Local control of Public Schools

Loss of Local Control
Texas Public Education

When did the idea of “local control” become so distasteful to the Legislative Body in Austin? White Oak ISD is putting the finishing touches on the budget for the 2009/2010 school year. This process is always difficult and very time consuming but this year it has also become “baffling” for lack of a better word. It is very difficult for a district that is struggling financially to complain about any kind of financial help made available from any source. At the risk of seeming ungrateful, I am complaining just a little. It appears that we are going to receive about $670,000.00 in Stimulus Funds. Approximately $80,000 must be spent in Title I grades K-5. Another $260,000.00 must be spent in compliance with IDEA (Special Education) guidelines that apply to approximately 15% of the student population. Both of these fund sources are strictly to be used to supplement not supplant existing programs within the district. In other words, buy something new instead of pay for what is working. The remaining $400,000.00 can be used to offset some expenses if they meet predetermined approved Federal Standards. One of those approved and required items is a $974.00 per year raise for eligible faculty members. The raise will be funded by Stimulus Funds for two years and then picked up by the local district since the increase is permanent but the Stimulus Funds are not.
All of that information is in place to set the stage for this question, Why can’t the local school district Board of Trustees and Administration decide what would be the best way to spend $670,000.00? White Oak ISD will adopt a deficit budget for 2009/2010 in the amount of $435,000.00. By applying the $670,000.00 Stimulus Funds as required by the Federal Standards, WOISD will still have a deficit budget of over $40,000.00. That is my concern, complaint, gripe and/or burden if you will. My math skills are good enough to acknowledge the fact that $40K in debt is better than $435K in debt. Those same skills tell me that applying $670K to a $435K deficit should solve the problem.
Why can’t the local district decide what to do with the money? If you allow local control of the money, somebody somewhere will put in a new turf field, new gym, new field house or even a sauna for the administrators, that’s why. In other words there will be situations where the money is used inappropriately. It is my belief that the overwhelming majority of Texas school districts will use the funds to better the education and learning environment of their students. I believe that there should be a level of accountability for the use of any taxpayer funds. Require us to provide a plan on how the money will be used and hold us accountable for following the plan. Just don’t tell me from thousands of miles away that the money is coming and you will use 40% of it on less than 15% of your students, 15% has to be a pay raise that I will have to maintain after the funds are gone and 12% can only be used in grades K-5. I believe in the public school system in Texas. I believe Local School Boards want to do right by the students they are charged with leading. I hope that some day there will be a shift in the negative stigma placed on the idea of Local Control to make the best decisions to solve Local Issues.

Here Comes The New Year


The new school year is on its way and White Oak ISD is gearing up to welcome students, faculty and staff back for another year of outstanding accomplishments. I am going to make an effort to be more active on this Blog site and give some of the activities and achievements of the district the recognition they deserve. With that in mind, I want to share three things that will make WOISD a better place in 2009/2010.
Pam Cranford is moving to a position in the Intermediate School that will allow her to touch the lives of many of our students and also help our teaching staff become even more proficient in educational technology. After accepting the Texas Computer Educators Teacher of the Year Award, Mrs. Cranford now serves on a state level technology committee in Austin. In July, she was able to share many of the best practices being applied at WOISD and learn from other outstanding educators across the state. The meeting was attended by Commissioner Robert Scott and I know that Mrs. Cranford’s position on this committee will bring valuable new information to White Oak. You can keep up with Pam Cranford’s efforts to improve the quality of education at http://testing123.wonecks.net/2009/07/30/help-you-need-somebody/.
During our in-service training the week of August 17th, many of our teachers will receive training on the use of electronic student portfolios. This is an emerging technology that will allow our students to display and store samples of their work and demonstrate their mastery of required technology TEKS. As this process grows, our student will have a portfolio that will be a valuable tool when they apply for college and/or enter the work world after school. The use of portfolios will also allow our faculty and staff to identify and meet the technology training needs of our students on a more individual basis.
The last thing I want to share is an ongoing success story starring a White Oak Graduate. Emanuel Gawrieh is currently a student at Baylor University. Mr. Gawrieh shared some of his experiences with me in an email earlier this summer and I was very proud to read that he felt his education at White Oak provided him with the tools necessary to succeed at the university level. We hope to schedule time for Emanuel to share his experiences with our current student body and to allow our students to see there is no limit to where you can go from White Oak High School. Emanuel’s story is not just a tale of going from White Oak to Waco. During his time at Baylor, he has successfully completed internships at the State Capital in Austin where he worked with our legislators and gained valuable insight in the inner workings of government. Most recently, Mr. Gawrieh successfully completed an internship in Washington D.C. Our White Oak High School Grad worked in the Supreme Court of the United States of America! I look forward to hearing what he has to share with our students.
White Oak ISD is a great place to live, work and study. I can assure you that no one here thinks it is a place that can not be better. We know that the best things to happen in White Oak are yet to come. I hope to share those successes through this media.

Band and Choir Trip

May 5, 2009

To the Parents of White Oak High School Band and Choir Students,

After a great deal of consideration and investigation, a decision was made to allow the students to take the trip to Orlando. There has been a great deal of conflicting information about H1N1 Flu Virus and the administration at WOISD took a very close look at all the factors connected with the decision to proceed with our plans for the end of this week. WOISD sought the advice of nurses, physicians, CDC officials and other school administrators in this process.
We have found no record of any school closings in the Central Florida area or in the state for that matter. Information released in the paper today indicates that school closings and attempts to keep students isolated are not affective and that the H1N1 strain is much closer to that of the more common types of flu than earlier believed. With these considerations and the knowledge that a great deal of planning went into this trip, the decision was made to allow the students to go to Florida. WOISD will take the following precautions to help insure the safety of our students;

1. There will be a school vehicle going with the buses to allow us to transport students to the doctor, if necessary.
2. Two nurses will be present at all times to monitor any questionable health issues that may arise.
3. School officials will have all necessary contact information and medical release forms for our students.

In the event that a student is ill and requires more than a doctor’s visit, the school vehicle can be used to make an early trip home. WOISD is very concerned about the safety of our students and wanted you to know that this decision was not taken lightly. I want to wish everyone involved with this trip safe travels and a pleasant, educational, time away from White Oak.


Michael E. Gilbert

Swine Flu Information

This is a transcript of the information sent to parents by our Schoolmessenger automated phone system.

Swine Flu Precautions at White Oak ISD

White Oak ISD is monitoring all available information concerning the Swine Flu Cases. The district has taken several precautions to insure the health and safety of our students. Let me share the information and actions taken as of today;

1. There are no confirmed cases of Swine Flu in Gregg County or the counties that boarder Gregg County.
2. WOISD has increased cleaning and disinfecting efforts in all area of the school.
3. White Oak ISD faculty and staff are monitoring personal hygiene practices, especially hand washing for all students.
4. In compliance with yesterday’s UIL ruling, all interscholastic events have been postponed until May 11, 2009.
5. All WOISD district trips have been postponed or canceled at this time. As more information is available, trips will be looked at on an individual basis. Any trip that puts our students in close contact with students and/or adults from areas outside White Oak ISD will most likely be canceled.
6. Parents and Guardians are strongly encouraged not to bring students to school with a fever. Any student that has a fever should be taken to the doctor and examined immediately.

The administration at White Oak ISD is taking this situation very seriously. We want to thank our community in advance for your help and cooperation in this matter.

What did I learn in San Antonio?

The Lamar Superintendent’s Academy School Board Conference was held in san Antonio and here are a few of my thoughts about the information shared on Saturday. Ian Jukes was the speaker and is well know world wide as an advocate for educational reform. You can learn more ablut Mr. Jukes at http://web.mac.com/iajukes/thecommittedsardine/Home.html the Committed Sardine Website.


What did I learn in San Antonio?

Lamar Superintendent’s Academy 2009



            This entry is just a few notes about the information I received at the Lamar Academy Convention in San Antonio, Texas. What did I learn?

            I learned that Ian Jukes is from British Columbia, Canada and played professional football in the Canadian League (that did not count due to it not being the NFL).

            I learned the TTWWADI’s are a formidable resistance to change in the process of educational reform. That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It = TTWWADI.

            I learned that the Solid Rocket Boosters on the Space Shuttle were limited in size by the width of the tunnels along the railroad system that delivered them to Florida. The railroad with was determined by the width of wagons being built in the early 1800’s and the wagon widths were determined by the ruts in the existing roads in Europe before America was settled. The width of the ruts in the roads in Europe were determined by the wheels of Roman War Chariots some 2300 years ago and the Roman Chariot was designed to be the width of two horses rear ends. THEREFORE, the size of the Solid Booster Rockets on what is arguably the most sophisticated peace of technology on this planet was determined by the width of two horses’ rear ends 2300 years ago!!

            On a more serious note, I learned that we are on the very edge of an Exponential Growth Explosion. This is one of the factors that must be considered when planning for the education of future generations. Changes will happen faster than ever before and we need young people that are comfortable in this climate of change. The statement was made that our young people live in The World of Fundamental Uncertainty. This will only become more common in the future. Change is the constant that our students will have to embrace and use to their advantage.  

            I learned that there are Several Exponential Global Trends that are driving the decisions about change in the education process. Here they are;

1. Moore’s Law was first introduced in the mid 1960’s and stated that technology will be twice as powerful and half the price every two years. Since then the theory holds true with the exception of what was once every two years is down the every twelve months. As Bio-technology and Nano-technology begin to advance, the time line will be cut to every six months.

2. Photonics or Fiber-optics have almost unlimited potential to increase the speed at which information is delivered. The amount of bandwidth being purchased per one dollar is tripling every four months. It is possible that we can see speeds one trillion times faster than today in twenty years.

3. The Internet had 20 users in 1990. Today there are 113 new users added every minute. Do you know about MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia, Ebay, Skype, Second Life, Twitter, Podcasting, Blogs and Web 2.0? These represent a new form of communication and information delivery system that the Digital Native considers essential to existence on earth! You might also note that you have not seen any of these advertised on TV and yet hundreds of millions of people use them every day.

4. The term Infowhelm describes the situation where we have access to more information than we will ever use. Much of this information is “Disposable” due to the accelerated rate of change we have been discussing. By the time you here about it, it’s obsolete. Imagine, information that is as perisable as fresh fruit.

5. Biotechnology is on the rise and is the sum total of all the trends we have previously discussed. Invetro “no kill” meats, grown body parts and genetic mapping. The statement was made at the session that “The difference between Science Fiction and Reality is that you have to make Science Fiction somewhat believable.” Remember Exponential Times!

6. The things discussed in trends One through Five have already taken place. Now for number six. Nano-technology. This is described as “technological fusion” or the combination of all the trend we have been talking about. Technology that gets smaller and more efficient is not a stretch of the imagination. Think about stereo equipment. Start with wall components then boom boxes then IPhones and tell yourself that little programmable nanobots are not possible.

            These six things are part of the exponential explosion that our students must be prepared to participate in and be successful. It is our job as Digital Immigrants to insure that our Digital Natives have the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to be a part of this ‘new world’.

            I will end with a ray of hope for the good old teachers of my generation. None of this calls for the abandonment of the core curriculum that is basic to all successful learners. There will always be a place to practice the core subject areas and instill core beliefs in our students. We need to insist that our young people respect the values that make us who we are. There is no substitute for honesty, work ethic and self discipline. However, we need to look at the world around us and change the delivery systems to meet the needs of our students. There is no place for a school system that is training 21st Century Learners to succeed in a 1950’s world.


House Bill 1555

Next Tuesday, April 14, The House Public Education Committee will consider HB 1555 for passage to the Full House. here is my letter of support that was sent the The Equity Center and Representitive Merritt’s office.

April 8, 2009

To: Chair and Members of the Texas House Public Education Committee

I Michael E. Gilbert, Superintendent of White Oak ISD, support HB 1555 and urge the Committee to vote it to the floor. HB 1555 is the only school finance bill that fully restores the student centered, formula driven system and it improves equity, decreases recapture by setting all three allotments (BA, GYA and EWL) at the 95%tile of wealth represented by the Austin ISD yield.
White Oak ISD is a high performing Class AA school district in East Texas. We are suffering in the current system from low target revenue, slow to no growth and little difference between actual enrollment and WADA. Without a dynamic fundamental change in this system (not a band-aide), we are looking at bankruptcy within the next five to six years. This is a no frills/no fat district at this time. Any further cuts will drastically affect the education of the students of White Oak. WE NEED YOUR HELP!!


Michael E. Gilbert
Superintendent of Schools
White Oak ISD

81st Legislative Concerns

81st Legislature

Pending Legislation Concerns

There are several proposed bills that I would like to commit on as a member of your district.


It is encouraging to know that the 81st Legislature is going to tackle the issue of School Finance in this session. Many schools, including White Oak ISD, are on the verge of severe financial hardships and other are already there. That being said, I am very concerned with the legislation proposed in Rep. Hochberg’s bill and Sen. Shapiro’s bill. Both seem to advocate business as usual to some degree with SB2392 being the biggest offender. Continuing any form of funding that relates back to 2005 levels is a continuation of the “Hold Harmless” practices that put us in the poor position we are in today. Creating complicated formulas and using ADA as opposed to WADA for the purpose of determining values is not the answer. Introducing legislation with blank lines were monetary values should be is not acceptable for presenting a plan to better fund our public schools. WOISD is opposed to HB3646/SB2392.

HB1555/SB982 provide a much better solution to the problems faced by all schools and develop a plan that will successfully provide a quality education to all students. WOISD supports HB1555/SB982.

HB 151/SB158

This proposed legislation would require school district to inform parents that there is not a nurse assigned to the campus attended by their student. It is not required by law for schools to have one nurse per campus and in the case of White Oak ISD it would be financially irresponsible. All four of our campuses are walking distance from each other and the two nurses we employ are readily available for all of our students. It does not make since to require a district to notify parents of a situation that is not out of compliance with state law. WOISD is opposed to HB151/SB158


I find no up side to this proposed legislation. Publishing the names of potential superintendent candidates will only result in a weaker pool of applicants which will result in less than the best possible leadership for the district. Recently there were published commits that stated the public’s right to know was more important than any worries about candidates not applying for an open position. This could not be further from the truth. The single most important goal of any school board looking for a new leader should be to find the very best person for the job. This legislation will prevent that from being possible. Quality leaders will not risk damage to the relationship they have with current board members just to apply for another position. It is not in the best interest of the students, staff, faculty or community as a whole to put this legislation into practice. WOISD is opposed to HB4191/SB503.

SB 982 and HB1555

The folloing is from Jor Smith’s Texasisd.com website. It is a clearly written explaination of the Senate and House versions of The Equity Centers attempt to equalize school funding.

The Equity Center has published a “draft 5- year model by school district” for SB 982 and HB 1555.  SB 982 by Senator Van de Putte and House Bill HB 1555 filed by Representative Patrick are identical.

 Model: SB 982 & HB 1555 Cost Analysis Summary 


These bills address the fact that the current system does not treat all students and taxpayers in a similar manner when providing or funding educational opportunities. We desperately need this basic level of fairness. This action is the necessary first step to increasing student performance and improving college and workforce readiness of our students.

In an earlier conversation with Representative Patrick she stated that HB 1555:

·         Restores local control through meaningful discretion

·         Meets all three criteria of TEA Budget Rider 89 – increase equity, reduce recapture and return to a cost based formula

·         Increases funding per weighted student (WADA)

·         Cuts calculated recapture in half

·         Provides method for tax reduction.


The model is based on the following assumptions as stated in The Equity Center’s introduction:


 The purposes of SB 982 and HB 1555 are to significantly increase equity; reduce recapture and return to a cost-based formula funding system for public education


·         In order to achieve these purposes, SB 982 and HB 1555 establish a schedule to set the Basic Allotment (BA), Guaranteed Level (GL), and Equalized Wealth Level (EWL) at the Austin ISD wealth level (90% and 95% of AISD in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, respectively and 100% of Austin ISD in fiscal year 2012 and thereafter).

·          Districts with property tax effort at or exceeding $1.00 per $100 of valuation will receive a minimum funding increase of $75 per WADA in fiscal year 2010 and an additional increase of $100 per WADA in fiscal year 2011.

·          Beginning in fiscal year 2011, and each year thereafter, the state and local financial commitment is limited to a maximum increase of $200 per WADA. These changes will see Texas implement the most equitable school finance system in its history, culminating with 95 percent of the students in Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA) within an equalized public school funding system in fiscal year 2012.

·         The remaining 5 percent of the WADA will be funded at higher levels.


As a result of these changes, the number of districts with calculated recapture (Robin Hood) will decrease from 189 districts with 21 percent of the WADA today to fewer than 120 districts with about 5 percent of the WADA in fiscal year 2012. In addition, the amount of calculated recapture (Robin Hood) will decrease from about $1.5 billion today to about $800 million in fiscal year 2012.


To help prevent a re-occurrence of a state-wide property tax, these bills include a property tax reduction mechanism beginning in fiscal year 2011, and each year thereafter, using the following method: districts that would receive a funding increase in excess of the $200 per WADA funding cap will still be limited at that amount; however, the portion of a school district’s funding increase that exceeds $200 per WADA will be used to reduce property taxes in that district instead. As a result of this provision, 725 districts will have their property taxes reduced an average of 3.9 pennies in fiscal year 2011.


The model shows an analysis of the funds invested in public education by SB 982 and HB 1555 from fiscal years 2010-2014. The models used to develop these estimates were based on Legislative Budget Board assumptions. Amounts shown relate only to the provisions of SB 982 and HB 1555 and therefore only to Maintenance and Operations (M&O) funding. Dollar amounts reflect the total state and local school district contributions to public education.


Letter to Senator Eltife

January 30, 2009



The Honorable Kevin Eltife

P.O. Box 12068

Capital Station

Austin, Texas 78711


Senator Eltife,


            The meeting of the 81st Legislature is of great interest to all Public School Superintendents in Texas. We are in need of your support and rely on the fact that you have been an advocate for Public School Children through out your career. White Oak ISD is an outstanding place to live, work and educate young people. All stakeholders in White Oak are supportive of the effort to provide a quality education at White Oak Schools.

            That being said, we have serious financial issues that are beyond the scope of our collective ability to solve. White Oak ISD approved a Tax Rate Election last fall that will add approximately $680,000 in revenue to the district. With this extra revenue the district will still have a $200,000 deficit budget for the 2008/2009 school year. We are not wasting money. I can provide volumes of data that compare our spending and staffing ratios with districts in this area and around the state that support our belief that we are being good stewards of the taxpayers money. The Tax Rate Election represents the final act that we can perform to fund WOISD at the local level.

            I have two requests of you and the other members of the Senate. First, please consider carefully the proposal of the Equity Center to return to a formula based funding system for the Public School Systems in Texas. The current Hold-Harmless system is crippling to White Oak ISD and will certainly be fatal if not changed in the near future. Second, I am asking you to support a formula based method for the distribution of the funds coming into the state by way of the Federal Stimulus Package. At our Mid-Winter Conference, we were told that there is a consideration to put the money out through Competitive Grants. That method will not give the students of White Oak ISD much hope of receiving any funds.

            I would like to spend some time with you in person to discuss these issues and provide you with the data that has been collected to support these points. Please let me know the best method of making an appointment and I will be glad to come to Austin. Thank you for your time and any consideration you may give to these requests.






Michael E. Gilbert

Superintendent of Schools

White Oak ISD


Letter to the Editor at White Oak Independent

February 27, 2009




White Oak ISD


The National Center for Educational Excellence



            There have been two articles in the Longview News-Journal over the past two weeks that reference a study and awards given to local schools for educational excellence. The National Center for Educational Excellence recognized nineteen (19) area Elementary and Junior Highs for their efforts on TAKS Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies. Many of you noticed that there was not a White Oak ISD campus mentioned in the report.

            The East Texas schools listed and recognized by the NCEE were selected in one of two categories. First, if the campus showed marked improvement over last years scores, they were placed on the list. This improvement could have come in one or more of the assessed areas. Second, a campus could be placed on the list based on sustained high achievement in one or more of the assessed areas. The campuses at White Oak ISD have regularly scored at very high levels on the TAKS Test and therefore are not eligible for the first measure to make the list. In looking at the list of schools that did receive recognition, it is my belief that the majority of the awarded schools were eligible through the first criteria.

            The purpose of this letter is to make you aware of the outstanding efforts of our students at White Oak ISD. White Oak ISD is the only Texas Education Agency Recognized School District in Gregg and Smith County combined. There are 26 different grade level assessments (test) given to students in the public schools. Ninety (90) percent of your children passed 23 out of 26 of those test. WOISD scored in the 80% range on two tests and the 70% range on one. This is an outstanding effort. The second measure of success on TAKS is to see how many students answered 90% of the questions correctly on each test. This is called “Commended Performance”. The percentage of WOISD students that achieved Commended Performance was greater than the state average on 24 of 26 tests. The greatest thing about all of these numbers is that they are District Wide numbers. We did not pick out a certain high performing grade level and try to pass them off as the standard for all students. This is the standard for all students.

            I would like to conclude by giving you some information about the task that our teaching staff is charged with on a daily basis. Bill Daggett is the Founder of a national education “think tank” that evaluates education in many different ways. Dr. Daggett spoke in Longview several months ago and his data revealed some interesting facts about the process of educating Texas public school students. Texas teachers are required to cover a set of educational standards called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Students are then tested to see if they have learned the TEKS by taking the Texas Assessment of Knowledge ad Skills (TAKS). Dr. Daggett reports that the sheer volume of required standards is greater than anywhere else IN THE WORLD! That is correct; your children are being exposed to more required pieces of information than any of the so called “New Leaders in Education” from around the world. You can do your own research by looking at the home page of The International Center for Leadership in Education. White Oak ISD is committed to the education of all the children in the district. I want each of you to know that your children are being taught by an outstanding group of educators. I also want you to know that great teachers require the effort of great students. The student population at White Oak is the true treasure of this district. The motto at WOISD is much more than just words; it is what we believe;

A Heritage of Pride, Tradition, and Educational Excellence!





Michael E. Gilbert

Superintendent of Schools

White Oak ISD