Brownwood school Superintendent Dr. Joe Young touched on several topics including raises for teachers and a new mental health program for the district when he spoke at the joint luncheon of the Brownwood and Early chambers of commerce.

The district is reducing its property tax rate by 8 cents – from$1.20 per $100 valuation to $1.12, Young said.

“When you talk about House Bill 3, the big thing on that was teacher salaries,” Young said. “We were fortunate to be able to raise teacher salaries, based on years of experience, anywhere between 6 and 19 percent.”

The Brownwood district is also providing incentives for the 2019-’20 school year, Young said.

Teachers can receive a 2 percent incentive at the end of the school year if they have missed fewer than three days of school. Teachers are also receiving a 1 percent incentive bonus at the beginning of the school year and another 1 percent at Christmas, Young said.

Other staff received a 5 percent pay raise, Young said.

Additionally, the district is providing for the third year a $100 shopping allotment per classroom, and district employees can have free school lunches.

A mental health program is new this year in the Brownwood district.

“Mental health is a concern across the United States,” Young said. “When you look at school violence, when you look at school safety, it’s always tied to mental health, the lack of mental health. We always try to identify, what should we have known, what should we have done, how should we have helped these people?”

The Brownwood district Danielle Howard, a licensed professional counselor from Early, who will head up a mental health team, Young said.

“She’s training teachers, she’s training campus counselors, she’s training principals, she’s training our behavior specialists that we’ve had for a little while, how we recognize students and staff members who may be having mental health concerns and how do we get them the help they need,” Young said.

“Not only will that increase school safety but also it will improve student achievement. It will improve their ability to focus on the classroom.”

Young noted that all three Brownwood elementary schools and Coggin Intermediate School have new principals this year.

The district also has a new elementary curriculum coordinator,and an additional assistant band director, Young said.

He said the district has added college algebra to the OnRamps dual credit program with the University of Texas, bringing the total of OnRamp courses at Brownwood High School to six.

The district is also offering American sign language and cosmetology, Young said.

Also new for the district is the position of elementary lead teacher, a math and science position for each grade level at each elementary school, Young said.

Young addressed traffic issues on Bluffview in the area of Northwest Elementary School, which becomes clogged when parents are dropping off or picking up students. He said the district will work with the City of Brownwood in the summer of 2020 to correct that issue with the installation of a new road.

Addressing the TEA accountability report card, Young said, “‘We’re glad that we moved from a C to a B. We think it’s a good indication of the progress we’re making in the district.”

But the district isn’t happy with a B, either, Young said.

Young noted another superintendent pointed out there are 12,000 data points that go into the letter grade, and the TEA puts out a 250-page manual that explains how to calculate the grade.

“That doesn’t sound real simple to me,” Young said. “It’s a very very complex situation that can just go south in a hurry with 12,000 data points. So it becomes a very oversimplified version, to me, of labeling kids, labeling communities, labeling teachers ,and I don’t like it at all.”

Young said he does like being able to get data that shows where the district grew and where it needs to continue to grow.

“And for that, I like it,” Young said. “But to label certain people as, ‘you’re a failure …’”

While the Brownwood district received an overall B, one of the district’s elementary schools received an F, Young said.

“If you want to dig into the data, that campus went up,” Young said. “We weren’t happy with where it was, and we’re not happy where it is yet. But it went up.

“But yet, what everybody sees is, ‘you’re a failure. You’d didn’t do our kids right. You didn’t do what you needed to do’ when really that’s not the case. We’re not where we want to be yet, we get it. We think that’s an oversimplification.”