Once again concerned parent Christine McGinnis voiced concerns over deteriorating facilities to the trustees of the Blanco Independent School District at their regular meeting on February 11. In Open Forum she questioned what progress has been made on upgrading facilities at Blanco Elementary School, adding concerns about insulation falling from the ceiling of the Blanco Middle School gym.
She also reiterated what she called “the community’s desire” to continue the pre-Kindergarten program. In addition, McGinnis updated the trustees on progress toward renovating the “Old Yellow” building—the original Blanco High School building. She reported that a solicitation letter has been drafted with the help of Laurie Cloud, and that various competitions have been discussed as a way of gaining community support for the historic renovation spearheaded by Dr. Shirley Beck.
Subsequently, superintendent Cliff Gardner presented the trustees with an Architectural Planning Services Agreement from Fromberg Associates—the firm responsible for the design of the current Blanco High School. Under this agreement, Fromberg Associates will conduct a facilities study, which will include enrollment projections, the capacity and utilization of existing facilities, sizes of projected facilities, a budget estimate and schedule for necessary improvements, and site criteria for future development.
As part of the study, an on-line survey will be available for employees, parents, and community members to share input on the study. A Facility Assessment Committee will be created from a cross-section of stakeholders. This committee will be selected with the assistance of Fromberg Associates. The study will take approximately two months and will cost $5,000, contingent on the district obtaining fees for construction.
Gardner asserted, “I feel very comfortable with Randy—he works for us and wants to do what is best for everyone involved.” Trustee Mary Ann Weaver questioned whether the trustees will be represented on the Facility Assessment Committee and was assured by Gardner that they will. Trustee David Behrends questioned if a bond issue would be necessary to pay the service fees, and Gardner responded that that would be one way to raise local funds. Weaver noted wording in the contract that suggested consulting an attorney over its conduct; Behrends moved to table the agreement until that is done, although Gardner pointed out that it is a standard contract, like the one used in a previous study done by the same firm in 1996.
However, based on Matt Herden’s comment that “There is no rush” on the project, trustees voted unanimously to table it.
Also in Open Forum, Amy Perkins addressed a proposed Spectator Policy, which was presented by the superintendent and tabled at an earlier meeting. Although the proposed policy was not on the agenda, Perkins suggested that the term “policy” has more teeth in it and would be more enforceable than the term “guidelines.”
The last speaker in the Open Forum portion was science teacher Mike McClure, who announced an upcoming Science and Math Night at Blanco Elementary on March 11. The event will include speakers Kirk Beckendorf—“fresh back from Antarctica” in McClure’s words--and Blanco State Park Interpretive Ranger Mary Alice Partain. There will also be math and science activities for parents. McClure also announced that new signs have been installed at the elementary school to make the student pick-up area safer.
Curriculum specialist Kathy Anderson presented a state-mandated review of the Academic Excellence Indicator System, calling it a “snapshot” of student performance. As reported earlier, BISD and all three schools received Academically Acceptable on 2007 Accountability Ratings. Blanco Middle School received two Gold Performance Acknowledgments, being commended in Writing and Social Studies.
The two weakest areas for students in grades 3 through 8 were Math and Science, with the Hispanic subgroup having the most trouble in these areas. Anderson pointed out that the C-Scope program is addressing these weaknesses. The board noted that students score better on TAKS tests in the years that are required for them to pass to the next grade. Anderson also noted that the district scores high in Social Studies across the board.
Among many other statistics, Anderson pointed out that Blanco High students exceed the state average in completing the recommended high school program, with a 79.8 percent completion rate, as contrasted with 75.7 percent statewide. As well, the attendance rate continues to be excellent, with 95 percent and above at all three schools. A detailed report on AEIS and the federally-mandated Annual Yearly Progress (No Child Left Behind) is available on the TEA web site.
In other business, trustees voted to approve the 2008-09 school calendar, which will include 177 instructional days, 6 professional development days, 4 staff workdays, and 23 student/staff holidays. School will begin on August 25th and graduation will take place on June 5th. Holidays will include Labor Day (September 1), Thanksgiving (November 26-28), Christmas break (December 22-January 2), the County Stock Show (January 23), Spring Break (March 16-20), Easter (April 10-13), and Memorial Day (May 25)
Claudia Smith was appointed as judge and Kenneth Moore as alternate judge for the joint election of Blanco ISD, the Blanco Groundwater Preservation District, and the City of Blanco on May 10 at the BES cafeteria. Election clerks appointed include Landa Lassberg and Olga Campa (early voting) and Amy Hurlburt, Chuck Homan, and Olivia Uballe.
Finally, Community Learning Center director Lula Corley, Kathy Anderson, and Kay Fraser presented a proposal to develop a locally-funded after-school program to replace the 21st Century Grant-funded program currently in operation. Citing numerous problems with the current grant requirements, Anderson presented a scenario in which students will pay a fee of no more than $30 a week and receive more benefits than allowed under the current grant, which will expire after next year.
Advantages to a locally-run program will include more outdoor activities, more homework assistance, and the flexibility to take advantage of community resources such as the Blanco State Park’s newly-developed Outdoor Classroom program. Trustees voted unanimously to approve developing the new program, which Herden called “another fine example of a local district doing things that the state can’t do.”
After deliberations in executive session, trustees voted to extend by one year the contracts of the following employees: BMS principal Dr. Buck Ford, BES principal Scott Kvapil, athletic director Danny Rogers, business manager Kay Fraser, technology coordinator Tom Cozzi, and curriculum/special programs director Kathy Anderson. The contract of BHS principal Dustin Barton was renewed for one year after his first-year probationary period. Superintendent Cliff Gardner had recommended a two-year contract for Barton, as reported to the Blanco County News.