Devine school packets going by mail instead of pickup starting next week

Devine teachers were prepared for the last Pre-K packet pickup with Easter bunny ears, masks and all. From left to right are Pre-K teachers Nicole Parks, Gail Duffer, Linda Koops, Maggie Prouty, Jennifer Carroll, and Melissa Gutierrez.

Nancy Pepper called roll over a computer to begin the, first ever, Devine School board meeting held via audio video conferencing this past Wednesday April 8, 2020.  She did this after reading a proclamation from Texas Governor Greg Abbott granting permission for this sort of meeting to take place. There was a quorum as all seven members chimed in, as present, from their own offices and homes.

This district meeting is one of many procedures that have changed dramatically over the past few weeks for the district.  Schools are closed, students are learning from home, and meals are being provided on a drive through basis.  Communication with parents, students, educators and administration is largely being done over the internet.  For example, on April the 9th, the district posted a procedural change involving the education packet distribution. The announcement post notified parents and students that starting next week the district will mail paper packets to parents who are using them. Those packets will be in manila envelopes and they are asking that all work be returned in the same envelope. All campuses will have boxes placed outside each office/gates on Monday in which the envelopes with completed work can be dropped.

These procedures and other business items were on the agenda for board members as the met digitally for the first time on April 8.  There were no citizen communications, so the board moved on to the first action item of the evening. They discussed taking action to adopt a resolution to delegate authority to Superintendent Grandjean for grading and class rank policies.  These procedural changes have been brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Schools all over the nation are facing new grading procedures with modified distance learning instruction. This action was to give Dr. Grandjean authority to make amendments to current grading procedures that will accommodate the new remote learning platform.

Dr. Grandjean spoke to the board and said that “While class rank is more directly important to the high school grade levels, we are working to draft a plan that meets the needs of all students.” He also stressed the importance of communicating with parents of what their children are expected to be doing at home and how the work will be graded and tested to determine final grades and ranking.

Board member Carl Brown made a motion to approve, Keri James seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously by the full board of 7-0.

The second action item for the evening was to consider action to approve an ERATE bid for updating the infrastructure that provides the ethernet network system throughout the district.  The system provides internet connectivity for all computers, phone systems and wireless networks.  Dr. Grandjean pointed out that the current network system causes the district phone system to randomly power-off and stay off for periods of time.  IT Director, Daniel Garza spoke to the board about the need to update some of the network switches in the district.  He pointed out that the district has ERATE money available for Category 2 purchases and he recommended approving a bid for the purchase of 9 network switches for the district. The ERATE is a state money funding program created to help districts pay for the high cost of computer networks. ERATE grant money helps school districts by paying 80% of the costs of computer network purchases if approved.  The bid for the 9 switches, as presented, was $81,698.45.  With ERATE money the cost to the district would only be $12,254.77.

Board member Carl Brown moved to accept the bid as presented and it was seconded by Phillip Fitch.  The motion was approved unanimously 7-0.

The board then went into a closed session and returned within an hour and there were no action items presented.  The first ever online meeting seemed to go well and was efficiently adjourned.

Students and parents are recommended to check for information, announcements, and procedural changes and implementations by frequently turning to the district website, social media, mail outs and handouts, as well as in our newspaper.  In today’s paper you will find information on the new grading and reporting procedures for the remote learning platform.

Also, noted on the district website is Governor Abbot’s March 31st Proclamation, that calls for all Texas schools to remain closed until Monday, May 4th. The district advises Parents to begin, if they have not already done so, to plan for possible long-term closures of schools.

By Candace De Jesus

Staff Writer