Natalia ISD School Board looks to provide District housing in city

The Natalia ISD School Board took a step towards providing housing inside the City limits for Superintendents at the regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 16.
District housing
After discussing the issue in Executive Session for over half an hour, Board members Eric Smith, Eric Owens, Tiffany Rodriguez, Fernando Garza, Andrew Besa, and Jack Bradley, Jr. voted unanimously to purchase property, not to exceed $50,000, in order to build a house to lease to the Superintendent.
Board member Paul Almendarez was not present.
Smith pointed out that the possibility of District-provided housing had first been raised under a previous Superintendent, and that it is something many other school districts offer.
“There’s many districts in South Texas, such as Dilley, Cotulla, Jourdanton, Three Rivers, Freer, on and on, that have houses for Superintendents,” Smith said, adding that the house would help attract and retain future Superintendents.
Smith went on to say that the Board is interested in possibly putting together a complex to provide housing to lease to teachers and administrators at some point in the future.
“Housing in this community is not easy to find,” Smith said. “If it was, I think we would have more than one administrator living here. So that is our goal, to be able to get folks not only into our district but living in our community.”
Facilities Committee
A Bond election intended to update and improve District facilities failed in 2015, and Smith said the Board was looking toward a November 2019 Bond election to address the same issue.
The timeline of the 2015 Bond election was short, with that Facilities Committee forming in late 2014.
“The goal is to start it early, to really plan it and try and do this the right way,” Smith said.
A Facilities Committee made up of teachers, administrators, community members, and three Board members will be formed, and will meet with the District architect to decide whether to start an improvement plan from scratch, or build off what was presented in the 2015 Bond.
“There was a reason behind everything we did before,” Smith said.
The absent Almendarez had previously expressed a desire to serve on the Facilities Committee, and Owens and Smith also volunteered. A Rodriguez-Garza motion to accept them as Committee members passed 6-0.
Student Representatives Priscilla Seaton and Samantha Sanchez will also serve on the Committee.
District and Campus Improvement Plans
Assistant Superintendent Donald Stewart presented the District Improvement Plan (DIP), as well as Campus Improvement Plans (CIP) for each campus, explaining that the information came from long-term strategic plans.
The Improvement Plans are meant to help streamline and align practices throughout the District. Stewart added that they set lofty academic goals for students and increase accountability each year.
“These Improvement Plans are considered living, breathing documents,” Superintendent Hensley Cone said. “Principals can make adjustments throughout the year.”
An Owens-Garza motion to approve the plans passed 6-0.
Bus driver compensation
The District is struggling to retain enough bus drivers to fulfill its needs.
Cone described having to bus athletes to games hours ahead of time because the bus and driver was needed back in Natalia to run a regular afternoon bus route before returning to pick up the athletes and bring them home.
“It’s not acceptable,” Cone said.
Currently, the pay scale for bus drivers runs from $13.65/hour for drivers with no experience to $17.59/hour for drivers with 15 years of experience. Cone recommended implementing an incentive program that includes a raise of $1.00/hour across the board for all drivers, as well as a $2,000 sign-on bonus for new drivers that will be paid in 24 installments.
An Owens-Besa motion to approve the salary increase and sign-on bonus passed 6-0.
Adjunct faculty request
Atascosa County Extension Agent Dale Rankin contacted Cone with an offer to enter into an Adjunct Faculty Agreement with the District for one calendar school year.
“During the Stock Show, if a kid is in 4-H but not FFA, we have to have someone attached to them so we don’t lose attendance,” Cone said.
“Why the Extension Agent from Atascosa County and not Medina County?” Smith asked.
“This one came to us,” Cone said.
A Smith-Owens motion to approve entering into the Agreement passed 6-0.
Other action
The Board unanimously voted to nominate Roy Sheetz for the Medina County Appraisal District Board of Directors, and to transferring hiring authority back to themselves after granting it to Cone during the summer months.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer