updated 2:19 PM UTC, Oct 15, 2020

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Chester ISD Board approves 'Update 97'

by Michael G. Maness

The Chester ISD Board met Monday, June 17, opened with a prayer and pledges to the U.S. and Texas flags.

They approved a request by the Bernice P. Mark Scholarship Committee to use their cafeteria on July 20 for a fund raiser.

They affirmed regular business items, including a renewal of their two-year contract with Texas State Bank of Chester. Superintendent Wayne Ivey had requested a grant from the Texas Association of School Board and received $4,000 that will be applied to the $5,400 cost of a new security system with 8 cameras, 15 days of storage, and expansion capabilities. Ivey also said they could ask for the grant every year, which was welcomed and appreciated.

The board considered and approved "Update 97" which addressed several amendments to the Texas Administrative Code regarding instructional materials, the Texas Virtual School Network, state assessments, communicable diseases, incorporating a few federal laws, and new Family and Medical Leave Act rules. Many of these included mundane items from coding instructional materials and their value as "assets" to refinements in end-of-course assessments. The Secretary of Agriculture, representatives from the Food and Nutrition Service, and child welfare caseworkers were added to the list of people that the district could give information to without parental consent.

Other Update 97 clarifications included offenses that would disqualify a person from employment requiring a criminal history. The role of arrest and conviction records could be challenging, "if state law ... requires automatic exclusion from employment for a particular offense, a district may not refuse to hire a person who has been convicted of an offense listed in state law or local policy unless the district has determined that its decision is job-related." Termination of an employee's probationary contract must be hand delivered now. There is a new option qualifying "exigency leave" for parental care if necessitated by a military member's active duty. And a statutory provision has been added that would let the board choose to cover board members and paid election workers as employees for purposes of workers' compensation.

More good news – Texas House Bill 5 passed and was signed by Governor Perry requiring high school students to pass only five STAAR end-of-course exams to meet the new graduation requirements, namely Algebra I, English I and II, biology, and U.S. History. Some of the skills that were formerly tested separately will be consolidated, as reading and writing will be assessed within the English I and II tests. Superintendent Ivey was thrilled with the developments, and the board felt sure the students would be, too.

Superintendent Ivey gave an overview of attendance, boasting on good percentages, and then outlined many other academic and maintenance activities that would be transpiring throughout the summer. Chester ISD was in good shape and proud of its students and teachers.

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