It all began with the McAllen Independent School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent making a pledge to voters. They pledged to be good stewards of public trust, diligent in involving a citizen-based oversight committee, and vigilant in fiscal management. They put it in writing and, in May of 2005, voters approved a $97.85 million school bond issue to build new schools and facilities, improve other campuses, and replace some existing facilities.
Monday, March 7, 2016
McAllen ISD addressing facility needs
McAllen ISD is making good progress in addressing facility needs identified across the district last year. Staff has also worked diligently to keep the community informed about this matter. Just since August, seven reports have been provided (each month at Board of Trustees meetings), including two video updates.
Crews have replaced carpet in many elementary classrooms with tile. Now, they will tackle larger spaces, like offices and libraries. New chillers (for air conditioning) were installed at Cathey Middle School, Memorial High School, and Escandon Elementary. Three more schools will receive new chillers this spring, including Lincoln Middle School, Jackson Elementary and James “Nikki” Rowe High.
Staff has completed work in science labs at three of four high schools. Plumbers have worked after-school hours to install new eye-wash and shower stations, so as not to interrupt class time. Wood flooring (approximately 1,100-square feet) has been replaced at old Travis Middle School gym. New canopies have been installed at nine campuses. These other projects are scheduled for completion this spring:
- Fire alarm upgrades
- New backstops and fencing at some athletic fields
- New bleachers in the gyms for Travis and Brown middle schools and Memorial High
- Roof replacements for Rowe High and De Leon Middle School
Approximately $14.4 million was budgeted for these projects eight months ago. More than half of that budget came through the third installment from an insurance settlement for a 2012 hailstorm. The other portion came from fund balance (district’s savings account), with careful attention to keep those funds at the optimum level recommended by both the Government Finance Officers Association and the Texas Education Agency (TEA). *
Staff also changed how projects are tackled (grouping like-projects, breaking identified to-scale projects into smaller undertakings, identifying some for contract work and others for in-house crew work, etc.). The district continues working to capitalize on savings in material costs and further maximizing efficiencies.
McAllen ISD continues its commitment to finding paths toward greater efficiency, safety and modernization in our schools.
Regarding academics, we are pleased to report amazing work is taking place at our schools. First of all, we have two state champions!
Our McAllen High School Mariachis have captured that title for the third year in a row and, most recently, Garza Elementary Schools captured the state chess championship! Garza’s chess team won in the Fourth-Fifth Grade Novice Division, qualifying for the national chess tournament this May in Nashville, Tenn. Some of our students also earned individual awards.
Winning a state championship on the same year that we began offering chess at our elementary schools tells volumes about the caliber of people who work in McAllen ISD and the children and families who count on us.
By the way, the district is now expanding UIL Academic competition to our elementary schools—another example of the wonderful learning opportunities that are available in McAllen ISD schools.
Here is another testament. Besides having every single one of our high schools ranked “Best in the Nation” (including Lamar Academy ranked 9th Best in U.S.), six of our schools have been named to the Inaugural 2015 Texas Honor Roll by the Educational Results Partnership and the Institute for Productivity in Education. They are Achieve Early College High School (also named 2015 National Blue Ribbon School – highest distinction offered by U.S. Department of Education), Dr. Rodney D. Cathey Middle School, Lucile McKee Hendricks Elementary, Ben Milam Elementary, Dr. Pablo Perez Elementary, and Blanca E. Sanchez Elementary.
After an extensive analysis of student data for every public school in Texas, the schools on this list are recognized for demonstrating consistently high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement over time, and reduction in achievement gaps.
Three-quarters of our choirs earned Sweepstakes at the UIL Concert and Sight-Reading Contest for Middle School Choirs. Three other groups received a superior rating in concert or sight-reading. This means 88% of our choirs, representing all seven campuses, earned an award.
As Interim Superintendent, I am determined to take every opportunity to tell our community about the amazing learning that is taking place in our schools and the wonderful people who make it happen every day. I simply ask that you watch for these reports and tell others. McAllen ISD’s tradition of excellence rages on, unfettered.
- McAllen ISD Board Policy CE (Local): “The District shall strive to maintain a balance in the general fund that closely approximates the optimum fund balance amount prescribed by TEA, as reported in the annual financial and compliance report.” TEA guidance equates to something between two and three months of operating expenses.
Within just two months after the election, the district had:
- Sold 100% of bond proceeds at 4.5% interest rate (lowest rate in 40 years),
- Maintained district’s tax rate as promised ($.115 per $100 value for 2005-06, reduced to $.108 for 2006-07),
- Saved taxpayers additional $800,000 by refinancing remaining 1997 bonds,
- Engaged globally-recognized Jacobs Facilities to ensure a thorough and professional management of construction projects, and
- Developed the first ever MISD building and design standards/value engineering/safety guidelines for efficiency, uniform building material/construction standards, and quality control.
In spite of sharply rising fuel prices and the cost of steel and other construction materials which adversely affected other communities, the District completed the Bond program under budget and on time.