Curriculum administrator Kathy Anderson reported to the BISD trustees at their June 8 meeting that the district has received a Pre-K Early Start grant. “We are really excited about what this is going to do for our students,” said Anderson, explaining that the grant will pay $25,200 per year for five years, enabling the district to serve all children of Blanco who will be four years old by September 5. The full-day, 10-month program, will be free to economically disadvantaged families, children of active, disabled, or deceased military parents, and first-generation speakers of English, but will cost $4000 per year for others. According to Anderson, data shows that pre-kindergarten education has many long-range benefits, including higher test scores, improved social skills, less grade repetition, fewer special education placements, greater graduation rates, increased productivity, and reduced crime. Teachers will receive monthly regional training as part of a shared-service agreement with other school in Region XIII and 4 Head Start agencies. The program will include math modules in Numeracy, Geometry, Data, Patterns, and Measurement. Literacy instruction will focus on letter knowledge, oral language development, and phonological awareness. Anderson reiterated the focus on high-quality instruction. Trustees approved an additional pre-K position, Laura Hanley, so there can be two classes, housed in Blanco Elementary School. Registration for the program began on May 27.
Other new hires approved by trustees included a teacher for students with visual impairments—Teresa O’Shaughnessy—who worked previously with Blanco students through the Hays-Blanco Special Education Co-Op, which will be dissolved in July 2009. According to superintendent Dr. Buck Ford, the plan is “to enter into shared service agreements with other districts to divide up the responsibilities, duties, and costs associated with the position.” O’Shaughnessy will work one day a week in Blanco and divide the other four days among other districts.
Sue Ann Reininger as been selected as the new principal of Blanco Elementary School. New high school teachers will be Richard Gere, Spanish; Amy Hackebeil, English and coaching; and Emily Houghton, English. BHS principal Dustin Barton explained that the additional English position will reduce the size of the pre-AP English class, provide monitoring of students dual-enrolled at ACC, and provide reading enrichment for students struggling to pass the TAKS test.
Trustees elected Matt Herden to another term as president, MaryAnn Weaver as vice-president, and Troy Immel as secretary. Dr. Ford congratulated MaryAnn Weaver for her successful completion of the leadership TASB class. Newly elected trustee Darrel Wagner was selected to attend the TASA/TASB Convention in Houston October 3, and Kirk Felps was selected as an alternate.
Dr. Ford reported that lighting for the BHS stage has been upgraded to allow the school to host UIL one-act play competition and to enable students to learn the mechanics of operating theater lighting. He also thanked Blanco National Bank for donating a new scoreboard for the football stadium. Matt Herden expressed his appreciation for the contribution by a local business to the school district. Dr. Ford said that the scoreboard should be installed before the first scrimmage in August.
As the result of a district session on goal-setting held June 1 and facilitated by Rita Reynolds-Gibbs, a planning facilitator with the Texas Association of School Boards, the following goals were adopted by the district:
1. Blanco ISD students will master state and federal academic standards, and its graduates will be college and post-high school ready.
2. Blanco ISD will close the gap that exists between student groups in standardized test scores.
3. Blanco ISD will ensure effective communications between the district and its students, parents, employees, media, and the community as a whole.
4. Blanco ISD will recruit and retain high quality and highly effective teachers, and provide a work environment for them to feel positively fulfilled.
Trustees unanimously voted to approve these goals. Matt Herden expressed his appreciation to the trustees for their participation and to Reynolds-Gibbs for her assistance.
In other business, trustees reviewed a list of 14 transfer students for the 2009-10 school year and approved the second reading of TASB Policy Update 85 affecting the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as other policy changes relating to disciplinary alternative education programs, criminal history checks of employees who work for entities that contract with the district, Internet safety, use of district vehicles, and board elections. Finally, trustees approved an amendment opening the budget for the energy management project for $978,260, to be done by TAC Energy Services, as approved at the April trustees’ meeting.