The Houston Independent School District Board of Education on Thursday voted 3-4, with Paula Harris, Lawrence Marshall and Greg Myers voting in favor, and Anna Eastman, Juliet Stipeche, Harvin Moore and Mike Lunceford opposed, to defeat a motion to institute a standardized bell schedule for the beginning and end of school days.
Board Members Carol Mims Galloway and Manuel Rodriguez, Jr. had left the meeting before the vote took place.
The item,which was proposed to reduce bus transportation costs, failed after lengthy discussion by the board. According to a news release from the district, the proposal would have removed as many as 100 school buses from service, and reduced costs by $1.2 million. Under the standardized schedule, elementary schools would have started at 7:30 a.m. and let out at 2:45 p.m., or started at 8:30 a.m. and lasted through 3:45 p.m. Middle schools would begin at 8:45 a.m. and end at 4:15 p.m., and high schools would start the day at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m. News Release
Trustees opposed to the item were in favor of going through the process of further working with the schools to receive input and work further in adjusting schedules to meet the needs of certain schools.
Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier said some adjustments had been made, but that altering more times could “erode savings” that would come through the plan.
Moore said research had shown that high school students would benefit from a later start time, rather than the earlier start time of 7:45 a.m.
Marshall disagreed with making further adjustments.
“You cannot manage by exceptions,” he said.
Marshall also discussed the anticipated state budget shortfalls for the district,which had prompted the proposal for the standardized schedules.
“It's time now for everyone to share the hurt,” he said.
Board President Harris said the matter was a “tough decision”.
The school board voted 7-2, with Carol Mims Galloway and Manuel Rodriguez, Jr. opposed, to approve an agreement to provide bus transportation services for Houston-area YES Prep Public Schools and KIPP Charter Schools.
The school board voted 8-1, with Galloway opposed, to amend the item stating that any revenue generated from the agreement will be placed in the per unit allocation for the schools.
Galloway said she had concerns with the item, stating that any buses used in providing service by contract would require seat belts by state law.
“If we're going to provide them with seat belts, we need to provide all of our students with seat belts,” she said.
She also said the district would lose students, and funding, to private schools such as YES and KIPP if the district provided bus service.
“I really wish administration would pull this item,” Galloway said.
Moore said he saw “a great deal of investigation” into the agreement, and saw the district as using excess capacity to provide a service to other groups at a lower cost, and bring in revenue. He also said he could not see a connection between the agreement and losing students and funding to private schools.
“The fact that we provide a bus service for them or anyone else has nothing to do with it,” Moore said.
Marshall said the district was diversifying as any business would.
“I consider this an investment,” he said.
He said the agreement would help to defray the district's financial challenges.
“This is the worst year in the history of public education,” he said, noting budget cuts expected for the district.
Under the agreement, the district would initially provide 25 bus routes for YES and KIPP, with the addition of more routes a possibility in the future. The district will charge $245 per day per route for the service.
An item regarding approval of the 2011-2012 Code of Student Conduct was withdrawn from the agenda.
An item regarding the acceptance of funds from the Texas Education Agency for the Texas 21st Century Community Learning Centers was withdrawn from the agenda.
The school board voted unanimously to nominate Lunceford for election to the Texas Association of School Boards Board of Directors.
The school board voted unanimously to purchase primary athletics-injury insurance from Fidelity Security Life and catastrophic athletics-injury insurance from American International Group through Texas Kids First. Agenda