MISD board approves staff stipend

Full-time employees to receive $1,000 payments, part-time $500

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
The Midlothian Independent School District administration headquarters.

As a reward to district employees for all the hard work amid the year-long COVID-19 pandemic, the Midlothian Independent School District board of trustees unanimously approved more supplemental pay for staff during its Feb. 22 regular monthly meeting.

During a public hearing, assistant superintendent for finance Jim Norris told trustees that the pandemic has been very stressful for employees. Norris proposed an amendment to the staff compensation plan for a one-time “staff appreciation stipend” for all employees, $1,000 for full-time and $500 for part-time. Half of the stipend would be paid on March 11 and the other half on June 3.

The purpose of the stipend, Norris said, is to compensate staff for their work to educate students and keep them safe through the pandemic, and to address morale and retention as a means to reward MISD employees for their dedicated service.

The approximate cost of the stipend would be $1,222,000 and would be paid from available general fund revenues including the fund balance if necessary. Answering a question from the public, both Norris and board vice president Andrea Walton said because the district’s fund balance is healthy, no school programs would be cut to pay for the stipend.

Later in the meeting, the board also approved compensation for district employees for the days that they missed during the February winter storm. Interim superintendent Dr. Courtney Carpenter said the storm created challenges for many employees, with intermittent power outages and no water for some homes. Carpenter said no employee should be penalized for not being able to perform their jobs in the storm.

Board president Matt Sanders praised district staff for its work throughout the winter storm.

Other items

• The board recognized MISD winners of the Ellis County African-American Hall of Fame, Museum and Library Martin Luther King Jr. Essay and Art Contest. Elementary essay winners were: First Place: Ella Robertson, TE Baxter Elementary, 4th grade; Second Place: Lodias Martinet, Dolores McClatchey Elementary, 4th grade; Third Place: Ethan Hoff, TE Baxter Elementary, 4th grade. High school essay winner was Nathan Morris of Heritage High School, who won third place. Also recognized were the district’s numerous MILE Mentors and Mentors Care.

• District administrators Shelle Blaylock and Dr. Aaron Williams presented the district’s Texas Academic Performance Report from the 2019-2020 school year. A number of data points were missing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including STAAR and end-of-course test scores, and some of the district’s numbers are lagging a year behind, such as attendance and drop-out rates; total graduates and graduation types; college, career and military readiness (CCMR); and AP, SAT/ACT, dual credit completion.

• The board reviewed the process for attendance zone updates within the district. District assistant superintendent of engagement and strategic innovation Karen Fitzgerald said overcrowding at Walnut Grove Middle School is the main concern, but keeping campuses balanced socioeconomically is the goal. Community information sessions will be held this Wednesday and Thursday, March 3-4, and the zoning committee will meet March 10-11 to review input and make adjustments as necessary. Preliminary proposed attendance zones were presented as a starting point for the committee to discuss.

• The consent agenda was approved which included previous minutes, budget amendments, gifts and donations, designation of an independent auditor for 2020-2021, a bid for groundskeeping services, creation of a principal and secretary position for elementary school No. 8, and vendors for internet service. A Texas Association of School Boards update and a bid for network services and equipment were each pulled from the consent agenda and approved separately.

• The board was updated on the Skyward SIS migration and on the district’s progress on third grade reading / math and CCMR scores. Third-grade students grew on average by 8 percent in reading, district director of elementary learning Becki Krsnak told trustees. In CCMR, the district exceeded its goal of 70 percent in 2020 with an ultimate goal of 80 percent by 2024, Williams said.

• Rola Fadel, MISD’s director of architecture and facilities, gave a damage update from the winter storm. She said Irvin and Miller elementaries sustained damage from burst water pipes, and the fine arts wing at Frank Seale Middle School and one of the wings at Midlothian High School suffered fire sprinkler breaks that caused water damage as well. Fadel said all water and sprinkler lines were repaired in time for students to return to classes, and staff was able to extract all water from the buildings. Carpenter said because of TEA waivers and accumulated minutes of instruction, MISD won’t have to use March 12 as an instructional day.

• The board approved the 2021-2022 school calendar. The week of Aug. 9-13 will be teacher planning and development days, and the first day of classes for students will be Aug. 16.

• Carpenter presented a list of legislative priorities that the Texas Association of School Boards is promoting for the current legislative session. The board approved the priorities.