|Trinity Standard - Local News
Copyright 2012 - Polk County Publishing Company
School year reviewed at end-of-year lunch
Trinity Standard -
TRINITY – Meeting with local political and business leaders, Trinity School Superintendent Dave Plymale outlined local accomplishments and plans for next year during an end-of-year luncheon last week. Meeting in the Trinity Community Center on Tuesday, May 15, Plymale presented a review of the 2011-2012 school year, which comes to a close on June 1. He noted that during the year, the new state mandated test was implemented. The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (STAAR) test is replacing the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test. “This is part of the new accountability system being implemented by the state, but the problem were facing now is that we won’t know what the passing standards will be until January (2013),” he explained. The results of the STAAR test administered statewide earlier this year will set the benchmark for the test and officials at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) do not know what passing standards they will set until they can review the results of the first test. Plymale noted that while the state standards are up in the air, last year the Trinity Independent School District met the federal accountability requirements. He noted this was the first time since 2008 that TISD had accomplished this goal. During the 2011-2012 school year, the district began developing a number of programs for the benefit of Trinity students. One such effort is the Kindle Pilot Program launched earlier this year in which the district spent $10,000 to purchase 100 Kindle electronic readers for the high school English/language arts classes. He noted the district was faced with having to purchase new sets of novels for students in those classes at a cost of $10-15,000 but by purchasing the Kindle readers instead, they gained access to hundreds of novels currently available to schools free of charge over the Internet. “This is a pilot program that we hope to expand in the future,” he said. “Right now a sophomore class may be issued the Kindles for a two week period while they read a novel for English. When they’re done, the Kindles are passed on to a class of juniors or freshmen,” Plymale explained. He noted that the past year was challenging financially for the district, which had its state funding cut by $400,000. He added that the district is now bracing for an additional $300,000 in state cuts for the 2012-2013 school year. “There has to be a better way to fund education in Texas,” he told the crowd. “Right now the Trinity ISD is in the bottom 10 percent in the state in terms of state funding. “Right up the road from us, the Grapeland ISD gets $800 more per student from the state than we get here in Trinity. “Our students in Trinity deserve the same type of funding as they do in Grapeland or anywhere else in the state,” he added. Because of the disparity in state funding, Trinity has joined with school districts across the state in a lawsuit challenging the way the state allocates public education funds. Among other changes being sought at the state level, Plymale said the Trinity School Board has joined other Texas districts to challenge the “high stakes testing” program mandated by the state legislature and TEA. “Our school year is normally includes 180 days for student instruction, but 48 of those days are now spent on state tests. We’re spending more and more time on administering state tests and it now seems that only half our time is used for instruction,” he said. Looking to the future, Plymale said that it is the hope of school officials to offer a 3 percent salary increase to teachers next year. He noted that other than the “step raises” granted to teachers for their length of service, TISD was not able to offer a an across the board salary increase this past year. Other changers planned for the coming year include: • Offering more advanced and rigorous courses. • Forming a facilities committee to look closely at existing school buildings to determine the best way to repair and update them. • Creating a leadership academy to help identify and train teachers who want to become school administrators. • Expand the adult education program beyond the current GED courses. • Develop a application or “app” in which local residents can obtain information on the school district using iPhones, iPads or other “smart” electronic devices. A similar app for TISD sports also is being developed.