Kilgore ISD board members reviewed a financial audit of their 2018-2019 fiscal year at Monday’s board meeting while also looking to the future with campus improvement plans.

Certified public accountant and auditor Lynda Newsome delivered the audit report to trustees. Newsome, from the firm Brown, Bronstad, Habenict & Rosson, PC, has completed audits for KISD for the last five years.

“This is the first of three opinions that are in this audit report,” Newsome said, directing trustees to a page in the report.

“It’s called an ‘unmodified opinion’, which basically means that we did not find anything that would require us to adjust the opinion and that you have complied with all the accounting and auditing rules that apply to the district. The phrase most people like to use for this is a ‘clean’ opinion.”

The report indicated the district, as a whole, has assets of $92,846,087 and liabilities of $69,583,935, leaving a net position of $24,665,977. These figures do not include funds allocated for student activities.

The report also indicated the district saw an increase in net income of $2,053,067 for the most recent fiscal year.

For the 2018-2019 fiscal year, KISD had total revenues of $43,893,192 and total expenses of $41,306,059. The district had other financing sources and uses of $19,511, leaving a change in fund balance, or net income, of $2,612,044.

Newsome discussed the district’s budget compared to actual expense and revenue figures for the general fund as well.

“You’ll notice that you had budgeted to have a net income of $781,171. If you look in the actual column, you had net income, or change in fund balance, of $2,015,822. I would also like to point out, if you look at your different expenditures in the variance column, you’ll see that you didn’t have any negative variances there, which means, in every function, all of those were in budget, which is very good.”

Total tax collections for KISD in 2018-2019 were $20,703,346 with an uncollected balance of $2,094,813. The collection rate for the current year assessment was 97.6 percent.

“Y’all have always had the highest collection rate out of all the schools I’ve done, so whatever y’all are doing, keep it up,” Newsome said.

Newsome added the district’s budget schedules on food service and food service also had favorable variances based on budget-to-actual results, with no expenditures over budget.

The audit report indicated the district is in compliance with internal controls and the auditors found no material non-compliance in regards to federal funding received by the district.

“We have three opinions, all clean. We have three budget schedules, no negative variances, all with performance better than budget, so it’s a very good audit report,” Newsome said.

Assistant Superintendent Richard Nash reviewed KISD’s 2019-2020 improvement plan, which was first presented to the board at the October board meeting.

“The improvement plans are something that annually the district goes through. We work with our needs assessment. Our district site-based committee worked with it, with our administrators, with our public. It is a living document. This is where we set our goals for the year or maybe a couple of years.”

Nash said the district’s goals are aimed at addressing the needs of the district as a whole and are set to align with statewide education goals.

“This year, we have five primary goals that we’ve set and we’ve set our performance objectives to align with those and then we’ve built our strategies to meet those goals. Our main goals — what we really try to do is align them with the education commissioners’ goals throughout Texas. So it’s your student achievement, it’s recruiting and supporting our high quality personnel, making sure we have a safe and engaging learning environment and…we want to make sure we (have) college and career readiness and building upon our parent-community engagement.”

Board president Reggie Henson asked if there would be a report on the effectiveness of the improvement plan forthcoming.

“What we do with the district site-based team, we’ll come back in February and see how we are doing and we’ll start the new needs process. Then, in May and June, we’ll have that final summit. We can present that. We haven’t in the past but it wouldn’t be that big a deal if that’s something y’all are interested in. The district site-based committee does do that with the parents and community members,” Nash said.

The board moved to unanimously approve the 2019-2020 improvement plan.

Kilgore Intermediate School Principal Kim Slayter also presented a targeted improvement plan for her campus.

The plan was created as a response to KIS’ most recent “report card”, or rating, from the state education agency. KIS received a “D”, scoring 61 points out of a possible 100, on their 2018-2019 state accountability rating.

“TEA (Texas Education Agency) requires us to do a targeted improvement plan because of our scores this year, our report card. We spent several hours working on this. It does not have to be submitted to TEA at this time. It does have to be board-approved and then if they request us to submit it, we have to submit it,” Slayter told trustees.

The plan includes a focus on boosting student comprehension of state-mandated subjects and improving student performance in key areas.

“We started with a needs assessment. We went through the needs assessment and we prioritized three areas. The first being curriculum and assessments aligned to TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) with a year-long scope and sequence. The desired outcome that we hope to get from this is that we have students reading on grade level,” Slayter said.

The second area included in the plan is data-driven instruction.

“This is so that our sub-groups will meet grade-level standard targets for growth to close the achievement gaps.”

Part of the state accountability ratings includes a “Closing the Gaps” measure, which assesses how effectively a school district is helping certain student populations from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds achieve academically in areas including English language proficiency, STAAR testing results in reading and mathematics, academic growth and graduation rates.

The third area of the improvement is an initiative to recruit, select, assign, induct and retain a full staff of highly-qualified teachers.

“When I first read this, I was thinking we don’t have a big turnover rate. We only lost three classroom teachers this year out of 30 classroom teachers. This is the part where we do walkthroughs, coaching to improve instruction in the classroom. We’ve done some things to try to change instruction this year. We spent a lot of time on training and implementing guided reading in classrooms to help the students become better readers,” Slayter said.

This training has included a focus on writing as well as implementing a monitoring process on student growth using spreadsheets. This allows students who are struggling with skills to receive focused, small-group instruction.

Slayter said KIS has implemented screening at the beginning, middle and end of the school year to assess students’ relative grade level in terms of reading skills. The guided reading program being implemented in KIS classrooms has teachers assign students to groups for small-group reading instruction.

“It’s new this year, especially for the intermediate school. We’re working really hard to help teachers and give them the support that they need to do this guided reading because we feel this is really crucial for those kids that are reading below level to meet with the teacher in small groups. The lower levels meet more times a week with the teacher than the higher levels in that guided reading group.”

Slayter said the first 90-day cycle of student assessments had been completed to record a starting point in terms of reading skills. The next assessment will be in January to gauge student progress with the new reading program, followed by an end-of-year assessment.

Superintendent Dr. Andy Baker said some lower scores on the first assessment could be attributed to the new implementation of STAAR Renaissance instructional reading software, which students are unfamiliar with, and the fact students took their first assessment only a few days into the new school year.

The board unanimously approved the targeted improvement plan.

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