The Melissa Independent School District Board of Trustees met on Jan. 27 to receive various updates from members of administration, evaluate the current state of district-wide construction efforts, approve the Melissa High School Cardinal Band’s annual field trip and announce the district’s recognition by the State of Texas regarding its inclusion into the 2013 Texas Honors Circle.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Rich received a letter of congratulations from Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs regarding MISD’s recognition of exceptional overall performance as a state school district.

The letter from Combs read in part: "Dear Superintendent Rich, I am pleased to inform you that Melissa ISD has been named into the 2013 Texas Honor Circle. Our office created this award to recognize Texas charter and public school districts and campuses that have achieved significant student and academic growth while keeping spending relatively low compared to peer districts. Your district won this award by earning 5 stars in the comptroller’s 2013 Financial Allocation Study for Texas ratings. Your district is among 55 school districts and charter operators that have earned our highest rating by demonstrating with financial and academic effectiveness."

The Financial Allocation Study for Texas is an annual analysis conducted by the Texas State Comptroller’s Office. The yearly study evaluates both academic success and spending. Melissa Independent School District was ranked in the top 20 percent of Texas school districts in terms of academic progress while maintaining financial expenditures among the lowest 20 percent of fiscally comparable districts. The district will be featured by the comptroller on the ‘FAST’ website at www.fasttexas.org.

The meeting commenced with a public forum; all of the citizens who spoke outlined their concern regarding the ramifications of the proposed Fitzhugh Villas apartment complex on the school district as voted on by the Melissa City Council. All citizens who spoke expressed their desire that the entire school board stand behind them against the proposed housing addition. One citizen, who spoke last, also voiced their suggestion that due to his outstanding performance Rich remain as superintendent on a permanent basis.

The board received an update on the district’s latest changes in standardized testing as Melissa Independent School District marks its final year using the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. The district is adopting the modern State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness program, which was introduced on the state level in 2011 and offers a much more indepth statistical analysis of students’ scores. The test will also provide a variety of statistics derived from the data gathered and evaluated by scores. The overall results of which will eventually be made available online.

The full report of the new changes regarding the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness program are available online via the district website by accessing the department section on www.melissaisd.org.

The board is currently in the process of setting up meetings with the Melissa City Council regarding the selection of a new superintendent. Both the council and board have publicly stated that they strive maintain strong communications in the mutual agreement that decisions of one body will affect the other. Meetings regarding the probable consequences of the proposed housing additions will also be scheduled in the future. While it has not officially been scheduled, the board assures that the next meeting regarding the selection of a new superintendent will take place in March. The application process for superintendent will conclude by Jan. 31.

A technology update was presented by Dr. Brian Brown, who informed the board of the successful distribution of Android tablets to the students in seventh grade at Melissa Middle School. He also informed the board of the current state of the district’s update in available internet bandwidth. AT&T is currently processing all the necessary paperwork needed to upgrade the school’s internet connection speeds.

Kenny Deel, Administrator of Plant Services, along with representatives of Pouge construction updated the board on the current state of district-wide construction efforts. Representatives of Pouge informed the board of the construction progress of McKillop Elementary School, the new high school gym and the fine arts building and illustrated the current amount of savings on a number of considerably pricy items.

Pouge reported an overall savings of $286,155, claiming it saved $166,218 on the new press box for the high school football field, a cheaper alternative to a scoreboard that is visually identical to the one previously chosen which netted savings of $9,837 and electrical revisions which saved $10,300. Representatives of Pouge assured the board that no sacrifice to quality was made when the alternative choices to these construction efforts were chosen.

In 2015, the MHS Cardinal Band will be traveling to Hawaii to perform at the Pearl Harbor memorial. As with every previous trip, the funds necessary for the band to make the trip are to be raised through fundraising efforts. The board was also assured that no student has been left behind due to financial reasons. The trip will most likely be scheduled after graduation.

Lemuel and Heidi Thompson donated $500 to Melissa Middle School for the bullying awareness program Rachel’s Challenge, a non-profit, non-religious program which was named in honor of Rachel Scott, the first student who lost her life in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The donation is a part of a matching program with Texas Instruments, which matches donations for the program dollar for dollar.

A donation of $4,000 was given by the Sunrise Learning Center to help support the Melissa High School’s Junior/Senior Prom.

Rich delivered his Superintendent report to the board, which usually focuses on student enrollment.

"It’s a good situation when we get more students than we build the budget off of. When students come in, especially with the restructured tax rate last year, when students come in we get the funding we need. If you’re in west Texas, if you’re in south Texas and your district is not increasing in enrollment, you’re struggling. So having said that, we are up 212 kids from the last day of school. That’s a positive thing for us", said Dr. Rich.