School board sets budget for barn and kitchen

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In October’s meeting of the Sealy ISD School Board, career and technical education advisers were approved to start looking into what it would take to bring a full agricultural barn and culinary kitchen to Sealy High School.

During February’s board meeting, the budget was set at $2.8 million for both projects with a contingency of $300,000 if any problems arise.

The board set aside the $2 million and independent fundraising brought in another $800,000 to set the stage for an expansion in both agricultural and culinary classes.

An informational flyer for the agricultural barn described the prospective building as an “approximately 10,000 sq. ft. facility to house cattle, lamb, goat and hog projects and provide livestock housing, washing facilities, feed storage, show ring and working area.” (Editor's note: The square footage of the barn was originally published as 1,000 sq. ft. but it is actually being planned to be 13,450 sq. ft.)

Future Farmers of America adviser Troy Oliver added that participation is likely to increase with this addition where even more students can get involved without needing off-campus space to do so.

The culinary arts project will go in and reface the old kitchen currently in Sealy High School and provide a brand-new industrial kitchen that will be able to house more students and produce more food.

Culinary adviser Angela Gutowsky’s hopes are set on eventually providing the food that all students eat for lunch at the high school and this new kitchen may just be the next step toward that.

Before the rest of the meeting began, members from the offices of State Representative Ben Leman and Senator Lois Kolkhorst were acknowledged for their attendance while the Texas House of Representatives makes their way through Regular Sessions which meet every odd year. This session is taking a look at school funding and could lead to a “generational change,” as Superintendent Sheryl Moore put it.

To kick off the meeting, the safety committee provided an update to the board goals and also reported some recommendations to help continue to improve student safety.

The committee is made up of parents, teachers and other community members that help advise and communicate with the board on how to best keep students safe.

Don Sanders represented the committee by offering up four recommendations that the board can now delve into deeper and discuss further.

Among them was the addition of another police officer on the Sealy ISD security force which was accepted during the meeting, adding another member to the roster protecting the schools on a daily basis.

After that, an update was given on student performance throughout Sealy ISD thanks to the i-Ready programs that have been instituted in grades K-8. Students in those grades started the year with a baseline test and have had their English and math grades tracked through this software to map their progress or lack thereof.

Interventionist Michelle Wickens and Maggie B. Selman Assistant Principal Sarah Johnson reported that at the mid-year mark, most students are on the path to making the step to the next grade with the percentage of students who were behind dropped and more students exemplified the readiness to move up.

It was also mentioned that the Sealy schools were commended for their marks and were determined as a model school for others to take after in order to see further success.

From there, Assistant Superintendent Doug Young took over and talked about the Response to Intervention in the schools and what the interventionists can do better moving forward.

Young was supplemented by a trio of faculty members who attended a conference where they talked about the District of Innovation where it was said that “Culture eats structure for breakfast.”

The interventionists mentioned establishing a culture where teachers aren’t solely focused on positive results in their own schools but district-wide instead to promote a positive outlook of the entirety of Sealy ISD.

Young followed up their remarks by emphasizing how fortunate the district is to house staff that truly cares.

“We are blessed, blessed to have people passionate about what they do,” Young said.

Following that presentation, Randall Krchnak, director of transportation, went before the board where they approved another school bus to be purchased for $91,919 which includes air conditioning for the extracurricular teams that use it in the summer and no seat belts, which has been determined to be safer for riders in the event of an emergency.

Mike Zapalac then took to the podium to deliver his project manager’s report where he mentioned audio and visual updates to the high school auditorium will be implemented as well as damaged windows and lights in the parking lot will be replaced.

Billy Norris and Becky Mills also provided the funds necessary for Zapalac to begin the construction of an athletics monument that will honor state champions from Sealy ISD.

After that, Zapalac confirmed the budget for the big projects of the barn and culinary kitchen and has his sights set on next April for being a possible opening but still being so early in the process, that mark could change.

Shawn Hiatt, executive director of human resources and operations, wrapped things up with updates to local law changes where the majority involved the language and alignment of the laws themselves.

Moore closed things out with her Superintendent’s Report where she mentioned the contracts of district officials were renewed for another year, maintaining the leaders that have produced positive results and will hopefully continue to do so moving forward.

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