The Sherman Independent School District has voiced concerns over the costs associated with traveling to Texarkana and Tyler as part of its new district realignment. Sherman football was placed in District 7-5A (I) with McKinney North, Mesquite Poteet, Texas High, John Tyler, West Mesquite and Wylie East and will have to make some trips east.
“There are some long trips,” Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent Tyson Bennett said during last month’s board of trustees meeting. “When things like this happen, we have to adjust. Longer trips require earlier departure. When we have to leave earlier in the day, we can’t always utilize our own transportation, so we have to go out and charter transportation. We also have to utilize the most reliable travel when we are looking at longer trips and additional fuel cost.”
The trip to Texas High in Texarkana will span 160 miles and the one to Tyler will span 155 miles. This year’s 115 mile trip to Wichita Falls resulted in a transportation cost of $13,630, which included travel expenses for football, cheer, hi-steppers and band. Sherman’s other sports will head down U.S. Highway 75 and be in District 10-5A with Lovejoy, McKinney North, Princeton and Wylie East.
Sherman ISD board President Tim Millerick and other board members voiced their frustration with the realignment and requested information on how to appeal it during the meeting.
“There are financial implications and then there are academic implications,” Millerick said. “I, personally, think it’s ridiculous we are going to those two locations. I think it’s ridiculous that we are going to sit here and take it without at least voicing something to the state. We have to be proactive.”
Sherman ISD Superintendent David Hicks told the board there is a process for fighting the realignment but changes are almost never approved.
“There certainly is a process and we can go through that,” Hicks said. “It involves appealing to your assigned district and all of the schools to allow you out of that district. Then you appeal to the district you hope to go to and all of those schools have to unanimously accept you. So, the likelihood of those two things happening is virtually nil. Once that doesn’t happen, then there is an appeal process to go through at the state level. Typically, those appeals are heard and then turned down. Certainly, we can make our point that travel and the impact, academically, is negative on our kids.”
Last week, Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent Tamy Smalskas said there has been no decision made to fight the realignment at this point.
“We are going to use all of our school resources to make sure they compete, excel and perform at the best of their ability,” Smalskas said. “We are just going to carry on with what’s been given to us at this point. Our schedule has already been set.”
Bennett said the district has petitioned the state in the past without success.
“What I was told was when we had Texarkana in our district, we petitioned them at that time with the belief that it would impact the next realignment,” Bennett said. “Things did change for that next realignment. That is a philosophy that may have more merit and impact than believing we can change anything this year.”
Sherman expects a 32 percent increase in travel miles for football, cheer, hi-steppers and band due to district realignment. The travel miles for basketball and volleyball will actually decrease by 66 percent from the previous year. Smalskas explained the reduction in mileage for basketball and volleyball will help with the 32 percent increase for football.
“It will be interesting to see how much of a difference there will be,” Smalskas said. “Even though we’re going twice to Tyler, we are not going twice to Wichita Falls. We’ll budget a certain amount but the best way to know will be right after the season because it will also depend on playoffs. We will sit down and put pencil to mileage and calculate all of that out.”
On Friday, Bennett said the mileage for next year is expected to increase.
“Now we are assessing whether that increase in mileage is going to facilitate a change for the budget,” Bennett said. “We just know it’s an increase, so that’s a concern. You would assume any increase is going to cause an additional expense.”
Smalskas explained travel expenses also include the cost of additional buses and drivers, when necessary.
“We utilize our own at any chance we can,” Smalskas said of chartering buses. “But we have to be able to transport to and from school. If we don’t have enough SISD buses, that involves charter buses. That’s very common.”
Smalskas went on to explain the district is not in favor of coaches driving the buses.
“We want them to focus on the game and students and not traffic and travel,” Smalskas said.
Bennett said even if there is a necessary increase in the transportation budget, the district will make sure it does not impact the students and their opportunities.
“Sherman is the largest school district in Grayson County,” Smalskas said. “So, it is very difficult to find schools to compete with in size and location. We do have to travel elsewhere to compete against same sized schools. That is just something we face as a fast growing district.”