Curriculum specialist Kathy Anderson reported to the trustees of the Blanco Independent School District at their October 8 meeting that all three schools in the district achieved Academically Acceptable ratings on the 2007 administration of the state-mandated TAKS tests. All sub-populations—Hispanic, White, and Economically Disadvantaged—must achieve a minimum score of greater than 90% to achieve Exemplary status, greater than 75 % for Recognized status, and greater than 65 % for English/Language Arts/Writing, 45% for mathematics, and 40% for science to achieve Academically Acceptable ratings. Ratings in each category are based on the lowest score for any sub-population, as Anderson’s data showed. Furthermore, Anderson said that higher scores will be required in all areas next year to receive the same ratings. Superintendent Cliff Gardner seconded, “Not only is the bar being raised, but tests are becoming harder. The stress put on teachers and administrators is just unbelievable.”
On a more positive note, Anderson reported that all three schools in the district met Acceptable Yearly Progress goals, as mandated by the federal government, in that all classes are taught by highly qualified teachers, that is, teachers certified in their specific subject areas. “We’re very proud,” said Anderson. “It has taken a lot of hard work on the part of teachers and students.”
In his report, Cliff Gardner thanked the PTO for their involvement—“providing things for our kids and for their efforts to come.” He updated the board that he has been working with local resident Shirley Beck on plans to renovate the “old yellow building”—the original Blanco school building, also called “The Alamo Building.” The plan calls for grants to fund the project, which Gardner hopes will be underway within the next year. He also said that the district is looking at career advancement classes, which will require going to an 8-period day because of the state requirements for more math and science classes. “We want to emphasize more vocational classes for juniors and seniors,” said Gardner, referring to the statistic that only 20 % of Blanco High graduates continue their education at an institution of higher learning. “Our goal is to have them go on,” he said, “but we need to have them prepared for careers.”
Each of the principals updated the trustees on events at their prospective schools. Blanco Elementary principal Scott Kvapil reported an enrollment of 420 and an upcoming Open House on Tuesday, October 9. He also said that the school has new cafeteria tables, partially paid for by the PTO. Middle school principal Dr. Buck Ford announced an enrollment of 233 and commended his teachers for their hard work in implementing the new C-Scope program. He particularly commended instructional specialist Jennifer Seales for her assistance, who he said is “doing a great job.” He also commended students who helped members of the Masonic Lodge with a roadside trash pick-up on the previous weekend. Blanco High principal Dustin Barton called the attention of trustees to student projects displayed around the library and updated the board on the progress of various athletic teams and the band, which won first place in a recent competition. The first PRIDE event was held recently to reward students for their efforts, providing snacks and a little extra free time. He also announced that the FCCLA recently held a can drive which collected 1900 cans, which were delivered to the food bank in San Antonio.
Technology coordinator Tom Cozzi announced a number of updates including a new library system called Destiny, which has a textbook inventory system, a new computer server, an updated Waterford Early Reading Program, new routers which will add 53 new computers to the system, and a program which allows teachers to access TAKS scores for all students to assess strengths and deficiencies. C-Scope documents may be accessed from the servers at all three schools, and the distance learning lab can be accessed from the high school. “We’re really fortunate that Tim is supporting us,” concluded Kathy Anderson.
The remainder of the meeting consisted of a presentation by Anderson of the new C-Scope curriculum program, which she characterized as necessary based on the new tests and higher standards calling for more rigor in the curriculum. She explained that last year site-based teams evaluated the program, which has been adapted in 40-50% of the schools in the state because it provides more detailed lesson plans, unit tests, and a sequence of instruction throughout the grades, preventing too much emphasis on one area while ignoring others. Dr. Ford commented that the program “will shore up the curriculum” but that it is challenging for students and teachers alike. Kvapil said, “The vertical alignment piece is the biggest improvement. . . there are only so many hours in the day.” Cozzi admitted, “At first I was skeptical, but now I think it’s wonderful.” Students in neighboring communities—Wimberley, Johnson City, and Burnet, for example, are using the program, according to Anderson, making it easier for students to transfer from one district to another. Math and science have been targeted for this year, with other subject areas available but optional. Anderson acknowledged, “The first year is a struggle, but there will be a payoff.”