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Stories Added - February 2009
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Creation of tuition-based pre-k investigated
San Jacinto News- Times - February 2009
COLDSPRING -- Trustees meeting in regular session recently approved a measure allowing administrators to investigate the possibility of a tuition-based pre-kindergarten program in Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated Independent School District. The action followed a request for approval to apply for a Pre-kindergarten Early Start Grant through a shared services agreement with the local Head Start Child Development Center. Regarding a tuition-based prekindergarten program, permitted by State law, Superintendent LaTonya Goffney noted that the request is for opportunity to “consider” and thereby explore the program idea. Goffney said, “We just want to offer more educational opportunities for all 4-year-olds in our community.” Currently, three pre-kindergarten programs are available to COCISD residents. The District and Head Start offer pre-kindergarten classes. As mandated by law, both programs require a minimum income to qualify for enrollment. Coldspring United Methodist Church also offers a pre-kindergarten program at its School for Little Children. Regarding the Early Start Grant, Curriculum Director Cindy Cummings told trustees that the grant would total $31,000. It would provide funding for an additional pre-kindergarten instructor to teach half-a-day at Head Start and half-a-day at Street Elementary School. While at Street, the teacher would work as an early interventionist with at-risk kindergarteners. Cummings said participation on the Head Start campus would provide a common curriculum to the independent groups. This is important because Head Start only serves children through pre-kindergarten. District residents advance to kindergarten at Street Elementary. In response to trustees questioning the need of 4-year-olds to attend school, Cummings said, “We want all 4-year-olds in school. Studies show that pre-kindergarten students are much more ready for kindergarten. Their oral language skills as well as their social skills are much more developed.” Financially, Cummings noted, COCISD would count the Head Start class toward the district’s average daily attendance total and thereby receive additional State monies. The new revenue could represent more than $87,000 and offset the cost of expanding the district’s pre- K program. Dr. David Swanson asked who would be responsible for providing transportation for Head Start students. Cummings said that would remain with Head Start. The board gave administrators unanimous approval to apply for the grant. Trustees also unanimously accepted the District’s annual fi nancial audit for the fi scal year ending August 31, 2008. Ray Smith, chief accountant and partner with Wiggins and Smith in Liberty, presented an “unqualifi ed” opinion of the district’s fi nancial standing. (If the opinion had been “qualifi ed” at any point, additional auditing would be required.) Smith noted the fi scal year ended with a General Fund balance of $4.89 million, a decrease of $62,600 from the previous year. Total revenues decreased about 3.1 percent; total cost of programs and services increased by 4.6 percent. The difference in revenue results primarily from a state mandated tax rate reduction for a defi cit of $1.8 million in property tax revenue collections. However, an increase in state aid offsets the loss by $1.4 million. Programs and services cost increased due to payroll increases and a balloon in transportation costs. According to the report, “The overall budget variance for the year was positive and there were no negative variances for any of the expenditure functions.” Smith told trustees, “The district is in good fi nancial condition.” The report did cite economic projections for the board to consider as the district moves forward in the current year and beyond including: a static enrollment, increased tax revenue resulting from an increased rate of $0.02 and an increase in taxable value of 8.9 percent, unchanged state funding, and salary increases for employees. In other business, trustees approved the expenditure of $32,000 in Title 1 funds for the purchase of a reading program for Lincoln Junior High. Trustees also approved the purchase of supplemental resource material in all core subjects for all campuses not to exceed $20,000 of state funding. They accepted the District Improvement Plan. The plan sets forth the following goals: 1. To attain the Texas Education Agency “Recognized” level for student achievement. 2. To encourage and provide opportunities for parents to participate in school activities, campus, or district decision-making. 3. To recruit, develop, and retain qualifi ed and highly effective personnel. 4. To provide a safe, drug free, positive learning and teaching environment for students and staff members. 5. To enhance dropout prevention efforts so all students will complete school and successfully obtain a high school diploma and to maintain or raise student attendance to a rate of 96 percent. Finally, Gale Altman, board president, announced the retirement of Wanda Gail Smith as secretary of the COCISD Transportation Department. Smith has been employed in the district for 27 years.