FISD donates land to county, hears about bullying, gets a clean audit.

During its regular Oct. 07, 2021 meeting, the Forney Independent School District Board met to hear from parents about bullying issues, recognize Principal Appreciation Month, consider donating land, annual audit.

  • U. S. Flag - Mary Moseley, 6th Grade Student, Rhea Intermediate was unable to attend in person. Dr. Barbi Donehoo, Principal of Rhea Intermediate, said Mary is in Jr. Honor Society, band, likes math, helps other students.  Later a video was shown of Mary reciting the pledge.
  • Texas Pledge - Blake Banks, 4th Grade Student, Lewis Elementary was not yet present due to the heavy traffic on Bois d'Arc - Ms. Jenny Harstrom, Principal of Lewis Elementary, said he is respectful, hardworking, polite and always smiling.  He likes math, soccer, basketball, video games.
  • Principal Appreciation Month - Dr. Judy Webber, Chief of Learner Services, introduced all the principals who each received a gift.
  • Monthly Financial Report
        Mr. John Chase, Chief Financial Officer, said collections are at 1%, same as last year.  Got 7.6 million from state which is for prior year attendance.  Expenditures: 19.9 mil, 15% of budget, includes 2.3 mil for capital expenses for new schools, funds came from bonds.  Food service: 2% annual, expect federal income, should have no shortage this year.  Expenses: 7% of budget, same as last year.  Debt Service: 1% of income, submitted a request to revise prior year property values as they caused reduction in state aid.  Expended: 20.8 mil for early bond retirement, saving $6.2 million.
  • Summary of Finance Update
        Mr. Chase said state determines attendance and property tax this month.  Were paid on attendance of 12,158, reported 12,200 but were capped at a lower value.  State did not reduce payments to offset Esser grants.  Property value stated as 5.5 billion.  Original state payment was short by 2.9 mn, settled up in Sep.  New state requirement is to inform board of relationship between state aid and property taxes.  As property values increase, state aid goes down.  Estimating that will reduce FISD payments by 7.6 mn.  Budget adjusts for that.  Dr. Terry said the "hold harmless" loss of 1.2 mn they didn't have to take was due to hard work of staff during virtual learning.  Mr. Chase said many districts filed lawsuits about that adjustment.
  • Forney Academy to Certify Teachers Report
        Dr. Judy Webber, Chief of Learner Services, introduced Leslie Rader who spoke about the teacher shortage.  Dept. of Education in 2016 began warning about decrease in supply of teachers.  State TEA began warning in 2014.  FISD enrollment estimates are higher than recently stated.  FISD has partnered with TeachWorthy program, an empowerment program for existing employees to attend BA classes, helping High school students get college credits for a teaching path.  Dr. Terry said he's proud of these programs, people are switching out of the profession, partly due to COVID.  This could be a model for other districts.
  • Forney ISD Comprehensive Safety & Wellness Plan Update
        Ms. Kristin Zastoupil, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications said district is "relationships first" - connecting with kids is most important thing they can do.  Staff is building relationships every day, as are partners from the community. 
        Mr. Geer spoke about the FISD police dept., and at High Schools they have third-party security for student welfare, to patrol the campuses and maintain order.  Jill Smith was appointed to oversee emergency services.  Have a great health services dept. run by Stacie Brown.  They have a weekly COVID vaccine clinic.  Ms. Pearce said have counselors to help with student mental health.  Mr. Geer said the SmartTag system is used for bus riders.  Student grades 5+ must wear ID badges.  Have a multi-tier threat assessment system in place.  Info on anti-bullying program is on website. Three components of the program: character development, conflict resolution and acquiring empathy.  "Bullying is strictly prohibited in Forney ISD schools." Techniques are using Capturing Kid's Hearts program, restorative practices, and the IRL curriculum.  FISD will continue with Flippin Group programs to create healthy relationships, positive character development, decreasing risk factors.  Restorative practices seek to repair harm emphasizing direct communication.  Senate bill 179 expanded ability of school districts to look at cyber-bullying off-campus and provide for anonymous reporting of bullying events.  Website and app provide this for students and community.  They partnered with Kaufman County Crime-stoppers to provide after-hours reporting of events.  "Pathways and Connect" are programs to help students.  Pathways is designed for K-2, Connect is for 9-10.  Ms. Pearce talked about the Securely app to provide notifications of events.  IRL (in real life) is best for ages 9-13.  This incorporates themes from CKH (Capturing Kid's Hearts).  FISD is a Common Sense Media district to promote safe use of online services. 
        Mr. Geer spoke about district collaborative efforts, adopting I Love You Guys program standard response protocols for emergencies and reunification, and collaborations with first responders.  Task force regularly meets with all law enforcement agencies to solve safety issues.  Engage in joint training, information sharing.  District safety task force works to identify problems, propose recommendations, among other tasks.  Diversity inclusion committee works to raise cultural awareness.  Each campus has a member on Process Change team to work with CKH program.  Ms. Pearce said they have a crisis team who receive specialized training.  Each campus will provide, twice each quarter, a parent information seminar.
        Ms. Morisak said provided free breakfast and lunch for all students, made possible by Dept. Agriculture grants.  Install hand sanitizers in every classroom, cleaning crews spray with Virex every night.  Every campus has secured entrances, put in key-less badge system in recent past which allows immediate stop of access when needed.  Thanks to bonds, improved security on many campuses, with fencing and gates, increased stacking space to keep cars off city streets, sidewalks and more roads at Jackson/Rhodes.  Updated cameras on all buses, and in buildings.  After Christmas, will begin upgrading outdoor cameras.
        Ms. Zastoupil spoke about meeting monthly with PTO, booster clubs, pastors, retired educators, realtors, provide a resource fair, food drive, emergency meetings (such as when students home burn down).  They send out alerts on many channels.  They meet with other entity public information officers.  Safety and Wellness plans are constantly evolving.
        Dr. Terry said safety of students and staff is number one priority, many-layered approach.
  • Public Comment
    • Katrina Burkhalter said over 14k students, children are 45-50% of entire population.  Due to growth, safety of children has become more compromised.  Volume of incidents is easily three times of years past.  She's watched the meetings where city and school officials paint an exciting picture of new growth, rooftops, businesses, the OC, all of which dominate discussions and priorities.  She wants to talk about children's safety, which should be top priority.  Many new district changes occurred this year, including the 2-mile perimeter for bus service.  There was a terrible accident where a bicycling student was hit by a car.  There have been reports of knives and guns on campus, assaults while walking home, bullies throwing hot sauce in students eyes, physical assaults on buses.  She reached out to city council twice, now to school board.  Need accountability and ownership, need safety before rooftops, or the OC which "stands to drive an exorbitant amount of revenue back into the district." Lives must be #1 priority, kids are hurting, coming home with horror stories of their school days, begging their parents to not go back.  Bullying is happening.  Statistics say almost 5,000 kids will be victimized this year.  The approach to dealing with safety isn't working, didn't work in Mansfield either.  She asked the board to take a stand, lead a partnership with the city, crossing jurisdictional boundaries to help with safety issues.  And to add an agenda item to each meeting until a solid plan has been established for student safety.
    • Christina (Maria Eckert) said she's been here 19 years, 95% of her experience with FISD has been amazing, she thanked them.  But she's tired of seeing people online calling kids thugs, punks, criminals, ghetto, and of parents saying something was taken from their child.  Mainly, is sick and tired of shootings, awful fights, kids being molested walking home, guns at school, kids being pushed into traffic, but it's unforgivable to hear about kids committing suicide.  She wants FISD to have mandatory training classes for all students and staff, let's show the world that Forney cares, not one more kid will go to jail or be bullied.
    • Rhonda Moga said she was afraid for her kids to go to school here, after looking at comments online, she kept them in Mesquite until this year.  So far, they have been bullied, hit, pushed, threatened - they are in elementary school.  Someone told her daughter they were going to kill her mom; the daughter cried for 3 days.  Bullying really needs to be addressed.  Even riding the bus has problems - sometimes the driver has to stop the bus because of what's happening.  She's not being told by the district when something happens to her child.  It's important to get the parents involved.  Have a club after school where the kids can build relationships with each other.  Her kids were excited going to a new school, but now they don't feel safe.  She asked the board to address the bullying so the kids can be safe.
    • Pamela Hudson said they are new here this year, her son has been repeatedly bullied.  He rides the bus, she's reported several issues but is told the videos don't show anything.  When she tells her son to defend himself, the outcome is it's his fault.  She saw a backpack be thrown from a moving bus - when she told the bus driver, the FISD police came to her house to ticket her for stepping on the bus.  Her son is 7, is dyslexic and has ADHD, was followed home by 10 year olds who fought him.  She was told there should be extra security on the bus due to issues, but every day there are more.  The SmartTag does not always notify her before his bus arrives, she's afraid of the day when she's not there to meet him and he gets victimized.  Please don't turn a blind eye to the bullying. 
    • Wayne Pullen said he was a deeply concerned parent with personal experience with bullying, he tried to work through the system to resolve issues impacting his and other children who ride the bus.  He's left feeling there is no accountability; community perception is safety issues are swept under the rug and, when possible, they try to hide and strong-arm rather than solving the problems.  More schools going up, more crime.  During the election, child safety was a topic, but where is the action since then? Need a plan for children who have to walk or ride bikes.  There's no real enforcement of the zero-tolerance policy of bullying, which is often labelled "mutual combat." Should be real consequences of bullying.  He said the student at Timberview took matters into his own hands after repeated bullying, some parents will be worried sick that will happen in Forney.  He asked the board: "do you worry like the parents do?"

  • Approved as one consent item:
    • Budget Amendment
    • the School Closure Waiver
    • Resolution to Pay Employees Due to Emergency Closure
    • Hazardous Bus Routes
    • Payment to Mesquite Regional Day School for the Deaf
    • Oncor Easement for Aquatic Center

  • Approved adoption of a resolution declaring surplus certain unimproved real property consisting of fifteen acres, more or less, located adjacent to North Forney High school at 6170 Falcon Way, Forney, TX, 75126, and authorizing the donation of said real property (surface only) to Kaufman County to carry out a public purpose that benefits Forney ISD.
        Ms. Kim Morisak, Chief Operations Officer, stated this was to donate 15 acres adjacent to NFHS to Kaufman County for a county substation.  This will increase the presence of law enforcement personnel, and increase student and staff safety.  The property may not be used for detention or persons in custody, or have any cells.  It must contain a classroom to used used for FISD programs.  This was originally a lease, county prefers a donation.  Dr. Terry was excited to partner with the county, this will benefit the school system and the community.
        After approval, Sheriff Beavers appreciates the partnership, this will help them provide services - they can't break ground fast enough.  County Commissioner Phillips said he can give them money fast enough to break ground, they will be proud of the facility, they are very grateful.
  • Approved annual financial audit.
        Mr. Chase introduced Auditor Rep Mr. Tonn who said it went well, no issues with management, district is in good financial condition.  Dealing with the growth has been a financial challenge, which FISD has met.  They rendered an "unmodified opinion" which is the highest level possible.  They show two sets of statements: government-wide and a Fund financial statement.  The first shows a net position of negative 90 mn, 10 mn less than last year, mostly due to requirements for pensions and OPEB liabilities.  The second shows a 52.9 mn balance, up 6 mn from last year.  The district is in good financial condition.  The unassigned fund balance is very healthy.  Tax collection rate is good. 
        Internal controls and grant compliance were examined, had no findings.
        He thanked Mr. Chase and staff for their cooperation.  Dr. Terry thanked the firm for their work.  Mr. Tonn said it's been a challenging year with all the grants and protocols.
  • Held a -minute executive session re:
    • Employment of Professional Contract Personnel, Pursuant to Tex. Gov't Code 551.074
    • the Pursuit of Sanctions for Educator Abandonment of Contract, Pursuant to Tex. Gov't Code 551.074, Personnel Matters
    • Consultation with Attorney, Pursuant to Tex. Gov't Code 551.071
    • Approved the employment of professional contract personnel as presented.
      As Discussed in Closed Session
    • Re: the pursuit of sanctions for educator abandonment of contract: found no good cause existed for Monticello and Gutierrez to abandon their contracts, authorized superintendent to take steps to report this to State Board for action.
    • Adjourned at 1938.
Thursday, 2021, October 7