After a four-hour closed session on Aug. 27 with Fort Bend Independent School District Superintendent Charles Dupre to conduct their quarterly formative evaluation, the full board left without making comment.
“They meet three to four times a year to talk about how things are going, my performance, and how I’m leading the district,” Dupre said after the meeting.
And how is he doing?
“My evaluation is confidential which is why it’s behind closed doors,” Dupre said.
He told the Star he is happy to be in Fort Bend and part of the team.
“I don’t plan to go anywhere. I am not looking for a job. I love this district. It is the best place to be,” he said.
He acknowledged there has been public criticism of him.
“The FBISD is the eighth-largest in the state. We have 11,000 employees, 76,000 students, several municipalities and so many schools. We are a large entity and we’re always gonna have criticism. But we are dedicated to being the most transparent and collaborative school district in the state,” he said.
The board recently approved the first half of a 2018 bond that will go on the November ballot. Initially, the board considered a $1.7 billion bond to fund its capital improvement proposal. But at their Aug. 13 board meeting, they approved pursuing the first half of the bond with a $992 million proposal in the Nov. 6 election.
“We have yet to begin our community meetings to share information about the bond. We are aware of some concerns expressed and we will address facts as we go through the next several months communicating facts about the bond,” Dupre said.
“We’re always gonna have criticism. We are dedicated to being the most transparent and collaborative school district in the state. We are modeling that,” he said.
The district has come under fire for last minute changes of board decisions, flip-flopping on issues and fluctuating facts on school capacity.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes. Everything won’t go perfectly. But we will work hard to get it back on track as quickly as we can and restore any withdrawals from the emotional bank account we may have taken. We restore trust we may have dented and we restore trust by doing what we say we are going to do and not make the same mistake twice,” Dupre said.
In a prepared statement, the district said, “the development of the $992.6 million bond referendum follows an extensive Facilities Master Planning process that began in January of 2018 to ensure that the district is providing the best learning environments, valuable opportunities and access to programs in accordance with the board-adopted Profile of a Graduate. This Facilities Master Planning process helped to identify construction projects and other life-cycle maintenance and adequacy needs essential for the next six years and led to the development of an updated capital plan. This capital plan also includes additional funding for safety and security, technology, and transportation needs.”
The $992.6 million bond referendum will fund the first of a two-phase, six-year plan to address capital needs in the district, which is expected to serve more than 85,000 students by 2027. Phase one includes the $992 million bond referendum, followed by a projected $705.2 million bond plan in 2021.
The $992.6 million bond referendum includes:
• $403.4 million for new construction, rebuilds, and additions, including the construction of three elementary campuses, the design of one middle school, construction of one high school, the rebuild of Lakeview Elementary and Meadows Elementary, and additions at Madden Elementary and Neill Elementary.
• $396.5 million to address life-cycle deficiencies and educational adequacy across the district.
• $10.6 million for transportation.
• $142.6 million for technology.
• $19.7 for future land purchases.
During the Aug. 13 meeting, FBISD Police Chief David Rider noted that a 42-member committee of parents, students, FBISD staff and safety experts met nine times during April and July. At the end of their four-month session, the committee members were given a survey to rank and vett 14 different safety topics. He said 27 of the 42 members completed the survey that looked at everything from door locks, training for students and staff, elementary school patrols, threat assessments, child abuse investigations, marshals, fencing, metal detectors, and arming staff.
There was strong support for door locks, training students and staff, and elementary school patrols. They were overwhelmingly against arming staff, over half supported metal detectors and half supported fencing.
As a result, the bond will use $14.9 million to fund safety and security upgrades and investments. Part of that money will be used to find technology that will be customizable specific to FBISD needs, said Rider. He also wants to include a mental health awareness piece.
The district stated that a successful bond election “would not necessitate any immediate change in the tax rate of $1.32.
“A potential three penny increase may be needed during the duration of the three-year program, with the earliest increase not until 2020. Even with a three-penny increase, at $1.35, Fort Bend ISD would still have one of the lowest projected tax rates compared to other districts nearby, and with a lower debt-per-student ratio,” according to the school district.
Also, taxpayers who have established “Over 65 or Disabled person exemptions” would not be impacted by a potential tax increase, as they have established tax ceilings on their homesteads.
As the Nov. 6 bond election nears, there will be many opportunities for members of the Fort Bend ISD community to learn more about the bond program. Details about community meetings will be shared as plans are finalized, with the most up to date information available at www.fortbendisd.com/bond.