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“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.
“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.”
“We could say to every kid who comes to PISD, ‘Your meal is free, breakfast and lunch,’” Business Manager Tish Holleman said. “For our kids, that’s huge. We’ve got a lot of students on the bubble.”
In its last session, the Texas Legislature passed a law requiring every campus with 80 percent of its students in free and reduced lunch to offer free breakfast to all students. That would apply to Givens, Head Start, Justiss and the alternative school.
“If we can just get them to show up and eat the free food, that’ll be a great way to start the day,” Holleman said.
One problem is that if the district limited it to those four, it could cause confusion for students who transfer between campuses, she said. But it would be very expensive to do that at all campuses.
As an alternative, PISD may want to consider taking advantage of the United States Department of Agriculture community eligibility provision, she said. The program would make breakfast and lunch free for all students.
If a district has 40 percent or more of its population automatically qualifying for free and reduced lunch – such as migrant, homeless or Head Start students – it may qualify for the program. At 60.3 percent, PISD meets that requirement. Because of its numbers, 96.46 percent would be considered free lunches, and only 3.54 percent paid.
Federal funds cannot subsidize the paid lunches. If it does, the district can wind up having to repay some of the money. A la carte purchases from the snack bar can be used to offset that difference, since they are not covered in the program.
Participating in the federal program would eliminate the current application process, which Holleman said is a problem. Many decline to fill it out, or fill it out wrong or turn it in too late.
The program is new to Texas, Superintendent Paul Jones said. The district has until June 30 to decide whether or not it wants to participate. It is a five-year program, but the district could opt out after the first year if it did not work out as hoped.
If PISD stays with its current system, meals could cost 10 cents more next year.
Food is a big part of the federal funds for PISD, including $1.25 million in the national school lunch program, $500,000 for breakfast, $115,000 in USDA donated commodities, $40,000 for the summer feeding program and $24,510 for a fresh fruit and vegetable program at Justiss Elementary School.
Students are in “basic training” these last few weeks before STAAR reviewing Math and Reading skills for the big test at the end of the month.
Pictured front row (left to right): Katelyn Essary, Michaelyn Pendergraft, Angel Freeman, Jose Rangel , Jagger Moore, and Johnathan Jones; Back row: 3rd grade teachers: Wendy Fleming, Allison Hanley, and Tami Attebury
Aikin Kindergarten teacher, Peggy Ross, was selected KOYN Teacher of the Week. She was nominated by Caitlynn Cooke’s mother. She was presented with an Office Equipment Center Gift Certificate and a plant.
Pictured are Aikin Principal, Pat Gilbert and Kindergarten teacher, Peggy Ross with Davion Harrison, Caitlynn Cooke and Dustin Gilbert.