School to close for Pope’s visit to Juárez

By Becky Brewster

The Culberson County-Allamoore ISD Board of Trustees voted to close all CCAISD campuses on February 17, 2016 for Pope Francis’s visit to Juarez.  According to the Two Nations, One Faith website, Pope Francis II will conclude his visit to Mexico in Ciudad Juarez on February 17, where he will celebrate Mass near Benito Juarez Stadium.  El Paso will be host to a community papal celebration at the Sun Bowl Stadium that will include a live telecast of the Mass in Juarez. Trustee Angie Gonzales requested consideration of this matter because many students are traveling to El Paso to participate in activities relating to the papal visit. Trustee Jack Dorris voiced his support of the action, stating that “this would be the only time in the student’s lifetime” to have an opportunity to experience such an historic event”.  Those staff and students not travelling to El Paso would have the opportunity to watch the broadcast at home. District Administration will determine the best way to make up the missed time to ensure continued compliance with the number of minutes of instruction required for the school year.          

In other matters, the CCAISD conducted a public hearing to report the School FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) financial accountability rating for the District.  According to the TEA website, School  FIRST reports public school district financial accountability ratings, as authorized by Senate Bill (SB) 218 of the 77th Legislature in 2001 as follows:

The primary goals of School FIRST are to:

• Efficiently assess the quality of financial management in Texas public schools

• Measure and report the extent to which financial resources in Texas public schools assure the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes

• Implement a rating system that fairly and equitably evaluates the quality of financial management decisions

• Improve the management of school districts’ financial resources

• Increase financial accountability within Texas’ public education system

Districts are rated on various performance metrics (called “indicators”) relating to financial management. (To improve the effectiveness of the rating system, the indicators may change from year to year, and new indicators may be added.) These indicator ratings inform you of how well your district is doing financially, and where the district should focus efforts for improvement. In addition to a rating for each indicator, districts receive an overall “passed” or “failed” rating. Ratings are based on analysis of staff and student data for the school year, and on budgetary and actual financial data for the fiscal year. Two measurement vehicles, the Annual Financial Report (AFR) and the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS), supply School FIRST with most of the measurement data from which the ratings are calculated. (https://tuna.tea.state.tx.us/first/Help/schoolfirst.htm)

Superintendent Dalia Benavides presented the School FIRST results for the  2014-2015 School Year based on 2013-2014 data, noting that the District achieved a passing score of 22 (out of a possible 30). Supt. Benavides stated that the District was “fine in meeting all indicators,” noting the only area of concern is the District’s administrative cost ratio which will be addressed in the next budget process. Ms. Benavides also stated that “the rating is pretty good… and the audit had no findings.” She credited the Business Office for doing a good job. The full report can be accessed at https://tuna.tea.state.tx.us/first/forms/District.aspx, using the CCAISD District Number 55901.

Following the public hearing, Scott Reed and Hector de Santiago of Parkhill, Smith and Cooper, presented various site plan options for the proposed facility improvements project based on the facilities assessment and the subsequent directives from the Bond Facilities Committee.  The main directives are to stay in one building with separate wings for each campus, to keep the existing gym and auditorium, and to design the improvements with safety of the students and staff being a primary focus.  All site plans presented utilized the four city blocks comprising the former high school campus.  All grade levels would continue to be housed in the existing campus during construction, and then that site would be demolished after the move to the new campus.  The most economical option presented would require the closure of two blocks of Fannin Street between West Seventh St. and West Ninth St.  This option would allow the existing tennis courts to stay at their present location, saving the District upwards of a million dollars. CCAISD will contact the Town of Van Horn to discuss the feasibility of closing Fannin Street, taking into account existing utilities, traffic flow and safety.  Parkhill, Smith and Cooper was asked to provide an additional option that would not require street closures but still keeping the tennis courts at their present location.  The next meeting of the Bond Facilities Committee is scheduled for February 8 followed by a school board meeting on February 11.