Nixon-Smiley CISD trustees discuss ratings, salaries


With the Texas Education Agency (TEA) 2019 Accountability Ratings coming out next month, Nixon-Smiley Consolidated Independent School District Director of Special Programs Jane Dwyer, Nixon-Smiley Middle School Principal Anita Van Auken and Nixon-Smiley Elementary Principal Lundy Atkins reviewed with the Nixon-Smiley CISD board of trustees their projected 2019 Accountability Ratings for their respective campuses.

According to their estimator, the district is expected to get a C (79) overall, with Nixon-Smiley High School getting a C (76), Nixon-Smiley Middle School a B (89) and Nixon-Smiley Elementary an F (59).

Dwyer, Van Auken and Atkins each went over the positives and negatives of each campus and presented to the board their plans for improvement.

“After lots of tears seeing the scores, being frustrated, I harnessed all of that into a plan,” Atkins told the board. “I’m not happy with our results. I know our kids can do better and I know our teachers are capable of getting them there.”

Those plans include walkthroughs, weekly 90-minute professional learning communities and after school tutoring. Of the plans presented at the meeting, Nixon-Smiley CISD Superintendent Dr. Cathy Lauer believes the most important thing the district will need to do is assess progress on a more regular basis.

“Of everything discussed, perhaps the most crucial will be monitoring progress at more frequent intervals,” Lauer said. “We will be using assessment data from (the Northwest Evaluation Association) and other screeners to see how students are doing in shorter increments.”

Lauer casted skepticism, as she did last year despite Nixon-Smiley CISD scoring well, on the ratings system.

“It is just so complicated and hard to nail down the specific issues causing a score to be what it is,” Lauer said. “I also think it attempts to be a very simplistic label for a lot of very complicated data.”

However, Lauer did say the district takes the information they are given and uses it to improve.

“We look at the specific data more than we consider what the state has said is an ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, or ‘D,’” Lauer said. “For example, we disaggregate our STAAR scores from the minute they start coming in. ‘Who needs more help? Who has progressed? What areas need more focus across a subject or grade level?’ I think a good analogy is when you go to the doctor. If your doctor just says, ‘Your health is a C,’ that doesn't tell you anything. You want to know about your blood pressure, your heart rate, your cholesterol — specific, actionable data that allows you to find places to improve and things to celebrate.”

Expanding on the medical analogy, Lauer believes the plans in place throughout the district will be Nixon-Smiley’s way to “stay healthy.”

“You can't just decide to no longer eat French fries,” Lauer said. “It takes an overall healthy eating plan, keeping up with proper vaccines, exercising, and following your doctor's advice. A plan for school improvement is much the same.”

Monitoring progress is an important step in that plan, similar to how people who weigh themselves often tend to lose more weight because they see progress, Lauer added.

Salary recommendations

With the passage of Texas House Bill 3, Nixon-Smiley SCISD, as do all other districts in the state, must spend 30 percent of the increased funding from last year to this year. On Monday, Lauer presented the trustees with a plan to raise salaries approximately 5% across the board based on position, tenure and performance. However, Lauer expects salaries can increase even more based on new information.

“The first template showed [salary increases] to be about $340,000,” Lauer explained. “However, it now looks like our increasing property values may have triggered some hold harmless, which nearly doubles the amount mandated to spend on raises. What a problem to have, right? I have to figure out how to increase salaries even more!”

The board approved the salary increases as presented, while giving Lauer the authority to adjust upwards to meet the new law without needing another meeting for board approval.

“I will be working on [salaries] this week,” Lauer said. “I hope to have a better number early next week — but I anticipate we might be talking more about raises in the 7-8% range for those eligible.”

Nixon-Smiley CISD announces new hires including high school principal

Nixon-Smiley CISD Board of Trustees reviewed the employment of several new hires, including Jim Weaver who was introduced as the new principal of Nixon-Smiley High School. Weaver was a 1983 graduate of what was then Nixon High School, the last year before consolidation.

“His family was here at the time, though they later moved to Seguin,” Lauer said of the new principal. “Mr. Weaver began his career in education in 1987 at Lifegate Christian School as a teacher and a coach. In the subsequent years, he taught/coached in Seguin, Poth, Lockhart, and Northside ISD. He then joined East Central ISD and became an administrator. I am most excited that he has some big-district experience but clearly understands our uniqueness as a small, rural district. He was also already well known in the community and among our administrative staff and some of the teachers remember when he was in school.”

Weaver replaces Dr. Wendy Fuller who, according to her resignation letter, accepted the lead principal position at the Centers for Applied Science and Technology Lead in San Antonio.

“I am truly blessed to have worked with such amazing people and students at Nixon-Smiley CISD,” Fuller wrote. “I can say whole-heartedly that Nixon-Smiley CISD truly want what’s best for kids.”

“It has really been my pleasure working with Dr. Fuller,” Lauer said. “She is a brilliant, dedicated educator. She contributed many great things to our district, including getting our CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) certification program up and running. I am glad she found an opportunity to follow her dreams in East Central. She will be starting a new high school focused on career readiness. Her passion for helping students achieve will be missed.”