Devine ISD approves stricter drug policy; earns superior financial rating

At the Nov 16 meeting, the district made important changes to the drug offense policy with stricter consequences. The board also discussed the TASB staffing report which found some areas of the district, such as Special Ed and Transportation, to be understaffed. The district also earned a “Superior” financial accountability rating.
All board members were present except Henry Moreno, and 12 guests were present, most of whom were district employees. Officer positions were decided, with Nancy Pepper as President, Henry Moreno as Vice President and Keri James as Secretary. Nancy Pepper was sworn in and committees were established, followed by a presentation of DISD’s rating and scores under the FIRST scoring system (Financial Accountability Rating System for School Districts in Texas).
DISD Earns “Superior” Financial Rating
FIRST is the ruler by which school districts in Texas are measured for their financial integrity and accountability. It consists of 5 yes or no items and 10 scalar items, which together give a score from 1 to 100. 70-100 is considered a “Superior” rating, which Devine earned with a score of 100. Some of the items that go into this score are: submitting financial reports on time, clean auditor report, compliance with debt terms, assets valuing more than liabilities, days cash on hand, and acceptable decline in staff: student ratio. DISD performed exceptionally in the cash on hand, having 204 days’ worth vs the 90-day target set out in FIRST. Payments and expenditures by the superintendent and school board were all appropriate, with the superintendent being reimbursed $1725 for work expenses, mostly consisting of $1594 of fuel for driving to sports and academic events and $100 for parking at conferences, mostly in Austin.
Changes to Drug Test Policy
Board member Chris Davis announced approved changes to the district’s drug offense policy. For 1st & 2nd offenses- student now loses campus driving privileges, is suspended from all competitions, and may only resume practice after obtaining a medical release (sports physical). They may not dress out or travel with the team. The purpose of the sports physical is to ensure the student is in condition to safely participate, as whatever drugs they had in their body may have negatively affected their health.
The previous policy had allowed for practicing and dressing out after first and second offences.
TASB Staffing Report
The Texas Association of School Boards is a professional organization for school boards which aims to help them operate efficiently and provide the best outcomes for their respective districts. One service they provide is the assessment of staffing levels, along with recommendations to the school board for how they could better optimize staffing. Though the TASB report found DISD to be overstaffed in several areas (when compared to similarly-sized districts with similar finances and demographics), Superintendent Grandjean made it amply clear that the report’s findings are suggestions only and if any staff reductions are made, it will not be through layoffs; they will use ‘absorption’. Absorption is simply leaving positions open when someone vacates that position, such as if a custodian or teacher retires. Grandjean expressed that the board recognize every employee as a person and that they have no plans to displace any members of the DISD team due to the TASB report.
The areas found to be understaffed were maintenance, transportation and special ed. Some specific recommendations were to add 2 instructional coaches, 1 technology instructional coach, 3 speech/language pathologists, 1 skilled tradesman (HVAC was the example given), 1 transportation mechanic and 1 network support specialist.
The areas found to be overstaffed were teachers (all campuses), custodians, child nutrition, pre-K, educational aides (general and special ed) and operations directors.
TASB suggested restructuring numerous roles to better use existing personnel, such as non-campus support staff, operations management and curriculum & instruction. Some of the recommendations, such as the HVAC tradesman and transportation mechanic, are meant to reduce the need to contract out those jobs all the time, and do most of the work in-house.
Planned Return to Campus for Spring Semester
As reported in last week’s paper, the school board is making plans to move all instruction back into the classroom starting in January. This is not set in stone, and contingency plans are being created so the schools can readily adapt to state & federal guidelines as well as the condition of our community, come January. The district’s focus is education, though during the meeting Mr. Grandjean and the Board made it clear that they are watching cases and community transmission of COVID-19 while making decisions that will ultimately affect the health of students, teachers and their families. Parents who do not want their children in the physical classroom have three options: 1) Obtain a completed TEA High-Risk Assessment. 2) Disenroll from DISD and home-school their child. 3) Disenroll from DISD and enroll in another district which is still doing remote learning.
Tech Improvements
One positive outcome from remote learning has been extra resources to help DISD increase technology integration in the classroom. Students today know more—and need to know more—about computers, tablets and internet use than ever before. The expansion of work-from-home in professional settings has made it clear that computer literacy is a must for students of today who will be the workers of tomorrow, regardless of industry. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has provided 200 mobile internet hotspots through AT&T and 50 through Verizon. Superintendent Grandjean noted that they went with two providers due to the reality that not every house in the Devine area gets coverage from every cell service; this way students can use whichever is better in their location. TEA also used their bulk buying power and matching contributions to make affordable Chromebooks (laptop computers with enhanced internet connectivity) available to Devine. From the 300 DISD had, this TEA program has added 1,056 more, and Medina County has used some of their COVID relief funds to provide an additional 42. These new devices are being engraved and prepared for student use at this time and will be rolled out as soon as they are ready.
The board approved an improved internet connection easement, which will allow 10x current internet speed with a similar monthly expense. This connection is being brought to the district by Zayo Group, LLC and will be solely for DISD use. The project is paid off over 48 months, for roughly $1800 per month on top of the service cost of $1400 per month for a monthly total of around $3200 (this is similar to the monthly cost of the current provider). Once installation is paid off, the monthly cost to the district will be $1400.
All presented materials and documents from the meeting are available at
By Kyle G. Saathoff
Staff Writer