75° F Tuesday, June 27, 2017

At a meeting Wednesday night, Eanes school board members approved 2013-14 employee contract renewals and nearly a million dollars in salary increases.
The $959,414 in approved increases provide a $400 raise for all teachers in addition to a step increase next year. The step increase for the first two years with the district is $200 and $600 for most other years, with an increase of $1,500 at year 21. Starting salary at the district is now $41,800.
“The administration believes that this recommendation will continue to assist us in meeting the district’s goal of recruiting and retaining exemplary employees,” Eanes Superintendent Nola Wellman said in her recommendation.
The district will cover an additional $35 of health insurance a month per employee next year, splitting the cost of an increase with those covered. That added benefit coverage will cost the district and its tax payers an additional $454,440 a year.
There was good news from district curriculum, instruction and testing head Bill Bechtol. Every Westlake High School senior passed all four Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills end-of-course exams and will therefore be eligible to graduate this spring. Younger students also performed well on 2013 State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness tests, Bechtol told board members.
Approximately 97 percent of fifth-grade students passed the STAAR reading test and 94 percent passed math. In eighth grade, 98 percent of students passed the reading portion and 97 percent passed math. No state results are yet available, but other high performing school districts had similar results, Bechtol said. The number of problems that students will need to successfully answer to pass STAAR exams will increase by 10 percent next year. State law requires fifth- and eighth-grade students to pass STAAR exams to advance to the next grade. Students who failed STAAR exams will have additional opportunities to test through the summer.
The school board gave administration the nod to move forward with projects funded with 2011 bond money. Those projects include a $638,388 increase in payment to Braun and Butler Construction for Bridge Point Elementary School playgrounds, upping the total cost of the construction to nearly $1.8 million. Funds for the increase will come from $287,247 in money left over from middle school track projects and fire alarms for Westlake High School, $320,468 left over from other elementary school playground projects and $30,673 from unallocated funds.  District business head Larry Keiser told board members that the district’s Bond Oversight Committee was “receptive” to the playground scope change.
“Originally we were thinking of doing much less than we actually wound up [deciding to] do,” Wellman said. “I am very proud of that. I hope that, in the future, we are able to spend more time coming up with these budgets so we can give the community a better idea of what we are thinking of doing.”
Board members also approved the use of up to $704,934 of 2011 bond funds for Americans with Disability Act improvements and HVAC replacement at the Central Administration office and $509,636 for additional district-wide security cameras and card readers.
The district will purchase $580,132 worth of new desktop and laptop computers for teachers and administrators.  The majority of those computers are more than 5 years old and their hardware and operating system are no longer supported by Dell, Wellman said.
Up to $157,632 in leftover 2006 bond money will be used to pay Broaddus & Associates for Phase II of master planning services. The district previously paid the company $84,952 for Phase I of that master plan development.
“Based on the [district] strategic plan and the 2012-13 district goals, the board of trustees and district administration recognized the need for a formal, board-approved district master plan,” Wellman noted in her recommendation to the board.
“What they are working on right now is implementation of the plan,” she told board members during Wednesday’s meeting.
The superintendent shared the results of a survey regarding the district’s budget given to local residents. She told board members that an overwhelming percentage of the 1,300 people responding to the survey supported the district’s focus on rigorous academic experience and enriching opportunities. Around 70 percent of respondents said they would support a two-cent tax increase. Around 70 percent also said they would support a new district bond initiative in 2014; 18 percent said they would oppose a new bond and 11 percent had no opinion on the matter.

“[The information] helps inform us about decisions that we will be facing over the next few years,” Wellman said.

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