At Monday night’s meeting of the Blanco Independent School District trustees, the monthly spotlight featured an amazing array of accomplishments, both by students and staff. Blanco Elementary School principal Linda Romano and librarian Laurie Kirkscey recognized five of the eleven members of the Accelerated Reader Program who have read over one million words this school year—Joseph Hernandez, third grade (1.2 million), Kelton Marek, fifth grade (1.5 million), Kathryn Hull and Cadence Drum, fourth grade (over 1 million), and Anna Belliveau, fourth grade (3.5 million). Romano informed those in attendance that these students read books of their choosing from the Accelerated Reader list, scoring a 90 percent or better average in the testing on each book. To demonstrate the number of pages that constitute a million words, she used the illustration of the Harry Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets, which contains 85,000 words.
Blanco High School principal Dr. Dustin Barton recognized the Region 4 champion UIL Academic Team, including Annie Albrecht, Rebecca Dowlearn, Christina Collins, Jacob Hallenberger, Celia Kasberg, Eleanor Kirkscey, Joshua McCaslin, Donald Miller, Callie Nance, Michael O’Rear, Justis Liesman-Slimp, Jurnee Troublefield, and Kristin Watt. Barton said that it is the first time in BHS history that a team won Regionals, and that they beat the nearest competitors by 80 points. UIL sponsor Russell Kirkscey recently was quoted in The Bell Newsletter (April 26), “With ten students going, we’ve got as good a chance as any to win the state meet.”
Finally, Superintendent Dr. Buck Ford gave special recognition to athletic trainer Chris Lay for his heroic efforts on April 29 at a BHS baseball game, when he administered life-saving CPR to the first base umpire who had collapsed and gone into cardiac arrest. He continued his efforts until EMS arrived. The umpire regained consciousness in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and has since recovered. In Dr. Ford’s words, “Chris Lay’s actions saved his life. I want to recognize and commend Coach Lay for his actions with that umpire on that Monday afternoon, and to thank Coach Lay for his professional attentions to our athletes, for his work in teaching athletic training to our students, and for his contribution to Blanco ISD.”
As part of his Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Ford gave trustees a Health and Safety Update. Among actions taken to promote the health and safety of students, he listed opening a new bus drop at the elementary school separate from the area where parents pick up students. The district also hosted a meeting with First Responders in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings, and instituted a breakfast and lunch program for local law enforcement officers to increase their presence in the schools. As was reported earlier, the schools have implemented a Raptor software program to identify visitors to the school and print nametags for them. There is also a plan to remodel entrances at the three campuses to deter unwanted or dangerous visitors from gaining access beyond the front offices. A special trustees’ meeting will be held May 28, which will be a budget workshop and will approve a contractor for the project.
District Nurse Peggy Pepper further reported on the district’s work to identify food allergies among students and develop a protocol for combating them. She gave trustees a heads-up that the Texas Department of Health no longer gives immunizations to all students, only those who do not have any health insurance. Others must get their immunizations from a private physician. Trustee Bernie San Miguel asked what will happen if a student comes to school without the proper immunizations, and Pepper responded that he/she will not be allowed to attend.
In other health-related matters, Dr. Ford reported that the district has bought an annual Air Evac Lifeteam membership for $7400. The helicopter EMS service, headquartered in San Marcos, will respond to emergencies during and after school and at away athletic events. Trustee Troy Immel seemed shocked at the cost, assuming it was a lifetime membership.
Dr. Ford also reported the district’s membership in the Safe Routes to School Program, which can provide funding for sidewalks and street crossings.
Upcoming dates of interest include an Early Release day for students on Thursday, June 6, at 1 p.m. A TASB Summer Leadership Institute will be held June 6-8 in San Antonio for trustees. Bernie San Miguel has registered to attend. A canvass of votes for the recent trustee election will be held on May 16 at 8 a.m. at the superintendent’s office.
A memo from business manager Kay Fraser announced the summer work schedule for district staff June 10 through July 25. Work hours will be Monday through Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Maintenance and custodial personnel will work 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and will be charged three vacation days to cover July 1-3. Other contract personnel (226-day) will be charged three non-contract days to cover July 1-3. Closing district offices on Fridays will “conserve district resources,” in Fraser’s words.
Dr. Ford announced the disposal of surplus school property through the Agricultural Mechanics Department. Information packets are available at the agricultural office. Sealed bids must be submitted by May 30 at 2 p.m.
Vanguard Contractors project manager Joel Benjegerdes gave trustees an update on the Blanco Elementary School Renovation/Construction Project, including recent photos of the completed gallery in the Mission-Style original school building (Old Yellow Building). The gallery contains an almost life-size mural of the Blanco School 50th anniversary reunion class on a portion of the wall, as well as display cases for artifacts, wood paneling made from reclaimed long-leaf pine flooring in the original school, historic photos to be hung, and a stone arch holding the original school bell. Inside the library, the circulation desk is also constructed of reclaimed wood flooring. Benjegerdes reported that a meeting of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International was held in the library May 8, and that Dr. Ford’s enthusiastic presentation concerning artifacts gathered during construction was the highlight of the meeting. His other photos showed the completed west classroom wing corridor, complete with coat hooks, the outdoor classroom behind the OYB, and a photo of the completed façade of the building. Within the next thirty days the art and band rooms in the main school building are scheduled to be completed, after which work will begin on renovations in the administrative office building.
Trustees approved the purchase of new exterior doors for the elementary school. As Dr. Ford explained, “The current doors are the original steel doors from the 1960’s. They are rusty and beat up. The hinges have been re-welded several times, and they are worn out. The door closers and panic hardware are worn and not working properly. We have done our best to maintain the doors throughout the years, but there’s not much we can do to keep them up any longer.” The cost of replacement of all exterior doors will be $25,259.79.
Trustees also approved a resolution authorizing the tax resale of two lots in Lake of the Hills in the amount of $786.64. “This will get them back on the tax rolls,” explained president Matt Herden. To serve special education students who are hearing-impaired, trustees voted to enter into a shared service arrangement agreement with ESD Region 13 Regional Day School Program for the Deaf for 2013-14. This is the same arrangement which the district has previously participated in.
Due to rising food costs, trustees voted to approve an increase in school breakfast and lunch prices for 2013-14 as follows: breakfast for grades K-12, an increase from $1.85 to 1.90; lunch for grades K-5, $2.35 to 2.45; grades 6-12, $2.60 to 2.70. Breakfast and lunch prices for adults will stay the same--$2.35 for breakfast and $360 for lunch. In answer to Matt Herden’s question, “Why aren’t we picking on the adults?” Kay Fraser responded, “Because we don’t have to—we’re way above where we need to be on adults.”
Following deliberations in Executive Session, trustees voted to accept the retirement of Linda Collard, sixth grade language arts teacher, and Vicki Bibb, middle school library aide. They also approved the hiring of Keitha St. Clair as Blanco Middle School Principal. St. Clair has been the district’s Student Success Coordinator for the past three-and-a-half years. Previously she worked at Canyon Lake High School from 2007-2010, and before that at Kitty Hawk Middle School in the Judson District from 1996-2006.