At the June 11 meeting of the Blanco ISD Trustees, Troy Immel and Kirk Felps were sworn in after being elected in an uncontested race. In the absence of board members Charles Riley and Bernie San Miguel, the remaining board members chose Matt Herden for another term as president, Troy Immel as vice-president, and Kirk Felps as secretary. Trustees Charles Riley and Bernie San Miguel were also selected to serve as delegate and alternate to the TASB State Convention September 28-30, 2012, in Austin.
Trustees approved a modest salary increase averaging $880, for faculty, staff, and administrators, at a cost to the district of $50,990. On the teacher pay scale the beginning salary and each step has been increased $100. Teachers, librarians, nurses, and counselors will advance one step. Employees at maximum will receive a minimum increase of $100. The Master’s Degree is unchanged at $1500. The proposed pay scales for Paraprofessionals and Maintenance/Groundskeeper were changed to eliminate Step 1 and add a new step 10 with a four percent increase between steps. The proposed pay scales for custodians and food service workers are unchanged; however, employees will advance a step. Employees in the Paraprofessional/Support Staff category had salaries frozen last year. Administrators were voted a two-percent raise. Employees in this group had salaries frozen last year as well. The salary schedule for bus drivers has risen $.75 per hour at maximum. This group also had salaries frozen last year. Substitute pay rates are unchanged.
District-paid benefits are changed. The dental and workers compensation funds are self-funded and have enough fund balance to sustain themselves for one year. Employees will experience a six percent increase in health premiums. The UIL coaching stipends have been reduced from $320 to $270 per event at high school and from $240 to $200 per event at elementary and middle school. All other stipends remain unchanged. Matt Herden praised Financial Manager Kay Fraser for her work in finding money for raises in the face of cuts in state funding. She responded that she was able to cut $80,000 in non-salary accounts to fund the raises.
In the Spotlight portion of the meeting, Dr. Buck Ford recognized district personnel Landa Lassburg and Kay Campbell for the “tremendous role” they serve in the administrative office. He recalled that Landa Lassburg was the first person he met when he came to interview in Blanco, and that her professionalism is something one might expect to see in a much larger school district. He enumerated a few of her duties, including work with personnel, keeping up with files, facilitating background checks, coordinating transportation, serving as liaison with trustees, and preparing agendas for each meeting. Kay Campbell, who works in the business office with Kay Fraser, makes sure all employees get paid on time, updates the BISD website, prepares certificates, and according to Dr. Ford, “is an incredible database manager.” He called them both “invaluable”to the district and was seconded by curriculum specialist Kathy Anderson, who said, “We couldn’t do without you.”
In other reports, district nurse Peggy Pepper gave trustees an update on health services. She explained that the Health Advisory Council, which meets four times a year, deals with such issues as head lice and the middle school CATCH program. Each child also has a food allergy form on file, which is updated periodically.
Director of Transportation John Moore informed trustees that transportation vehicles, including buses, two Suburbans, and a Yukon, have logged 225, 686 miles for the 2011-12 school year. There are nine bus runs in the morning and 11 in the afternoon. The smaller vehicles are used to transport small groups, both students to events and staff members to workshops. The newest school bus has logged 19,656 miles, the oldest, 276,713. Later in the meeting, trustees approved the purchase of a new bus from Longhorn Bus Sales at a cost of $82,722. Longhorn Bus Sales is a member of the Buy Board Purchasing Cooperative, an interlocal contract. Buy Board’s fee for the purchase is $800. Because of a budget crunch last year, no new bus was purchased. The oldest bus will be retired when a new one is added.
Director of Technology Tom Cozzi gave trustees an update on security camera and technology improvements. There are now 52 cameras at the three campuses, with eight more to be installed as part of the renovation of the Alamo-style yellow building and construction of the new elementary school cafeteria. Although $100,000 was budgeted for the job, Cozzi explained that Maintenance Director Toni Petri and his staff “saved us a ton of money,” in his words, by pulling wires for the job. He also showed trustees live feeds from the cameras, which have infrared capability to see in the dark. Data from the cameras is stored for 14 days and can then be stored on a hard drive. The cameras are important for several reasons, according to Cozzi, including serving as a deterrent to crime, allowing “real time” response to intruders, and as forensic evidence. In response to a student accusation that they are “spy cameras”, Cozzi’s states that they are for security and to protect “the nice things we have.” An added benefit of the new wiring was that the district’s internet speed was upgraded from 100 megabits to a gigabit—ten times faster for the same price.
As part of his Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Ford gave a presentation on the new software to manage employment applications, implementing District Goal #4—”BISD will recruit and retain high-quality and highly effective teachers, and provide a work environment for them to feel positively fulfilled.”From the blancoisd.org website, potential employees can follow a link which allows them to fill out an application, attach documentation, and write a cover letter. Applications are then available to each principal and can be sorted by subject area. Since February 2012, when the database was installed, it has received 10,222 hits, according to Dr. Ford, and 196 applications have been received. Not only is the data easier to access than paper copies, the pool of applicants has increased, resulting in higher quality applicants.
Dr. Ford also reported that the district will issue a “Golden Panther” pass to UIL and athletic competitions, both home and away, free of charge, to seniors aged 65 and older. “We value our senior citizens and want to let them know their support is appreciated,” he added. Seniors must apply for a pass at the central office and provide proof of age such as a driver’s license. The passes will be valid beginning next fall.
In construction news, Vanguard Contractors representative Joel Benjagerdes reported that the slab for the East Wing of the Alamo-style building was to be poured June 12 and the roof joists should be in place by July. He showed pictures of the elementary school cafeteria, which is 90 percent complete and should be done by Thanksgiving. Workers are scheduled to be trained so that meals can be served when students return to school after Christmas. Construction has started on the parking lot, which has been trenched for water pipes, and should be complete by the start of school in August. Other photos Benjagerdes showed include steel columns and beams in the West Wing, interior cement masonry units (CMU’s) in the cafeteria interior, and metal studs which will support wall panels on the cafeteria. Within the next 30 days, the cafeteria HVAC rough-in, including ductwork, should be 75 percent complete, and the drywall studs should be 50 percent complete. Erection of the West Wing should be 80 percent complete; and erection of the East Wing, 40 percent complete.
In other construction news, the administration has negotiated a contract with Blanco Heating and Cooling for HVAC and plumbing improvements to Blanco Middle School. At a previous meeting, trustees ranked the company first among offerors. A decision has been made not to install a shower in the sixth and seventh grade science storage room, due to costs and the fact that no hazardous chemicals are stored there. According to code, a shower is not required for science classrooms on a middle school campus. The current shower, which interferes with mobility in the storage room, will be removed, capped, and placed in District storage. Savings for not including plumbing improvements in the contract is $3560. Trustees approved the contract with Blanco Heating and Cooling.
Trustees also voted to approve an increase of 10 cents across the board for lunch and breakfast prices. New pricing criteria were released for locally-paid meals by USDA in February, requiring an increase of 4.18 percent. This increase is necessary to keep the local price above the federal reimbursement rate by this percent plus a cost-of-living index.
Following executive session, trustees voted to accept the resignations of the following: Emily Houghton, high school Theatre Arts and English; and Amanda Read, elementary teacher. Susan Villarreal was approved for employment as a fourth grade teacher. Trustees also voted to approve a two percent raise for Superintendent Dr. Buck Ford.
At a special trustees’ meeting May 21, probationary contracts were approved for Kaleigh Walker, high school science; Callido Borgnino, elementary special education; Laura Johnson, fourth grade math, and Melissa Tortora, third grade.