Sunday, May 26, 2024

GISD's Glenn gives district, bond update at United Republican meeting

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The Granbury Independent School District bond election is Saturday, May 4, as district voters make a choice about whether to approve a $161 million bond.

With the election looming ahead, GISD Superintendent Jeremy Glenn recently visited a United Republicans of Hood County meeting to go over the bond proposal and educate attendees on the district’s statistics.

The meeting was led by GISD Trustee Nancy Alana, who began by complimenting Glenn on his goals for the district.

“I was on the board at the time that we hired Dr. Glenn, so you can either give me credit, or you can blame me for his presence here,” she said. “But I have worked for a lot of superintendents over the years and I can tell you that he has been the most goal-seeking to look into the future to see what it is that we're going to need — not just for today or tomorrow, but what we're going to need five years from now, 10 years from now. It has been an absolute honor for me to sit on the board with him as our superintendent, and you're not going to find a bigger cheerleader for Granbury ISD than Dr. Jeremy Glenn."

Glenn began by saying that he is not on social media — but that doesn’t stop members of the community from showing him exactly what he’s been missing on some posts.

"I live my life in such a way that I just think, like, everyone just says good things about me all the time, and apparently, that is not true,” he said, chuckling. “There's some really creative folks out there, so hats off to them, but that is not something I put my faith in. I put my faith in God, and I let the decisions of our board of trustees, our administrative team, our staff and our community guide me in the direction we're gonna go — and that seems to work out for the best.”

He then explained to the public that his goal at the meeting was not to convince attendees to vote one way or the other, but to present factual information about the bond and district.

“I can tell you that our district as a whole, anything we put out is required to be under that same ordinance, so you're never going to see information come out from GISD or on our website that is anything other than the truth,” Glenn said. “Now, some dipstick out there on social media under an anonymous post, they can say whatever they want, and people can choose to believe whatever they want. But I will tell you from the district standpoint, we are very, very careful of what we put out on social media, because we know it's critiqued by everybody.”

Glenn also said members of both the school board and administration have integrity, and they are not going to say they will build an elementary school, but then turn around and build a football stadium instead.

“That cannot happen,” he said. “They would come and replace every single one of us and lock me up. Those things don't happen, and it's fear mongering, but hopefully I'll give you some good information.”

GISD FACTS

Utilizing a PowerPoint slideshow created by Director of Communications Ryan Cox, Glenn went over GISD’s mission and vision statements before launching into the district’s demographics.

According to the slideshow, GISD covers more than 225 square miles. The school buses travel a combined 5,436 miles every day, which is equivalent to driving from San Diego, California to Charleston, South Carolina and back. Additionally, more than 3,300 GISD students ride the bus every day.

GISD currently has 7,933 students, 1,121 employees and 678 teachers at a $60,000 starting salary beginning next school year. The average teacher has 11 years of experience and GISD serves a total of 10 campuses.

As for student diversity, 68% of students are white and 26.2% are Hispanic. Students with two or more races make up 3% of the population, African American students make up 1.3% and Asians 0.9%.

According to the slideshow, 56.9% of students at GISD are economically disadvantaged, 16.2% are in special education, and 9.2% are gifted and talented.

“Special education is one of our most expensive programs and 16% of our students are in special education. Think about that,” Glenn said. “I mean, that's nearly two in 10 kids who are rated as special ed and the reason that number is increasing is because the state of Texas has actually put dyslexia into the special education category, so you're seeing those numbers jump. I have two sons that are dyslexic. One is currently a freshman at Granbury High School and the other one is a senior at Texas A&M University, so we do a great job of working with those kids.”

Additionally, 91% of the students at Granbury High School have taken a career and technical education course.

"If you remember back to the 2011 bond that was a big push by our school board, it's like, ‘Hey, let's get our kids ready to go out into the workforce,'” Glenn said. “Not every kid is going to go to college, like we get that, and we want as many that want to go to college to have that opportunity. But some of our kids are ready to get out of school and they're ready to jump into the workforce, and we want to make sure that we give them the skills to where they can do that — and that's done through our career and technical education program.”

In academics, the district has a B rating. Students average 81% on STAAR testing, 21 on the ACT and 1065 on the SAT — results that outperformed both the region and the state last year, according to Glenn.

Although students are now excelling in the standardized testing, Glenn said these numbers were a struggle to obtain five years ago — especially since the state has continued to “ramp up expectations.”

“We have to change instruction in the classroom, we have to monitor it closely, and we have to make sure that the kids have the skills needed to pass the test,” he said. “We don't want to teach to the test. But we want to make sure that they can pass it because it reflects on our district and reflects on our community.”

From a financial standpoint, the district operates on a $93 million budget, with a combined tax rate of $0.9342, which Glenn said is the “lowest in the region.”

The average home market value is $337,978. Additionally, the district has now earned a superior FIRST rating for its eighth straight year.

“You can hear all this talk and chatter on social media, but at the end of the day, we go through a very intensive auditing process,” Glenn said. “We have to have an independent audit, we have to have audits on our federal money, and then the Texas Education Agency has additional standards. The first report, Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas that they put the district through this year, (GISD earned) a perfect score on the FIRST rating.”

A Voter Approval Tax Ratification Election (VATRE) was approved in November 2023 by the community to maximize state funding. The VATRE enables Granbury ISD to secure an estimated $8.2 million in additional annual funding while simultaneously reducing the overall tax rate.

“We're super proud of the VATRE that was passed last November — that's actually been huge for us in a lot of areas,” Glenn said.

He explained that there was a surplus of $4.5 billion that was designated to go to public schools to offset inflation. However, districts across Texas never saw those funds, which forced many schools to lay off staff.

"Schools never saw that four-and-a-half billion dollars even though it was allocated and it's still sitting there down in Austin,” he said. “For us, passing the VATRE locally took care of funding for our schools, ensured our teachers got a competitive pay raise, and we'll keep our budget balanced as we move into this next school year.”

GISD’s CTE program now has 21 certification programs of study: animal science, plant science, digital communications, business management, marketing and sales, teaching and training, healthcare therapeutic, family and community service, law enforcement, engineering, aviation, applied ag engineering, graphic design/multimedia arts, accounting and financial services, entrepreneurship, early learning, healthcare diagnostics, culinary arts, web development, emergency services, automotive and MCJROTC.

"These are areas where kids can actually get a certification whether it's vet tech, pharmacy tech or in automotive,” Glenn said. “We actually have partnerships with local dealerships. We have the JROTC program where now we put kids not only into the military, but into college. We have ROTC kids that actually will go shoot at universities.”

Granbury High School’s MCJROTC rifle program has won seven straight national championships, and it was selected as an Outstanding Unit Award (Best in the Nation) for its third straight year.

"Col. Scott Casey, for those of you who don't know, he has the ability to write a letter to a military academy that carries the same weight as a U.S. senator, so this year, we have three kids going to the Air Force Academy and one going to the Naval Academy and it's all because Col. Scott Casey can write that letter,” Glenn explained. “On average, a public school will send a kid to a military academy once every seven years. In Granbury ISD, we average almost two a year, which is just absolutely remarkable — and a lot of it is because of the hard work from Scott Casey.”

Granbury ISD also set a record when it was the only district in the history of Region 11 to win back-to-back Teacher of the Year Awards for Priscilla Lumberas 2021-2022 and Michael Beauchamp 2022-2023.

Glenn said Tarleton State University and Granbury ISD also have a great partnership with the admission and scholarship pact.

"I had the opportunity to hear Dr. (James) Hurley speak in the convention center this week, and he talked about the distinguished high school partnership, which originated between Tarleton and Granbury ISD,” he said. “We were the first of what is now over 400 partnerships statewide. It allows the top 50% of our kids to get automatic admission into Tarleton State University. They don't have to take the SAT, they don't have to take the ACT, they don't have to pay an admission fee. If they are in the top 50%, they are automatically accepted to on-level courses at Tarleton, and they're guaranteed a scholarship along with it. The closer they are to being number one, the larger that scholarship gets. It's an amazing partnership between Granbury and Tarleton.”

The district is the largest school district in Texas to have every campus awarded the Purple Star Campus Designation, which is a program that recognizes Texas public schools for their exceptional commitment to supporting and meeting the unique needs of military-connected students and their families.

"For a district that has 10 campuses and to have every single one of them recognized as a Purple Star is pretty remarkable,” Glenn said. “We're a military-friendly district and our campuses are military friendly, which means if you come in as a service member, your kids are going to be taken care of in Granbury ISD, so it's an incredible award of distinction.”

GISD BOND

Glenn then transitioned from GISD statistics and facts to the upcoming bond proposal set for the May 4 ballot.

He explained how in November, the bond election failed by two votes, so the trustees called for another election with a slightly increased bond amount.

"The election is actually for a little more money,” Glenn explained. “It was about $152 million in November and it's 162 now, and so a lot of people will ask ‘Well, why the difference?’ It's twofold. When we went back to our bond council, a couple of things have happened. One is that property values continue to grow in Granbury. As property values grow, that number is able to increase. But also — and more importantly — interest rates have gone down, so interest rates going down, property values going up, and it allows that dollar figure to go up.”

He said many members of the public have asked how this new bond would change the tax rate if elected, but assured community members that the increased amount will not require an adjustment in the tax rate.

“Thinking of it in terms of a mortgage: If you have a home and you've been paying on that home for, let's say, 10 years, and you've been paying your $1,500 a month pretty religiously and taking care of your bills, and all of a sudden you're having kids, and you say, ‘We got to add on to our house,’ and you go down to the bank and you say, ‘Look, I need a loan.’ The bank is very likely going to give you that loan,” Glenn explained. “However, if you go to them and say ‘Hey, I really want to keep that mortgage at $1,500 a month. I don't want to increase it.’ What will the bank do? They'll give it to you, but they're gonna add years on to your mortgage.

“If you were to look at our debt payoff, right now we're scheduled to pay off debt in 2039. This would essentially add 30 years; it's a 30-year note, so our payment of 93 cents would stay the same. However, we would be extending the debt on the district, so when it says property tax increase, it is a property tax increase on the debt side, but not on the rate. The rate will remain the same.”

The proposed bond will cost $161,500,000 and will consist of a new elementary school off Old Granbury Road and Peck Road behind H-E-B, renovations to nine GISD campuses, a new north transportation center with the purchase of 30 new buses, additional instructional technology, and more.

A cost breakdown for each campus, excluding STARS Accelerated High School, is listed below:

  • New elementary #7: $59,463,790
  • Acton Elementary School: $13,266,057
  • Baccus Elementary School: $15,946,896
  • Brawner Elementary School: $11,299,896
  • Emma Roberson ELA: $5,478,868
  • Oak Woods School: $13,614,328
  • STEAM Academy at Mambrino: $5,344,969
  • Acton Middle School: $9,434,742
  • Granbury Middle School: $4,786,183
  • Granbury High School: $6,700,373
  • Central Transportation: $1,968,852
  • New Transportation Center: $6,445,769

“The transportation hub, we are really trying to work hard to minimize our traffic footprint,” Glenn said. “That's kind of the bottom line there. We put a lot of pressure on the infrastructure, so I think sometimes our city and our county take the blame for that. But the truth is we're moving a lot of people back and forth, so we're trying to be real cognizant of that traffic footprint. That's why the Long-Range Planning Committee chose to add buses and the transportation hub into the bond. To be real clear on that, buses will be on a 10-year note, not on a 30-year note. I think there's been some confusion about that.”

Glenn then showed attendees a tax rate comparison with Granbury ISD and other nearby districts for the 2023-24 school year, proving that GISD has the lowest tax rate in Hood County and in the area. The comparison is shown below:

  • Granbury ISD: $0.9342
  • Tolar ISD: $0.9429
  • Weatherford ISD: $1.0365
  • Lipan ISD: $1.0814
  • Aledo ISD: $1.2075
  • Cleburne ISD: $1.2575
  • Burleson ISD: $1.2575
  • Godley ISD: $1.2892

Glenn then showed a breakdown of the Granbury ISD tax rate from 2017 to now, showing that the district has lowered the tax rate continuously every year. GISD’s tax rate history is shown below:

  • 2017-18: $1.210
  • 2018-19: $1.195
  • 2019-20: $1.125
  • 2020-21: $1.114
  • 2021-22: $1.088
  • 2022-23: $0.9996
  • 2023-24: $0.9342

"So, what historically has Granbury ISD board of trustees done when it comes to the tax rate? Well, here it is,” Glenn said. “In 2017-2018, it was $1.21, and significantly higher than the 93 cents that we see today. Our board has done an outstanding job of really trying to keep our tax rate as low as possible.”

Glenn explained how he used to talk with former Board President Mark Jackson about the tax rate. He said Jackson pointed out that Granbury High School was built in 1972, and that the district needed to keep its taxes “as low as possible.”

"It's not just the people who live in our community for the next 10 years that should have to absorb all the pay off on that bill, when the truth is people who haven't even moved here yet are going to be using that bill,” Glenn said. “He always had an eye for ‘If we can push our taxes down low, keep going as low as we can,’ so that when other people come in, they come into a low tax rate, but they're paying their fair share— that was his philosophy.

“I've served with other boards that are like, ‘You know what, let's keep it up high, and pay our debt off faster so that we can have as low a debt as possible.’ It's just a different way of thinking, but our board has chosen historically to say we're going to keep our rate as low as we can, and everybody that comes into our community will pay their fair share as they use these facilities. They're available for everybody's use, whether they choose to use them or not.”

Glenn closed his presentation by explaining that GISD hasn’t built a new elementary school since 1996, when enrollment was 5,291. This year’s enrollment on snapshot day was 7,933.

"The last time we built a school at all was 2001 when AMS and GMS went up, so that's over 20 years since we've come to the community and asked to build a school,” he said.

COMMUNITY QUESTIONS

Granbury resident Faye Landham said one complaint she keeps hearing pertains to the fees being outlined publicly for the construction companies.

“When you showed what the money was going to go to for all the different schools, nowhere in there does it talk about what we’re paying the construction companies,” she said. “Where is all that listed?”

Glenn explained that the architect’s fees are built into the contract and are not a separate item, meaning that the fees are already embedded in the total cost for each campus.

Another speaker said he was concerned about the bond’s “unnecessary fluff,” and compared the proposal to a family needing a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, but instead wanted to purchase a six-bedroom, five-bathroom lakefront view.

Glenn reiterated that he wasn’t trying to “convince anybody,” one way or the other, but recommended the gentleman research Godley’s proposed bond, which has similar components to Granbury ISD’s bond proposal.

"See if this sounds familiar,” he said. “They're asking for a new elementary school. They're asking for renovations to all their current school buildings. They're asking for a transportation facility, and they're asking for buses. Different, they're asking for an auditorium. That's the only difference in the two bonds from what I see online. Their bond is $360-plus million. I don't know how much that auditorium is gonna cost but we're $200 million under Godley ISD.

“I would encourage you to go look at what Godley is doing, look at their plan, compare it to our plan online and see where the fluff falls because at the end of the day, we tried to choose an architect firm that was fairly conservative and we tried to make it clear that we don't need the Cadillac; we just need a Ford that will last a long time. But you have two districts calling very similar bonds. Do your research on both and make your decision based on that.”

Another resident asked Glenn to explain the safety and security improvements outlined in the bond proposal online.

Glenn explained that the Long-Range Planning Committee felt that getting students out of portables and into brick-and-mortar buildings was extremely important. He added that the committee has talked about implementing keyless entry in every building, along with more video cameras.

“We don't ever want our schools to feel like a prison, but there are fencing issues on playgrounds that are close to roads where we need to raise the level of the fence,” he explained. “In addition to that, we're talking about the possibility of metal detectors at the high school. Our chief of security, Wade Clark, is going around and having conversations with other schools and trying to figure out what our best practices are. A lot of thought went into those conversations, and at the end of the day, that committee said, ‘We have to continue to be on the cutting edge, and we've got to keep our students safe,’ and for those reasons, we chose to put security funds into this bond."

Former Granbury Mayor Nin Hulett asked Glenn if there was a “good-sized” figure on the maintenance of the current aging school buses.

Glenn asked Chief Financial Officer Emmett Whitefield how much GISD spent last year on maintenance. He said it increased about 25% over the last three years, with the district spending about $350,000 total on repairs.

“What we found is we can take a bus body from like 2000 and we just put a couple of engines in, so we'll grab a 2005 bus,” Glenn explained. “We can buy a bus engine for about $60,000, so we're putting bus engines in right now, because we can do two of those for every one brand new bus.”

Another speaker said he had read a theory on social media where the district could put administration into portable buildings and then put a new school where the administration building is currently. He asked what Glenn’s response to that theory would be.

Glenn explained that the Long-Range Planning Committee did look at that theory as an option. However, there are about 95 people who work out of the central office. He said if the district were to break that down in portables, GISD would need about 15 portable buildings. Additionally, the district would also need to obtain a permit from the city to allow those portable buildings to be built.

"I think at the end of the day when the Long-Range Planning Committee was having that discussion, they said the growth is on the east side,” he said. “When they start work on (U.S. Highway) 377, is that going to make sense to have four elementary schools on this side of the lake and two elementary schools on the other side of it? At the end of the day, the Long-Range Planning Committee said that's not forward thinking; it's just going to kick the can, so they opted for the school on Peck Road behind H-E-B.”

Hood County Republican Chairman Nominee Zach Maxwell  asked Glenn if the district were to break up the bond into different sections, if it would be fair to say that GISD would have to pay more in engineering fees and processing fees.

Glenn said that would be a question for Stantec, but that it is possible.

"Historically, school construction does not go down,” he said. “It's not like if we wait three years, you know, elementary schools will be 20% off. I mean, what you see in construction is what you see in housing. Prices do increase, and I think that's a fair statement.”

Another speaker asked if the district would still need a new elementary school if Granbury did not see the growth that’s currently projected.

“It's going to take three years to build an elementary school, so it's not like if the bond were to pass it would be on the ground in September at the start of the school year. It's three years,” he said. “Today, we can take 200 kids out of Acton Elementary School, 200 kids out of Brawner Elementary School and 200 kids out of Mambrino Elementary School, drop them all into a new elementary school and have 600 kids in every elementary school. We'd get rid of the portable buildings at that time and all schools would be at about the level we'd really like them to be, which is 600 kids. Right now, Oak Woods is about as close as we have to that. Baccus is a little smaller, but that's going to change for them this next year. We're shifting 130 bilingual kids out of Brawner just to give them a little relief.”

Granbury ISD residents will vote on the bond during Early Voting, April 22-30 and Election Day, Saturday, May 4.

For more information about the Granbury ISD bond, visit the district website at granburyisd.org or email questions to bond2024@granburyisd.org.