Devine looking at Guardian handgun carriers; local school board election postponed

The Devine ISD School Board met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday March 23.  The meeting started with superintendent Todd Grandjean sending out what he called “virtual Hugs” to his technology team.  He congratulated them for working together to allow the public to attend the meeting online because of the Covid-19 emergency. In addition to these precautions, the meeting took place at the Student Activity Center to allow those in attendance to socially distance themselves in a larger area. With the national emergency looming in the world outside they covered financial management, security management and dealt with regular operations under the umbrella of the covid-19 crisis.

Guardian Program Presentation

Presenting first was CJ James who gave a report on the Guardian Program.  This program has been used by schools, across Texas, to allow districts to ramp up security on their campuses through training employees to be designated handgun carriers. This was not an action item for this meeting.  It was an introduction and notice that plans were underway to start the process to look seriously at the possibility of implementing the program in Devine Schools.

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Superintendent’s Report

Grandjean reported on the progress of providing meals for students that started on Tuesday March 17.  He reported that on the first day the total meals served were 30 at breakfast and 140 for lunch. The numbers grew each day to 161 at breakfast and 268 lunches on Monday, March 23. When students come in On Tuesday March 24, breakfast will be served as usual, then at lunch students will be served two meals, lunch for Tuesday and breakfast for Wednesday.  From this day forward, each day students will only have to come in once to pick up lunch for that day and breakfast for the following day.  This will cut down on the number of times students have to be out to pick up meals, help with social distancing and cut down on the number of employees and payroll expenses necessary to deliver the meals.  He also discussed the delivery of educational materials to students and their parents.  On Monday educational packages designed for each individual student were handed out on all campuses by school personel.  These packages were put together by each of their teachers.  From now until school resumes these packages will be available once a week in order to allow for continued educational progress in their subjects.

Consent Agenda

There were no director presentations as they had been asked to stay home. The board accepted as presented the Minutes from the February 24 and Mar 16 Meetings, approved instructional materials allotment and TEKS Certification for the 2019-20 school year.

Action Items

Grandjean asked the board to consider and take action to terminate the financial advisory services contract with Estrada Hinojosa and Company, Inc.  and to engage Tijerina Galvan Lawrence LLC as the new District Financial Advisor.  He pointed out that this firm comes highly recommended by many in the district.  Principle partner in the firm, Robert Tijerina had worked with the district for many years in the past.  The board voted unanimously to terminate their current financial advisory contract.  Robert Tijerina spoke before the board regarding his firm and their successful history with the district as well as many others in south Texas.  The board voted unanimously to hire his firm as the new District Financial Advisor.

Immediately following the decision, board president Nancy Pepper read a detailed announcement written by Bond Counsel, John Hall of Norton Rose Fulbright regarding consideration and approval of an order by the board of trustees of Devine ISD authorizing the issuance of Devine Independent School District “Unlimited Tax refunding bonds”.  A presentation on this process followed by the newly hired financial Advisor, Robert Tijerina of Tijerina Galvan Lawrence LLC.  He pointed out that the District has an opportunity to refinance two previously voter approved bonds at a lower interest rate.  Two bonds totaling $1,730,000 could possibly be refunded at a lower interest rate which could save the district $175,000 over the term of the bonds.  Tijerina discussed the plan to sell the bonds through private placement to banks for refunding at current lower interest rates.  The Board voted unanimously to approve the refunding proposal as presented.

District Director of Finance, Shannon Ramirez presented 3 possible budget workshop dates for approval. May 18, June 1 and June 8th were approved unanimously by the board.

The board moved on to another financial item to consider and take possible action to approve pay application 4 in the amount of $120,201 to Way Service Limited for work completed in February.  Grandjean also presented to the board that the current Covid-19 crisis was delaying continued work by the company on the campuses.  His concerns were for the safety of his teachers who might come in contact with workers that could have been infected with the virus.

He said they were continuing to look for solutions.  The board voted unanimously to approve the payment as presented.

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The final action item of the meeting was to consider and take possible action regarding postponing the May 2, 2020 General Election to November 3, 2020, including adoption of an order under the authority of the Texas Governor’s Proclamation.  Board President Nancy Pepper pointed out that their current term would be extended to November, but the terms would remain the same, expiring in May, the election would just be moved to the later date.  A vote on the action was taken.  Nancy Pepper and Henry Moreno abstained from voting because they both are running in contested races.  Keri James, Carl Brown, Phillip Fitch and Chris Davis voting for approval.  Board member Rene Frieda was not present at the meeting.

Closed Session

The board went into closed session at 7:42 with no expected items for action.

By Candace De Jesus

Staff Writer