MISD board hears ESSER spending plan

Funds to be used to support students who are falling behind; 3 new positions created

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Midlothian High School students pick up their schedules on Aug. 4 in preparation for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, which began last Monday, Aug. 16.

With extra funds coming to Midlothian ISD and a select few other school districts, the MISD board of trustees decided how to spend the money during its Aug. 16 regular monthly meeting.

The board agreed to hire three new personnel using “ESSER SUPP” funds, which is leftover money from the state’s block allotment of federally-provided ESSER III funds as part of the American Recovery Plan. The positions are for an instructional paraprofessional for MILE/LEAP, and elementary and secondary AI specialists.

The Texas Legislature approved the extra funding during its regular session this spring. The funds are intended to help pay for unreimbursed costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and for education support for students not performing satisfactorily.

Assistant superintendent for finance Jim Norris said the grant is for $4.3 million spread over two years. That money is on top of the $3.4 million the district has been awarded in ESSER III funds. Norris said because the district has already incurred most of its COVID costs, the new funds can be used to concentrate on learning.

MISD assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Shelle Blaylock told trustees the plan is to break down the spending into four areas:

• Tutoring/supports (summer learning academies, tutoring before and after school, transportation to support tutoring assistance, and K-2 reading/match intervention)

• Intervention resources and training (supplemental intervention resources, campus-selected resources to target student needs, universal screener, Zoom subscription, and staff and tutoring training on intervention and supports)

• Personnel (three positions previously mentioned, and four other positions that have already been approved)

• Technology (student computers/iPads and hot spots)

MISD is one of only 104 public schools and 32 charter schools in the state to receive the supplemental grant. Other districts in Ellis County include Red Oak, Maypearl and Avalon ISDs.

Trustees Matt Sanders and Richard Pena were absent. Pena continues to recover in a Plano hospital from a severe case of COVID-19.

Other items

• Norris presented the second annual Jean Coleman Award to Haley Irby, a second-grade teacher at J.A. Vitovsky Elementary.

• Norris presented the proposed tax rate for fiscal year 2021-2022, and presented two options: a rate of $1.362 per $100 valuation, or a rate of $1.352. Either rate would allow the district to pay down a part of its debt, resulting in future savings for taxpayers, Norris said. Certified values in the district totaled $6.9 billion, an 18.58-percent increase over the prior year. Approval of the rate will take place next month.

• Representatives of the “grass roots” group Respect Midlothian 1888 continued to address the board, presenting a raft of grievances mostly concerning the topic of race in the school curriculum. The board listened politely.

• The consent agenda was approved with the exception of two items, which were pulled and approved separately. Insurance coverage for the school year was approved with board vice president Andrea Walton abstaining, and an interlocal agreement with Cedar Hill ISD for CDL skills testing for bus drivers was approved.

• The district student code of conduct was discussed for the 2021-2022 school year. MISD student services administrator Dr. Al Hemmle told the board there are few changes from the previous year, mainly to definitions. A new punishment category has been added regarding controlled substances.

• A School Health Advisory Council is being formed for the new school year, and Hemmle encouraged trustees to recommend candidates for the committee for approval next month.

• With rezoning to take effect across the district in 2022, a one-time amendment was discussed which would grandfather-in students in the highest grade on their campus who are being rezoned to a different school. Hemmle said the amendment would affect about 190 students.

• Trustees heard a presentation on COVID-19 protocols in place this school year. Because an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott at the time of the meeting prohibited school districts from mandating masks, MISD executive director of human resource services Dr. Shorr Heathcote said masks are “highly encouraged and highly recommended.” (The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the governor’s mask-mandate ban.) Hand sanitizer stations will be in place, and plexiglass dividers are readily available for students who request them.

• Trustees set Sept. 7 as the date to conduct interviews with the eight applicants for legal services. The board recently issued a request for qualifications.

• Norris and Heathcote both announced that MISD opened the school year with more than 10,000 students for the first time. Heathcote proposed the hiring of three contingency teachers and four contingency paraprofessional positions.

• A revision to board policy was adopted regarding the naming of school facilities, which were defined as new and existing school buildings as well as any specific area of a building such as a wing, an annex or a hallway. Board members will be excluded from consideration unless they have also served as an educator in the district.

• Following an executive session, the board voted to restructure the communications department.