Rusk ISD receives reports on baseball/softball project, FIRST rating

by Cristin Parker

The Rusk Independent School District Board held a public meeting during Dec. 10's regular school board meeting to discuss the district's FIRST rating, though no public attended.

All Texas ISDs and open-enrollment charters are assigned one of four possible letter grades (A, B, C, or F), as well as a coinciding financial management ratings -- Superior, Above Standard Achievement, Meets Standard or Substandard Achievement. Rusk ISD received an A-Superior rating.

“Created by Texas legislators in 2001, the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) is designed to encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes,” the TEAs website states. “The FIRST ratings are calculated using 15 financial indicators, such as administrative cost expenditures; the accuracy of a district or charter’s financial information submitted to TEA; and any financial vulnerabilities or material weaknesses in internal controls as determined by an external auditor.”

RISD Chief Financial Officer Stacie Young said in an earlier interview, “We earned 100 points of 100 points, we’re very satisfied with that and we’re continuing to monitor our finances and all the decisions we make as a district. A new rating system goes into effect for the 20/21 school year, we’re also making sure we’re staying on top of those changes as they come from the state, as well.”

RISD trustees also received an update on the ongoing baseball/softball field construction project, from Berry & Clay Construction Manager-at-Risk Stephen Berry.

“We were in pretty good shape until the weather happened, and we're forecast to get three inches of rain on Friday and Saturday (the week of Dec. 10),” Berry said. “We've gotten 19.8 inches of rain since Sept. 1 and that's not helpful at all.”

Berry said officials with the Astroturf installation company is shooting for Dec. 27 to begin installing the field material and will potentially be done by Jan. 15 in the best case scenario.

“If the rain holds off, we'll be able to start on the softball field's turf by Dec. 26,” he said. “We've gotten the lights on out there this week, so they could do the turf at night.

“Our full crew worked on Thanksgiving Day, trying to take advantage of the good weather while we had it and the Astroturf crews are willing to do whatever they have to, to get it done as quickly as possible.

“Our subcontractors have been great, I can't complain at all there.”

Berry said steel deliveries for the bones of the new buildings are planned to start Dec. 21.

“I've seen people out there working until dark, just getting after it using flashlights or headlights or whatever,” Board member Jake Ocker said.

In other business, board members approved allowing school administrators to seek requests for qualifications for building designers to help the district begin becoming more energy efficient.

RISD Superintendent Gray Burton introduced Texas Association of School Boards representative Jerry McCurly and reported he and McCurly had done a walk-through of the district's campuses recently to see what might be done to help the district save energy. “We came up with some things that could potentially save us $62,000 annually or more,” Burton said. “We're very efficient already, but as technology changes and improves, there are always things we can implement to improve as well.” Burton recommended the Board approve seeking RFQs as a way to start moving the district into more efficiency. “We're not hiring a firm, but this would allow us to put in motion on hiring a firm to help us on this,” Board President Britt Patterson said.