Hundreds of community members, Katy ISD staff members, and state and local leaders gathered to get a quick look from Superintendent Dr. Lance Hindt into Katy ISD's success in the past year and what the future holds for students, families, and faculty.
KATY MAGAZINE NEWS | Katy, TX
October 25, 2017
The word of the day at the Katy ISD State of the District address was undeniably, "partnership." It was echoed in the uplifting and informational speeches given by guest speakers from Fulshear and Katy.
Attendees, which included Katy ISD teachers of the Year, Katy ISD Bond Committee members, school namesakes, and various other members of the Katy community, were greeted with breakfast and a wonderful performance from Katy High School's jazz band.
Katy ISD Board of Trustees President Ashley Vann made opening remarks, introduced the days speakers, and welcomed the state representatives who were present.
Jeff Roberts, Mayor of Fulshear First to speak was Fulshear Mayor Jeff Roberts, who thanked Dr. Hindt for allowing Fulshear to be represented. "Schools are a huge marketing tool for attracting families to Fulshear, and the subdivision of Cross Creek Ranch is 85% Katy ISD," he said.
The city of Fulshear has recently had a taste of the rapid growth the Katy area has been experiencing - growing from a population of roughly 1,000 people in 2010 to just under 10,000 in 2017. And it's not expected to slow down anytime soon. According to Mayor Roberts, the City of Fulshear is expected to hold 45,000 people within the next four years. The main reason for that explosive growth, he says, is the attractiveness of living within Katy ISD boundaries. "With this kind of expansion on the horizon, it takes a team of trailblazers and leaders, partnering together and planning strategically for the future to move the district along and provide students with the best educational experience possible. We can't wait until tomorrow, it's already here," he says.
The city of Fulshear will be home to Katy ISD high school #9, a new junior high, and a new elementary school within the next few years.
Durran Dowdle, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Katy
Mayor Pro Tem Durran Dowdle gave guests an overview of how Katy ISD and the City of Katy have worked together to keep things on track after Hurricane Harvey, and reminded us of the importance of being able to respond to unexpected changes.
After the Tax Day floods, the City of Katy came up with a plan on how we would respond if something like this ever happened again, and because of that, we were able to recover remarkably fast after the storm and get back on track. Dowdle pointed out that when it comes to leadership, the little things go a long way; staying late at Katy ISD Bond Committee meetings or City Council meetings to answer questions from concerned community members and making adjustments to your plans for the benefit of everyone.
"You have to be able to move fast, and sometimes your five year plan ends up being your two year plan. Leadership is being able to make those adjustments and provide great information to the community," says Dowdle. "The way we way we want to grow is solvent, the partnership with the district is solvent, and our plan for growth is solvent."
The City feels like families are still moving here for the right reasons, and that projects like the Katy Boardwalk, Amazon Headquarters, is a step in the right direction for attracting families to the area.
Rick Ellis, VP, Katy Area Economic Development Council
Next on the podium was Vice President of the Economic Development Council, Rick Ellis, who gave a short summary of Katy demographics and notable recognition that make this such a desirable place to live, work, and learn. Ellis pointed out that from the 340,000 residents living in district boundaries, that number is expected to grow to no less that 390,00 in 2020. One huge reason for this is that Katy ISD has been given a 4.3 star rating and was ranked Top 20 Best School Districts in Texas by Niche.com, something that business owners looking to set up shop in Katy really pay attention to.
"We don't just want to attract businesses to bring their businesses here, we want their employees to live here, too," says Ellis. The EDC currently has plans in place to diversify by the year 2020, adding more to Katy's repertoire than just oil and gas. Corporate data centers, research and development centers, labratories, and international companies are all part of the vision for Katy's future.
With all of Katy's anticipated economic growth, it stands to reason that the needs of the district will grow and change along with it.
Ann Hodge, President/CEO, Katy Area Chamber of Commerce
After 19 years serving on the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO Ann Hodge says that she and her husband could not be more proud of how the Katy community stepped up and showed the entire country what it looks like to serve with no thought to self-recognition.
"The chamber was originally created 55 years ago because a bridge was needed in downtown Katy, and being a city that resides in three counties has it's challenges.I want to applaud Katy ISD and the entire Katy community for partnering together and for your behind-the-scenes efforts."
Dr. Lance Hindt, Superintendent, Katy ISD
Finally, Dr. Hindt himself took the platform, sporting his Astros baseball gear and predicting a World Series victory for Houston before launching into his address.
"In the last few months, our mission statement, 'Be the Legacy' has been put to the ultimate test in Katy ISD." says Hindt. "Never in the history of the district have we had two start dates within six weeks of each other, but the challenges presented by Hurricane Harvey taught us a lot."
According to Hindt, 75% of the district flooded in the storm, and 15,000 students experienced major flood damage, mandatory evacuations, and displacement. Creech Elementary took on up to four feet of water, and is still not fit for students to return.
The Leonard Merrell Center, where the address was held, saw damage on the first floor as well, and staff members are currently making do with their desks and computers set up in the hallways of the second floor of the facility until repairs are finished. "We learned two very important things from Harvey, the importance of electronic files, and that when it floods, make sure your elevators are on the second floor," he jokes.
Despite the extensive damage to schools, homes, and facilities and the hardship experienced by Katy ISD, Hindt reports that an astounding 96% of students were in attendance for their second, "first day of school" on September 11, 2017. Not only that, but the number of students enrolled in the district before the storm hasn't gone down, it's grown from 77,233, to over 77,500 in just a few short months, showing that Harvey did nothing to slow down Katy ISD's rapid growth projections over the next several years. In fact, by 2026, the number of students in Katy ISD limits is expected to grow to over 100,000.
Organizations like the Katy ISD Education Foundation have stepped up to alleviate some of the financial burden that Harvey placed on campuses and individuals by raising $200,000 in funds through their website, all of which will go directly to Katy ISD families and staff impacted by the storm.
But the work is far from over - already Katy ISD has been $17 million dollars of district funds for repairs and renovations in the wake of the hurricane, and estimates that it will cost another $20 million before they are all completed. This is why Dr. Hindt and the Board of Trustees believe that while the bond may seem trivial to some at this point in time, it is more important than ever.
The needs of existing campuses, with the combined expectations of a growing district, mean that creative problem-solving, strategic planning, and forward-thinking have to come first.
"The referendum on the ballot now, existed before Hurricane Harvey," says Hindt. This referendum has a 609.2 million dollar price tag that includes six new campuses, three on the NW quadrant and three on the SW quadrant of Katy ISD boundaries. It includes one new high school, two junior highs, and three new elementary schools, in addition to improvements and renovations at Katy and Raines High Schools, Fielder Elementary, and repairs and maintenance of district vehicles and facilities. One important point Dr. Hindt mentioned is the 0% tax rate increase.
Hindt also addressed questions that have been asked at recent Bond Committee Meetings held at campuses and facilities across town.
Why Cant We Delay the Bond, Even for One Year?
"Firstly, we can't stop 3000 new students from arriving in Katy within a year. They will be here, whether we are ready or not. Secondly, to wait even one year would mean that the same bond we are proposing now would have inflation costs of $50 million. Already, high schools that are built to hold up to 3,000 students are at maximum capacity, and at campuses like Tompkins High School, even with the bond, the campus will be at 4,000 students in the year 2020 before any relief is provided."
Why Not Just Rezone the Entire District?
"Katy ISD is currently only 65% built out, which would mean that in the next eight years, we would have to rezone students again at least twice. It is simply not in the best interest of the students to move school boundaries every three to four years. We believe that the better choice is to wait until our anticipated build out in 8 years, and then re-address.
What About the Tax Rate After Harvey?
While nothing is certain, Dr. Hindt reminds everyone that Katy ISD has received numerous recognitions, awards, and accolades for their financial responsibility over the years. You can see specifics on Katy ISD's Financial Health here.
In 2015, Katy ISD reduced the tax rate by $0.01, a positive thing, considering the 2014 Bond projected a tax rate increase.
But Dr. Hindt and the rest of Katy ISD knows that one way or another, the most important thing is to exercise your right to vote for the bond, whichever way you lean. Early voting is now through November 3, 2017. You can view locations and times for voting here.
"We have challenges to overcome in Katy ISD, some of which may be outside our control. But we will face them together and continue to provide students with an unparalleled educational experience. However you feel about the Katy ISD bond, the old social studies teacher in me compels you, get out and vote. We are Katy Strong," says Hindt.
For more Katy ISD Bond Information, click here.