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October 23, 2013

JISD honors principals, explains bond election

JACKSONVILLE —

It's a busy, occasionally callous and constantly harsh world out there.  And when  the Jacksonville ISD's brave school principals put their best foot forward in service to their students, such admirable work should be recognized and appreciated, officials said at Monday night's school board meeting.

To that effect, October 2013 is National Principals Month — an event wholeheartedly promoted  by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Reflecting upon such amazing contributions to students and community, Jacksonville ISD  school board members on Monday paid tribute to their own principals by awarding them much-deserved trophies.

Recognized were: David Adams, Compass Center; Dr. Amber Penn, Fred Douglass Elementary; Lisa Cox, Jacksonville Middle School; Tammy Jones, Jacksonville High School, Cindy Slovacek, Joe Wright Elem.; Sandi Jones, West Side Elem.; Holly Searcy, Nichols Intermediate;  and Jodi Alderete, East Side Elementary.

Around the beginning of Monday night's meeting, JISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell discussed the upcoming, $22.8 million bond election, which takes place Nov. 5.  He delivered a similar presentation to members of the Jacksonville Kiwanis  Club during a lunch gathering last week.

If passed by voters, the bond election could finance the building of a new West Side Elementary School as well as eight new classrooms and a band hall at Nichols Intermediate School.

Dr. Wardell reiterated his long-stated points that West Side Elementary right now has 46 outside entrances, which makes it difficult to keep secured and also is overcrowded — built for 399 students but housing 473.

There are 11 different buildings on the property and are very unsecured and unsafe, he said.

Additional space problems expected to be addressed if the $22,785,000 bond election passes is the conundrum of Nichols Intermedia School being built for 651 students but having 723 currently enrolled. Also many as 133 band students are having difficulty crowding into the band hall at its current size.

In terms of impact on taxes, should voters embrace the proposed bond, it would cost the average family living in a home in the Jacksonville ISD  $5.16 more, Dr. Wardell said. Senior homesteads should be unaffected because their taxes are frozen.

Incidentally, early voting for the bond election, incidentally, begins Oct. 21 and runs through Nov. 1 —  Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each of those days at the Jacksonville Public Library

In other business, describing  a hungry and humiliating episode recently experienced by her young daughter, the wife of District 2 Councilman Jeff Smith urged Jacksonville ISD school board members Monday evening to restructure their lunch and breakfast payment system.

Wendy Smith  spent a little over five minutes describing the problem affecting her daughter. Her remarks were offered during the public comments portion of the board's Monday meeting. Councilman Smith watched intently from the audience as his wife spoke from the podium.

Wendy Smith told school board members that her child, a sixth grader at Nichols Intermediate School, was not allowed to eat lunch one day recently because her father had forgotten to deposit money into the student meal account  maintained by the district. Until depleted, this fund covers all JISD student lunch, breakfast and dessert costs.

Neither school board members nor JISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell directly addressed Wendy Smith's comments Monday  — and, they told the audience, probably won't until an investigation into the matter is completed and reviewed.

Wendy Smith said her daughter had attempted to purchase an individual order of tater tots the day she went without lunch. But when she tried to pay for it from her account, it was discovered her balance was too low.

Generally, when a student cannot pay for a meal he or she can receive a free meal from the cafeteria, although the meal does not contain meat.  Wendy Smith contends her daughter was not offered even that option when the tator tots were taken away from her.

When the sixth grader attempted to explain to cafeteria staff she was expecting her father to come to the school to pay this debt at any time, she was accused of lying, Wendy Smith alleged.

"Our daughter went to her lunch table at this date with no food," she said. "I feel that … my daughter was ostracized in front of her entire peer group through no fault of her own."

Wendy Smith said school board members  need to be on the same page as everyone else in terms of collection and disbursement of meal payments — as well as options other than going without food when an issue like this presents itself.

" JISD should go about collecting those funds in the same manner they would collect any the debt a student may incur — such as fines for books returned late, fines for lost books or monies or moneys owed for destroying school property," she said.

 It should take roughly a month before the results of the school investigation into the matter is competed, JISD officials said.

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