In Community Ambassadors, Keller ISD parents learn how school system operates

Posted Monday, Jan. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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KELLER - A group of parents may become some of the Keller school district's best advocates through a new program that kicked off last week.

Some 27 parents from across the district attended the first meeting of the Community Ambassadors Jan. 14 at the Education Center. Participants were selected by trustees and by principals.

"I think it's a great idea," said Beverly Dixon, who has a child at Willis Lane Elementary. "I've only been in the area for a year and a half, and this is a good way to learn about the school district."

The first meeting focused on the role of the school board, district governance and finances. The group will meet once a month through May, learning about different topics at each meeting.

The next meeting is set for Feb. 11 at Timberview Middle School and will cover the curriculum and campus leadership departments. The last meeting in May will include a tour of campuses and facilities around the district.

Board President Kevin Stevenson said, "We want to expand our reach to the community. We need help, so we want you to become very informed about the inner workings of the school district."

Trustee Cindy Lotton, who first brought up the idea of starting the program, said she wanted participants to be able to talk to friends at the grocery store or church about what truly goes on in the school district.

Top officials made presentations on various aspects of running the district.

Board members talked about their roles: hiring and evaluating the superintendent, setting goals for the school district, adopting the budget and policies and interacting with the community and other elected officials.

Superintendent Randy Reid and Amanda Bigbee, the district's general counsel, talked about other aspects of governance, including why there is an attorney on the payroll.

"Public education is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world," Bigbee said.

She said her role is to ensure that the district is in compliance with all federal, state and local mandates and requirements. Bigbee said she regularly works with principals to be proactive in dealing with issues so that legal problems do not occur.

Reid said the district has saved money in legal fees since hiring the in-house attorney.

Mark Youngs, deputy superintendent, presented information on the Keller district's revenues and expenses. Most people are unaware that an increase in local property values has no benefit for the daily operations of schools, he said. The more property wealthy a district is, the less money the entity receives from the state.

Youngs also discussed the inequity in per-student funding. The Keller school district receives about $1,500 less per pupil than the state average.

While many districts, including Keller, have filed a lawsuit against the state protesting inadequate and unequal funding, officials do not expect the trial and appeals to be finished until after the current legislative session is over. Youngs said he had "zero confidence" that the resolution of the lawsuit would benefit Keller.

Parent Gary Roberts said he found the financial information interesting. "I'm surprised at how much we're spending per child," Roberts said. "I thought it was more."

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