Princeton climbs to No. 2 in Lone Star Cup race after year full of UIL success
By Jennifer Fike
After a long summer break, the PISD School Board held its first meeting of the new school year Aug. 27. They used the time to congratulate faculty, approve a staff raise, and to discuss the district’s 2010 budget. The meeting was moved from its usual date, the third Monday of the month, in order to allow administrators to better calculate attendance.
With school back in session, the staff was better able to predict how many students the district will be serving this year, and also to take a more realistic look at the district’s bottom line.
Before delving into the budget, however, boardmembers began their meeting by congratulating Princeton High School’s staff, particularly its extracurricular directors, on earning the honor of becoming a Lone Star Cup recipient.
“I’d like to congratulate the high school and the individuals that lead those programs and the students involved in those activities,” Superintendent Phil Anthony said.
The Texas Dodge Dealers Lone Star Cup is awarded to high schools in each classification based on their extracurricular achievements in athletic events, marching band competitions, the state academic meet and one-act play competition. Princeton was named second in the state in the 3A division. Argyle took the top position.
During the 2008-’09 school year, Princeton High School earned 58 points through participation in various athletic and academic activities.
“Princeton High School has achieved success in both extracurricular and academic arenas. In addition to being the state runner up in the Lone Star Cup (which signifies well-rounded success in all extracurriculum activities), the high school received a ‘Recognized’ rating from the Texas Education Agency for its academic programs. My hat goes off to all students, coaches, directors, teachers, administrators and staff for making Princeton High School one of the finest in the state of Texas,” Anthony said.
In previous years, Princeton has ranked 13, but never higher. “I truly believe that our high school is one of the best high schools in Texas,” Anthony said.
Anthony’s sentiments were echoed by the board members. “I just want to say how very excited I am to see some recognition from outside of us,” Board President Carol Bodwell said, noting how often the trustees brag on the faculty and students, but also how excited she was that they were being recognized by a less-biased source.
“I think we need to always remember how important these extracurricular programs are in developing our children,” she said.
Though each of the department heads at PHS received silver cups for displaying in their offices or trophy cases, Jimmy Smith, PHS’s debate and theater teacher, said he wanted to thank all of the teachers who help make the extracurricular teams successful, including the many faculty members who volunteer their time to work coaching students for UIL events, and also the assistant coaches, band directors and other team members who put countless hours into the extracurricular programs at PHS.
“Everyone works very hard to make success like this possible,” Smith said.
At the beginning of the meeting, Smith addressed the board on another matter, the new Panther stadium. “I’d like to propose that y’all look into naming this beautiful facility ... after Jackie Hendricks,” Smith said. He added that Hendricks was a true leader, having served the district for more than 30 years. He also said Hendricks was the last football coach to take the Panthers to the playoffs.
“I think it would be a big honor and a help to the community,” he said.
Though the board thanked Smith for his comment, they were unable to speak on the matter. Instead, they placed the item of naming facilities on their September agenda.
Following the presentation of the Lone Star Cups, the board exited into executive session.
When they returned almost two hours later, the board members voted to uphold the administration’s decision, which was never revealed.
The board’s next lengthy discussion involved a raise for non-certified workers. At their last meeting, in July, boardmembers asked administrators to look into a 10-, 15-, or 20-cent raise for non-certified staff members. The idea to increase salaries came after the state mandated and funded through stimulus money a teacher and certified employees raise of just over $900 per teacher.
After approving the mandatory raise and increasing the amount to $1,000, boardmembers suggested the district also extend a raise to PISD’s non-certified employees.
Chuck Campbell, who was one of the board members vocal about support of the raise during the July meeting, said he felt it would be an excellent opportunity to prove the district stands behind its philosophy: that it takes everyone’s best effort to teach a student.
“We’ve always said that it takes everybody to educate these kids,” Campbell said. “That’s why I brought this forward.”
Before the boardmembers voted on the raise, they discussed Princeton’s salary schedule. Bodwell, who was absent from the July meeting, asked if the district’s rates were competitive and how high employee retention has been.
She said she was not against the raise, but she wanted to know the reasons behind the suggestion.
Anthony said the district’s retention went up after PISD enacted a completion stipend of $1,000 for each year an employee remains with the district. The district’s holiday match is another incentive that has helped lure and keep employees, Anthony said.
The cafeteria and transportation departments see more frequent employee turnover than other departments, Anthony said, but for the most part the district retains much of its staff from year to year.
Though PISD will receive state stimulus money to fund the bulk of the teacher raises this year and next, it is unclear at this point whether that money will continue beyond 2011, Anthony went on to point out. He suggested board members look at the years ahead before making any financial decisions.
If the state takes away the current funding for the raises, the district’s budget will be $90,000 upside down, Anthony said. “We will have to make cuts,” he said.
“We are projecting a positive budget this year,” he said. “If we put that money away we could reserve it to tide us over,” Anthony said. He said he predicted the district could set aside enough funds to support the additional expenses of the salary increases for a few years.
However, he said, if the district does not grow substantially enough before the state money runs out and the reserve money has been expended, there would be a great chance that “somebody, somewhere is missing something they needed or wanted to serve the students,” he said. Otherwise, positions would have to be cut, he said.
John Murray asked if in two years the district finds itself “fighting to balance the budget,” it could cut the 15-cent raise.
Anthony said the district is not legally allowed to reduce hourly pay, but the completion stipend could likely be removed.
Board members discussed the idea of adding the 15-cent hourly raise into the completion stipend so that it could be removed if necessary in the future. They also suggested it might further help to retain employees, a matter which many said they felt was important.
However, Deputy Superintendent Danny Folk told the trustees that the completion stipend does not count toward retirement, and that the district’s insurance policies went up again this year. Many families are paying $600 a month for health insurance, he said. That sum takes a “huge chunk” out of employees’ paychecks, Folk said, “especially our hourly employees.” For those reasons, Folk said that if the trustees decided to approve a raise, he would prefer they do so as an hourly raise rather than a stipend.
After Folk’s comments, board member Clinton Lowrance said he thought the raise might help offset the rising insurance costs, and in the long run be more beneficial for employees.
During the discussions, Anthony said he agreed with the trustees that it is important for the district to show appreciation to all its employees. “They do a miraculous job for us, and we could not teach our kids without everyone of these individuals,” he said. If the board chooses to initiate a raise, the district will find the funding, he said.
Campbell motioned to approve a 15-cent per hour raise for all non-certified employees, and the board unanimously approved his motion.
The decision will cost the district approximately $33,000 next year and will average out to about $250 per employee, though the exact total varies based on the hours worked. Crossing guards, for example, work three hours a day, 178 days a year; maintenance and custodial employees work eight hours a day, 242 days a year.
Since the district had to accept its budget by Aug. 29, the boardmembers reviewed and approved the operating budget toward the close of their meeting.
Board members adopted the budget as proposed, with the addition of $23,000 for additional instruments for the band, three additional teacher positions, and additional supplies for new classrooms, two of which have already opened due to unexpectedly large growth in the primary school campuses.
The proposed budget summary can be seen online at www.princetonisd.net.
The district also voted to approve using the current tax rate for another fiscal year. PISD’s tax rate is $1.04 for maintenance and operation and $0.45 cents for interest and debts.
As for the district’s construction projects, Jim Staley, the Director of Auxiliary Services, said, “it is all wrapping up.” He said the large “P” on the stadium is like “a big exclamation point... [saying] we’re finished and it’s ours.”
Boardmembers agreed, complimenting staff on how nice the stadium looks. Campbell also said he thought the multi-purpose building is “extremely nice” – so nice that he insisted everyone needed to “check it out.”
With many construction projects nearing completion the board agreed to meet early in September, in order to tour the district’s many newly built or renovated facilities, the majority of which are now open and in use.
PHS’ Lone Star Cup Standings
Marching Band = 8 points (Fourth in State)
Volleyball = 10 points (Second District, Regional Finalists)
Girls' Basketball = 6 points (District Champions, Bi-District Champions)
Boys' Basketball = 10 points (District Champions, Regional Semi-Finalists)
UIL Academic = 4 points (District Champions)
Softball = 10 points (District Champions, Regional Semi-Finalists)
Baseball = 10 points (Third District, Regional Finalists)
Total = 58 points