Board President Ray Burt (left) and Superintendent Benny Soileau (right) presented retiring board member Jerry Jones with a plaque of appreciation and historic photo of him as a child in 1961 representing Huffman at the Crosby Fair and Rodeo with Willy Hargrave, namesake of Huffman’s Hargrave High School.

At a public meeting held just before the Oct. 22 Huffman ISD Board of Trustees meeting, Chief Financial Officer Tim Britain announced that the district earned an “A-Superior” rating for 2018 under the Texas “Schools FIRST” financial accountability rating system.

The superior rating is the highest rating possible. It reflects the quality of school district financial management and reporting systems. The district’s report included full disclosure of district expenditures, including those incurred by the trustees themselves.

“This is the 16th year of Schools FIRST, a financial accountability system developed by the Texas Education Agency in response to Senate Bill 875 of the 76th Texas Legislature in 1999. The primary goal of the rating system is to achieve quality performance in the management of school districts’ financial resources,” Brittain said.

Brittain explained that the rating system assigns an overall performance rating to district reports: A is Superior, B is Above Standard, C is Meets Standard, and F is Substandard Achievement. Huffman also had a Superior rating on its 2017 report. In terms of points scored within 10 numerically measured accounting categories, the total achieved for the 2018 rating was 92 compared to the overall score of 98 for 2017.

Brittain explained that the small decline was due to cash flow and cash balance pressures caused by the need to cover emergency expenditures for Hurricane Harvey recovery and the impact of building the Falcon Ridge Elementary school. FEMA reimbursements for Harvey-related expenses will likely bring those cash flow and balance categories back to their historically high performance ratings during the next year. He noted the overall rating remained Superior in spite of those challenges. A Superior rating is awarded to districts achieving a total of between 90 and 100 rating points in the total audit. The district earned a perfect “10” in eight of the ten audited categories and a “6” in the two cash flow and balance categories.

District Superintendent Benny Soileau said, “We are very pleased with Huffman ISD’s Schools FIRST rating, as it shows that our district is making the most of our taxpayers’ dollars. This rating shows that Huffman ISD schools are accountable not only for student learning but also for achieving these results cost effectively and efficiently.”

There being no questions or comments from the public, the meeting was closed, followed immediately by the monthly board meeting. Soileau on behalf of the district and trustees honored two departing trustees who have elected to step down from the board this year. Plaques of appreciation were presented to Robin Colbert who has served on the board since 2016 and Jerry Jones, who is leaving after a number of separate terms spanning a total of 18 years of service.

Having left the board before and later returning over the years, Jones assured everyone that this time he is retiring for good. In his remarks of thanks and appreciation to the district and fellow trustees, Jones emotionally reminisced about his past experiences and how much the district has changed.

“I have had the privilege of serving with five superintendents and 28 different board members. That is a lot of personalities coming together. We had a budget of $8 million when I came on board and it’s about $29 million now. A whole lot has changed,” said Jones.

He noted that there have been many great people over the years and he does not want the district and the current board to ever forget them. Jones concluded with the following advice, “Keep in mind this is for every kid in the district. This is for every employee. It’s for our district. The kids haven’t changed. We think they have, but really, our culture has changed. Other things have changed but the kids are still kids.”

In other business, the board renewed its tax attorney contract with the law firm of Purdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins and Mott, LLP, which has served the district for the last 20 years. It also renewed the district’s Microsoft licensing agreement for up to $35,000. This is a routine, annual leasing update to a three-year contract that locks in the rates paid for each of the district’s servers and the number of employees using Microsoft software.

The next regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting will be Monday Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Board Room of the Huffman ISD Administration Building, 24302 FM 2100.

Bruce Olson
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I have been married since 1970 to Kerry, my best friend and a great Australian woman. I served and survived Vietnam in the U.S. Air Force. I fought forest fires in the summer while in college, where I earned a B.A. in economics from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas. I retired from Continental Airlines. I have a son and two granddaughters in Kingwood, and a daughter and two grandsons on a farm near Mazabuka, Zambia. I am now enjoying life as a grandfather, Tribune correspondent and Humble ISD guest teacher when not traveling to Zambia or Australia.