The Houston Independent School District Board of Education on Thursday voted unanimously to approve revisions to the board's ethics policies regarding conflicts of interest and the bid evaluation process.
“The Board of Education received a report on March 29, 2012 from Null-Lairson, P.C. (now Whitley Penn, LLP) on the results of its performance audit related to the Houston Independent School District’s Contract Recommendation and Awards Processes,” Board President Michael Lunceford said. “The general scope requirements for the performance audit included a review of existing district policies, state laws, and best practices related to procurement.”
According to a news release from the district, the revisions “strengthen existing guidelines by requiring elected board members to further discuss potential conflicts of interest”. News Release
“The new policies also describe potential repercussions for when violations occur,” said the release. “The revised policy better defines the board responsibilities and allowable contacts with vendors or organizations with which HISD is considering entering into a business or contractual relationship. Vendors will also have to provide conflict of interest disclosure statements and may be disbarred from doing business with the district for two years if trustees fail to disclose conflicts of interest.”
Board members thanked the staff and the community for the work leading to the ethics revisions.
“I think we're really taking kind of a pledge to hold ourselves to a much higher standard,” Board Member Anna Eastman said. “It's going to take more work on our part, and I want to thank all my colleagues for supporting this.”
The board voted unanimously to revise a payroll reconciliation process approved by the board in August for employees required to repay paychecks advanced to them either in a conversion from a twice-a-month to a bi-weekly pay system in 1999-2000 or in their initial year of hire.
The process provided a means for employees to repay the advanced paychecks while employed by the district.
“Although outreach was done prior to the submission of the original board item, additional input was heard from many employees, as well as ideas generated by district leadership,” Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett said.
Under the revised plan, employees will be allowed to utilize a portion of their 22 combined leave and vacation days to satisfy the workdays owed to the district as compensation for the advanced checks, or to have a payroll deduction to repay what is owed.
The board voted unanimously to increase the budget for the Carnegie Vanguard High School Settegast Building Renovation Project by $600,000 to perform additional improvements.
The board had approved $2 million for the renovation of the Settegast building, a 1930s era building, for fine arts instruction.
“Since that approval, unforeseen building modifications and upgrades at the Settegast building are needed to meet Houston ISD standards for this project,” Chief Operating Officer Leo Bobadilla said. “These include structural revisions to the building, repairs to the exterior walls, electrical system upgrades, and other capital improvements.”
Board Member Harvin Moore praised the district's magnet schools, such as Carnegie Vanguard High School. Listen
“Everyone in town, has the opportunity to not only go to their neighborhood school, but to choose from a whole variety of magnet programs,” Moore said.
Moore said that Carnegie Vanguard is “just a reminder of that sort of dual commitment” in the district.
The board voted 8-0-1, with Juliet Stipeche abstaining, to approve the sale of surplus property at 5410 Cornish Street as discussed in executive session.
The board voted unanimously to approve several settlement agreements brought before the Texas Education Agency. The agreements, which were discussed in executive session, included:
- The matter of Houston ISD vs. Sarah LaFleur
- The matter of Houston ISD vs. Phillis Turner
- The matter of Houston ISD vs. Trina Garner Wanza
- The matter of Houston ISD vs. Rosario Grasso
- The matter of Caleb S. as next friend of Angela L. vs. Houston ISD, which was a special education matter.
The board took no action regarding a settlement agreement with Belden Wire and Cable Company.
The school board took no action regarding a settlement agreement in the matter of Houston ISD vs. Annette Okoro.
The school board received updates, during executive session, on litigation in Odilia Vargas as next friend of A.V. vs. Houston ISD, and the matter of Earline Melendez vs. Houston ISD, and The Gil Ramirez Group, LLC vs. Houston ISD. No action was taken on any of the items.
All other items were approved by unanimous vote of the members present at the time of the vote. All members were present at the meeting. Agenda