Superintendent Dr. Buck Ford reported to Blanco ISD trustees at their February 11 meeting that the PTO of Blanco Elementary School has purchased Raptor Visitor Management software to keep out unwanted visitors and more closely monitor those who come into the school. Each visitor must have his or her driver’s license scanned, and an instant background check is performed to see if the individual is a sexual predator, has a restraining order, custody issues, or other custom alert. The information is stored so frequent visitors do not have to repeat the process. The software then prints a visitor’s badge for the individual. According to the Raptor website, the product is used in many schools nationwide and has identified sexual predators in all fifty states.
In his monthly report Dr. Ford also announced that the March trustees’ meeting has been changed to March 4 to avoid spring break, which is the following week. Several trustees will be attending the TASB winter Governance and Legal Seminar March 7-9 in Corpus Christi. The board has received a Statement of Impact letter from Wayside Schools, a Charter School in Austin, as mandated by state law, and has determined that the new school will not negatively impact the district financially.
Open houses have been scheduled during Texas Public Schools Week/Month for Blanco High School on Monday, February 25, and Blanco Middle School, Tuesday, March 5. An Open House date at Blanco Elementary is pending until the new construction is complete. According to project manager Joel Benjegerdes of Vanguard Contractors, the new classrooms will be ready for occupancy after spring break.
School property including a flagpole, a walk-in freezer, and a walk-in cooler will be sold in a sealed-bid process, with bid packages available at the school administrative office. Bidding ends on Thursday, February 28, at 2 p.m.
In the monthly Spotlight on Students portion of the meeting, Linda Romano, principal of Blanco Elementary School, introduced members of the district champion UIL team who won awards in multiple categories. She began by thanking Linda Miller, the UIL coach and “driving force behind UIL,” in Romano’s words. Second grade winner was Rylee Davis: 1st place in both Creative Writing and Storytelling; third grader Joseph Hernandez: 5th place in Ready Writing and 2nd in Spelling; fourth grader Anna Beliveau: 5th in Oral Reading and 2nd in Ready Writing; fifth grader Malinda Campbell: 5th in Ready Writing and 3rd in Oral Reading. Other winners included Christian Flores: 3rd in art and 3rd in Number Sense; Kade Kneese: Best Alternate Listening and 5th in Maps, Graphs, Charts; Addy Seymour: 6th in Ready Writing and 3rd in Listening; Hunter West: 2nd in Maps, Graphs, Charts, 1st in Number Sense, and 5th in Dictionary; Jacob Kasberg: Best Alternative Number Sense and 1st in Dictionary; and Mitchell Barnett: 4th in Number Sense; 3rd in Ready Writing; 2nd in Dictionary; 1st in Maps, Graphs, Charts; 1st in Spelling; and 1st in Listening.
Blanco High School principal Dustin Barton shined the Spotlight on Spanish teachers Edit Quintanilla and Shirley Johnson, calling them “two of the hardest-working teachers at BHS.” Their responsibilities go beyond classroom instruction, including cultural activities such as dance and traditional cooking and celebration of holidays such as Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos. They work daily with struggling students and sometimes are called upon to offer translation services for Spanish-speaking families.
Blanco’s three counselors each gave an update on new programs they are offering. Lisa Mangold of Blanco Elementary spoke about the “Kids Who Roar” program and college days at her campus. Blanco Middle School counselor Lisa Rogers discussed the school’s “Unite Against Bullying Day” and a career fair organized by eighth graders for the first time this year. She is also excited about a new program called “Your Own Healthy Style” to help girls with body issues and self confidence. Blanco High counselor Michele Skillman focused on college readiness for each class, beginning with rising freshmen at spring registration. Sophomores take the practice ACT test, and their parents attend a Parent Information Night. In the junior year, every student takes the PSAT and starts looking at the requirements of different colleges. A career fair will be held February 15 for juniors and seniors, at which parents and other community members will discuss their careers. Some juniors will also make a college trip to Texas State University in San Marcos. Parents of seniors attend a Parent Information Night as well as a financial aid workshop, where they learn how to fill out the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FASFA), required by all colleges. Counselors from Austin Community College also work with students through the College Connection program. Information about scholarships is disseminated to all seniors via e-mail.
In other business, trustees approved a resolution authorizing the tax resale of a property in Lake of the Hills for $801. They also approved the school calendar for 2013-14. Teachers will report for Professional Development Days beginning August 19, and students will report on August 26. The Thanksgiving holiday will be November 27-29; and Christmas Break will begin December 23 and end January 3. The County Stock Show will be January 24, and Spring Break will be March 10-14. Graduation will be June 6.
Prior to the meeting, trustees were given a tour of the new and renovated elementary school construction site, including the cafeteria, which has been serving students since before Christmas. Dr. Ford praised the support of the community for the bond issue which made it possible to restore the historic Mission-style building. He also said that the architects have really enjoyed incorporating old stones and wood in the renovated structure. Views out the large windows of classrooms and the original core of the building, which will now house the library, science and computer rooms, and a gallery of old photos and memorabilia, bring the outdoors in by showing graceful old live oaks.
After deliberation in Executive Session, trustees approved a 3% raise for the superintendent and extended contracts for the following: Kathy Anderson (Curriculum and Special Programs), Dustin Barton (HS Principal), Thomas Cozzi (Technology Director), Kay Fraser (Business Manager), Danny Rogers (Athletic Director), Linda Romano (BES Principal), and Kathryn Rutherford (Special Education Director). Bill Luna’s (BMS Principal) contract was not extended.