By Anton Riecher
The Devine ISD school board voted Monday to approve the district’s annual financial audit report showing total expenditures of $22.1 million for the current year.
Dusty R. Routh with the accounting firm of Coleman, Horton & Co. told the board that auditors found no problems in their review.
“Everything looked good on your books,” Routh said.
The total expenditure shown is a $906,466 decrease from the prior year, the audit reports. The district’s combined net position was $17.053 million as of June 30, an increase of $3.5 million from the prior year.
Devine ISD has posted the audit at meetings.boardbook.org/Public/Agenda/955?meeting=545726. Video from the entire school board meeting is posted on the Devine News YouTube channel at youtu.be/1kqnRVA6ns4.
On a motion by board trustee Carl Brown, seconded by Chris Davis, the audit was approved by a vote of 5-0. Trustee Henry Moreno was absent from the Monday meeting. Renee Frieda arrived late and missed the audit vote.
Immediately following the vote, Shannon Ramirez, the district’s chief financial officer, stepped forward to recommend renewing Devine ISD’s contract with Coleman, Horton & Company for the 2022-2023 school year. The board approved that action.
In a report to the board, high school principal Juan Michael Gonzalez said enrollment stands at 584, up about eight percent from last year. The attendance rate for the new school year is 95.71 percent.
Academically, the high school is reporting 64 percent of its students passing all classes, Gonzalez said. Thirty-six percent are failing in at least one class.
“Our freshman class is where our most need is,” Gonzalez said. “We have about 69 out of 157 that have one failure. That’s about 43.9 percent.”
Of 143 sophomores, 45 or 31 percent are failing in at least one class, he said. For juniors 47 out of 145 are flunking at least one class for a failure rate of 32 percent. Of the 138 seniors enrolled, 49 are failing in at least one class for a rate of 35.5 percent.
Gonzalez said he attributed part of failure rate to a stricter enforcement of grading policy at the high school level. For example, the policy requires that assignments be submitted promptly on the due date or the grade is reduced.
“We hold kids accountable for making sure that the assignments we give them are turned in on time,” Gonzalez said. “You can get full credit on the first day. If it is three days late they can get up to a 70. After that they can earn up to a 50 if it is in by the last Wednesday of the six week period.”
The stricter deadline can be an adjustment for children just arriving from middle school, Gonzalez said.
“They have to mature a little bit and be accountable for what we are holding them responsible for,” he said.
Gonzalez reported that the high school is preparing for at STAAR test simulation on Nov. 14, 16 and 17. The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) program includes annual end-of-course assessments for Algebra I, English I, English II, biology and U.S. history.
“We’re going to do this completely on-line because that is what STAAR is going to do in the spring semester,” he said. “At least 25 percent of the questions are going to be interactive”
While at least a portion will involve matching answers from drop-down menus, the test will also include constructive responses requiring a written response of at least 250 characters, Gonzalez said. The simulation will also give the school a chance to evaluate its on-line network in advance of the actual testing.
Most important, the simulation will give teachers a better idea of how prepared their students are for the actual testing in spring.
“It’s going to give us data on the students about where they are so we can begin to prepare the types of lessons we need to do for them to be successful,” Gonzalez said.
Overall, the high school is doing a good job with students, he said. For example, 82 percent passed the test for Algebra I. However, on 19 percent scored at a level showing them prepared to advance to college.
“When you look at biology, 91 percent of our kids pass that test,” Gonzalez said. “That’s great. But only 15 percent could be successful at the secondary level. For English I, 78 percent passed the test but only 11 percent master it. For English II, 81 percent pass the test but only three percent master it.”
Devine ISD superintendent Todd Grandjean reported that the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University conducted an inspection of the high school earlier Monday as part of a statewide program.
“Seventy-five percent of all schools and campuses will be checked by May,” Grandjean said. “There is a good chance they will hit one of our other campuses by then.”
Grandjean reported that he and Daryl Wendel, assistant superintendent for curriculum and personnel safety, have been making regular safety visits to the various campuses.
“Every principal has a designated employee on their administrative team that has to do door checks by Friday afternoon each week,” Grandjean said.
He also reported that the district’s new partnership with Palo Alto College has been a success with 85 students enrolled in dual credit courses. Dual credit is a system by which eligible high school students enroll in college courses and receive credit for them both from the college and high school.
Dual credit courses may be taught on the high school campus by an approved instructor or on the college campus. Dual credit courses include both academic and technical courses.
Meanwhile, the high school remains two teachers short on its faculty roster, Grandjean said. The school needs to fill a math and science teacher position.
The board adjourned for a closed executive session with no action taken when the regular meeting resumed.