Reporter: Ellie Mahan
March 15, 2023
The Whitney Independent School District Board of Trustees met in a regular session Monday, March 6, to approve an increase in the retention stipends for all WISD employees, discuss the future possibility of repaving the parking lot near the bus barn and hear other reports.
In August, the board approved a retention stipend for all WISD employees in the amount of $1,500, with half of that amount being distributed in October and half of it being distributed in April. The board voted to increase the amount distributed in April from $750 to $1,000.
Russell Gauer, director of operations, presented information to the board on asphalt paving bids for the district’s transportation road and parking lot. “If you’ve ever had to drive down to the warehouse and to the bus yard, you can tell, especially when it rains, that it’s not something that you want to drive a lot,” Gauer said.
During the school board meeting, Gauer stated his team had filled in one of the potholes in the transportation road a week ago, and the pothole was already back due to the wind. Gauer provided information on the three bids for the board’s consideration and suggested the bid that stood out to him as the most thoroughly planned. Gauer had discussed a timeline with this bidder, who stated that the road improvement work could begin in June and end in July.
“Anytime it rains, there at the bus barn you’re going to have water that wells up on the northeast side. Then around the corner of the warehouse on the west side, there is a big pool that gathers there,” Gauer said. The bidder that Gauer is recommending discussed providing culverts as part of the deal.
Based on the financial status of the district, Gauer recommended that the board vote to use chip seal as an alternative to asphalt. To allow the board time to think over the financial decision, the agenda item to approve an asphalt paving bid for the transportation road and parking lot was tabled and will be discussed further in future meetings.
The board voted to amend the budget by taking money out of the data processing fund and moving it to the JJAEP fund. The funds needed for JJAEP vary each school year and can be difficult to predict, which can lead to the need for adjustments in the budget. Assistant Superintendent Melody Haley had also planned a budget amendment in case the board approved an asphalt paving bid. If the board approves repaving the transportation road in the future, a portion of the funds will come out of facilities, and a portion will come out of transportation.
Melissa Marbut, director of assessment and accountability, summarized the content contained in the annual report for the 2021-2022 school year. She stated that the report is a culmination of all the information that has been presented to the board for the previous school year. The report consists of eight sections. The first section, which makes up the majority of the report, is the Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR), which includes information on: the district’s accountability rating, special education status, ASVAB test results, STAAR performance and participation, attendance, drop out rates, College Career and Military Readiness, and detailed reports on students staff and programs. The other portions of the reports are: the financial standard reports, accreditation status, campus improvement plans, violent or criminal incidents (which is zero at WISD), student performance in post-secondary institutions, progress of how the district is meeting board goals and the TAPR glossary.
The TAPR for each campus and the TAPR glossary is posted on the district’s website under the headings “our district” and “district reports.” Paper copies are also available at the central offices and at each of the campuses. The report was given to the board members in a binder so that they could look over it and ask any questions they may have.
The board approved the district’s 2023-2024 school calendar. The majority of teachers voted for the calendar, and only a few changes were made to the calendar following the vote. Administrators expressed support for the changes that were made. One change that was made to the calendar is that the staff development day that is now listed as April 8, 2023 was originally listed as April 15, 2023.
After speaking with County Judge Justin Lewis, the superintendent decided to move the staff development day to April 8, due to a total solar eclipse that will occur April 8, 2023. McCullough said, “They’re estimating anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 extra people in Hill County next April. We’re going to be in the blackout from about 1:50 to 2:05.” If school was in session on the day of the eclipse, there would’ve been an increase in traffic at the time of student dismissal with the influx of people in the area.
The board voted to enter into a memorandum of understanding for the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT) with Texas A&M University Health Science Center. The superintendent described TCHATT as an additional mental health resource for students. A nurse, counselor or administrator would recommend students for virtual counseling. Then, after Texas A&M TCHATT professionals conduct a parent interview, a student will be offered five counseling sessions. This will be a service that is free to students and has the potential to provide mental health care more quickly after students seek help.
During administrator reports, Intermediate School Principal Layna Philipp said that she was going to get slimed by her students at the end of the school week; her students earned the reward by raising funds for the American Heart Association. Middle School Principal Kendra Hensley said that the campus is finishing up interim testing before spring break comes. High School Principal Amy Leech said that the spring is a busy time at the high school. Kristy Smith, director of technology, said that because of the power outage that occurred during the week of the board meeting, the technology department had to re-image 36 machines.
The board approved the May election equipment lease agreement with Hill County Election Administration, and the members also approved a property bid in the amount of $3,310 for Woodland Hills, block 10, lot 8A. The bid represented the minimum bid at the time of the sale.
Assistant Superintendent Melody Haley reported that the district is at 94.3% attendance, whereas last year at this time, the attendance rate was 88.91%.
Superintendent McCullough announced four retirements and resignations: Michelle Kaase, Sharon Jones, Cody Fitch and Shay Wilingham.
Nominated for WISD’s staff member of the month for the month of March is Meghann Gatlin, Whitney High School special education teacher and English inclusion teacher. In her nomination statement, Principal Leech wrote that Gatlin worked with younger age groups in the Whitney school district before moving up to the high school. Now she plays a vital part in the day-to-day happenings at WHS.
Leech wrote, “Not only does Meghann take care of our special education caseload, which entails preparing and overseeing the plans of over 50 plus special education students, but she is a constant in the lives of all students who step into her content mastery room. She has a way about her that draws students in because they know she will help them find academic success by holding them accountable for their work and their behavior. Her personality is the perfect fit to handle the chaos of a high school content mastery room, and her students are blessed to have her as an advocate. She builds wonderful rapport with students, and in turn, students trust and look to Meghann as a mentor.”
The WISD board of trustees will meet again Monday, April 10.