Pleasanton ISD Superintendent Dr. Matthew Mann shared his State of the District and plans for the upcoming year. “I would like to thank the school board for their support and their dedication to students, staff and parents. Their support allows for all of these great successes to be possible,” said Dr. Mann.
Especially important are the district’s four goals, which are:
Provide a quality education that is evident by student growth.
Establish a collaborative culture to create a student centered learning environment.
Develop community connections that focus on effective communication and partnerships.
Commit to District fiscal responsibility which supports District goals and aligns with the Long Range Planning Committee’s vision.
“Time, but also our financial resources need to be centered on those goals and ensure those are foremost in our minds when we make decisions,” said Dr. Mann.
The district strives to ensure there is good communication with the community and parents.
“I think having a really solid website has been good. So we have modernized and updated our website and we really try to make it updated with pictures and information, so it looks like we have what is current as possible and I think they appreciate that. We really wanted to clean it up and not make it so busy, just user-friendly,” said Mann.
The district has been digitizing forms and developed an Intranet with standardized forms, other services, etc. that need to be done for the entire district. This creates efficiency and a one-stop shop.
The district is streamlining items such as printing the school logo onto official letterhead. Upcoming is a new Edlio Saghna app. The Edlio Saghna is a school to home parent engagement app that creates a more personalized and effective way of communication between the district, teacher and parents.
“It is so new, we are actually rolling it out to principals next week. Then we are going to be slowly moving towards that for the next year. There are a lot of other apps that are out there, that teachers use, but we are trying to get it so that we are using one district. This one is actually going to be hosted and sponsored by the district.”
The district is putting together an administrative handbook and counselor handbook and getting all of those practices in alignment, like what is done with curriculum. That is also being done with all the district’s practices and procedures. Mann said this is better for parents, so that when one is going from one campus to the next, they are not relearning a whole new system. The district has paperless registration, which has been going on for several years. It has become standard practice at PISD.
“I’ve actually had several school districts come and visit us about it, wanting to know what we’ve done.”
The district has a crisis intervention handbook and has partnered with other districts. They have created clusters, to where they can support each other in cases of emergency and traumatic events. It is a standardized procedure and a crisis intervention plan is followed, so that everyone is using the same plan that has been developed in cooperation with other school districts and some training from Region 20 and UTSA.
The district has also utilized some of the buildings that have now been vacated because of the new buildings.
“We converted the old intermediate library and now it is an in-district training center,” said Mann.
It allows for no disruption of others, bringing people in and sponsoring trainings here in-district.
“It is really efficient because then we become a training site in and of itself. So Region 20 will come in, or we’ll have outside presenters come in and we are able to utilize that. We actually had law enforcement use it for training and any organization can rent it out for trainings. It’s got great parking and it is centrally located,” Dr. Mann said.
At the beginning of the school year, the district held a Technology Symposium. One of Mann’s initiatives is to have the SAMR model reinforced. It stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.
“What that is, is how are you utilizing your technology? Is it a substitution or are you just changing one thing out for another, or is it really elevating your teaching? Are you creating something unique for kids and getting teachers to elevate their use of technology in the classroom, especially to enhance the learning and engagement?” asked Mann.
He reflected on the increase in summer STEM camps and CTE, Career Technology and Education classes. Other popular programs at PISD are the Criminal Justice program and JROTC, which is shared with Poteet and Jourdanton. Cyber-Security has also been added with that program.
One of the big initiatives at PISD for Mann and for principals is the literacy initiative, to make sure that students are reading and that they have access to textbooks and to books in general.
“I actually go and read to each one of the pre-k all the way through kinder and first grade classes and out of my own pocket donate a book to each student to take home for their personal library, which I think is important. We also are partnering with the Rotary Club and we’ve done events with afterschool reading with the after-school program and helping students brush up on their reading skills.”
“We’ve also got bookbags to early literacy initiatives and we’ve got those out at different locations- health clinics, doctor’s offices, etc. Those have all kinds of goodies in there for kids to help reinforce literacy at home.”
The district has also focused on ESL students and their parents, by having bilingual meetings and open houses to encourage them to come and be part of their children’s education.
“We have seen great gains for the district when it comes to our academics, not just with STAAR but also with our graduation rate, which has increased to a 98.6 percent, well above the state average. We have seen growth across the board with the district with our STAAR performance also and we will continue that.”
Financially, PISD has received a Superior A rating, every year since Mann has been Superintendent. This rating is given by the Texas Education Agency from the Financial Integrity
Rating System of Texas report.
The audit report came back with an unmodified opinion, which means the district’s financial reports were fairly presented and free of material weaknesses.
“We didn’t have to do any corrections or report any of our financial controls, which is always good. We did really well on that so we are proud of our financial department.”
Increased State Funding
PISD also successfully passed the Tax Ratification Election, so the district was able to not increase taxes, but actually increase funding from the state, about $2 million into the district.
“We also increased our fund balance, which we are very excited about and worked diligently to maintain that balanced budget. That is a huge concern for us. We continue to update our facilities. We did a good job of maintaining the budget for the bond and coming under budget on those, so we’ve actually had some money put over in bond funds to replace some aging HVAC systems and also doing some roof repairs. We were able to do a lot of maintenance around the district, which is super important, to not put so much burden on the actual budget. You can use that to replace those very expensive HVAC controls and units.”
Other improvements include putting in some additional parking lots, painting around the district and maintaining facilities. This makes it modern, clean and wellkept.
Another one of Mann’s priorities is making sure that students, parents and staff feel safe and supported.
“We are building a collaborative environment for our campuses. That will be our real focus for next year, making sure that that’s viable and that the teachers are becoming better and more effective. Our real, true resource for the district is in our staff and truly relies specifically with our classroom teachers. Those are the important people in our district and we need to keep them as our priority and support them. Everybody around them needs to be supporting our classroom teacher in whatever role that they have.”
While the district is busy year-round, the second semester is a different type of busy.
“In the fall it is really about getting everything up and running and getting the district going. Right now, we will be changing gears and we’ll be doing planning and starting our staffing meetings. So we’ll start looking at how we’re going to be staffing for the next year, projections and numbers of kids. We can have up to sometimes 60 students difference between one grade level to the next. So that really changes how many teachers you have in a certain grade level, or minus teachers, and if you need to move them around. So you always want to have an efficiency of your staff. You want to make sure that you are keeping things equitable when it comes to class size, so we are managing that. We have visits with principals and will start working with them,” said Dr. Mann.
The district is in the midst of doing many benchmark assessments, figuring out where they are with students and if they need to bring in additional interventions and adjustments to instruction.
“We’re constantly doing that all year, but this time of year it is really heightened, being prepared for the assessment season in the spring,” Mann said.
“We also started doing preliminary budgets so we’ll start working on those. That really gets going around March and April. We’ll start getting certified values in and start managing what that looks like. We’re always looking at budgets and how things look and what we’re going to be doing. We always want to go back to our district improvement plan and our campus improvement plans. Those are really the driving forces to our budget and to any resources, be it time or finances.”
Mann has meetings with every principal once a week on their campus. He personally goes out to each one of them and visits with them at their office, to figure out ways they can support them better. Starting and ending each day on a campus keeps his mind on what the district is doing.
“It is a little bit more student-focused, so it keeps me student-focused. When you work in an office, you need to not forget who you are serving.”
Eagle Pride & Programs
He is excited that each year the pride and respect for the school just keeps increasing.
“I am very proud of the work that’s been done. I’m proud of where we are going. I feel like everything is trending up and we’re very excited about that. We are always looking to improve our practices, but it’s nice to take time and take a moment to look back and say, we have done some really good stuff. I am really proud of my kids, my staff, our parents and the community for supporting us.”
While PISD has an extensive variety of programs for its students, Mann said they are trying to find a good balance of interests, where kids can find a niche to fall into.
“So we’ve got a fantastic band program, an awesome athletic program, a great FFA program, that is really successful. We’ve got the Culinary Arts, Criminal Justice, cosmetology, a STEM program, Robotics. Then we have all of the AP classes and dual credit that you can take. There is not a lack of options.”
“What we really try to do though, is get students focused, because sometimes you can have too many options and then it is hard to make a selection. I know the counseling department at the junior high and high school do a fantastic job of getting kids connected and money isn’t going to be an issue. We are going to find a way for them to get whatever resources they need. We are going to leverage the Education Foundation which has been a fantastic supporter of the district and get the kids help. Once a need is found, then I typically can find the resources.”
District Social Workers
The district has also added a social worker at the primary and at the elementary school to complement the one at the junior high and high school. Having four social workers that work in the district helps bridge that gap in the home and allows for kids to be taken care of. It gives families some additional help that typically has been an issue, explained Mann.
“I think now in this day and age, it really does. We need to have that support for them.”
“The other thing that I think has been a wonderful addition is our police department. We’ve increased by three officers, so we have a total of five police officers now including the Chief and each one has their own vehicle. They are able to help patrol and keep safety and security a priority here in Pleasanton ISD. They have a great working relationship with the city police department and also the sheriff’s department. They manage that well and we do a lot of trainings together to make sure that we can have that close supporting relationship. That has been one of the real highlights this year and people really appreciate that, I know I do,” said Mann.
$2K Teacher Raise
“We want to continue to support our teachers financially, too. We were able to give a $2,000 raise this year. We are always looking to try and better support our staff. We know that inflation increases and things cost more. We are always trying to be mindful of that, how we sit with other districts and are we supporting them the way we need to be. It is a big part of our budget almost 80 percent of our budget goes just to salaries. That’s what the state wants, between 75-82 percent, to fall within that range, so that’s a healthy balance.”
Students Return as Teachers
Mann is also excited and proud of how the district has so many employees coming back to Pleasanton to teach and be part of the community.
“That is really one of my goals as a superintendent. I want kids to have such a positive experience here in Pleasanton that when they go off, go to school, that they want to come back and raise their families here and have the same type of experience that they had when they were growing up. I think that’s a real compliment to my staff. I’ve got lots of kids who come back and want to do student teaching or want to be teachers.”
Mann also wanted to recognize the principals and said he has been extremely impressed with their level of dedication and how they really strive to work hard.
“We need to make sure we’re making good, solid decisions that are the best interests of our students. I think that’s what we really need to focus in on. How are we going to better serve our students and make them live up to their potential, focusing on all students, from pre-k on to senior level. It’s not just about STAAR tests or that type of accountability, but we are thinking about supporting kids from both ends. It’s important that we have the best high school we possibly can. That is the last time we can influence them as they go out into the world- either into the workforce or post-secondary education. We really need to focus in on the high school to make sure that it’s a solid foundation for children as they leave. Mrs. Guajardo has done a fantastic job. We are very impressed with what she has been doing and the hard work of her staff.”
Students just finished with the stock show and Mann and the district are super proud of all of them. FFA and agriculture is such a huge part of the community, said Mann, that to truly understand Pleasanton you have to know about all of that.
“It is a wonderful community event and I am super proud of the Ag Mechanics kids and all of the projects that they had shown. We had a great showing and everybody did, the other communities and other school districts did, too. It is a lot of fun. It is a great way to produce some great scholarship money.” This time of year, there is so much going on in athletics: basketball, soccer, tennis, golf. Softball practice will start soon, along with baseball and track. There is also junior high athletics on top of that, spring concert season for band and stockshow students going to San Antonio, Houston and San Angelo. JROTC will also be in competition.
“BPA is another huge organization for PHS. Janie Olivarri does a fantastic job of getting our best and brightest to state and nationals. We also have UIL Academics- debate, oneact play, speaking events.”
The district is also hosting a junior high UIL meet with nine schools.
“We try to partner with as many school districts as we can to help create efficiencies and to make sure that everyone is being supported. I feel like we are in this together, and whenever we can help each other, we try. We have fantastic working relationships with the surrounding schools, especially Poteet, Jourdanton, Charlotte and McMullen County and Somerset, too. We are happy to help each other out when we can. Which I think is what we need.”
“We are excited about the legislative year that is coming up. School finance has been a hot topic and we are excited about some of the things that will be coming forward. I think they are looking at making some adjustments and looking at that. So we are optimistic it is going to be good,” said Mann.
Area superintendents and the executive director of the Atascosa-McMullen Coop sat down and met with newly elected Senator Pete Flores of Pleasanton at Eagle Café before the holidays.
“He was very gracious in letting us meet with him and discussing some of our concerns and challenges that we’ve had here in education. He was very attentive and wants to utilize us as resources when he is in Austin.”