Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air -- Grand Prairie ISD Board Meeting

I am writing this tonight from the Grand Prairie ISD Board of Trustees meeting. Most of you know that my fiancĂ©e’, Doris Hill, is the President of the Grand Prairie Education Association/TSTA/NEA. Since she has suffered through many a DISD Board meeting, I thought it would be nice to come and keep her company for theirs.

Board meeting began at 7:12pm with the presentation of the colors by one of their high school ROTC Color Guards. The Board then recognized schools who received what they call “Gold Acknowledgement Awards”. These awards are based on academic successes judged by “commended” rates, etc on the TAKS tests. Sixty-eight (68) were presented tonight with the Principals of each school coming up and receiving their awards. That was an increase over thirty-one (31) that was presented last year.

Next, Open Forum. The Superintendent, Dr. Susan Simpson, stated that this is the time for individuals to speak to the Board. Speakers can pick up a card from staff and turn it in and speak TONIGHT! WOW! No having to sign up at least 24 HOURS IN ADVANCE! No rules about having not have spoken in the last thirty (30) days! Can you believe that a Board of Trustees would allow this?!

Consent Agenda was approved by the Board, but the Superintendent only recommended that it be adopted as presented. She did tell them that any board member could move to have something pulled for separate consideration. That's a motion to do that TONIGHT! Can you believe that?

Now comes a report on the GPISD’s TAKS passing rates. All groups passed Writing/Social Studies at 90% or greater, Reading/Lanuage Arts at 80% or greater, Math at 70% or greater, and Science at 60% or greater. Dr. Simpson pointed out that there is still work to do in Math and Science. But, there are NO low performing schools in GPISD.

Action Items:

One employee had term contract terminated. Superintendent called them out by name and the Board approved.

2009-2010 Calendar, approved.

403(b) Plan Adoption – new regulations issued by the IRS and some changes had to be made. The Superintendent had her person come and answer questions about the new plan. (IN DISD, JEM now handles all 403(b) accounts, so you will see them on your pay stub instead of your individual plan.)

Board approved Compromise, Settlement, and Release Agreement between a contractor and the District that had gone to court.

Board approved declaring a piece of property as surplus.

Superintendent introduced interim Principal at Lee MS, then new Principal at 9th Grade Center, and new Principal at their Career High School. Principals had moved up warranting a new Principal at Lee MS.

Information Items:

2007 Bond Program Update -- Rayburn Elementary School Addition, Eisenhower Elementary School Addition, Austin Elementary Gym, Bonham Elementary Gym, Bowie Elementary Gym, Fannin Elementary, Career High School – Career High School should be ready for Fall 2009 opening. The bond director actually showed the Board aerial photos of each school showing the construction progress.

Board Directives/Requests: Superintendent reported to the Board about sewer issues at Reagan MS.

Comments from Individual Board Members: Another breath of fresh air. In GPISD Trustees can give comments on what they want. So far, no one is blasting another Trustee or even the Administration! They all have commended the Principals and Students for all of their hard work for bringing up the TAKS scores. Finally, Trustee Martinez did mention Teachers.

GPISD also has a Bingham on their Board. Ms. Bebe Bingham. She is the only board member who is not a graduate of Grand Prairie ISD, but she was the Principal for three other board members.

Great Texas Scholars—a program that has students come to Board meetings, etc. Board President had them all come and get signatures of board members showing that they were present at the Board meeting.

8:24pm – Board adjourns to closed session for some discussions. Minor stuff, nothing like evaluating the Superintendent or an $84 million deficit.

Well, quite interesting and quite refreshing. A Board, who is supportive of their teachers, children and principals. A Board, who realizes that they are NOT THE LAW, but have to OBEY THE LAW. A Board who realizes that they have an obligation to the Children and Community of Grand Prairie.