KENEDY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
Improving the TSPR
TSPR in the Kenedy ISD
KISD in Profile
Exemplary Programs and Practices
TSPR Key Recommendations
What Still Needs to be Done?
KISD's Ideas for Improving the TSPR
In August 2001, the Comptroller of Public Accounts' Texas School Performance Review (TSPR) staff and consultants released a comprehensive review of the Kenedy Independent School District (KISD). During November 2002, TSPR staff returned to assess the district's progress in 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 public school districts and higher education institutions throughout Texas. TSPR also conducts follow-up reviews of districts that have had at least one year to implement recommendations. These 55 subsequent reviews show that more than 90 percent of TSPR's combined proposals have been acted upon, saving taxpayers more than $120 million, with the full savings estimated to grow in the future.
Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who took office in January 1999, consulted school district officials, parents and teachers from across Texas and carefully examined past reviews and progress reports in an effort to make the Texas School Performance Review (TSPR) more valuable, even vital, 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 will be given to districts judged poor performing academically or financially and to hands-on reviews that will benefit the greatest number of students. To ensure that this process also serves small districts, reviews of numerous school districts in close proximity, regardless of academic or financial status, are also done 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 will school districts' best practices and exemplary models be 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 will work with districts to:
- ensure students and teachers have the support and resources they need to succeed;
- find innovative ways to address core management challenges;
- ensure administrative activities are performed efficiently, without duplication and in a way that fosters education;
- develop strategies to continually assess and improve district processes and programs;
- 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 that a business found in the Yellow Pages can do 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.
In March 2001, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn began a review of the Kenedy Independent School District (KISD) as part of a four-district project that also included reviews of the neighboring Karnes City, Falls City and Runge school districts. These four districts are located geographically near each other in Karnes County.
Based upon more than six months of work, this report identified KISD's exemplary programs and suggested concrete ways to improve district operations. If fully implemented, the Comptroller's 47 recommendations could result in net savings of more than $2.2 million by 2005-06.
The Comptroller contracted with International Business Machines, an international computer hardware, software and consulting firm headquartered in New York, to assist with the review. The team interviewed district employees, school board members, parents, business leaders and community members and held a public forum on Wednesday, March 21, at the Kenedy Middle School from 5 to 7 p.m. To obtain additional comments, the review team conducted small focus group sessions with teachers, principals, employees, students, parents and community members. The Comptroller's office also received letters and phone calls from a wide array of parents, teachers and community members.
Surveys were distributed and a total of 241 respondents answered surveys. Forty-three campus and central administrators and support staff, five principals, 46 teachers, 55 parents and 92 students completed written surveys. The review team also consulted two databases of comparative educational information maintained by the Texas Education Agency (TEA)-the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) and the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS).
KISD selected peer districts for comparisons based on similarities in student enrollment, student performance and community and student demographics. The districts chosen were Dilley, Dimmit, Lytle, Nixon-Smiley Consolidated and San Diego. TSPR also compared KISD to district averages in TEA's Region 3 Education Service Center, to which KISD belongs, and the state as a whole.
KISD is located in Karnes County, about 60 miles south of San Antonio. The county seat is in Karnes City, and the county's population is 15,446, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The county's total public school enrollment is 2,561 students. Leading industries include farming, ranching, oil and gas production, uranium mining and milling and fiberglass products.
Kenedy ISD served 949 students in 2001-02. KISD's facilities, except for the Karnes County Academy, are located in the same general area in separate buildings. The elementary school campus is located across the street from the middle and high school campuses. The district's student population is 74.3 percent Hispanic, 22.2 percent Anglo and 2.7 percent African American. Nearly 64 percent of KISD's students are classified as economically disadvantaged.
In 2001-02, KISD's elementary campus received an Academically Acceptable rating from the Texas Education Agency (TEA); the middle school was rated as Academically Acceptable and the high school was rated as Exemplary. The district received an overall Academically Acceptable rating as well.
In 2001-02, 82.4 percent of all students passed the Reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), 88.9 percent passed the Math portion of the test, 88.2 percent passed the Writing portion of the test and 75.3 percent of students passed all tests taken.
In 2001-02, the district employed a staff of 166.3 employees, with teachers accounting for 83.7 employees, or more than 50.3 percent of KISD staffing. The district had expenditures of $7,036,154 in 2001-02. In 2001-02, 17.7 percent of KISD's budgeted revenues were generated through local taxes, 4.7 percent came from other local and intermediate sources and 73.6 percent came from the state, while 3.9 percent came from the federal government. In 2001-02, KISD budgeted 52.7 cents of every tax dollar on classroom instruction compared with the state average of 51 cents.
Over the last year, significant changes have occurred in the district. In August 2002, KISD reached a settlement to end the contract of the previous superintendent, Mr. Joe N. Garza, Jr. The assistant superintendent, Ms. Carolyn Kasprzyk, was named as acting superintendent for the district. The position of assistant superintendent was eliminated.
In June 2002, the community approved a $2.95 million bond for new construction and facility improvements. The bond will enable KISD to make renovations and repairs to all four campuses, as well as construct a band hall and science labs at the high school. A TEA Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) grant will help the district make debt service payments.
The district also received a three-year Department of Education Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant for $881,890 per year. KISD will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant, which will also serve students in Karnes City, Runge and Falls City ISDs. Six goals have been identified for the grant:
- provide and maintain a safe school environment;
- reduce the incidence of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use;
- increase positive family relations, family involvement and conflict resolution by providing access to mental health services;
- increase the number and types of services that specifically address early childhood psychosocial and emotional development;
- increase academic achievement; and
- provide a coordinated, cohesive effort of implementing safe school policies.
While the district still has work to do, KISD staff and TSPR team members concur that the district has made steady progress.KISD has implemented 34 recommendations, nine are in various stages of progress, one has been reviewed but not implemented and three were rejected outright. (See Appendix A for details on the recommendations' status.)
Kenedy ISD Report Card
Excellent = More than 80% complete
Chapter Total Complete In
Rejected Percent Complete/
Grades District Organization and Management 11 8 2 1 0 73%/18% Satisfactory Educational Service Delivery 12 7 4 0 1 58%/33% Satisfactory Financial Management 10 8 0 0 2 80%/0% Satisfactory Operations 14 11 3 0 0 79%/21% Satisfactory Overall Grade 47 34 9 1 3 72%/19% Satisfactory
Satisfactory = 80% to 100% complete or in progress
Needs Work = Less than 80% complete or in progress
TSPR identified numerous "best practices" in KISD. Through commendations in each chapter, the report highlights model programs, operations and services provided by KISD administrators, teachers and staff. The Comptroller's office encourages other school districts throughout Texas to examine these exemplary programs and services to see if they could be adapted to meet local needs. TSPR's commendations include the following:
- KISD has corrected past deficiencies and improved student activity accounting methods. Activity fund deficiencies pointed out by a 1995 TEA audit resulted from lack of central control over student activity accounts or inadequate monitoring of cash activity in these accounts. In response, the district centralized activity funds into one bank account controlled by the business office. This consolidation allows the district to invest the funds and earn interest that is allocated to the benefit of all students.
The district continues to operate student activity funds through one bank account that is controlled by the business office and earns maximum interest.
- KISD maximizes interest earnings through a well-diversified investment strategy. KISD uses a multi-vehicle strategy for investments. By using a mix of local bank accounts, money markets, TexPool and Lone Star investment pools and other investments, the district has been able to produce interest earnings that outperformed the 90-day Treasury bill rate, a rate that is commonly used as a benchmark to judge investment portfolio performance.
By using this diversified mixture of local bank accounts, money markets, TexPool and other investment instruments, KISD continues to receive high interest earnings on its accounts.
- The textbook coordinator has organized the textbook process in a way that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation. The textbook coordinator developed a textbook manual that provides detailed guidance on how to manage the district's textbook needs. The manual helps the district to comply with applicable textbook rules and regulations and allows anyone to find answers to questions in one easy-to-locate place.
This exemplary program is still in place in the district and has not been modified since the review. As a result of TSPR highlighting this program on the A+ Ideas for Managing Schools database at www.aimsdatabase.org, many people have requested a copy of the textbook manual to use in their schools.
The following are some of the key recommendations that administrators and staff said they believe 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. The comments came from district administrators during the TSPR team's follow-up visit to the district.
District Organization and Management
Recommendation 1: Develop and commit to a Board Code of Conduct to ensure that all actions of the board are carried out to promote an atmosphere of trust and respect. This recommendation has helped to ensure more effective board meetings and has promoted an atmosphere of respect. The board received Board Code of Conduct Training provided by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) in January 2002. The training cost was minimal, and administrators said they felt this would help the overall climate of the district.
Recommendation 2: Provide team-building and sensitivity-training workshop to build trust among board members and the administration. TASB staff also conducted 'Team of Eight' training for the board. Administrators said the training has helped encourage individuals with differing opinions to work together and has improved the relationship between the board and administration.
Recommendation 8: Establish staffing formulas that tie the number of employees to student enrollment and reduce staff accordingly. The KISD business manager said this recommendation was necessary for economic reasons and will save the district more than $1.6 million over five years. KISD will use the money where it is most needed.
Educational Service Delivery
Recommendation 12: Involve teachers in the alignment of curriculum guides to reflect TEKS and TAAS objectives to improve student transition between grades. According to the middle school principal,this recommendation gave the district one of the most important tools for improving student achievement. Through contracts with the Region V Curriculum Cooperative, the district updates guides on a continual basis with the assistance of teachers across all grade levels.
Recommendation 31: Revise purchasing policies and procedures. The elementary school principal said the district's revision of its purchasing procedures has simplified the ordering process and standardized purchasing procedures.
Recommendation 35: Create a long-range facilities master plan. The superintendent said thatimplementing this recommendationis allowing the district to upgrade facilities, which is very important in keeping up with future educational trends.The district is developing a master plan as a result of a bond election and an Instructional Facilities Allotment grant of $2.95 million.
Recommendation 38: Implement a bus safety program that includes bus evacuation drills.
The superintendent believes this recommendation has helped to promote a safe school environment by providing bus drivers with a safety handbook and conducting bus safety sessions and emergency drills with students through Region III Educational Service Center.
KISD has made steady progress in implementing TSPR recommendations. Thirty-four recommendations have been implemented, nine are in various stages of progress, one has been reviewed but not implemented and three were rejected. This section addresses the key areas requiring additional attention.
District Organization and Management
Rebuilding trust in the district will take time, but the district has made a good start. During summer 2002, the Board of Trustees worked together to develop district goals. The board adopted "Kenedy ISD-working together to rebuild the PRIDE!" as the district motto. The motto is posted outside the administrative offices and inside the buildings of the four district campuses. Within the district, weekly administrative meetings and monthly director and supervisor meetings have improved communication, and the District Advisory Committee meets monthly and is active and strong in developing objectives and goals through the District Improvement Plan. The employee handbook has also helped to improve communication within the district.
While things have improved, the district should closely monitor the relationship between the administration and district employees with a survey or some other method, as suggested in Recommendation 5. By using a survey and reviewing factors such as grievances, complaints to the board, teacher turnover rates and district legal costs, KISD can ensure that the organizational health of the district has actually improved. If the results of the survey or review indicate otherwise, KISD can use the feedback as a basis to improve morale and resolve any problems that may exist.
As a result of the approval of the $2.95 million bond election, KISD is planning some major facilities construction projects, including building a new band hall and science labs at the high school and renovating and repairing existing buildings on all of the campuses. A planning committee of community members is developing a long-range facilities plan, which prioritizes the list of facility needs. To help pay for the project, KISD will receive a TEA Instructional Facilities Allotment grant, which helps school districts make debt service payments on qualifying bonds used for the construction or renovation of instructional facilities.
As part of this process, the district must further develop its facilities plan into a facilities master plan (as recommended in Recommendation 35) that includes long-range planning and incorporates suggestions from the May 2002 State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) energy audit. SECO found ways the district could save more than $41,000 a year by installing high-efficiency lighting, replacing older and less efficient heating and air-conditioning units and adding energy management controls. Incorporating these recommendations into the master plan will reduce energy expenses and increase savings for the district.
Once facilities construction and renovations are completed, the district should include a preventive maintenance program in the facilities master plan, or deferred maintenance will accrue on the older buildings. As KISD's planning committee recommended in its March 2002 report to the board, the preventive maintenance program should be adequately planned, funded and implemented to prolong the life cycle of the district's facilities.
Once completed, the district should review the master plan annually and update it as needed.
The TSPR team does not assume that its process for performing school reviews works so well that it cannot be improved. As part of preparing the progress report, TSPR asked Kenedy ISD staff members and administrators what went right and what went wrong-and how the 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. But it is important for TSPR to continually be mindful of those things that did not work as intended so that the review process can be continually improved.
Surveys were sent to board members requesting their observations about the review process. Responses indicated that the review fairly portrayed KISD's challenges and increased the board's and administration's awareness of these challenges. Board members that responded said the TSPR provided realistic implementation strategies, timelines and fiscal impact recommendations to guide the district. Board members also said the relationship between the board and administration has improved since the review.
The district thanked the TSPR team for providing recommendations to improve operational efficiencies. The administration assessed the recommendations closely and said they should help the budget. Members of the KISD administration said the district was off to a good start in rebuilding the trust between the community and the school prior to the review and that TSPR should not receive all the credit for those changes.
As with any complex process, some things might have been done better. District administrators thought that because many consultants on the TSPR team were from out-of-state, they were not always aware of the Texas Education Code and regulations and practices that work in smaller, rural school districts in Texas. TSPR heard similar comments from other districts in Karnes County. The agency is addressing this issue by assembling consultants on smaller reviews in future projects through pooled or group contracts, allowing TSPR to match smaller districts needs to consultants with more specific expertise in this area. Knowledge of state laws and guidelines is now a major component of all TSPR consultant selections. Additionally, TSPR will no longer use single contracts for multiple reviews within a county and will continue to assess this issue closely in the future.