School board says goodbye, welcomes new member

Image: Trustee Oath — Jackie Miller Jr. swears in newly elected board members — Larry Eubank, Jon Mathers and Curtis Riddle.

Trustee Oath — Jackie Miller Jr. swears in newly elected board members — Larry Eubank, Jon Mathers and Curtis Riddle. (Alysa Kirton)

The monthly meeting of Italy School Board of Trustees meeting was filled with goodbyes, welcomes and changes at its meeting Monday evening. There were about three dozen parents, citizens, personnel and students in attendance.

Superintendent Jimmie Malone thanked Cindy Carter, outgoing school board member, for her service to the district.

Presenting her with a plaque, he said, “You represented the district well. You always reminded us to keep the kids in our focus. Our best wishes go with you.”

Following, Ellis County Justice of the Peace Jackie Miller Jr. administered the oath of office to newly elected board members – Larry Eubank, Curtis Riddle and Jon Mathers.

Mathers replaces Carter on the board.

Election of officers followed with the board electing Cheryl Owen as president, Eubank as vice president and Paul Cockerham as secretary.

Following the election, Owen said, “It doesn’t matter who is what on this board, we are going to be one board.”

Malone named Michael Destefani, CBI Life Skills instructor, as Employee of the Month. The employee received a ceramic apple and Wal-Mart gift card.

Destefani, a 2006 graduate of Texas A&M in Commerce, earned his Bachelors of Science degree.

Malone said, “There are many special needs students in the class and it takes a special kind of educator to teach them.”

Malone also introduced the co-valedictorians – Alexis Miller and Brandon Owens. Their grade point average, Malone explained, is 3.8475. He said the grades are the same to the 11th digit, thus making both valedictorians.

Miller plans to attend Baylor University and major in psychology. Owens plans to attend Navarro College with a focus on a medical technology degree.

Both students received a gift from the superintendent. He said, “I hope we prepared you well.”

From the public
Four individuals addressed the board concerning various items.

Donald Brummett addressed the board concerning seniors that fail to pass all TAKS tests. He suggested these students be recognized for their efforts and suggested some students might qualify for placement in special education in order to be exempt from these tests.

Karen Mathiowetz addressed the board concerning scholarships.

“It is a proven fact that scholarships are a much needed resource for most of our students. Without them, they would either not be able to attend college or have to alternate work and college which takes forever and is very discouraging or they incur so much debt in student loans that it takes forever to get out of debt.” She continued, “However, these scholarships only work if the students are aware of them. This year I know of two instances where two scholarships were not utilized for one reason or another.”

She added that a parent of a former student had offered to meet with seniors and give them the scholarship information she had researched the previous year. The school, Mathiowetz said, never accepted the offer. She said a scholarship presenter asked for a meeting with the seniors several times and school personnel said that they did not have time for such a meeting.

Continuing, Mathiowetz said, “I am asking that the Italy ISD set up some sort of policy or guideline concerning scholarships so that these problems never happen again. Our kids deserve all the help we can give them.”

Concluding, she said, “I had other concerns about the scholarship program, but I visited with Mr. Malone and Ms. Parker and they have assured me that these will be taken care of so I will not speak on those.”

Kathy Haight, president of the Italy Band Booster Club, addressed the board concerning the band program and the need for new uniforms.

She said there were 39 students in the high school band and 17 in the seventh grade band in 2006. This year there are 58 students in the high school band and 35 in the seventh grade band. Haight added, “Next year, we anticipate larger groups.”

Haight said the current uniforms were purchased 10 years ago when Jesus Perez, band director, was a senior in high school.

“This is a great program for our kids. Our band won Sweepstakes two years in a row.” She continued, “It takes a well-rounded band to accomplish this.”

Later in the meeting, Perez had two students model the old uniform and a new uniform.

Perez said contest judges have commented about the ill-fitting uniforms. He said the new uniforms have adjustable hem lengths and are lighter and cooler for students. The new uniforms have a 10-year guarantee.

Malone presented the board with two quotes for uniforms. He said the district has about $12,000 available for the new uniforms but would have to take $5,000 to $6,000 from the fund balance to pay for all the uniforms.

Dee Dee Hamilton, band booster officer and parent, said the students are willing to give up their band trip to assist with the purchase of the uniforms.

Malone said the district does not ask athletes to purchase uniforms and should not ask the band to do so.

Tommy Morrison, board member, also objected to the offer from Hamilton and made a motion to approve the purchase of band uniforms from The Bandsman. The motion, seconded by Marty Haight, passed unanimously.

Plans are to purchase 80 uniforms. Perez said it should take from 45 to 60 days to get the completed uniforms.

Owen, addressing Perez said, “You have done a miraculous job. These kids always make us proud.”

Mark Stiles also addressed the board with several concerns.

His first suggestion was to hire an assistant superintendent to be in charge of discipline, to assist with scholarships, to help raise the TAKS scores. He said he understood all this takes funding, but noted the priority needs to be discipline in the school district.

He said communication was another concern. He said the district promised students flex days at the end of the school year if they passed the TAKS test. The problem now is the district has not yet received those scores from the state. Until the district receives those scores, the flex days are unavailable. “So what is the back up plan?” He continued, “I think this is an injustice to the students.”

Another concern Stiles has is the lack of financial preparation for students exiting high school. He said there are enough problems with teen pregnancies and said students need to learn fiscal responsibility as they leave high school. He said some graduating students do not know how to balance a checkbook.

Addressing the scholarship issue, he suggested a night meeting for parents to attend.

Stiles also questioned how many grants the district has applied for noting that there are grants available and said the students in Italy deserve them as much as any student.

He said that it is difficult to be a teacher and administrator these days. However, school personnel not doing their jobs properly need to be replaced.

Owen thanked those who addressed the board.

Student activities
Tanya Parker, high school principal, said graduation practice is now set for Friday rather than Thursday. Practice starts at 10 a.m. with graduation to begin at 8 p.m. She is asking each senior to sign a dress code form for graduation.

Malone said the girl’s high school softball team is regional quarterfinal champions. He said they will face Blue Ridge in the next set of play offs to be held in Forney. Depending on whether the teams play one or three games, he said they would begin on Thursday. Second or third games, if decided upon, will be set for Saturday. He explained that the district did not want to interfere with graduation.

John Isaacs, a senior, competed in the State UIL track competition capturing third in the Triple Jump.

The superintendent also noted that five students have qualified for dual credit college scholarships – Shelley Gilley, Megan Richards, Melissa Smithey, Kaytlyn Bales and Marsalla Perez.

These scholarships pay for dual credit tuition and books for both semesters.

Malone explained that the Italy school district received more money for these scholarships than any other school district in Ellis County.

Financial and administrative reports
The board approved the financial reports from Monica Boyd, business manager.

The district has received 69.93% of its budget and has spent 70.1% of its expenditures. She reminded board members that the district does not receive funds from the state during the months of April and August.

Boyd said the $500,000 CD matured on May 6 with interest of $4,834.93. They rolled over the funds for six more months. The interest rate was 1.95% and that rate dropped to 1.5% this time.

Current student enrollment in the district is 643 students. Refined average daily attendance is 95.67%. According to Malone, the average daily attendance needs to be at least 96%.

The board approved minutes from the previous three meetings and tabled a cooperative agreement with Region 10.

The board convened into executive session to discuss personnel but took no action.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for Monday, June 21.