Prior to their regular meeting August 13, trustees of the Blanco Independent School District were able to see firsthand the progress on construction and renovation at the Blanco Elementary School campus. Project manager Joel Benjagerdes and site manager Bill Burrough of Vanguard Contractors led the group through the site, beginning at the parking lot, which has been graded and is ready for paving on Thursday or Friday of this week. Next, the group was able to go inside the new cafeteria building, which is scheduled for completion by Thanksgiving. Trustees holding construction drawings were guided through the building, seeing where the new stage will be located as well as serving lines, storage areas, office space, restrooms, and the seating area.
The highlight of the tour for several trustees was the chance to see progress on renovation of the original Mission-Style school, affectionately called “Old Yeller” because of the yellow paint, which has been painstakingly removed to show the original limestone. This building will house the library, stacks, teacher workrooms, and computer and science classrooms. Burrough explained that using fill dirt and a slab will save the district thousands of dollars as an alternative to having floor trusses over a crawl space. The original thick plaster walls will be repaired and painted, and all original stone removed in the renovation process will be used to in-fill spaces, which previously were windows and doors. One point of interest was the old chimney, still showing the pipes leading from the stoves, at one point coal-fired and later wood-fired. Finishes for the building will include exposed, decorative trusses and wainscoting—paneling which will cover the bottom portion of each wall.
Finally, trustees toured the west classroom wing, which is further along than its twin on the east side of the original school. Burrough explained the advantages of using metal studs and having a mechanical area above the ceilings for ease of maintenance. Water-resistant sheathing has been installed at baseboard level in each room in case of flooding. Large windows in each classroom show views of the old live oaks outside, protected from construction damage by wood frames around their trunks.
At the conclusion of the tour, trustees adjourned to Blanco High School for their regular meeting. Superintendent Dr. Buck Ford reported that the district’s Technology Plan has been approved by the Texas Education Agency. The plan, which is good for three years, makes the district eligible for various kinds of funding.
Dr. Ford also passed along news from TEA concerning the rise in AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) requirements, a federal school accountability system that is part of the No Child Left Behind mandate. Under this system, 28 percent of Texas districts met all requirements and 48 percent of schools. These requirements are comparable to Recognized or Exemplary level performance in the 2011 state accountability system. Blanco Elementary and Blanco Middle Schools met the requirements; however, Blanco High School did not. Requirements rise each year, Dr. Ford explained. The 2011 requirement of 80 percent success on English/Language Arts measures rose to 87 percent in 2012, and the 75 percent minimum in math rose to 83 percent. By 2014 the requirement will be 100 percent in both areas. “The teachers and other employees at Blanco ISD have worked exceptionally hard to achieve the high standards of No Child Left Behind,” concluded Dr. Ford. “I want to commend teachers and staff of Blanco ISD for their hard work and steadfast dedication to overcoming challenges and their passionate endeavors to see that all our children succeed.” Trustee president Matt Herden also complimented teachers and staff for “a tremendous feat.”
Dr. Ford also updated trustees on the Golden Panther Pass, which will entitle senior citizens aged 65 or older living in the Blanco Independent School District to attend all District football and other school events free of charge. Pass-holders will also be able to attend home non-district events. Seniors may apply for a pass beginning August 20 at the school administrative office and should bring proof of age. The pass will be good for the 2012-13 school year.
Trustees approved the Student Code of Conduct, which has been impacted by legislative rulings concerning bullying, expulsion from a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, and limiting participation in graduation activities for violating the district’s Code. They also received information on the Parent-Student Handbook for 2012-13, which includes these legislative items. Language has been added to address bullying and harassment and the adoption of Policy FFAF (Local) pertaining to food allergies. Matt Herden explained that parents must fill out a form, including a doctor’s signature, stating the nature of the allergy, and give it to the school nurse as well as the administrative office. Students over 18 who violate the compulsory-attendance law will not be prosecuted. The dress code has been amended to state that “caps and hats will not be worn inside buildings and must be kept in a student’s locker or backpack during the school day.”
Trustees also voted to approve Option 3, purchasing attendance credits from the state, to reduce the district’s wealth for Chapter 41 status for 2012-13. A letter from TEA states, “We estimate that your district’s wealth per resident in weighted average daily attendance (WADA) will exceed the equalized wealth level (EWL) of $319,500, as established by the Texas Education Code. This estimate is based on the property tax value certified by the Texas Comptroller’s Property Tax Assistance Division for the tax year 2011 and projected number of resident WADA for the 2012-2013 school year. Based on current data, your district will be required to reduce its wealth per WADA for the 2012-2013 school year.” Financial manager Kay Fraser said the district has budgeted $300,000 to purchase attendance credits, although the cost will probably be around $272,000.
In other business, trustees approved setting the date of August 27, 2012, for a public meeting to discuss the budget and proposed tax rate for the school year 2012-13. The meeting will be held at Blanco High School. They voted not to endorse a candidate for the TASB Board of Directors, Region 13, Position C. Finally, they voted to approve three budget amendments. The first amendment increases Title I and Title II funds from TEA to full entitlement per approval from TEA dated 4/16/12. The second amendment opens line items for the SECO grant from the State of Texas for the replacement of air conditioners at the middle school. The third amendment aligns General Fund items to actual near year-end. As there was no need for an executive session, the meeting was adjourned.