Devine ISD Board approves raises; 11 teachers retire or resign

Initially, Devine ISD wasn’t sure if they would be filling all positions of teachers and staff who had retired or resigned this school year, but Superintendent Scott Sostarich and Finance Director Shannon were happy to announce at the board meeting on June 5 that they will be able to fill those positions.
11 Teachers Retiring/Resigning
Teachers Retiring this year are recognized for many years of service to the district: Renean Cowan (11 years in Devine, 46 years total), Tobey Tomblin (21 years in Devine, 29 years total), MaryEllen Fuller (18 years in Devine, 34 years total), Barbara Tarsikes (22 years all in Devine), Patricia Sudderth (15 years all in Devine), Jose Lara (22 years all in Devine).
Teachers/staff resigning are Sivonney Molina, DMS Special Ed Math Teacher, Laura Owen, DMS ELA Teacher, Kendyll Velasquez, DMS ELA Teacher/Coach, Holly Muniz, Elementary PE Teacher, Rene Muniz, DHS History Teacher/Coach.
3 new hires so far
So far, there have been 3 new hires, two of which were hired after closed session at the board meeting June 5. The Board reconvened for action to hire 2 middle school ELA teachers: Willie Jo Beck (ELA teacher and coach) and Laurie Chandler. Additionally, back in May, Janet Rivera was hired for the Intermediate Special Ed Teacher.
They are striving to maintain all positions.
Devine ISD approved the raises, tables, stipends, and changes in pay grades at the June 5th meeting. As noted, the DISD Budget Summary shows a deficit of $257,378, of which $196,000 is an increase in salaries, and $59,597 from the Debt Service fund.
This deficit will be covered by a healthy General Fund balance in Devine ISD reserves which sits at about $8.8 million….a perfect example of how good stewardship pays off and of how important savings are.
Finance Director Shannon Ramirez and Superintendent Scott Sostarich and the board worked countless hours to make ends meet this year, and provided us with a statement which gives great insight into the school budget deficit which are becoming more and more common throughout the state.
– The increase in salaries is from the Texas Association of School Boards recommended restructuring of the employee Salary Schedule which included moves in pay grades, a 5% increase in hourly wages and change of scheduled days for custodians and maintenance workers, as well as increased stipends for several positions such as $500 for Life Skills, an increase of $500 to $1500 for Math/Science, add 10 days to Fall Tennis & increase stipend as it is now a fully scheduled sport, which increases the amount from $1,000 to $4,000, and to increase the stipend for the Head Football Coach from $4,500 to $8,000 instead of increasing the number of days worked.
This year was the first time in five years the district has done the TASB survey which recommends pay grades and raises to be more in line with surrounding districts. The pay grades were adjusted for the following positions to be more competitive with other districts:
Athletic Director was moved from a teacher scale to an Administrative Table pay grade 5 that has a salary range of $63,366 to $87,507, Finance Director from a pay grade 7 to a pay grade 8 that has a salary range of $81,902 to $106,378, and middle school principal from pay grade 6 to a pay grade 7 that has a salary range of $68,611 to $92,825.
The LVN paygrade and salary was a pay grade 5 that has range of $22,754 to $31,401 and is now a paygrade 6 that has a salary range of $24,564 to $33,929.
The actual salaries witihin the range of new pay grades will not be set until the budget is adopted.
The librarian was 3 and pay grade moved down to 2.
The administrative secretary was 5 and is now 6.
In regards to the stipends, “At the end of the day, when you add it up, stipends are a big expense,” Ramirez said.
The board did inquire about a few of the changes in stipends and pay grade that were moved up or down, and explanations were given.
“There are several highlighted that are changing, but it doesn’t say what they were before,” asked Carl Brown.
“Do you have that information?” another board member asked.
“Yes we can go line by line,” Ramirez said.
“What was changed about the athletic director?” Nancy Pepper asked.
“ He was categorized as a teacher paygrade,” Ramirez explained, “TASB suggested moving his pay grade to an Administrative table. “
“Same way with the pay grade for Director of Finance?” Pepper asked.
“Yes, I was on a paygrade 7, so we moved it up to be more consistent with other districts,” Ramirez said.
“Which ones were moved down?” one board member asked.
“The librarian,” Ramirez said.
At the June 5th meeting, the board approved the tables, schedules, pay grades, and raises.
Ramirez points out that “All staff received increases in their pay, regardless of movement of pay grade in the tables.”
– District Initiatives in the Budget include: Teacher $500 step increases and all other staff receive 2%; new bleachers in old high school gym ($30,000); HVAC repairs; Inventory management; and Miscellaneous projects including HS entrance, Intermediate school drainage repairs, painting & fencing, and the Elementary school flag pole.
– Projects that are not included in the budget, but will be paid from the Fund balance are the HVAC Initiative ($20,000) being put away to replace aging HVAC systems and the Science wall repair at DHS. Also the hail-damaged roofs will be repaired and will be reimbursed by insurance proceeds.
Due to the deficit, they also discussed that there would be very little wiggle room in this year’s budget for the unexpected.
“During the course of the year, in the past we have been able to move money around where we have shortfalls,” Board President Wayde Anderson pointed out. “Do you anticipate that during the year we will still be able to do that?”
“This is a very tight budget,” Ramirez said. “This is it.”
Ramirez sent us the following statement providing us with great insight into the situation.
“School finance is a statewide issue with deficit budget adoptions becoming more common. Even though we are using fund balance to balance our proposed budget, it includes raises for all of our staff and every position being filled,” Ramirez said. “We are fortunate to have had so many good years that we have a fund balance, or savings, to help us get through these times. The $200,000 we are asking to use to balance our proposed budget is 1.2% of our total budget.
“It is recommended we have three months of operating expenses in fund balance, which for us would be $5 million. As far as long term plans, these funds could be used to offset future bond projects and costs associated with such, but we do use it for building projects and repairs when necessary. For a district our size, we have a very healthy fund balance.
“ The school finance formula is currently a 35 page calculation. Public schools have been urging our legislatures for reform for many years. Instead, they are raising our property taxes which increases the burden to the local taxpayers. The latest session just ended so we’ll have to wait another two years and hope our public education advocates in our legislature receive more support from our other elected representatives and senators,” Ramirez adds.
After the Budget Workshop, the Board of Trustees approved 4-0 to adopt the salary schedules, tables, and raises as proposed and discussed the Board Summer Leadership Training next week in San Antonio, before going into Closed Session.
DISD Trustees in attendance were: Pres. Wayde Anderson, VP Nancy Pepper, Wes Herring, and Carl Brown. Board members Robert Morales and Gina Champion were absent. The next DISD School Board meeting will be on Monday, June 19, 2017, at 6:30pm at the DISD Administration Office at 605 W. Hondo Ave, Devine, Texas. The public is welcome to attend.
By Nancy Saathoff and Kayleen Holder