Schools earn high grades from agency for financial practices

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The Texas Education Agency has released its annual preliminary financial accountability ratings for 2018 and local school districts are scoring high marks.

The FIRST ratings, or Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas, are assigned to districts based on what they spend, how they protect themselves against financial mistakes and how accurately they report financial information, among other factors. These ratings are among the first for districts this year but more are coming.

Revard Pfeffer, chief financial officer for KISD, said the district earned a spotless preliminary rating, as it has for years.

“My brief review shows a perfect score of 100. Of course this rating is not final at this point, but the time between now and when it becomes final is for ISDs to challenge ratings. We will not be challenging the rating,” Pfeffer said in an email.

He explained the district will schedule a required public hearing to discuss their rating once they received the official final score.

If past years are an indication, KISD may receive a great financial score yet again.

“We have received the top rating available for all 16 years the analysis has been in existence. It started in 2003,” Pfeffer said.

He described the TEA financial accountability rating as “a small indication that the board, administrators and all involved are working to maintain a good financial base for KISD and the community we represent.”

Pfeffer said TEA is updating and adjusting is financial ratings criteria starting with the 2018-2019 school year and he will share those changes with the board of trustees at an upcoming meeting.

Kevin Yandell, director of business operations for Sabine ISD, said his district also earned a perfect rating.

“Based on the rating system that’s in place for the 2017-2018 ratings, which are based on the 2016-2017 school year, Sabine ISD rated a superior rating, scoring 100 out of 100 possible points,” Yandell said.

Yandell noted TEA rates districts based on different aspects of their financial status.

“There are 15 different criteria that you have and the first five, if you answer no to any of them, you automatically fail. Then the rest of them are assigned a score of anywhere from one to 10. That’s how you get your score of 100,” he said.

Yandell said the rating reflects Sabine ISD’s good standing in the eyes of the state.

“It indicates that we met what the state of Texas required to obtain to earn the superior rating. It’s always better to have a superior rating than to have a substandard achievement. We’ve only not had a superior rating one year.”

A press release from Stephen DuBose, Overton ISD superintendent, indicated the district earned a rating in the top ranks.

“Overton ISD earned an A-Superior rating, scoring 92 out of a possible 100 on the TEA standards,” the release read.

The release also included a statement from DuBose.

“We’ve worked extremely hard as a district to earn the trust of our community. The board, Mr. Matthew Blake (business manager) and all of our central office staff as well as the employees on campus have made a concerted effort to be good stewards of our taxpayers’ money and this rating reflects that effort,” DuBose said.

Leverett’s Chapel ISD also earned an “A” rating from TEA for superior performance on district financial responsibilities.

On August 14, Texas ISDs received district accountability ratings based on academic performance and student achievement. In previous years, these scores were given on a “pass/fail” basis. This meant districts could either earn a “met standard” rating or a “did not meet standard” rating. Starting this year, districts will receive a letter grade of “A” through “F” based on how they meet the state’s assessment. These accountability ratings were made available to the public on August 15 and local district accountability ratings can be found in an article on page 1A.

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