The tax rate for the next fiscal year was set and the most recent accountability ratings for schools and districts were discussed at the most recent meeting of the Commerce ISD Board of Trustees Monday night.
The tax rate was set at $1.06835 per $100 of property value, which is a major drop from the $1.17 rate last year. The sudden drop in tax rate was mandated due to House Bill 3, the legislation passed this year in the state of Texas that gives more state funding to school districts but mandates a drop in tax rate.
The new rate was approved unanimously, giving some relief to local tax payers.
Also discussed were the most recent A-F Accountability Ratings given out by the Texas Education Agency. The ratings have undergone many tweaks and changes over the past few years, and this release was the first time that individual campuses were officially rated, after preliminary numbers were released previously.
The figures released last Thursday show big changes for the district and its campuses, some positive, some negative. The district as a whole is on an upturn, increasing from a 74 last year to an 81, to receive a “B” rating. Commerce High School also improved from a “C” to a “B.”
However, both A.C. Williams Elementary and Commerce Middle School did not receive high marks, with ACW being classified a “D” and CMS given an “F” rating.
Commerce Elementary School also was ranked a “D,” but the rating is arbitrary and tied to ACW, as students in CES are not old enough to take standardized tests, which is where the data comes from.
The low ratings for the two schools triggered the state to give them a “Targeted Support Designation.” As a part of this, the district must hire a District Coordinator for School Improvement by Aug. 30, who will help implement intervention measures and report on progress to the state.
ACW Principal Lisa Palazzetti and CMS Principal Tina Bronson gave presentations regarding their plans to better their schools. Palazzetti stated that ACW “will work harder and smarter” to improve the education given to students and receive a higher ranking. 4th grade reading was a big sticking point in the ratings. The principal said that the campus will utilize strategic scheduling and small group instruction as ways to improve.
At CMS, the biggest sore spot was in the area of closing the gaps, which divides students into different indicators that are broken up by race, special education status, economically disadvantaged students and more. Commerce Middle School did not meet the requirements on any indicators that it was eligible for, with the only indicators that met standard not having enough students to count. Many of those percentages were off by only one or two students however.
CMS Principal Bronson said that they are currently “pouring over the data” to determine the best plan forward. She added that even with the low rating, she was “excited” to take on the challenge in her first year as the campus’ top administrator.
“We will rise,” Bronson said.
CISD Superintendent Charlie Alderman made sure to point out that the campuses did not miss by much, saying that CMS was just 14 students meeting their grade level away from jumping from an “F” to a “C” rating. Alderman and other administrators will be spending days out of their week during the school year at each campus to help with improvement.
CHS’ ranking was bolstered with its high College, Career and Military Readiness score, which was listed as a 91. Many of the changes implemented in the last few years at CHS are being sought for the other campuses to improve performance.
Also during the meeting, it was revealed that the district had received an “A” rating in the separate FIRST system, which is the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas. FIRST looks at how well-run a school district’s finances are and if all books are clean. CISD improved from a “B” rating last year, scoring perfect in all categories but one.
A more detailed account of the ratings and what each one means will come later, most likely in November when the scores are finalized.
Day one enrollment for the district was down nine students from the beginning of school last year, but in that time, more than 60 students have been enrolled, bringing the total figure up to 1,511.
The next meeting of the Commerce ISD Board of Trustees is scheduled for Sept. 16, with public session beginning at 7 p.m.