PISD weighs ‘phone doctor’ program for employees

PISD_04-14-BudgetParis Independent School District could pay $37,000 for a program that would allow employees to call a hotline and talk to a doctor.

“For those of us who have had to go to a high-deductible plan, this is an affordable alternative,” Business Manager Tish Holleman said. “If you use it appropriately, it can save you money.”

The program, offered through an insurance cooperative PISD belongs to, is called MD Live. Rather than make a trip to a doctor out of network or the emergency room after hours, patients or parents could call in for routine problems such as sinus and ear infections.

“If it’s some oddball thing, they’re going to say, ‘Go to the doctor,’” Holleman said.

The district can purchase it for all employees at $5 per person per month at a cost of $37,440, or make it available to individuals for $10 per month.

Trustee Dr. Bert Strom asked her to find out about the program’s credentials and what pediatricians were on call, as a brochure said they were “local.” There are a lot of “suspect” programs out there, he said.

“This is a very popular venue now for medicine, and you’re going to see more of them,” Strom said. “We want to tell our employees this is a good benefit.”

“As an employee with a high-deductible plan, we are in the eighth month, and I am nowhere near meeting my deductible,” High said.

The discussion came as part of Monday’s budget workshops. The numbers are still in flux as the budget is a work in progress.

“We’re still to the good. I’m going through line by line to see what can be tweaked,” Holleman said. “So far, it’s an estimate.”

PISD should get an estimate of tax values by next month’s board meeting. The certified rolls do not come in until July.

Holleman put in a 25-cent raise for hourly employees, such as maintenance and secretaries, to show the impact to the budget. In prior months, the numbers have only included teachers and aides. Next month could see estimates for a pay scale for administrators.

Superintendent Paul Jones asked to see if the budget could support a new school bus, which PISD has not bought in several years. Holleman said that conversation is still ongoing, so to date she has put in numbers for a “previously loved” school bus.

On revenue, the Medicare estimate is up $25,000 to $225,000 in the working budget. This year, PISD figured it would bring in $200,000 for services charged to Medicare that district staff provide to students, but the revenue has exceeded estimates. The district plans to start filing for reimbursement for indirect services, such as administrative costs, which could total $5,000.

2014-2015 Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten Registrations in Progress at North Lamar ISD

North LamarKindergarten and pre-kindergarten registration for students planning to enroll at North Lamar Independent School District for the 2014-2015 school year are now in progress through April 30 from 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Parents are encouraged to register their child at W. L. Higgins Elementary or Aaron Parker Elementary in order to plan for an adequate number of students.

The only qualification for those entering kindergarten in the fall is that the student must be five years of age on or before September 1, 2014.

Qualifications for pre-kindergarten students include: be four years of age on or before September 1, 2014; unable to speak and comprehend the English language; or from a family whose income qualifies the child to receive free or reduced lunches; or homeless; or the child of an active duty member of the armed forces of the United States who is ordered to active duty by proper authority; or the child of a member of the armed forces of the United States who was injured or killed while serving on active duty; or the child has ever been in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services following an adversary hearing.  Those attending Higgins must have transportation at midday.  Pre-kindergarten will be offered only for children according to the above criteria provided an adequate number of students preregister.

Items needed for both kindergarten and pre-kindergarten registrations include: child’s birth certificate; child’s shot record; child’s Social Security card; verification of residence in NLISD; and custody paper if applicable.  Verification of family income is needed only for pre-kindergarten.

For more information or to inquire about later registration hours, call Higgins Elementary at 903.737.2081, Parker Elementary at 903.732.3066, or North Lamar ISD Administration Building at 903.737.2000.

For Lamar County Head Start registration, call Parker Elementary School or the Head Start Office at 903.737.7469.

Special services are available to eligible children from birth through age 21.  For questions or concerns regarding a child’s abilities, please call ECI at 903.885.6437 or North Lamar ISD at 903.737.2031.

PISD approves alternative high school

PISD_04-14-THSParis independent School District will begin next year with a new, alternative high school program.

“There is a need,” Superintendent Paul Jones said. “Some kids just don’t fit in a traditional high school environment. There may be more than we realize.”

The PISD school board unanimously approved the non-traditional Travis High School at Monday’s regular meeting.

The school will be located in the old Travis campus at 3270 Graham St., which is now home to Paris Alternative School for Success, the disciplinary alternative education program. An old agricultural building behind the main building will be renovated for DAEP with Travis High School taking over the old eighth-grade campus. PASS is moving because they did not want to put the alternative high school there and then have to move it to the main campus as it grew.

“Our goal is to operate with both schools with existing staff,” Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Robert High said. “We’re looking at creative scheduling, and we’re asking staff to get additional certifications.”

Travis High School will use a combination of teacher-taught and computer-based classes. PASS Director Joan Moore said electives are the most likely candidates for computer course. Core classes would be better served with a live teacher, especially when it comes to state testing.

Because the program is designed for students who have jobs, families and other obligations, classes will run 8 a.m. to noon, although students could spend extra time working on classwork or preparing for the STAAR test.

“That is definitely going to be teacher-taught, and we are definitely going to spend a lot of time on it,” Moore said.

When the DAEP program started 20 years ago, each student had a mentor to work with, she said. That is an idea she wants to see resurrected for Travis High School.

“The staff at DAEP is very excited about the possibilities we see,” she said. “With Travis High School, perhaps DAEP will start getting smaller and smaller. That’s our hope.”

They’re ready to go. Staff has begun drawing up plans, talking about renovations and technology needs to make it work.

As long as space is available, Travis High School will be available to students from throughout Lamar County, but classes will not be open to just anyone. Students must fill out a questionnaire and write an essay as part of the application. Moore will interview individual students and their parents, along with a more in-depth questionnaire.

Students will be required to sign a dress code contract and an attendance contract. More than three unexcused absences will end up in truancy court. Discipline problems also won’t be tolerated, Moore said. A student can go from Travis to DAEP once. A second trip would result in expulsion.

A student will not be eligible to go from the disciplinary side to the alternative high school. The student will have to return to his home campus and “prove himself” before applying to Travis.

“It’s for high school, but we don’t want to start with true freshmen,” Moore said. “We’re looking at kids who are more like ‘freshmores,’ but we’re going to start with juniors and seniors.”

Students may even have the option of returning to their home schools for graduation if they get caught up.

The concept has proven successful in other areas, Jones said. Moore and other PISD staff went to visit New Horizons in Greenville recently. Greenville’s program has been in place for eight years and has 120 students. The program in Texarkana ISD has more than 100 students. Board President George Fisher asked what might happen if the numbers at Travis High School ballooned.

“Honestly, Mr. Fisher, we’re going to put it in God’s hands and take it as it comes,” she said.

As THS grows, Moore said the district may need to look at providing day care for students who have children. Greenville’s New Horizons has such a program in place.

Officials looked at a variety of names before settling on THS, many involving the word “options” or “choice” – even Wildcat Academy.

“What it’s going to say is Travis High School, high school of choice,” Jones said. “Everybody is familiar with the Travis campus, the Travis name.”

Dawson Announces Retirement

dawsonAfter 26 years at North Lamar Independent School District, Superintendent James A. Dawson announced his retirement during last night’s board meeting.

Dawson joined the district in 1987 as principal at North Lamar High School.  The office of superintendent was added to his responsibilities in the spring of 1989.  The following fall North Lamar’s Board of Trustees named him superintendent without the additional duties as principal.

As superintendent for 25 years, Dawson has been instrumental in the growth of many areas: the passing of a $11,500,000 bond in 1994 for the present day high school; an addition to Aaron Parker Elementary in 1996; the state-of-the-art James A. Dawson athletic facility in March 2006; and a successful $4.68 million dollar bond election for the construction of new science and computer labs at the high school in the spring of 2010.

Dawson is passionate about his job and is North Lamar’s biggest fan.  He attends as many student activities as possible and has been known to see performances in three corners of Texas, all in the same day.  Dawson efficiently balances a $23 million dollar budget while overseeing a fleet of 44 buses that run the district’s expansive routes.   One might even find him directing the afternoon traffic, substituting in a classroom, delivering birthday cards, or extending a hand shake to one of the 472 employees.

“Mr. Dawson ranks among the top superintendents in the state,” said NLISD Board President Paul Drake.  “His service to the district is immeasurable. He’s one hundred percent North Lamar.”

An avid number cruncher, Dawson has been instrumental in maintaining the district’s healthy budget.

“When the district needs something, he finds the money to get it done,” said Drake.  “And still within the last decade, he has been influential in lowering the tax rate for ten consecutive years.”

Board member Dr. Robert White added, “No one individual cares more about our students and public education than James Dawson.  He is always the first to arrive on campus each day and the last one to leave at night; a mark of his unwavering dedication.”

North Lamar’s School Board will meet next Monday night with TASB to see what the next step is in finding a new superintendent. Knowing that it will be a big task to fill Dawson’s shoes, it is the hope of each board member to have one in place before Dawson leaves.

“Mr. Dawson will be missed by all; from the administrators to the kids.  He’s a great asset,” said Drake.

White concluded, “He will be greatly missed and difficult to replace.  It has been a privilege for me to have served on the Board of Trustees during his leadership of the North Lamar District.  I wish him many full and happy years of much deserved retirement.”

Dawson will complete his 48th year in public education before retiring at the end of June.

North Lamar Science Team Attends ExxonMobil State Science and Engineering Fair

North Lamar High School seniors Sam Erickson and Carsen Rast

NLHS seniors Sam Erickson and Carsen Rast

It was during a teacher workshop last summer that Teresa Bussell was moved with an idea; one that would involve North Lamar High School seniors Sam Erickson and Carsen Rast.  The North Lamar biology instructor challenged the two advanced level students to devise a procedure of comparing milk proteins using a method of analysis called SDS-PAGE electrophoresis.

Sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) is a technique for separating proteins based on their ability to move within an electrical current, which is a function of the length of their polypeptide chains or of their molecular weight. This is achieved by adding SDS detergent to remove secondary and tertiary protein structures and to maintain the proteins as polypeptide chains. The SDS coats the proteins, mostly proportional to their molecular weight, and confers the same negative electrical charge across all proteins in the sample.

Erickson and Rast were to compare three varieties of milk: pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, and fresh milk straight from the udder.  To begin they spent a couple months during the fall semester researching their project.  Once enough information was gathered, they ordered supplies necessary to help them begin their experiment.

In January 2014, the teens had the opportunity to go to the National Center of Therapeutics Manufacturing (NCTM) at Texas A&M University – College Station where Bussell had attended the teacher workshop.

“At the NCTM, we were able to conduct more trials of the experiment using their upgraded facilities,” said Rast.  “The lab coordinator, Matt Johnson, was extremely helpful to us throughout our experimentation and even gave us tips for the science fair competition.”

With minds churning from the trip to College Station’s state-of-the-arts facility, the boys returned to their high school science lab to conduct one more trial.  From there they analyzed the results and formulated a conclusion to their semester long project.

“The fresh milk did contain more protein than both heat treated varieties in case anyone is curious” said Rast.  “However, our purpose was more geared toward perfecting the procedure of comparison.”

After coming up with their conclusion and gathering their notes from the semester, the pair prepared for the school’s science fair competition by presenting their findings to teachers, parents, and peers.   Judges awarded Erickson and Rast with the first place ribbon that allowed them to advance to the East Texas Regional Science Fair at Kilgore College on February 28.  There they claimed third place in the senior division biological category.

“We also went home with the Metric System Award and the American Chemical Society Award,” added Erickson.  “Our winnings qualified us for the ExxonMobil State Science and Engineering Fair in San Antonio, which we attended from March 21 to the 23.”

Concluding Rast said, “The judges were impressed with our innovative methods of analysis, but it was not enough to claim a prize among the other top tier projects from all over the state.”

Both boys gave credit to Campbell Soup and the North Lamar school board for supporting them during their senior research project.