Aiming to maintain and increase the 94.3 percent daily attendance average for students, the La Joya Independent School District is continuing a program that saw success in the last year of implementation.
LJISD held a public hearing before a special called meeting Monday, Sept. 17, where Sandra Gonzalez, the director of the program, presented the Optional Flexible School Day Program to Superintendent Alda T. Benavides and the board of trustees.
“A student may participate if the student has dropped out of school, or the student is at risk of dropping out, as a result of attendance requirements under the 90 percent rule, the student will be denied credit for one of our classes in which the student has been enrolled, the student is attending a school with an approved early college high school program,” Gonzalez said.
“Participating campuses for the school year include all three comprehensive high schools, each with 350 participants, and that includes students from CCC [College and Career Center], Health Science Professions, La Joya Early College and the academies.”
The Hope Academy, Jimmy Carter Early College High School and Thelma Salinas STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Early College High School can each have up to 50 students participate in the program. Gonzalez added that all eight middle schools are in the program, each with up to 50 students participating, and all 23 elementary schools are as well, each with 50 students participating.
“The purpose of the program is to offer flexible schedules to qualified students,” Gonzalez said. “Our goals are to improve student attendance, academic achievement and the graduation rate.”
Gonzalez presented the statistics of the program for the 2017-2018 school year. LJISD had 1,698 participants, recovering a total of 136,809 instructional days “through extended daily and weekend classes.” Last year, OFSDP also included 112 graduates from the high schools.
“We had an average daily attendance as a result of this program of 94.3 percent,” said Superintendent Benavides.
The board approved the Optional Flexible School Day Program for the 2018-2019 school year during the board meeting following the public hearing.
During the school board meeting, there was discussion on school plans to improve the overall letter grade and distinction designations in the Texas Education Agency (TEA) 2019 ratings and distinctions. LJISD scored a B in this year’s district accountability ratings by TEA.
Benavides said the district was projected to earn a D score, but through hard work and plans, all schools met standard and LJISD scored a B.
“What we’re going to do, as part of the requirement of Senate Bill 1566 is that we should look at our agendas and they should be more student/academic oriented,” Benavides said. “That’s part of the requirement that the state is doing,”
The board heard some plans of action from principals from three schools: Jackie Escobedo from Guillermo Flores Elementary, Donna Martinez from Rosendo Benavides Elementary and Dr. Sandra Cerda from Juan N. Seguin Elementary.
LJISD hopes to receive an A from TEA in 2019.
After calculating the averages of each individual campus in the district, and comparing the scores to other districts in the state and local level, nine LJISD schools scored an A overall. Jimmy Carter ECHS, Thelma Salinas STEM ECHS, John F. Kennedy Elementary, Elodia R. Chapa Elementary, Jose De Escandon Elementary, Lloyd M. Bentsen Elementary, Enrique Camarena Elementary, Americo Paredes Elementary and William J. Clinton Elementary were recognized at the board meeting for this achievement.
“We’re very proud of these principals,” Benavides said. “They’re lighthouses in our district that are going to help us get all the campuses at our district at an A and our district at an A also.”
The LJISD board of trustees additionally terminated an existing contract with O’Hanlon, McCollom and Demerath for legal services for special education. Legal counsel for the district stated that they were not ending the services with the firm completely, just rolling the special education services to another contract with the firm that already exists with LJISD.