisher and Sydney Giles of Gainesville High School, Isabella Costilla and Molly Kate Pyle of Gainesville Junior High School, Genesis Huerta and Gage Hill of Lee Intermediate School, Skye Trahan and Makaylah Franklin of Chalmers Elementary School and Giovani Huerta and Daniel Puga of Edison Elementary School.
The artwork of students in Janet Johnson’s classes at Chalmers Elementary School was on display at the meeting.
Employee of the Month for November was Andrew Neal of the maintenance department.
Teachers of the Month were Traci Cato, a kindergarten teacher at Edison Elementary and Jeremy Thomas, 7th and 8th grade reading intervention teacher at Gainesville Junior High.
Paula Parkhill, who heads up the Student Health Advisory Council, presented a report focused mainly on nutrition, campus visitors during mealtimes and meal deliveries to GHS.
The SHAC committee recommended against allowing commercial meals deliveries to students, allowing visitors to eat with students only on designated days or during extenuating circumstances and making GISD a nut-free school district.
No actions were taken on the recommendations. Board member Latecia Hendricks requested the item be placed on a future agenda.
The board also discussed the GISD Grow Your Own Program. Assistant Superintendent of HR noted the district recommended six applicants for the program which helps paraprofessionals earn their bachelor’s degree so they can become classroom instructors and eventually teacher interns.
Under action items, the board approved casting the district’s 1,003 votes for Nathan Dempsey in the election for Cooke County Tax Appraisal District Board of Directors, a quote from Farmer Environmental for state mandated testing and monitoring of asbestos abatement, a collaboration agreements between GISD and Indiana Wesleyan University and GISD and Teachworthy for the Grow Your Own Program for teachers and policy updates.
Consent agenda items approved were minutes of the Oct. 16, 2023 regular meeting, monthly bill list, financial statement, budget amendment and AUI Partners, LLC payment application No. 8 for ag facility expansion.
All board members were present with the exception of Dan Doss.