The Longview Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a series of amendments to the Longview Incentive For Teachers (LIFT) program during their regular meeting Monday, Nov. 16th

Board adjusts 'bonus' pay due to COVID

Mon Nov 16, 2020

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The Longview Independent School District Board of Trustees approved a series of amendments to the Longview Incentive For Teachers (LIFT) program during their regular meeting Monday, Nov. 16th.

Dr-James-HockenberryDr. James Hockenberry, LISD Assistant Superintendent of District Services, said the purpose of these amendments is to provide a means by which the program can continue for the current school year, despite the complications caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"The emphasis on closing the achievement gaps will remain by staying focused and committed to the economically disadvantaged student population's academic data," he said. "Although it is recommended that we follow the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) model for calculation of growth, it is not recommended that we include 'all' students in the determination of 'levels,' as does the TIA."

The temporary LIFT model calculations will follow the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) formula using a combination of weighted 2017-2020 academic data to determine teacher "levels," with award distinction funds using a three-year average for the campuses and district for years 2017-2019 Designations. The award is determined by the employee's place of employment at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 year.

In addition, eligibility for the program is earned by being a current 2020-21 employee of the district, who was employed at least 90 days of the 2019-20 calendar year (or one full semester).

Dr. Hockenberry said the district will be waiving the attendance rule for the 2019-2020 year only, and no appeals will be accepted this year, "since most of the data being used for LIFT awards is from prior years."

"Per pupil, and distinction amounts, will remain the same as the 2018-19 school year distribution," he said.

Longview awarded more than $2.4 million in LIFT incentive pay for achieving teachers around this time last year, with a few of the very highest-performing teachers receiving nearly $20,000 in their December 2019 paychecks.

The program is 100 percent funded through local funds from the fund balance, as approved by the LISD Board of Trustees. The amount of incentive pay for Longview ISD teachers has increased dramatically since the $350,000 awarded in 2014-15, just five years ago. 

Longview ISD was ahead of the curve in December 2012, when trustees first voted to implement a performance pay system for middle school reading and math teachers. Designed to help close the achievement gap between low socio-economic and middle-income students, today the Longview Incentive for Teachers (LIFT) Pay for Performance Program includes three award models, and has proven instrumental in retaining high-quality educators.

District buys new buses

Board members also approved the purchase of 15 new school buses from Houston-based Longhorn Bus Sales at a total cost of $1,497,345.

Mr-Joey-JonesMr. Joey Jones, LISD Assistant Superintendent for Finance, said the district currently owns buses that "cost the district more in maintenance than is fiscally responsible to spend."

"By exercising an option to purchase new buses, the district could significantly upgrade the existing fleet and reduce maintenance expenses," he said.

Trustees authorized the issuance of Maintenance Tax Notes for the purchase, accepting a bid from Houston-based Amegy Bank for a rate of 1.180 percent.

Mr. Jones said more buses would mean more drivers and more routes, which would cut the time of some routes. 

Specifically, he said Hudson PEP Elementary School bus routes are longer because the campus serves children across the district, not just in the neighborhood of the school.

Mr. Jones told the board that approval for issuance of maintenance tax notes to cover the cost of new bus purchases "will allow for the repayment over a five-year period, while having the new buses available by the start of the 2021-2022 school year."

"The new buses include security cameras and a collision mitigation system which will ultimately prove to be a savings for the district," Mr. Jones added.

LISD's old buses will be sold at auction once the new fleet vehicles are delivered to the district.

Improvement Plans

The board also approved the 2020-21 District Improvement Plan as well as Campus Improvement Plans for all Longview ISD schools. 

Dr-James-ColemanEach school year the principal of each campus — with the assistance of a committee — must develop, review, and revise the campus improvement plan.

Dr. Craig Coleman, LISD Chief Innovation Officer, said the purpose of this plan is to align goals, objectives, and strategies in order to improve student performance on the state’s student achievement indicators for all student populations, "as well as improve performance on any other performance measures for special needs populations."

"The plans include setting performance objectives, determining the resources needed to implement the plan, and setting timelines for reaching goals," he said.

Mrs-Latitia-WilsonMrs. Latitia Wilson, LISD Director of Planning & Analysis agreed, adding that the plan "serves as the blueprint for how the district and campuses will actually address the needs identified during the Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA)."

"The Texas Education Code also requires that the trustees ensure that the district and all campus plans be developed, evaluated, and revised annually for the purpose of improving the performance of all student groups," she said.

'District of Innovation' update

Board members also approved amending the District of Innovation Plan that was originally approved by the board on March 4th, 2019.

Mr-John-YorkMr. John York, LISD Chief Human Resources Officer, explained that the amendment would allow an exemption to the Teacher Certification Statute, "granting local alternatives to educator certification for specific subject areas without having to submit a teacher certification waiver to the Texas Education Agency."

"To best serve Longview ISD students, decisions on certification will be handled locally," he said. "The district's goal will always be to hire certified teachers. However, flexibility is needed to hire teachers for hard-to-fill Languages Other Than English (LOTE) and Bilingual positions for PreK-12th grade."

Mr. York said a teacher who has a four-year degree, fluent in a foreign language, and is able to pass a district assessment will be qualified to teach elementary and secondary LOTE or Bilingual classes.

"In addition, the amendment grants local certification for certified teachers to teach one subject area outside their certified subject area or grade level," he said. "Which will allow principals to build schedules that will increase course offerings and benefit students."

Mrs-Shalona-Mc-CraryMrs. Shalona McCray, LISD Director of Employee Relations, said taking this approach will allows the district "flexibility to offer a wider range of courses according to student interests to meet the goals of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme."

"In addition, it provides Longview ISD with some flexibility in recruiting talented and qualified staff, as well as allowing for a diverse pool of candidates for positions with the skills and abilities to impact student achievement in areas of instruction," she said.

In other business...

During the course of the meeting, the LISD Board of Trustees also approved: Time Use Tracker for Oct. 12th Regular Meeting; Minutes from the Oct. 28th Special MeetingBudget Amendment No. 3, and two donations to LISD programs totaling $2,005. 

For more info

Trustees usually meet in the boardroom of the LISD Education Support Center (1301 E. Young Street), but often set special-called meetings at various locations around the district.

The next regular meeting is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 14th.

Due to public health protocols currently in place, anyone wishing to attend the meeting in person must abide by COVID-19 guidelines, as only limited seating capacity is available. The meeting will be streamed online at LISD.org/BoardroomLive.

For more information about the Longview ISD Board of Trustees please click here