Clifton School Board Meeting, September 19th

Clifton Placeholdewer

By Cal Schlumpf

After the meeting was called to order, Mrs. Erin Busby spoke during the open forum. She voiced concern over lack of communication between administration and parents during a 2nd grade teacher’s recent resignation. Busby said that she learned the teacher had resigned on Friday, September 2nd from her older children. Over Labor Day weekend she heard  the teacher had posted on social media about the decision to resign and relocate. There was a job listing posted on the Clifton ISD website on September 6th, which is the day Busby’s 2nd grader came home and reported that the teacher told them that day  she was leaving. The parents of the 2nd grade students were not informed directly of the teacher’s resignation until a Talking Points message was sent out on the evening of September 14th. Some parents, but reportedly not all, were informed by a different teacher that there would be adjustments made to the students’ class schedules, assigned classrooms, and schedules would be sent home with the students on September 19th. 

On the 16th, the students brought home a letter explaining the changes that would be made. Busby went on to state her child did not receive a new daily schedule on the 19th, and expressed concern about how the students were impacted by the lack of communication to the students. 

Busby asked the school to be more proactive in communicating directly with parents about changes in their children’s school experience and not rely on children to relay information verbally.

The school board thanked her for her comment and moved on to the agenda. Mr. Matt Nelson stepped up to discuss the possibility of a summer trip in 2023 for the band. 

“There used to be a trip here, years ago. They would go to Colorado. Mr. Nelson and the band backers have talked about possibly reinstating a trip for the band, for the band students who would be interested in going. So he’s done some research through – and I’ve talked to the travel company. He got three different travel companies to give us a bid, and then they had a meeting last Thursday night. And I think he may have some numbers on students that would be interested in going,” explained Superintendent Andy Ball. He went on to state that he and Nelson had discussed it previously, but he wanted to make sure the board was “informed on what the possibility of the trip may be and to allow [Nelson] to answer any questions [they] may have before moving on in this process.” He then passed the floor to Nelson.

Nelson presented a plan to charter buses to take high school band students to Disney in Orlando, Florida. The students would be working with professional musicians in a workshop, receiving instruction and recording music. They would get the opportunity to spend a couple of days enjoying the park as well. The cost of the trip would not be the responsibility of the parents or the band backers, but would instead be funded by separate fundraisers. The cost per student would amount to roughly $945 excluding transportation. Out of 71 students, 55 had responded by the time of the board meeting. About 45 of them said they would be interested in going, 5 said no, and 5 said they would need more information to make a decision. There were 16 remaining who had not responded. 

While the school would not be responsible for trip costs for individual students canceling, the $6,000 deposit for the charter buses would not be refundable. 

Superintendent Ball pointed out that an educational component would be necessary if the band backers assisted with the bus expenses and the studio and workshop time with professional musicians fulfilled that requirement.

When asked who would be covering the trip costs for the students, Nelson said they would do independent fundraising and he was pursuing potential sponsorships from local businesses. Dr. Bizzell asked if it would be less expensive to travel to Orlando by plane and Nelson explained the charter bus would be cheaper considering the need to transport instruments. The charter buses would also be available to transport students to and from the park while in Orlando. 

When asked about the variety of instruments represented in the students interested, it was reported that there was a wide range of band students that expressed interest. Nelson stated he would be happy to discuss it further with any board members and the school board moved on to the next item.

Next the board discussed and considered the continuation of interlocal agreement with the City of Clifton for security services at home varsity football and basketball games. It was reported that they have added an additional officer this year to have three at the home football games. Per Clifton Police Department policy, at least two officers must be present at basketball games as they will not be sending out lone off-duty officers for security due to safety concerns. The cost per officer hour has also gone up from $30 to $40 as the previous rate was not sufficient to cover overtime expenses. The board had no questions and the motion to continue the agreement was passed unanimously.

Lisa Prescher, CISD business manager, stepped up next to present the review of 2021-2022 quarterly investment budget reports. As of the September 19th board meeting, for the general fund the total revenue that was budgeted was 12.1 million dollars and the total revenue received was 12.2 million dollars for a difference of $71,000. The amount saved was due to funding delays from TEA for attendance, as well as savings within food service transfer and mid-year staff adjustments. Some positions were absorbed and some positions were filled with less experienced hires who received significantly lower salaries. 

Throughout the year the savings were recorded and distributed evenly throughout different functions to provide emergency funds for air conditioning repair or replacements, bus repairs, and so forth. There is a reported excess of funds of $400,000 to close out the year in the general fund.

The school lunch program had a total revenue budgeted of $637,000, with actual amounts of $625,000, leading to a surplus of $11,000. This appears misleading due to a TEA-awarded grant of $25,000 called the Supply Chain Assistance Grant. The school was given more money due to difficulty receiving supplies. While this did not help with the receipt of supplies, the additional funds were meant to help with unexpected expenses due to supply issues, despite the fact that the funds were not received until after the school year had ended. Out of the $25,000, only $11,000 was spent as it was only allowed to purchase milk and some other finished items. Only the amount spent was recognized, and the remainder of the grant was carried over to the current school year. 

The amount of expenditures budgeted was $637,000 and only $580,000 was spent due to staff shortages within the cafeteria throughout the year, as well as limited supplies. Year to date, there is an excess of funds of $44,000 for the lunch program. 

Discussion moved to the investment accounts, and Dr. Bizzell asked if there were options available to the school with better interest rates than the current investment pools, and Prescher confirmed the school is limited by the state in their options. 

The board then discussed options for replacing two of the school district’s buses. Both the small bus and a large bus are 2001 models with significant mileage. Available buses are scarce but they were able to locate some through a dealer in Oklahoma. A budget amendment repurposing unused salary funds of $56,000 to the transportation account for the purchase of a large bus was requested. The budget amendment was passed unanimously. 

In the next item, JRBT was confirmed as the contracted auditor for this next school year. 

The compensation plan for 2022-2023 was tabled until next month as the plan is not fully prepared. 

In staff reports, Principal Wes Brown pointed out the daily attendance increase from 95.48% versus last year at this time which was 89.56%. He also reported multiple successful safety drills, including lockdown and fire drills. Brown presented benchmark test data, which did reflect some gaps in knowledge due to COVID. He assured the board of regular assessments throughout the year to keep track of students’ progress. 

He also reported this last week the school had a “Freedom Week” with different themes for each day. Students were taught about the founding fathers and given information about service academies and military colleges. Students were informed that people who pursue education at those academies are commissioned to serve as officers in the different branches of the US military and the opportunities they bring. Students also participated in a public reading event of the US Constitution. The students then engaged in a freedom walk at the beginning of the day. High school students from the varsity football and volleyball teams as well as the cheer team came to welcome elementary students to school on Fridays as a motivational leadership exercise. Boy Scouts representatives came and spoke with elementary school students during lunch. In the next couple of weeks, the Gideons will be coming to the school to make Bibles available to the 5th grade students. 

A significant upcoming event is the October 24th open house and family fun night. That day a guest speaker Jesse Joyner will present a program about character development to the elementary students and will be doing a special community program during the family fun night as well. 

“The children are loving the football team. It’s fun. They’re loving that. Good job!” encouraged board president Julie New. 

Reminders were given about early release, the Homecoming parade at 6:30pm, and community pep rally shortly after on Wednesday. The senior parents are putting on a bonfire Wednesday night, and the campus pep rally will be Friday morning. Thanks to higher daily attendance rates, the Homecoming pep rallies are to be held in the gym for the first time since COVID.