The Melissa ISD Board of Trustees met Monday to receive updates on the progress of various projects, welcome new district employees and finalize policy updates.

Stacy Kalmbacher addressed the board with a series of updates starting with the Melissa High School University Interscholastic League debate team’s top honors in the 8th annual Aubrey American Cup Invitational. The debate team took home first place wins in the speech, academic, and overall categories, making a clean sweep of the tournament.

Kalmbacher also officially introduced Monica Caldwell as the new Public Education Information Management System coordinator for Melissa ISD. Caldwell delivered an update regarding the district’s public education information management system and the conversion of the district computer networks using the latest Skyward school administration software. Due to district growth, there is currently a need for modern upgrades in administrative functions for district employees and students.

"In March, parents and students for the first time will be able to do online course selections for the 2014-15 school year," said Caldwell.

To prepare for the full implementation of this software, the master course selections will be finalized in May using Skyward. Hands-on training for district staff is scheduled to begin in July.

"The business side of our school district, all of that information has to marry with the student information side," said MISD Superintendent Dr. Robert Rich. "We have a breakdown right now between the two systems; they just don’t speak together very well which creates inefficiencies."

The Skyward software is used by a large number of school districts locally and nationally with each system being state-specific with up-to-date changes in law and policy.

The board received a technology update regarding an increase in available network bandwidth upgrade from a 20 to 100 megabyte per second connection. Currently, all eight grade students at Melissa Middle School have assigned Android tablets, and soon the seventh grade students will be assigned tablets which will further exhaust the current connection. The district is expected to have the upgrade installed by Spring with virtually no change in current costs.

The board discussed the selection of professional certifications available to high school students. Currently, there are a small number of professional certifications such as teaching assistant, finance, real estate, business, and finance.

"House Bill 5, in the last legislative session, is going to require in the very near future that students declare a coherent sequence that they plan to use their electives toward," explained Rich, speaking of the importance of industry certifications within course curriculum. "Our project ‘lead the way’ courses are the perfect example for the kids that are applying the math and science in a meaningful way." Rich also cited Finland’s highly-respected school systems which encourage the development of specialized skills and certifications by making which subject the student focused on in high school a factor in the selection process of colleges and other schools of advancement.

The board has been focused on making a wide array of local industry-relevant and highly sought industrial certifications available for students. The certifications are meant to encourage the growth of specialized, employable graduates who will be able to work their way through college. With the growth in enrollment numbers in an upward trend, MISD is in the process of upgrading in order to meet modern standards and the needs of students.

Kenny Deel, administrator of plant services delivered an update on the status of construction efforts currently underway at Melissa High School. Architects from Pouge Construction were on hand to address concerns, update the board on the status of district construction projects and deliver a project pricing breakdown. One of the parts of the project nearing completion will be the north-east parking lot of Melissa High School, which should be available for student use by mid-January. The construction projects across the district are scheduled for completion by the beginning of the next school year.

Pouge delivered a presentation outlining the savings it has made in the areas of materials, the order in which each building will be completed and a brief summarized pricing statement listing 46 percent of project costs being related to building efforts currently underway at the high school with the new field house and track taking up a considerable percentage, as well.

Currently, Pouge has yet to furnish an itemized list of actual costs and spending. A

Pouge representative estimated that the full spending report should be available by February at the earliest. The gross cost currently associated with the construction efforts is reported to be $14,885,990.