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Seen and Heard at the December 2020 School Board Meeting

Posted Date: 01/13/2021

Seen and Heard at the December 2020 School Board Meeting

December 14, 2020 – Superintendent Doug Loomis and assistant superintendents Lisa Morgan, Jessica Cardenas, Sandy Whitlow and David Bishop provided a COVID update for the Board.  Mr. Loomis expressed appreciation for AISD staff who are making heroic efforts to ensure students continue learning and progressing through the pandemic. 

Assistant superintendents summarized surveys of AISD teachers about what they need in order to improve instruction for both in-person and virtual learners for next semester.  Among the priorities, some of which have already been addressed – help for teachers who are teaching both in-person and virtual students, a plan for connecting with virtual learners who are not engaged, a technology fix that would allow the Canvas learning management system to ‘talk’ to the Skyward Family Access grading/attendance platform, a way for teachers to share and duplicate lessons that work, and a better way for quarantined students to keep up with learning while they’re at home. 

Mr. Loomis said the state has suspended A-F ratings and AISD has joined other school districts across Texas to encourage the Texas Education Agency to pause other parts of the high-stakes accountability system for at least the 2020-2021 school year.  He also talked briefly about possible parameters around a threshold percentage of staff absences due to COVID that might dictate a temporary shut-down of a campus for in-person learning.  So far, we’ve been able to avoid shutting down any schools, but if there is an uptick in cases after the Christmas break, that may become necessary, Loomis said.  “We want to be prepared,” he said.

The Board also adopted a resolution to continue COVID extended leave provisions for employees through June 2021.  The resolution allows for employees to use up to 30 days of paid leave for COVID-related illness or hospitalization, and it allows for additional paid leave for an employee experiencing catastrophic illness due to COVID-19.

The Board approved a revised stipend pay schedule to help compensate staff who’ve taken on additional work during the pandemic.  Instructional staff who create exemplar lessons outside the school day will receive $100 per lesson, and teachers who substitute during any non-instructional period will receive $50 per class period.  These additional stipends will be in effect until the pandemic is over.

In other business, the Board approved a contract for a new parking lot for Palo Duro High School at Grant and 15th streets, they approved the purchase of $1.1 million worth of furniture for the new AmTech Career Academy, and they awarded a contract to Pioneer General Contractors for the perimeter security fence project at Amarillo, Caprock and Tascosa High Schools, at a cost of $2.5 million. 

The Board expressed appreciation for gifts and donations totaling $90,788.37 to various schools this month from Atmos Energy, the Amarillo High School Football Booster Club, H.I.W. Limited, Education Credit Union, U.S. Census Bureau, Neal Carpenter, Lou Ann Garrett, and the Amarillo Association of Realtors.

In the calendar year 2020, local businesses, organizations and individuals have given more than $424,500 in monetary and in-kind donations to the District and its 55 campuses.