When it comes to schooling, a couple of items top the list of checkpoints.
Of course every parent wants to know their children are receiving a good education.
And, every taxpayer wants to know their money is going to good use and being properly administered.
All six public schools in the coverage area of the Weatherford Star-Telegram recently received a Superior rating in the Texas Education Agency's (TEA) School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). They include Weatherford, Aledo, Brock, Millsap, Peaster and Poolville.
"“I’m proud of the work our business office staff does in collaboration with the various budget managers in Aledo ISD," said Aledo Superintendent Dr. Derek Citty. "This recognition from the comptroller’s office shows how efficiently we utilize the public’s dollars while providing with a quality educational experience for the students in our district."
Ratings for the system were based on budgetary and financial data reported for the 2015-16 fiscal year.
In fact, all of the public school districts in Parker County received Superior ratings, including Springtown, Garner, Azle and Perrin-Whitt.
"We have been very proud of the fact that we typically receive a Superior rating," Peaster Superintendent Matt Adams said. "This is the direct result of the hard work and dedication to excellence that is exhibited in our business and finance department. I believe it is also a great accolade to being good stewards of tax payers dollars."
The system was put in place by the TEA 15 years ago in response to state legislatation. The goal is to achieve quality performance in the management of a school district's financial resources. Each Texas school district is required to file an annual financial accountability report.
Millsap Superintendent Deann Lee said her school district has received a Superior 13 of the past 15 years, and those two were when the system was temporarily changed to pass/fail in 2014-15 (Millsap passed). She stressed the grade isn’t a result of one person or one department.
"The entire district must work together to ensure that policies and procedures are followed, deadlines are met, purposeful and strategic financial planning occurs, cost benefit ratios are considered, and educational decisions are in line with the district’s vision," she said. "We are blessed in MISD with a long history of financial integrity and internal standards that enable us to achieve a Superior rating year after year."
Brock Superintendent Scott Drillette said the FIRST ratings system is important because it indicates to the public the financial strength and health of school districts to their communities. He also said that, in general, public schools in Texas do an outstanding job of managing taxpayer dollars and providing a quality education to their students.
Brock has also long received the highest ratings possible in the system, with the exception of 2015-16 when the district retired a large portion of its debt early. That resulted in an Above Standard rating, he said.
"Paying off the debt caused our fund balance to drop below the state’s recommended level," he said. "We moved back to the Superior rating in the most recent release and expect to remain there in the years ahead."