- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
Paris Independent School District Board of Trustees spent an hour behind closed doors discussing a complaint against a public officer, but little was said about it in open session.
The complaint seemed to center on a request Trustee Jenny Wilson made for a range of information:
“Everything on this list has been looked at several times, and we’re still looking,” Fisher said. “What we would love to do is give teachers a raise, because we’re losing teachers.”
The agenda packet provided to the media and board members had no information on the items in question. Instead, a background sheet noted that “Trustee Jenny Wilson has requested reports/plans on items as indicated on the agenda.” The second page was a copy of board policy with “requests for reports” starred:
“Individual members shall not direct or require district employees to prepare reports derived from an analysis of information in existing district records or to create a new record compiled from information in existing district records. Directives to the superintendent or custodian of records regarding the preparation of reports shall be by board action.”
Wilson said she didn’t intend to create a lot of work. She said her questioning emails were intended as simple yes-or-no inquiries or quick number checks. Robert High, assistant superintendent for human resources, had mentioned a bus efficiency study in a previous meeting, she said, and she wanted a copy of that report. Another request dealt with the cost of operating the alternative school at the old Travis campus. She also asked about utilization of federal funds – whether the district is maximizing its federal funds, if there were any state funds that could be replaced by federal and who was in charge of monitoring that.
“When I read those, they’re not yes or no questions. They’re very detailed,” Business Manager Tish Holleman said. “Even saying yes or no would require a lot of research.”
Wilson apologized to Holleman more than once. She said her goal was to get the school board looking at forming a debt reduction plan.
“If we’re going to raise taxes, we have got to cut spending. We can’t pass another deficit budget,” she said. The district has a roughly $500,000 shortfall. “Where is the greatest waste happening? That’s not an insult. There’s always waste in a large organization.”
High noted that the proposed 3-cent tax increase is for the district’s debt payments, a part of the tax rate known as Interest & Sinking Fund. All of the items Wilson mentioned are part of maintenance and operations, which would not affect the debt payments, he said.
“We are looking at it all the time, and we are open to ideas,” Superintendent Paul Trull said. “But there is just not much there.”
At the suggestion of attorney Cheryl Mehl, Fisher cut the discussion short for being beyond the purposes of the agenda item and asked for a motion to see who wanted staff to report on the information requested. No one offered on the whole list, but Wilson made a motion to take a look at running PASS on the Travis campus as a start in looking at the district’s expenses. Board Secretary Becki Norment seconded the motion, and Trustee Regina Williams joined them in the vote. They were the only three, however, and the motion failed.
Local reports about PISD’s financial situation – which has included conversations about bankruptcy – spurred a call from the Texas Education Agency, Trull said.
“The district’s finances are solid,” he said. “It’s not often I get a call from the Texas Education Agency.”
Several experts have reviewed the district’s financial situation: Lisa Dawn Fisher, TEA deputy associate commissioner for school finance; Omar Garcia with Bosk Enterprises and and Region 13 Education Service Center, who prepares the finance template for the state; Woody Brewton with the Region 12 ESC; school finance consultant John Walch; and Fred Wilkerson with the Region 8 Education Service Center.