Before I get to the update on this week’s Board Workshop, I want to address another important topic – student and staff wellness.
The experiences of the past year have caused many of our students and staff to face social and emotional and mental health challenges. Some in our FBISD family are experiencing anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.
I want to assure you and remind you that the District has an entire network of supports in place to assist you. You are not alone. Fort Bend ISD has launched its Whole Child Health Initiative to increase awareness and decrease the stigma surrounding seeking mental health assistance.
We urge you to reach out to take advantage of our confidential, comprehensive programs, many at no cost. The District is committed to core beliefs and an obligation to nurture the whole child and their families so that each of our students can realize their full potential and achieve their utmost goals and dreams.
If you need support, it is available to you – just a phone call away. The FBISD Talkline is the District’s confidential helpline to share mental health concerns such as depression or suicidal thoughts. This service includes both talking and texting features. Students, parents, and staff can text the word SPEAK to 741741 or call (281) 240-8255 (TALK) to connect with a crisis counselor. Both services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You may also visit the Fort Bend ISD homepage at www.fortbendisd.com/ or any campus homepage to get more information about the supports we have in place to assist you and your family. Just look for the Whole Child Health Initiative button.
At Monday’s Board Workshop and agenda review we provided a comprehensive update on planning and budgeting for next year.
We are anticipating a return to pre-pandemic operations in the new academic year which begins in August. That means all students will return to in-person instruction at their schools. Exceptions will be made for a small percentage of students who require continued virtual learning due to extenuating circumstances.
We presented an updated budget proposal that is balanced and recommends significant pay increases for all staff – including a proposed $3,000 for all teachers, even those at the top of the experience scale, and a 4% raise for non-teaching staff, which will be based on midpoint of the pay grade. On May 10, we will ask the Board to approve the budget and proposed pay raises.
Some other strategic areas we plan to fund are an A/B Block schedule pilot program at Marshall, Willowridge, and Hightower high schools. The program will allow teachers time for collaborative learning in core content areas as part of Professional Learning Communities and provide intervention opportunities for students who need additional support. The A/B Block schedule will also ensure that Early College High School and P-Tech students at the three campuses are provided with additional opportunities in their schedules to meet program requirements.
Funds are also included in our strategic plan to allow English, Algebra I, Geometry and Biology teachers at other high school campuses to teach 5 of 7 periods so that they too are afforded time to engage in Professional Learning Communities.
And we anticipate the elimination of some COVID-related expenses such as contact tracing if the virus infection rate continues to decline. We will be discussing that topic more in the days to come.
We will conduct the annual public hearing on the budget and related tax rates before the Regular Board Meeting on Monday, May 10. Although the Board is expected to consider the 2021-22 budget on May 10, they will not take action to set the tax rate until August or September.
On Monday, the Board discussed the possibility of a three cent tax rate increase using disaster pennies to fund next year’s budget, although we are optimistic it will not be necessary if the state legislature passes on to FBISD federal relief funds allocated for public schools. At this time, our legislature is in session and have not yet determined how they will allocate the federal funds. I encourage all parents, staff, and community members to contact your elected officials to compel them to allocate FBISD the federal funds that were designated for our use as determined by the local school board. You can learn more about how to advocate on our legislative page on the website.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the recent focus groups, stakeholder interviews, or online surveys regarding the superintendent search. Your input is valuable to the Board of Trustees and search firm. At next week’s Regular Board Meeting, the search firm, Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, will share the results of their community engagement efforts with the Board and ask the Board to approve the leadership profile that will be used to identify potential candidates to lead FBISD in the future. Please check out the superintendent search page on the District’s homepage to stay involved and informed about the process.
Last week, we officially celebrated our outstanding Teachers of the Year! Our team set up celebration stations under tents outside the FBISD Administration Building to recognize our award-winning educators who drove through or joined us under the tent.
Our elementary, secondary, rookie, and multilingual teachers of the year from each campus and the districtwide winners received their awards, took pictures with their families and principals, were congratulated by Fort Bend ISD board members and the District’s executive team, and were provided with a catered take-home dinner.
We celebrated our 2019-2020 Teachers of the Year on Thursday since the pandemic prevented us from doing so last year. And, on Friday, we celebrated our 2020-2021 exemplary educators.
Last week, we also announced our 2021 District Teachers of the Year – the secondary Teacher of the Year is Elkins High School social studies teacher Sherman Batiste (buh-teest) and our elementary winner is Colony Bend 3rd grade English Language Arts teacher Rosa Castille (cas-steel).
I am proud to work with ALL our outstanding educators in FBISD!