KARNES CITY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
Improving the TSPR
TSPR in the Karnes City ISD
KCISD in Profile
Exemplary Programs and Practices
TSPR Key Recommendations
What Still Needs to be Done?
KCISD's Ideas for Improving the TSPR
In January 2000, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn selected the four Karnes County school districts - Falls City ISD, Karnes City ISD, Kenedy ISD and Runge ISD - for a school performance review. After more than six months of work, final reports were issued in August 2001. In November 2002, Texas School Performance Review (TSPR) staff returned to assess the districts' progress towards implementing the recommendations.
Since 1991, TSPR has recommended more than 7,000 ways to save taxpayers more than $700 million over a five-year period in more than 80 different Texas public school districts and higher education institutions. TSPR also conducts follow-up reviews of districts that have had at least one year to implement its recommendations. These 55 subsequent reviews show that school districts implemented more than 90 percent of the recommended changes, saving Texas taxpayers more than $120 million with additional savings anticipated in the future.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who took office in January 1999, consulted Texas school district officials, teachers and parents and carefully examined past reviews and progress reports in an effort to make the Texas School Performance Review more valuable to the state's more than 1,000 school districts. With the perspective of having served as a teacher, and later a school board president, the Comptroller has vowed to steer TSPR toward being more accountable to local school districts and the communities they represent.
Comptroller Strayhorn began by establishing new criteria for selecting school districts for future reviews. Priority is now given to districts judged poor performing academically or financially, and to hands-on reviews that benefit the greatest number of students. To ensure this process also serves small districts, reviews of numerous school districts in close proximity, regardless of academic or financial status, are also completed to achieve some economy of scale, as was the case with the smaller districts reviewed in Karnes County.
Recognizing that only about 51 cents of every education dollar is spent on instruction, Comptroller Strayhorn's goal is to drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom. In addition, no longer are school districts' best practices and exemplary models left buried inside individual TSPR reports. Instead, Comptroller Strayhorn has ordered best practices and exemplary programs to be shared quickly and systematically among all the state's school districts and with anyone who requests such information. There is simply no reason for a district that has solved a problem well to keep the solution to itself. Comptroller Strayhorn has directed TSPR to serve as an active clearinghouse of the best and brightest ideas in Texas public education. Best practices identified in the original review will be included in the Comptroller's best practices database, A+ Ideas for Managing Schools (AIMS), which is accessible on the Web at www.aimsdatabase.org.
Under Comptroller Strayhorn's approach, the TSPR team and consultants work with districts to:
- ensure students and teachers receive the support and resources necessary to succeed;
- identify innovative options to address core management challenges;
- ensure administrative activities are performed efficiently, without duplication and in a manner that spurs education;
- develop strategies to ensure the districts' processes and programs are continuously assessed and improved;
- understand the links among the districts' functional areas and determine ways to provide a seamless system of services;
- challenge any process, procedure, program or policy that impedes instruction and recommend ways to reduce or eliminate obstacles; and
- put goods and services to the "Yellow Pages test"-government should do no job if there is a business in the Yellow Pages that can do that job better and at a lower cost.
Finally, Comptroller Strayhorn has opened her door to Texans who share her optimism about TSPR's potential. Suggestions to improve school reviews are welcome at any time. The Comptroller is a staunch believer in public education and public accountability.
Detailed information can be obtained from TSPR by calling 1-800-531-5441 extension 5-3676, or by visiting the Comptroller's Web site at www.window.state.tx.us.
TSPR contracted with the IBM Corporation to assist with the review of the Karnes City Independent School District (KCISD). The team interviewed district employees, school board members, parents, business leaders and community members and held a public forum at Karnes City High School. The review team conducted additional focus group sessions with teachers, business leaders, site-based decision-making committees, students and parent volunteer groups. Parents, teachers and community members voiced their opinion by writing or calling the Comptroller's office.
To ensure that all stakeholders had an opportunity for input, TSPR also sent out surveys to teachers, parents, students, administrative and support staff. A total of 163 individuals responded to the surveys: including 44 campus and central administrators and support staff, 49 teachers, 54 parents and 16 students.
The review team also consulted two Texas Education Agency (TEA) databases of comparative educational information, the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) and the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS).
KCISD selected peer districts for comparisons based on similarities in student enrollment, student performance and community and student demographics. The selected peer districts were Ballinger, Colorado, Corrigan-Camden, DeKalb, Floydada and Freer Independent School Districts.
Located just 55 miles south of San Antonio, KCISD is the largest school district in the County. In 2000-01, KCISD served 960 students in one elementary school, one junior high school and one high school and enrollment for 2002-03 is 954 students. In 2002-03, KCISD's student population is 55.8 percent Hispanic, 38.7 percent Anglo and less than 5 percent other. More than 55 percent of the students are classified as economically disadvantaged.
In 2002, KCISD continued its Recognized rating from TEA. The district's high school and elementary school are rated Exemplary, and the junior high school is Recognized. (The junior high school would have received an Exemplary rating except for its 81.9 percent score in social studies.)
In 2001-02, 96.4 percent of all students passed the Reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test; 96.9 percent passed the Math portion of the test; and 94.6 percent passed the Writing portion.
In 2001-02, the district employed a staff of 169.5 individuals. Teachers made up 48 percent of the district staff. The district spent $6.66 million in 2000-01. Local taxes generated 29.1 percent of KCISD revenues and other local and intermediate sources contributed 3 percent; the state provided 64.6 percent; and the federal government supplied 3.3 percent.
In 2001-02, KCISD spent 53.8 cents of every tax dollar on classroom instruction compared to the state average of 51 cents. In fact, KCISD consistently spends above the state average on classroom instruction.
Since TSPR released its report in August 2001, the former superintendent left the district taking a position in Orange Grove ISD and KCISD promoted the high school principal to superintendent in July 2002. The new superintendent's goals include preparing a vision for the district and improving curriculum. KCISD experienced a turnover of 36 employees, including the directors for technology, athletics, transportation and special programs. The director of special programs' position has not yet been filled and the superintendent has assumed its roles. The new superintendent has also taken over curriculum development. He has begun to meet monthly with K-12 teachers to redesign the scope and sequence of the curriculum so that TAKS and TEKS can be aligned for all grade levels by the end of the 2003-04. KCISD also plans to release a complete curriculum document by the end of 2003-04.
During 2001-02, the district faced the possibility of ending the year with a fund balance deficit. To prevent this, the district chose to operate with 2.5 fewer positions and reduce its overall operating expenditures. These changes made it possible to put money back into the fund balance. For 2002-03, the district eliminated an additional 7.5 positions, which reduced personnel costs by $270,000.
KCISD won a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to use for alcohol reduction in grades 6 through 12. The grant also provides funds to increase academic achievement, improve student self-esteem and provide family counseling and intervention. In cooperation with other Karnes County districts, KCISD also secured $2.2 million in a safe schools grant. The district hires a program coordinator in January 2003.
While the district still has work to do, KCISD staff and TSPR team members concur that the district has made steady progress.Eleven recommendations have been implemented; 13 are in various stages of development; and three have not been addressed. KCISD officials rejected one recommendation because they believed implementation was not feasible at this time. (See Appendix A for details on the recommendations' status.)
Karnes City ISD Report Card
Excellent = More than 80% complete
Chapter Total Complete In
Rejected Percent Complete/
Grades District Organization and Management 2 1 1 0 0 50%/50% Satisfactory Financial Management 12 5 3 3 1 42%/25% Needs Work Educational Service Delivery 8 2 6 0 0 25%/75% Satisfactory District Operations 6 3 3 0 0 50%/50% Satisfactory Overall Grade 28 11 13 3 1 39%/46% Satisfactory
Satisfactory = 80% to 100% complete or in progress
Needs Work = Less than 80% complete or in progress
TSPR identified numerous "best practices" in KCISD. Through commendations in each chapter, the report highlights model programs, operations and services provided by KCISD administrators, teachers and staff. TSPR encourages other school districts to examine these exemplary programs and services to see if they could adapt the recommendations to meet their local needs. TSPR's commendations include the following:
- Board members exceed annual training requirements. KCISD board members exceed and prioritize State Board of Education (SBOE) suggested in-service training in the areas of communication, education service delivery, legislation and legal issues to foster professional development and enhance their service to the district. Individual board members attend from seven to 27 hours of professional development over the eight recommended by the SBOE including training in communication, education, legislation and legal issues.
Because the KCISD School Board believes that school boards need continued training, this area remains a priority.
- KCISD staff and community members collaborate to achieve district goals. Business and community members, parents, teachers, administrators and the superintendent jointly create the district improvement plan and serve as the district site-based decision-making committee. This collaboration at the district and campus level ensures that the needs of students, administrators, staff and community members are addressed and reflected in the district and campus annual goals.
The district and all campus site-based committees include business and community members, parents, teachers, administrators and, in some cases, student representatives. All district and campus goals incorporate input from these committees.
- KCISD aggressively recruits teachers. KCISD posts job vacancies at campus and district locations in local and surrounding community newspapers, at the Regional Education Service Centers III and XX and on the district's interactive Web site. Additionally, the district lists teacher opportunities through the job banks at Texas A&M University - Kingsville and Corpus Christi, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Southwest University and the University of Houston at Victoria and receives lists of new education graduates from the University of Houston at Victoria and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
KCISD continues to use all of the cited processes to recruit teachers and also uses the local and area newspapers to advertise positions. Teacher and administrative vacancies are posted on the Internet via the Region III Education Service Center job bank, the TASA job site, the Texas Troops Web site and the TASB Web site.
- The superintendent actively participates in community organizations. The superintendent's personal involvement in a wide array of business and community organizations helps disseminate information about district activities and encourages community involvement in school functions.
The new superintendent continues his predecessor's practice of community involvement. He is active in the local Rotary Club, the Karnes County Youth Show Board, the Karnes County Federal Credit Union, the Goliad Special Education Advisory Board, the Region III Advisory Board, the Karnes County Juvenile Advisory Board and the Karnes County Technology Development Board.
- Teachers are provided a variety of instructional software resources to enrich the curriculum design and address various student needs. KCISD's technology coordinator has obtained more than $490,000 in grants since 1997-98 from multiple funding sources, which has provided teachers with instructional resources to enrich their curriculum design and cater to students' learning styles and requirements at each grade level through both network and workstation-based instructional software.
KCISD continues to pursue technology grant opportunities for the district. In cooperation with other partners in Karnes County, the district obtains grants to advance classroom technology.
The following are some of the key recommendations that administrators and staff said had the greatest impact on district operations. The highlighted recommendations are organized by chapter and by the area of operation, as contained in the original report. District administrators made these comments during the TSPR team's follow-up visit to the district.
District Organization and Management
Recommendation 2 - Elevate the part-time PEIMS clerk position to full-time and develop standard procedures for all reporting personnel for data collection and submission.
The PEIMS clerk oversees the submission and accuracy of all PEIMS student data and trains KCISD staff. Through the full-time position, the district has improved the accuracy of the PEIMS data submissions to the state and has also improved the efficiency of the accounting process.
Recommendation 8 - Develop and maintain a comprehensive fixed-asset management system to ensure that district fixed assets are properly identified, monitored and safeguarded.
KCISD implemented and currently maintains a comprehensive, ongoing, fixed-asset management system. In October 2000, the district contracted with RCI Technologies to annually tag, scan and update fixed asset records. RCI Technologies sends KCISD a report, which KCISD business office staff reconcile to district records. The implementation of the fixed-asset management system enabled the district to comply with all reporting requirements of Governmental Standards Accounting Board (GASB) No. 34.
Recommendation 13 - Provide formal training for the textbook coordinator and develop a detailed textbook coordinator's manual.
After formal training, the textbook coordinator developed a textbook coordinator's manual, which was distributed to all principals. The handbook's guidelines instruct principals to take inventories of textbooks at the beginning and end of each semester. Although the district has not seen a decrease in the cost of textbooks, collection for lost textbooks has increased, which enables the district to start the school year with textbooks for all students.
Educational Service Delivery
Recommendation 16 - Coordinate a K-12 curriculum development process.
The new superintendent has assumed responsibility for curriculum coordination among all grades and campuses. The superintendent has monthly meetings with K-12 teachers to align scope and sequence and timelines to prepare for TAKS. The district will complete its curriculum document by the end of 2004 school year. The superintendent has set a goal to ensure that all KCISD students will pass the TAKS.
Recommendation 23 - Verify all data collection and reports with the business manager or Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) clerk and explore the use of a Point of Sale (POS) system to streamline Food Services Department operations.
The PEIMS clerk now enters all district student information. Following a review by the principal, the superintendent must approve the final report. This method has improved the accuracy of the data collected and used by the district. The district also installed a POS system, which has enabled it to coordinate meal purchases by family members among campuses more effectively. The new POS system has helped increase the number of lunches served, despite a decline in student enrollment.
Recommendation 25 - Develop strategies to achieve an annual 4 percent increase in meal participation in each of the next five years by enlisting the support of staff, students and parents and using industry best practices.
KCISD serves 1,000 additional meals each month because of district staff efforts to increase student meal participation. Staff members routinely encourage students to participate in the lunch program. In addition, the district changed its lunch application to help coordinate meals purchased by students in the same household. The district invites students to participate in menu planning. The district collects larger reimbursements because of this increase but does not have a dollar figure for the increase at this time.
Recommendation 27 - Implement a bus safety program that includes two bus evacuation drills a year.
The Transportation Department implemented a school bus safety program for all bus drivers and now conducts two bus evacuation drills for each bus annually. The superintendent said that any program to prevent a KCISD student's injury is a district priority.
Despite a new superintendent and a number of key staff, KCISD made steady progress in implementing TSPR's recommendations during the past year. Eighty-five percent of the TSPR recommendations either have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. The district provided reasons for not yet implementing three of the report's recommendations, as well as plans to complete implementation of these items. KCISD rejected one recommendation because the district felt it was unworkable. This section addresses the areas that require additional attention.
The district has made significant progress in implementing the recommendations related to its financial management duties but continued progress is needed. TSPR encourages the district to revisit the recommendation to bond employees who have responsibility for handling large sums of cash. While it may not be cost effective to bond all employees who deal with cash, the district should bond those employees who handle large amounts of cash, such as the business manager, the athletic director, the student activity advisors and the high school principal. Bonding these employees will not only help protect the district from loss, but also protect those employees from personal liability. The district should continue to monitor its investments and the interest rates paid by the depository bank and investment in pools to ensure that district funds are in invested safely and to provide the district with the highest possible interest.
Educational Service Delivery
The new superintendent's leadership in curriculum development and alignment should provide the district with continued and increased success in student learning. His belief that all KCISD students are capable of passing the TAKS and his goal for the district to be ten percentage points higher than the state average set the tone for future achievements. To ensure that achieving these goals is not impeded, the district should complete a disaster recovery plan to protect computer resources and records. The district also should continue to evaluate school security to keep unauthorized individuals off its campuses.
The Texas School Performance Review team does not assume that its process for performing school reviews works so well that it cannot be improved. Therefore, as part of the progress report preparation, TSPR asked KCISD staff members and administrators how they felt the evaluation process could be improved.
The feedback TSPR has received from other districts led to improvements in the review process. For example, early reports did not include implementation strategies, and districts told TSPR they needed help in getting started. As a result, the reports now include IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINEs to complement the recommendations. Districts have told TSPR these blueprints are invaluable to achieving the desired results. It is important that TSPR continually attempts to improve the review process.
Karnes City administrators and board members made the following observations about the review process:
KCISD board member survey responses were generally positive, stating that the report helped move the district forward. One board member commented, "The recommendations of the Comptroller's Office did force our board and administration to carefully assess operations." Another board member comment addressing the recommendation to Coordinate a K-12 curriculum development process stated, "I feel that it is significant because this is a weakness in our district and implementing a coordinated effort would lead us to improved academic performance at all levels."
District administration staff said that the process was beneficial and that the review was thorough. In addition to what was presented in the report, the superintendent said that the district received beneficial information from discussions with the review team while they were in the district talking with staff members. In addition, the superintendent suggested that the consultants who specialize in education services delivery should know more about the specifics of the Texas Education Code and Texas Education Agency requirements. TSPR heard this from other districts; although the agency consultant evaluation process tries to address this issue, TSPR will assess this requirement more closely.