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School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial

Lewisville ISD Notes
Posted by LewisvilleTexan on 2012/10/24 9:02:42 (994 reads)

by Morgan Smith
The Texas Tribune


After a morning where school district lawyers attacked Texas for underfunding public schools and its “hopelessly broken” finance system, an attorney for the state shot back, saying that decisions made at the local level — not the state — were to blame for school districts’ failures. 

Another party in the lawsuit, Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, an organization made up of school choice advocates and business interests, took a broader tack. The state’s public education system is fundamentally flawed, lawyer Chris Diamond said, because it is a monopoly. 

Monday’s hearing in district court before Travis County Judge John Dietz marked the start of the massive trial involving more than two-thirds of the state's school districts and most of its charter schools, offering a taste of what's to come in the trial that's expected to last through January. 


Four different coalitions of school districts offered the same underlying message: that by reducing funding to public schools during the 2011 Legislature while ratcheting up standards for academic performance through the new accountability system, the state has failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide an adequate and efficient public education. Meanwhile the concentration of low-income and English language-learning students in Texas schools, groups that require more resources to educate and consistently score lower on state exams, has continued to increase. 

"If we had sat down with the intent to say what can we cut out that is going to impair the ability of kids to meet these higher standards, we would have cut out what we cut out," said David Thompson, an attorney for the largest group of school districts, listing funding for full-day pre-kindergarten, remedial classes and after-school tutoring as examples. 

The morning's arguments focused on highlighting the changes in the system since the Texas Supreme Court last ruled on school finance in 2005, something that was emphasized in an exchange between Dietz and Thompson over the rigorous new STAAR exams students began taking this spring. 

“It's a tough test," Dietz said. "So what?" 

Thompson's answer brought him to the crux of the districts' argument. For the first time, not only were Texas students taking a tough new test tied to whether they would move on to the next grade or graduate from high school, but also, the year before its implementation the state had made an unprecedented $5.4 billion reduction in funding to public education. Both of these circumstances have pushed the current system over the boundary that the high court defined in 2005, Thompson argued, when the court ruled that while the state hadn't quite violated the Constitution, it had come close. 

"The Supreme Court didn't say no," said Thompson, "It said not yet." 

That time has still not arrived, said Assistant Attorney General Shelley Dahlberg in her opening argument for the state. While there may be an “impending crisis” in Texas public schools, she said, the school districts would not be able to meet their burden of proof to show that there was a present one. 

Dahlenberg said inefficiency in the system was a result of decisions made on the local, not state level. As examples, she pointed to districts spending money on classes and extracurriculars not required by the state and teacher pay raises based on longevity rather than merit. 

“Ask yourself or the witnesses whether a district can provide for the general diffusion of knowledge without iPads or teacher aides or brand new facilities,” she told the judge, adding that inconclusive studies and the “wish lists of superintendents are not sufficient evidence that the Legislature has acted arbitrarily.” 

Though they differ on some of the legal points, the four groups of school districts are largely allies. They'll share many of the same expert witnesses, and their interests mostly align. The group including the Charter School Association has additional goals that traditional school districts have not always favored — like doing away with the state’s cap on charter contracts and acquiring facilities funding — as their attorney Robert Schulman said Monday in court, they will still make the same basic argument that the state has failed to adequately fund public education. 

That’s not so with the sixth party in the lawsuit, Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, which along with the Texas Association of Business is arguing on behalf of five families for a competitive, free market-based education system. 

In his opening statement, attorney Chris Diamond said that the issue of inefficiency in the state’s public schools was a symptom of a larger, more fundamental flaw.  

“The current system is simply a public monopoly,” he said. 

The public education system is inherently inefficient, he said, because by definition monopolies “drive up prices, increase costs, keep wages low and erect barriers to others entering the market.” 

A more competitive system would not only be a better use of taxpayer money, he said, but also benefit teachers and students by increasing the compensation for high-quality instructors. 

“It is the poor, economically disadvantaged who are saddled with the monopolistic system,” he said. “We ask this honorable court to focus on equity for Texas school children, not just equity for school districts.” 
 
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, and is republished by permission.

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Poster Thread
Anonymous
Posted: 2012/10/24 10:30  Updated: 2012/10/24 12:41
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Quote:
The public education system is inherently inefficient, he said, because by definition monopolies “drive up prices, increase costs, keep wages low and erect barriers to others entering the market.”


In my opinion, "free enterprise" schooling [read "voucher system" here] is divisive and will gut the public education system. Those that have will pull their money out of the school district taxes and those that don't have will be stuck in a segregated system [more by economics than possibly race] that will collapse because there truly won't be enough funds coming from local taxes to support it. What you will have is a poorly educated generation that will find it more difficult to find profitable jobs in the work-world, causing a higher demand for governmental aid and a lack of competitiveness for our country. It is everyone's responsibility to ensure that generations after them are educated...the entire generation not just the well-off. Send your kids to charter schools or private schools if you desire to do so but cut the BS about free enterprise/vouchers! That is just another way to further divide our society.

FUND OUR CHILDREN'S EDUCATION
BECAUSE THEY ARE THE FUTURE OF THIS NATION!
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fvaughan
Posted: 2012/10/25 20:06  Updated: 2012/10/25 20:06
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Did you see the Morning News article on school debt? LISD is ranked 8th in the state for debt but is listed as a fast growing school district. LISD has one of the highest debt loads per student. Still AAA rated, but that is a lot of debt to take on. The debt is generally paid by bond payments, but operating costs must be increasing to match the building spree.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/10/26 9:34  Updated: 2012/10/26 23:20
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
I may be misunderstanding the point of your post but it seems that you say "building spree" as if it is a bad thing however voters voted on the bond money for these builds. It also makes sense to me that LISD, a huge and, as you say, fast growing school district, would have greater debt than a school district in a slow-growing or stagnant area. My personal opinion regarding build outs is that it is better to be in front of the curve than behind it. There will come a point in time that LISD's growth slows but that is not now. I would assume that you are correct that M&O costs are increasing as well but that only makes sense, doesn't it?
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fvaughan
Posted: 2012/10/28 12:40  Updated: 2012/10/28 12:40
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
I was surprised at the size of the debt owed by the district- $1.014 Billion or $19,782 per student. At the same time, teacher salaries are capped under the new salary plan, teachers have been laid off due to lack of state funding, teachers are buying their own supplies, etc.

I am really not sure if this is bad or good, but the district is the 8th most indebted district in the state while it is the 17th largest district. What good is building all of these schools if you cannot staff or equip them properly? Has the district over built?
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/10/29 10:42  Updated: 2012/10/29 13:03
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
It should be noted that LISD residents have half the debt of Frisco ISD residents. So while that is a lot of debt, LISD is reasonable by comparison to Frisco and many others.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/4 14:02  Updated: 2012/11/4 18:32
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Did you know LISD is going Apple? All students, administrators and teachers will be getting IPADs. Guess who's paying for it? You the Tax Payer! No Freebies at Apple!
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/4 18:36  Updated: 2012/11/4 18:36
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
We will be getting enough Apple computer products so that each student has one *when they need it* - which is an important distinction. What they are budgeting is to have a 4 year replacement cycle, and a 1:X ratio of computers to students - basically meaning enough so that when they need to use it for something, they will have one handy. As far as I know, there's nothing yet in the works to send each child home with one.

Yes, it will be taxpayer funded, as is most everything the schools buy. The rationale is that although Apple products are more expensive than PCs, the reduction in required support will make up for it. We have to hire people to support all of these computer networks and devices, and PCs are just not fool-proof enough for having random children screwing with them all the time. I can't blame them. If you can't afford staff to support, then you need equipment that doesn't burn a lot of staff time.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/5 21:12  Updated: 2012/11/6 0:02
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
You drank the Kool Aid Steve. You don't think we will need support for Apple? Just wait when the teachers and staff cannot do their jobs because Apple isn't compatible with the systems and software they need to use.

This is going to cost us how many millions? The plan is to give each student an IPAD and they're going to be responsible for them. Hell! you can't get the kids and their parents to reimburse the district for lost $50 textbooks so how in the hell are you going to hold them accountable for a $600 IPAD?

Waddel ha no problem in spending 10 s of Millions on "things" like IPADs, he doesn't like to invest in people. Does Waddel own stock in Apple, Cisco systems or Google? He seems to pick certain companies for some reason and promote them. In his former district, he pushed and pushed Dell. It's strange...I don't like or trust this news. The taxpayers need to wake up here in LISD!
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/6 1:48  Updated: 2012/11/6 1:48
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
I have definitely not drank any Kool-aid. With a name like Steve, you know I'm a Dell guy. I've been ordering Dells for years. But I also have kids, and I know how rough they are on computers - not just physically, but with installing crap, and finding ways to get viruses and malware, screw up registry setting, and generally run a PC into the ground.

I know that we just don't have the money to pay as many full-time support staff as we had before. Of course we'll still need them, and things will still get FUBAR now and then - but hopefully less so. Our hands are tied on how much staff we can afford.

As for "teachers and staff cannot do their jobs because Apple isn't compatible": Ever heard of VMware? You can take your MacBook and run full-blown Windows in a VM. If the VM gets hosed, you just blow it away and load another one on it. Pretty slick stuff.

Again, I'm not claiming to be in the know on everything, but I was at the school board meeting when the technology program was explained to the Trustees. I got nothing from that indicating that every student would have their own. Maybe there will be some individual schools that see fit to do that, but I've got no documentation of anything district-wide in that regard. I'll ask.

As for owning stock in one of the tech companies, come on now. Lets not be absurd. I doubt something like LISD would make any noticeable difference in the price of their stock or their earnings per share.

Apple products may or may not be the right choice for the schools - sounds rational to me, but I'm not an education technology specialist. Just know that your professionals think this is the right thing, and they only do it if the democratically elected Board of Trustees backs them up. I don't mind having some discussion on the merits of it, but I hate to see it sink to accusing people of having ulterior motives, unless there is some real evidence.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/11 22:48  Updated: 2012/11/12 9:55
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
The technology people at LISD advised against Apple and all Students will be getting IPADs starting with LHS after Thanksgiving.
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/12 10:02  Updated: 2012/11/12 10:02
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
FYI, I'm looking into this, and have gotten some information from the district through unofficial channels. My back-of-the-envelope calculations put this at $20 - 25 million, depending on warranty options and the exact models purchased. That would require school board approval. There's nothing on this agenda for tonight about that, that I could see. There is some discussion about bond sales remaining, and that shows $54 million available for technology upgrades. That would do the trick. An iPad for every student, amortized over 4 years would cost less than $100 per student per year - some of which could be made up by a usage fee.

But I seriously doubt this is something that could be pulled off on a large scale this school year. I'll ask some folks tonight.
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/12 22:49  Updated: 2012/11/12 22:49
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 About those iPads
I've been told that I'll get more info on it by the end of the week, but I did get some information tonight from Dr. Quentin Burnett, LISD's CFO, and Tristen Wilson, the acting public information officer.

Burnett says no - the district is not going to buy all students an iPad. There's not enough money for that. The district is spending millions though to improve wireless internet connectivity at all of its campuses, so that all students and their devices can get on the network without overloading it.

What may have started the rumor is LISD's plans to pilot a program at LHS and a couple other campuses to give every student the *opportunity* to have a tablet device to use. Wilson didn't have all of the specifics handy when I asked her, but said that it would basically be a lease program so that parents would be able to put a device in the hands of their student for a very low payment. There would be a protection plan so that parents wouldn't be liable for damaged units. I asked if she thought the district could subsidize devices for low-income students, and she seemed to think they would.

I'll have more information later in the week.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/17 15:05  Updated: 2012/11/17 21:22
 Re: About those iPads
Sorry, I never trust what lisd spokespeople say like how Burns wasn't fired but promoted to student services
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/17 21:22  Updated: 2012/11/17 21:22
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 Re: About those iPads
I will note that I didn't receive the followup information as promised. I'll have to call them Monday.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/12/13 20:09  Updated: 2012/12/13 23:54
 Re: About those iPads
A Month and no news
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/12/14 9:43  Updated: 2012/12/14 9:43
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 Re: About those iPads
Yeah, sorry about that. I just sent another request for more info. We've been pretty busy.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/6 23:11  Updated: 2012/11/7 0:46
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
A $50 textbook? That may be the replacement cost but most elementary textbooks are $75-$100 (or more) a copy and the high school textbooks are sometimes hundreds of dollars - not to mention many are outdated within months. With an IPad students K-12 can download all of their textbooks to the device and this can actually save dollars AND provide more accurate information that is from an approved / edited source AND updated daily (online reference materials linked within the online version of the textbook). Think about how many textbooks a high school student has in one year - has anyone thought about the fact that one IPad will likely cost less than all of the textbooks (for one student) combined?

My children are elementary students in LISD and have stopped bringing their textbooks home - they would rather read the material via the online version (which by the way also has modification such as a "read aloud" feature for students with learning disabilities). An IPad in my child's backpack will do far less harm than several heavy textbooks, is engaging and serves multiple purposes beyond the textbook.

I thank the Good Lord above for Dr Waddell's vision and willingness to think "out of the box" - and from what I have observed not only is he providing my children with a better education - but he is on the cutting edge which is GOOD for LISD - and even while being an innovative leader - his creative decisions seem to save money in the end.

Bring on the Apple Products and IPads!
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fvaughan
Posted: 2012/10/31 19:15  Updated: 2012/10/31 19:15
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
FYI- this is on a national message board for corporate relocation agents and I thought it was interestng:

"Flower Mound (AKA "FloMo") is a relatively new town. Unfortunately, it has access problems, meaning there are only a few roads leading out of it, and they are JAMMED at peak hours. Their schools, though, are very good. Roads and parks are very good.

Lewisville is older, and a more blue-collar area with older homes and no parks. Schools there are not so good. Stay away."
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/10/31 21:18  Updated: 2012/10/31 21:18
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
That is frustrating to hear. They act as if we are some kind of ghetto. It's the same school system. Same curriculum, same money. But we have a flawed accountability system that is more about measuring the kids you are given that what education you impart to them.
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fvaughan
Posted: 2012/11/1 6:54  Updated: 2012/11/1 6:54
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
These comments are from realtors in Denton/Dallas county on the relocation board:

"Yes, LISD schools vary widely in quality. I've not heard anyone say "we moved to Lewisville for the schools" and the people I know who live there either have no kids, or have kids who are already grown up and gone. Lewisville proper is not a good place for kids.

The Flower Mound part of LISD schools has a good reputation and much nicer amenities."
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Runfellow
Posted: 2012/11/1 14:08  Updated: 2012/11/1 14:08
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
I haven't heard anyone say "we moved to Flower Mound for the diversity" either, so what's your point? People say nasty things about every city, including Lewisville. Obviously someone who thinks that "Lewisville proper" (not sure what that would include or wouldn't include) is not a good place for kids doesn't really know what he or she is talking about anyway.

Interesting side note: On the day you posted the first comment from that board, an anonymous IP address from this area edited the Wikipedia article for Flower Mound by tacking this on to the end of the education section: "All the public schools in Flower Mound have a very good rating and classified as Exemplary." A registered editor undid the edit about an hour later because it was unsourced (and, of course, not factually or grammatically correct.)
-BC
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/1 22:23  Updated: 2012/11/1 23:56
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
I hear FloMo people talk about our lake park and the new theater all the time. I also hear FloMo complaints about not having schools as nice as the two new 9-10 and the new LHS.

Haters gunna hate. Realtors gunna make more on a 300K home.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/12 10:38  Updated: 2012/11/12 17:12
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Very true statement about haters and realtors. It is sad that people judge a diverse city like Lewisville as "bad". I agree with BC regarding the diversity comment. I, for one, am happy that my kids have been raised in a diverse environment to the point that they don't even think about a person's color, ethnicity, or religion. I think it would serve everyone well if they were introduced to diversity at a young age and learned that we are all alike and want the same things in the end.

"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." -- Maya Angelou
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/10/31 21:42  Updated: 2012/10/31 22:47
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
No parks? Huh, written like someone who's not been in Lewisville.
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LewisvilleStaff
Posted: 2012/11/1 11:19  Updated: 2012/11/1 11:19
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Frank,

Where can I locate that message board? Those folks need to be educated.

- Lewisville Staff
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/1 12:36  Updated: 2012/11/1 13:23
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
These realtors probably just want to drive property values down in Lewisville by scaring off potential owner-occupants so the realtors can buy up Lewisville houses at a bargain and make a fortune in the cheap rental market. All at the expense of the city of Lewisville. Thanks, realtors!
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/1 13:24  Updated: 2012/11/1 13:24
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Go get em!
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fvaughan
Posted: 2012/11/1 18:53  Updated: 2012/11/1 18:53
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
It is a professional board at the Society of Human Resource Managers in the recruiting and relocation section. You have to have a membership to gain access. I wrote a rebuttal in the post stream, and that's when I got the second comment. I looked up the persons information and found out they were also a Realtor in Dallas. I have contacted them directly and asked they pull the post.
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LewisvilleStaff
Posted: 2012/11/2 9:35  Updated: 2012/11/2 9:35
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Thank you, Frank. If you need any documentation to back up your position, let me know and I will get it to you.

The city has been fighting this Realtor-driven perception for years. It was specifically listed as a threat in the Tourism Strategic Plan developed in 2006 and has been listed as a threat in the citywide SWOT analysis for at least that long. The city's Economic Development office has held multiple meetings, tours and site visits with the real estate community but has seen only moderate success.

There have been several city employees who specifically wanted to purchase a house in Lewisville but were repeatedly urged to look at Flower Mound or Coppell instead (me included). Higher home prices, and the higher commissions they bring, appear to carry more weight than facts and honesty with some real estate agents.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/2 16:15  Updated: 2012/11/2 17:01
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
I have noticed the City Staff Directory online is filled with the names of people who do not live in Lewisville. I think this reflects poorly on Lewisville. Whether realtors encourage city staffers to live elsewhere or not, I think it should be a condition of employment by the city that its higher level staffers must live within Lewisville city limits. If these people don't live in Lewisville, then all their efforts to tout the attributes of the town seem disingenuous. Perception is reality when staffers are trying to convince others to live/work/play/build/develop in Lewisville. If city staffers don't think highly enough of Lewisville to invest their own money in a house in the city, then maybe they should just go get a job in Argyle, Double Oak, Trophy Club, Highland Village, Flower Mound, Corinth, etc. That's my two cents worth...
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Runfellow
Posted: 2012/11/3 10:18  Updated: 2012/11/3 10:18
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Exactly right. I mean that's the sole reason that I don't smoke, because Phillip Morris hires nonsmokers. It's also why I think Kraft should never hire anyone who is lactose intolerant. Those people who try to get me to come to Disneyland? If they don't actually live in the castle, I'm not impressed, because it clearly demonstrates a lack of commitment to their product.

Because as we all know, creeping around the city staff directory looking at where people live is one of the primary research tools used by potential residents. That absolutely must be worth limiting the talent pool we can hire from to within our own city limits. It makes perfect sense.
-BC
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/4 20:23  Updated: 2012/11/4 22:08
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
Phillip Morris??? Kraft??? The Disney castle??? Many cities require higher level employees to be residents of the city where they work, so I don't understand your ridicule of the idea. Disagree if you want, you are entitled to that, but you won't change anyone's mind with sarcastic comments.
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Anonymous
Posted: 2012/11/12 22:26  Updated: 2012/11/12 22:39
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
...but he made me laugh (and I actually already agree with him anyway.)
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WhosPlayin
Posted: 2012/11/3 11:00  Updated: 2012/11/3 11:00
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Joined: 2008/12/12
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 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
One thing that Lewisville just doesn't have much if any of these days is rural land where someone can keep horses. I think several of them live on rural property like that. It doesn't bother me though. I think they can still be dedicated employees, and that they still have skin in the game.
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LewisvilleStaff
Posted: 2012/11/13 12:35  Updated: 2012/11/13 12:35
Not too shy to talk (Verified User)
Joined: 2012/4/27
From: Lewisville, TX
Posts: 12
 Re: School Districts, State Trade Blame at Finance Trial
The city manager is required to live in the city, as is the case in every Texas city I am aware of. Some cities extend that requirement to a few other key positions (e.g. city secretary, police chief, fire chief) but none require that of all employees. There are a couple of good reasons for that.

1. Employees tend to change jobs sometimes, and requiring them to move every time they did so would create an extreme hardship that could either severely limit their career choices or push good people into the private sector. Uprooting your family to move a very short distance is a difficult task for many people, and can be financially prohibitive.

2. It would make it extremely difficult for cities to recruit top-quality people from other communities when trying to fill key positions. It creates a barrier to attracting and retaining top-quality employees. Which would be better for the city -- an A-level manager who lives in Flower Mound, or a B-level manager who lives in Lewisville?

Having said that, at any given time about 25 percent of Lewisville employees do live here. That includes the city manager, both assistant city managers, police chief and marketing director. Many others lived here when they were hired but have moved in the years since (often to a more rural setting, as Steve mentions elsewhere), including fire chief, community development director, parks director and public works director. So there is considerable buy-in and significant loyalty to the community among Lewisville employees, especially among management-level personnel.
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