Budget workshop looks at financial options
A budget workshop discussing the district's financial choices for the 2017-18 school year was held prior to the start of the regular meeting.
The district is currently looking at proposed salary increase options to keep its pay competitive among area districts and meet increased health care costs, looking at options from 0.5 percent to 3 percent. No decision has been made on the proposal yet.
Trustees also heard about the district's plans to offset increasing health care costs. During 2016-17, Northwest ISD had the second-highest monthly premium contributions of a school district in the area, at $325 per month per employee. To offset some of the district's increased costs, recommended changes include an increase in the core health plan's premiums by 15 percent and increasing the high deductible plan's individual deductible by $300 ($2,200 to $2,500) and family deductible by $600 ($4,400 to $5,000). Increases in the out-of-pocket maximums are also recommended (from $6,250 to $7,000 for network providers and from $12,500 to $14,000 for out-of-network providers).
A $100 spousal surcharge for employees whose spouses have coverage through their employer but elect into the district's insurance is also recommended. This surcharge would not apply to spouses who do not work or do not have access to medical coverage through their employers.
Northwest ISD is also looking at adding a telemedicine program option to benefit employees by providing them with a way to contact a physician by phone for assistance at any time.
In other employee insurance matters, basic life insurance paid by the district will increase by $24,500 annually following increased life insurance claims for the past several years. Dental care premiums on the low plan are recommended to decrease by 10 percent, while the high plan is recommended to see its premiums increase by 9 percent.
A decision on insurance costs are expected by the board's May 8 meeting.
Facility architects, travel management service approved
Trustees approved four architectural service firms to work with the district on future facilities: Huckabee, PBK, Perkins + Will and Stantec.
After sending 156 invitations from Northwest ISD, 20 vendors responded to the request for qualifications for architectural services. Firms were evaluated by a committee that focused on a wide array of criteria - such as ability to perform, references, insured liability, past performance of similar size and scope, previous experience with schools, and more.
Interviews with the top six ranked firms - evaluated with a scoring system - were then conducted, with the final four firms selected to work with the district. These firms will now work with Northwest ISD on coming school designs.
In a separate action, trustees approved ARTA Travel for the district's travel management services. ARTA will assist the district with travel arrangements for hotel, car and air travel, when needed, such as long student trips.
HR presents recruiting report
Members of Northwest ISD's Human Resources Department presented trustees with their report of the district's work in their field so far this year.
HR staff have visited a variety of area colleges - including Baylor, Midwestern State, Tarleton State, TCU, Texas State, the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington - to reach potential new teachers. Additionally, the HR department works with area colleges for student teacher placements, which annually includes from 43 to 72 future educators, in an effort to help them garner experience and potentially train some of the district's future teachers.
To reach new teachers and experienced teachers alike, the HR department is using online recruiting and social media to reach potential new employees.
Northwest ISD has increased its amount of new staff each of the previous five years, from 375 in 2012-13 to 427 in 2016-17, primarily because of its increasing student population, as the district has a low turnover rate.
In addition to new teachers, the district is also working to bring in guest educators. Currently, the district has a pool of 678 guest educators who work with campuses and staff, with schools evaluating their work after guest educator visits.
In other action, the board
- Recognized Rock the Street Wall Street as a new district adopter, working with Byron Nelson, Eaton and Northwest high schools. The organization works with high schools to spark the interest of girls in finance careers.
- Recognized Byron Nelson High School's culinary arts students Amanda Arts, Taylor Carnes and Joshua Williams for recently placing third in Aramark's Lone Star Chef Competition in Waco.
- Recognized the district's staff ambassadors, who recently completed training regarding the overall state of public education. These staff members learned about issues facing the district and other public education entities as well as how they can communicate their schools' news.
- Recognized Lakeview, Cox and Granger elementary schools for their top-three finishes in the 21-Day Challenge, in which elementary students from across the district learned about healthy eating and took part in healthy eating challenges.
- Recognized the district's 2017 ESL Highly Qualified Teacher Academy participants - Lauren Armstrong and Shari Standridge of Nance Elementary, and Lauri Ward of Haslet Elementary. These participants underwent a two-year examination of best practices for English language learners and engaged in a variety of professional development exercises.