Blanco Independent School District Financial Manager Kay Fraser reported to BISD trustees at their October 10 meeting that the district has received a Superior Achievement rating in the Financial Integrity Rating System, earning 77 out of a possible 80 points. The district has earned this rating every year since 2001, when the ratings were instituted by the Texas Education Agency.
President Matt Herden credited Fraser for the district’s high rating, which exceeds that of Johnson City (76), Comfort (72), and Wimberley (61) Independent School Districts. “This is no accident,” said Herden, referring to accolades given Fraser in the Spotlight portion of the meeting, which highlighted her service to the district. According to Superintendent Dr. Buck Ford, Fraser “has worked hard for many years to keep the district in excellent financial standing.” He credited the low bond interest rate to Fraser’s efforts, which he said saved the district approximately $800k. Funds from the bond issue are being used for various physical improvements in the district, including a major renovation of Blanco Elementary School and a new maintenance building for district vehicles. Director of Technology Tom Cozzi presented Fraser with a drum personalized with the words “The Heartbeat of Blanco Independent School District” because of her love of drums.
Other district personnel honored in the Spotlight portion of the meeting were Denise Weber and Lisa Petri, staff members at Blanco High School. Calling them “excellent employees with a strong work ethic,” Principal Dustin Barton quipped, “They are patient and kind, and they keep me in line.”
The Spotlight on Students honored members of the eighth grade band at Blanco Middle School. Female band members were unable to attend because of volleyball, but the male members represented the band, which travels to Blanco High School every day to practice with the high school band. According to assistant director Brandon Aly, “Our band relies heavily on the eighth grade band,” with fourteen members playing regularly with the high school band. Principal Jesse Salazar informed trustees that the eighth grade band earned a Division 1 Rating two weeks ago at the Hill Country Marching Festival and placed Second in the Roosevelt Rough Rider Marching Competition last Saturday in San Antonio. Both Aly and director Brian Hecimovich were on hand to honor band members.
Director of Curriculum and Special Programs Kathy Anderson updated trustees on the many opportunities for staff development offered in the district. Dr. Ford commented, “Our district invests heavily in staff development.” Anderson characterized efforts as “collaborative, team-based, sustained, and aligned with student needs, based on data collection.” Not only are teachers and staff sent to district and regional training sessions, but they also can participate in “webinars” online through Region 13. There is also a distance-learning lab at Blanco High School for teachers, who can also participate in Project Share, a New York Times-funded initiative, for which every teacher has an account. Within the district, teachers have grade-level planning time and a shift toward using faculty meetings for training and professional development. Dustin Barton explained that starting school at 8:30 every couple of weeks allows teachers “job-embedded” training for 45 minutes after they arrive at school. District-wide Vertical Planning Teams for all core subjects also allow teachers to coordinate curriculum for grades K-12. Tom Cozzi explained the technology-based DMAC Training, which prepares students in advance for the new STAAR testing as well as assisting teachers with benchmarking, test-generating, and CSCOPE alignment. Matt Herden concluded, “I speak for the entire board—we are really proud of all of our staff.” Trustee Tim Nance seconded that he has recently heard the same comments from community members.
Kay Fraser updated trustees on the food service program, which serves 650 lunches and 260 breakfasts a day to students. The budget of $450,000 a year is divided between labor (56 %) and food (44%). Fifty-five percent of students are eligible for free and reduced price meals. A new addition to the program this year is “Grab and Go” cart sales at Blanco High School during the tutorial period. Student breakfasts cost $1.75, while lunches at the elementary school are $2.25 and $2.75 at the middle and high schools. Menus are posted on the district website and in printed form at the three campuses. They are cyclical and change each semester. Catering for special events and meetings is also provided by the food services department, which has assisted in the planning for the new Blanco Elementary cafeteria. The department is already gearing up for an in-depth review of food-service operations by USDA personnel for the 2012-2013 school year.
In other business, trustees declined to nominate members to the Hays and Kendall County Appraisal Districts, based on the low number of votes Blanco is allotted. A decision as to whether to accept accumulated Tax Certificate fees and earned interest from the Appraisal District was tabled for further study. The sum of $85,446.92 could be returned to the Blanco ISD taxing entity or used to help pay off the mortgage on the newly-constructed appraisal district building in Johnson City. Trustees approved a Blanco County Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service 4-H resolution sanctioning 4-H as an extracurricular activity. This resolution would allow the school to continue to receive per-pupil funding while students are absent for 4-H events such as the Blanco County Stock Show.
Finally, trustees approved the choice of Ruiz Construction Company for the construction of the slab for a new transportation/maintenance building. In answer to a question by trustee Darrel Wagner, Dr. Ford explained that multiple bids do not have to be received for a job under $50K. The bid by Ruiz Construction is $49,984. Director of Maintenance Tony Petri explained that the price of the slab and building is higher than initially proposed because a structural engineer needs to design a slab sturdy enough to hold the weight of vehicles. In addition, the original dimension of 40 feet by 100 feet needs to be modified because some school buses are 38 feet, and there would be no room to move around them when the doors to the building are closed. The bid also includes substantial ramps at each end of the building. The bid also includes clearing the site of current debris. Trustees also approved the purchase of a Mueller building for $32,511.99. “I don’t know that we could do any better,” said Petri, explaining that the cost includes insulation of the roof and walls. Funding for the building was included in the bond issue, as was the purchase of additional buses.
All trustees were present except Bernie San Miguel. The meeting was adjourned at 8 p.m.