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Southard speaks to Chamber

By Abigail Allen

Managing Editor

Pilot Point ISD Superintendent Todd Southard took the floor at the Pilot Point Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Aug. 19.

He opened his discussion by introducing Executive Director of Administrative Services Thance Springer to the group at the PointBank Community Center.

“Thance has already got his house going,” Southard said. “He bought in Yarbrough Farms. Getting that going. His kid’s in fifth grade. He’s already coaching some PPYSA football. He’s already in the middle of it already. We’re really fortunate to get someone like Thance here.”

The two have worked together multiple times before.

Southard transitioned from talking to the new administrator to talking about the new initiatives, programs and other efforts that started this school year.

“When I come into a school, I treat it like a multi-headed monster,” Southard said. “It’s not dealing with just one thing; it’s a series of things and a series of issues and a series of categories.”

Going into the 2021-22 school year, the administration and school board decided to make some changes.

The list includes pay raises for aides, paraprofessionals and office staff.

“Our aides work incredibly hard,” Southard said. “When I was at the high school, I had a lady by the name of Amanda Jimenez, who I would watch on more than one occasion, literally sprint from one end of the building to the other end of the building, trying to get a kid a piece of paper before the bell rings.

“Those are the kind of people you want in those classrooms with those kids. Those are the kinds of people you want to take care of.”

All aides are now on the same pay scale, as well.

The defenders—armed staff members—and coaches who drive the buses were both given stipends.

“The big thing was the pre-K,” Southard said. “We gave free pre-K for all. We ended last year with 49 kids. Right now we’re at 76 kids.”

Another new feature this year is “improved emergency communications,” Southard told the group, which can reach all of the buses when they’re inside the district, including in Pioneer Valley.

“I can hit an all-call button, and I can talk to everybody in the district,” Southard said.

The district also increased the number of Career and Technical Education courses it offers, especially at the middle school level.

Next, Southard gave a similar presentation concerning the $38.4 million bond package that will be before PPISD voters in November.

His Aug. 19 presentation was nearly identical to one he gave the Pilot Point City Council on Aug. 12.

He talked about the Long Range Planning Committee members who helped craft the foundation of the bond package and the Bond Planning Committee who decided what to include.

“The only thing administratively that we did is we said we needed $20 million for land,” Southard said.

The other $5.5 million of that, if it passes, will go toward a new transportation center just north of Tiger Mart on U.S. 377. The rest, $12,913,463, will go into the existing campuses.

“One thing that people will ask is, ‘Why are we even spending any money on the middle school?’” Southard said. “That was a discussion in the committee as well. I think we’re going to have kids in that building another 18 years at least.”

Drainage is something that shows up on the Early Childhood Center campus, the middle school and the high school.

After Southard wrapped up the overview of the basics to the community members, he gave them a chance to ask him anything about the district, the bond and the anticipated growth.

When Mike Thompson asked whether a PAC has been set up for the bond, community members Greg Pelzel, Eric Johnson and Mindi Storey-Johnson said they’re in the process of doing just that.

Shaun Mills asked Southard about the transfer rate. Southard hopes that starting a free, full-day pre-K program will help retain families and get them hooked on the Pilot Point ISD culture.

It’s also beneficial on the staffing side, he said.

“The people who we have teaching these classes are aides, but they’re going through the teacher certification program right now,” Southard said. “So, what we’re doing is creating a farm system [for teachers].”

Several other issues were discussed during the question and answer session before the Chamber Vice President Judd Kearby and Chamber Director Evon Lusk gave away prizes in the business card drawing, and members popped over to the photo booth to grab pictures together.

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