LA MARQUE — The La Marque school district has again submitted a solvency plan after being required to work with an independent organization to address issues identified by the state. 

District officials said the template for budget and cash flow projections, among other things, led to some of the questions brought up by the state. A plan using new templates provided by the state was submitted this week, said La Marque Superintendent Terri Watkins.

Watkins said working with an outside agency to review the district’s plan was a positive and informative step. 

A letter dated Jan. 17 from the Texas Education Agency stated the district would need to find outside help and made clear that failure to receive approval could lead to a downgrade in the district’s accreditation status. 

“During the review of the financial solvency plan submitted by your district, it was determined that the plan would not permit your district to avoid projected insolvency,” wrote Education Commissioner Michael Williams in a letter to the district. 

The Texas Education Agency rejected the district’s first two solvency plans and had given the district until today to send in a new plan, according to an education agency spokesperson. 

In the letter, Williams stated that the district would need to work with an outside group to deal with “discrepancies” and “formula, logic and data entry errors” in its previous plan.

For example, the letter stated the 2014 budget achieved a reduction of about $2.757 million, which was only 62.1 percent of the stated savings goal. The 2015 budget indicated an increase of $81,431 instead of the stated savings goal of $794,274. 

The state also took issue with projected cash flows for fiscal years 2013 through 2015 and with a projected increase in state revenue in 2015 even though enrollment is declining, among other issues. 

Watkins said the district hired the Harris County Department of Education to address the state’s concerns. The solvency plan was sent to the state via email Wednesday and mailed a hard copy Thursday, she said.  

The district spent $5,300 to obtain the department’s assistance on the solvency plan, Watkins said. 

Dianne Duron, the La Marque school district’s business manager, said the previous plan was drafted in just two weeks with the help of consultant Ann Dixon in June. 

After a phone conversation with education agency representatives, the district submitted further information regarding the budget and cash flow and people projections, she said. 

The issues brought up by the state were because of flaws in prior templates used to create the solvency plan, she said. 

The old templates used by the school district included things such as grant funds and not just general fund revenue, said Jesus Amezcua, assistant superintendent for business services with the Harris County Department of Education.

Amezcua worked with the district on its latest solvency plan and said the new templates used only general funds and left out other projected revenue like grants. 

“We needed to develop and use (the education agency’s) template, their format,” he said. “Stick to the formatted template that they had and not adjust it in any way.” 

Watkins said working with Amezcua and his group was a positive thing for the school district. The group used the school district’s information and plan to answer the state’s questions, she said. 

She said the district is moving in the right direction financially. 

“Overall, we are pleased with the outcome and the information they provided to us and then we in turn provided to the state,” Watkins said. “We are just wanting to get the plan approved and to be able move forward.” 

Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or chris.gonzalez@galvnews.com

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(9) comments

Walter Manuel

So now we see all of the liars having to move to the front of the classroom and have their lies finally exposed for the public to see.

In a GDN article dated January 27, 2014 School Board President Nakisha Paul stated, "A recent financial audit report showed that the district’s budget situation was moving in the right direction, but the district has to be careful about where it spends its money". Then she went on to say, "The school district is moving past the days where financial reports saw the district in the red".

Well, isn't it interesting how the districts shuffling of the numbers in order to make their numbers look good eventually backfired on them to the people that count the most.... TEA?

What TEA also told the district was that they didn't understand the difference between "positive and negative" numbers in their calculations when they showed the use of moving money from one account to another.

I guess it's just the same use of those "fuzzy math skills" resurfacing which appears to be what LMISD does best when they need to make the numbers look better than they actually are?

Board President Nakisha Paul and Superintendent Terri Watkins is simply pee'ing on everyone's leg and trying to convince them that it's raining when they say," the district is moving in the right direction financially".

What noone is obviously telling us is that the district is not doing well financially and they will have to make the budget even more leaner which ultimately means reducing the budget further by a means of cutting more positions or services within the district in order to achieve solvency through 2015.

What's really sad is the fact that the district spent thousands of dollars twice from the same consultant and got the same results, despite being told the second time by TEA that the plan wasn't accepted and yet they said that they were moving forward with it anyways.

This just goes to further prove that we currently have a school board that doesn't have a clue what they are doing seeing how they approved both of these solvency plans and both of them failed just like they are failing the children of our school district and community.

Today is the last day to sign up to run for the school board in order to replace Nakisha Paul, Annie Burton and Terry Pettijohn.

If our school district has any chance of survival, we need someone will file today in order to run against one of these board members so that we can begin a transition towards a new beginning for LMISD and the city of LM, otherwise we are faced with the eventual consolidation with another school district as we've seen by their obvious lack of knowledge ,experience or qualifications to run our school district.

We'll see if the same vultures come back to finish off what's left of the corpse of LMISD or if they will finally step down and allow someone else to help save the district?

We need good leadership back on the board if our children have any hope of receiving a quality education and receiving in their own home town!

Walter Manuel

Danggit! That should have ben, "If our school district has any chance of survival, we need someone "who" will file today" and "if our children have any hope of receiving a quality education and receiving "it" in their own home town!"

BTW, great job Christopher Gonzalez and GDN for getting this information out to the voters of LMISD in time so that they can make an informed decision based on "FACTS" and not being told what they want to hear when choosing a candidate for OUR school board. [thumbup]

Gary Miller

Did the LM BOT learn their math in LM ISD?

They have a quick cure for their budget problems.
Fire all ISD employees and convert all campuses to Charter schools.
An instant budget surplus results.
Use the budget surplus for school tax cuts.
Families would move back to LM to take advantage of better schools for lower cost.

Walter Manuel

Unfortunately LMISD wouldn't even have good charter schools while under the direction of this current school board seeing how our district has been academically unacceptable for 3 years in a row and they can't prove their ability to remain solvent through 2015.

LMISD has applied this year again for a charter school designation and I'd be shocked if TEA grants them their request seeing how poorly their able to operate what they have now?

If an outside group opened up a charter school it would be entirely different and could possibly work, but then the district knows that they would lose even more students from their own schools.

It's too bad that all of those now uninsured schools that were consolidated couldn't be leased to someone for charter schools because then the district would receive much needed money while our students could stay home in order to receive their education.

I've gotten lot's of calls today saying that it appears most people have lost all interest in trying to save the school district because it's obvious that children's education is no longer the priority of district officials, but rather appeasing certain groups of friends is now the norm for these board members.

If no one runs against these board members who are up for re-election, then we will be forced to deal with the same board members who have already proven what they are NOT capable of doing and we should prepare ourselves for the fact that LMISD's days are now numbered.

Sad, very sad.... [sad]

rah

My my..... here is the name Anne Dixon again. Didn't she contribute to GISD woes not that long ago. Why do people think she is the cure all? Her track record states otherwise.

Walter Manuel

Rah, it appears from what some are saying that all of this has been planned for quite some time and was a masterful scheme by LMISD district officials and school board members to close/consolidate schools, as well as, get rid of the people that they wanted without having to be the bad guy by hiring Ann Dixon.

It is also being said that a district official knew Terri Watkins from attending church with her in Galveston and who knew Ann Dixon from working closely with her in Galveston ISD for a while.

Well we saw how that play out, by getting rid of Mr. Burley and putting Ann Dixon on the superintendent search committee this created an opportunity for Terri Watkins to later become the next superintendent.

Before Terri Watkins was selected as superintendent, Ann Dixon got rid of our police department supposedly in order to save money, however it was actually so that the baord could hire back a friend of their's that they claimed was illegally fired, but that didn't work out for them so they had to eliminate a whole department in order to get rid of one innocent district employee.

Next, we will probably see that someone who will lose their job next year will miraculously be appointed as the next school marshall or police chief by the district in order to take care of another one of their close friends despite the district claiming now that we don't have any money for such security in our schools.

I'd bet the farm that this is exactly what will happen next year and I'll be the first to say that I told everyone so. Afterall, these board members and district officials game play book is just that easy to read! [wink]

Gary Miller

LM ISD still has too many classrooms and staff for enrolement numbers.
It also has a surplus of students so far behind in their education catching up isn't possible. Dropping out is their probable option.

The recent state ratings are not likely to reverse the decline in enrolement.
Students moving out is more likely than students moving in.

Walter Manuel

Your exactly right IHOG.

The district may be able to survive submitting a solvency plan to TEA that they accept, however the district won't survive academically this year since students are now divided into individual subgroups in which each group stands on their own.

Last year the smart students who passed the STAAR exam were made to retake it in hopes of raising the test scores for every other student who didn't do so well since the system of scoring was done differently with the new roll out of the STAAR exam.

Looks like LMISD has finally run out of time and have lost all of their life lines. Now we can finally send these pathetic school board members packing and our students can be consolidated with another district who can offer them not only solid leadership, discipline and safety, but most importantly an excellent education that LMISD no longer offers.

Walter Manuel

Clarification: [wink]

"students "this year taking the STAAR and End of Course exam" are now divided into individual subgroups in which each group stands on their own".

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