Midlothian ISD Board Member Andrea Walton was selected to be a member of a statewide leadership group of school board members. Leadership TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) tours different districts across Texas evaluating innovation, diversity, academic achievement, leadership and student relationships. It has been a unique time including remote learning, changing graduations, virtual summer school and fall re-entry.
“It has allowed me to have a broader vision for innovation allowing more conversations that benefit students, teachers and tax payers of Midlothian ISD. I’m grateful to be part of an amazing cross section of leaders!”
School districts are faced with the challenges of fall re-entry for the 2020-2021 school year. Of course the priority is a balance of safety and learning. Conversations and community surveys include traditional classrooms, social distancing options, blended classroom, longer breaks, and some districts starting sooner and perhaps going longer in the year. Options being discusses are all to balance the unknowns of a second pandemic wave.
No one can be sure how COVID-19 will affect Midlothian this fall – especially since the number of cases seems to be growing again with so many people not honoring the social distancing guidelines in early June.
2020-2021 MISD Survey
Lane Ledbetter, MISD sent out a survey to the community on June first.
In the letter, Mr. Ledbetter said: “With the variety and complex health issues some of our students may have or their family members may have, we would like to know your thoughts about sending your student(s) to school during the 2020-21 school year.”
“Please take the following poll/survey to help us plan as we want to ensure we meet your child’s academic, social and emotional needs. There are many layers to planning for several COVID-19 scenarios including staffing, setting up classrooms and other campus environments.”
“To help us plan accordingly, we ask that you fill this poll/survey out by Wednesday, June 3 at 11:59 p.m. We know COVID-19 information is very fluid and you may change your mind before the school year starts, and that is okay!”
“Our purpose is to hope for the best but plan for the worst case scenario.”
Ms. Walton emphasized the district considers parent feedback an important factor and its very valued. Since the survey closed late Wednesday, the results were not yet available at press time.
The survey question was:
What option are you considering for this child for the 2020 – 2021 school year?
a) I plan to send my child to the physical school building in MISD for the 2020-2021 school year.
b) I do not plan to send my child to the physical building for the 2020-2021 school year and want MISD to offer a remote learning option until a COVID-19 vaccine has been found.
c) I do not plan for my child to stay enrolled in MISD for the 2020-2021 school year.
Planning For Students To Return In The Fall
In discussing the fall, Board Member Walton said: “In this current climate as churches are gathering, cities and counties are in full mobility, deep cleaning and extra steps are being taken as a precaution for safety in buildings and places where people gather. I can only imagine that will continue. At MISD we have amazing custodians, our unsung heroes that serve as friends, an added layer of security and an essential value to what makes MISD a safe place for students.”
“The fall semester brings not only hope and joy for Friday night lights, cross country, tennis, and the excitement of volleyball – but the chance to see friends again on campus.”
“It’s leadership agility, awesome teachers, flexibility with shared goals for safe learning that help us meet the challenge.”
Such aspects as growth, busing, classroom sizes, and how many students will need to attend school virtually will all be factors in the fall semester. In terms of social distancing and use of school buses, there is a conference call with Mike Morath, Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, every Tuesday and Thursday to go over options and future directions which must be taken. Walton feels that after each teleconference the board learns more about how the future will unfold.
It is almost certain that there will be less funds available overall for the coming school year. The important question to answer is how will items which might cost less such as busing, utilities, substitute teachers and other incremental costs balance with added technology and other costs associated with virtual learning.
Looking Back -Two Weeks to do Two Years Work
Looking at this past year, it was a logistical nightmare when schools had to be closed after spring break. New bandwidths were needed, all lesson plans needed to be redone and grading systems to be reset. The district had to pivot to a completely new and untried system with no room for error with the future of Midlothian’s youth depending on it.
One benefit the district will have this fall, there will be two months rather than only two weeks to plan. Walton pointed out that this past spring break, teachers and administrators had only two weeks to do two years of work in planning how to go to a 100% online learning system. Everyone – teachers, administrators and students all had to learn new software, new ways to connect and new ways to teach and learn.
“There were lots of tears and lots of joy,” she said in relating how the new system took shape. “Lots of credit really goes to the teachers,” she said.
Role of Trustee Is Important But Community/Parent Input Is Too
Walton concluded by saying although the role of trustee is very important, she feels so fortunate to have such good leaders within the school system to get all the hard work done so efficiently and well. She emphasized the importance of parents and community members asking questions. The board appreciates it when the community becomes part of the solution.
“The budget is daunting. To have a $90 million budget – it is like a household budget but only bigger – much bigger! You have income, you have expenses. You don’t just trust that your cable, electricity bills will come out perfect because people make mistakes. Its teamwork. It is a partnership. The role of a trustee is to set a budget, to set a tax rate, to review the finances and to ask questions.”
She said questions are a good thing when done respectfully because, “We all learn as a result from that.”
Next School Board Meeting
The next school board meeting is June 15. It begins with an executive session at 5 pm followed by the regular meeting at 6 pm. It will be held at the L A Mills Administration Board Room on 100 Walter Stephenson Road.
Public comments and input are welcome at this and every meeting. To participate in the Public Comment portion of the meeting, without attending in person, an individual must complete the public comments form prior to the beginning of the meeting. It is available by visiting the MISD website at MISD.GS.