An issue that had vexed the Midlothian ISD board of trustees over the past month — the adoption of a new list of standard operating procedures — was finally put to rest at Monday night’s regular monthly meeting.

The board unanimously approved a wide number of changes to its standard operating procedure, or SOP, a document that includes more than 170 pages. The board had originally had the topic on its agenda in November, but agreed to table it at the request of board vice president Carl Smith, who wanted clarification from legal counsel on the changes.

Trustee Andrea Walton addressed the SOP item on video conferencing, noting that board members in the past could attend and listen and be able to participate in a session, but by her interpretation of it, if in listening mode and the meeting hasn’t been posted for teleconferencing, that remote member would be unable to speak.

“If you’re going to post the meeting for video conferencing, the member who is remote can vote and can speak,” Walton said. “That’s not what it outlines there.”

Walton also asked for clarification on the superintendent’s evaluation, noting that approved changes to the process were crossed out. Trustee Gary Vineyard said the reason why the item was removed was because superintendent Dr. Lane Ledbetter preferred to stay with an informal evaluation in August.

Trustee Tami Tobey suggested adding the superintendent’s evaluation to the board calendar, and also suggested that the board do a self-evaluation prior to evaluating the superintendent.

“It is in the document before us that the evaluation will be conducted in executive session each January,” board president Matt Sanders said. “So the informal evaluation is usually at the six-month mark. We also talked about the upcoming evaluation, (which) will be as conducted in previous years. The struck-out language is because we’re going to hold to what we’ve been doing the last few years for this upcoming January evaluation.”

Walton made the motion to accept the SOP with the amendments of updating the remote video conferencing to allow for board members to connect remotely, and to spell out in the SOP the superintendent’s formal review in January and informal review in August. The motion passed unanimously.

Administrative assistant Theda McGrew told the board that one other item in the SOP was changed, where the deadline for submitting an agenda item was changed from five days before a meeting to six days before, which is line with the current practice.

The board SOP is viewable by the public at https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=45616712 .

Middle school zones OK’d

The board approved the proposed middle school attendance zones involving the two existing schools — Frank Seale and Walnut Grove — plus the new Dieterich Middle School, set to open next August. The zones take effect in the 2020-2021 school year.

The new zones use the two major highways, U.S. 67 and U.S. 287, as boundaries with the exception of the general downtown area, which will remain in the Frank Seale attendance zone.

In another zoning move, the board agreed to change the area south of U.S. Highway 287 currently in the Longbranch Elementary attendance zone over to Miller Elementary.

Students in this area who currently attend Longbranch will have the option to remain at that school until they finish fifth grade, but bus transportation will not be provided. In the meantime, all new students living in or moving into this area would be zoned to Miller. Assistant superintendent Kaylynn Day told the board the change will affect approximately 70 students.

Other items

• The board agreed to purchase approximately 25 acres in the Prairie Ridge development for a potential new school location. Assistant superintendent Jim Norris said originally 15 acres was under consideration, but the developer threw in another 10 acres at no additional cost. The only stipulation was that if the district didn’t build and open a new school by the 2025-2026 school year, the district would pay the developer $50,000 a year until the school was built.

• The volleyball and cross country teams from both MISD high schools were recognized for their achievements this fall, as well as the Heritage High football team, which went four rounds deep in the playoffs — the farthest an MISD football team has ever advanced.

• Heritage head football coach Lee Wiginton was recognized for being named the winner of the 2020 Texas High School Coaches Association's Coaching Beyond the Game Award.

• The Smart Tag system, in place in the district since Oct. 30, was discussed. Every student in the district has a card and must badge on and off buses, even during extracurricular activities. Parents also have access to a portal where they can monitor their children’s whereabouts. These cards are also integrated with food services and school libraries.

• Ledbetter informed the board that the school had spent $170,000 on legal fees, including $90,000 in the fiscal year. Responding to a question from Walton about hiring an in-house attorney, Ledbetter said the district would still have to contract out for attorneys who specialize in certain fields.

• Walton said the upcoming 2020 Census is a major legislative point of interest for MISD, with a significant financial impact on the district as well as Ellis County because funding and support are tied to the count. Walton added that the board should consider a communication strategy so that as many people as possible can be counted. “They don’t need to fear the census,” she said.