In the open forum portion of the BISD trustees’ meeting March 10, Democratic Representative Patrick Rose expressed his support of the school district in the face of the “fumbling and bumbling” of the Texas Legislature in regards to school finance. “Our school district needs to be vigilant,” he urged, referring to the increase in property values in Blanco County which may put the district in the Chapter 41 category. “Anything we can do to improve the state’s share (of school funding) will keep us out of Chapter 41 and keep property taxes low.” In the district’s current financial position, it receives money from the state; however, as explained by the superintendent in subsequent remarks, the district would actually have to pay money to the state to fund poorer districts if its designation changes to Chapter 41. Trustee Matt Herden agreed, “We need to flip the status, reduce unfunded mandates, and increase the state’s share.” Rose welcomed Cliff Gardner as the new superintendent and said that he looks forward to working with him. Rose concluded, “In a district like yours, there are a lot of things we need to take a look at—we would love to be your advocate.”
In open forum, concerned parent Chrissy McGinnis questioned the plan to develop a new after-school program with tuition and local money rather than with the 21st Century Grant, under which the program currently operates. As explained at the February meeting, the grant will expire next year. McGinnis questioned why the board is willing to fund this program rather than expanding the pre-K program. She called the board “resistant” to having a paid tuition pre-K program or even discussing it. School board candidate Ann Broyles spoke on the issue of the delay in pursuing the facilities study, questioning the comments of president Matt Herden that there is “no rush” in replacing the portable classrooms, which she called “mold-infested temporary classes.”
The open forum also provided the opportunity for fifth grade science teacher Mike McClure to publicize the upcoming Math and Science Night at Blanco Elementary School, at which the new Blanco State Park interpretive ranger, Mary Alice Partain, was to speak. He also used the forum to vent his anger at what he characterized as negative media coverage, resulting in a “fog of negativity coming over our school district.” He referred to the comments of Chrissy McGinnis and Ann Broyles, who have read statements urging a facilities update and expanding the pre-K program to all students, as “hollering at the board” and said, “In education things take time—in the words of Mick Jagger, ‘We may not get what we want, but sometimes we just might get what we need.’” He also spoke of dignity and finding common ground.
Administrative reports included an update by technology coordinator Tom Cozzi on the new blancoisd.com website. A new hosting company has been found, and according to Cozzi, “It’s going to get better as time goes on.” Curriculum specialist Kathy Anderson praised the work of three teachers who will do model lessons for the C-Scope curriculum enrichment program. Blanco Middle School principal Dr. Buck Ford spoke for ailing Blanco Elementary principal Scott Kvapil to inform the trustees that the elementary school was to host a “Blanco Day of the Young Child” Celebration as well as the first annual Math and Science Night. He expressed Kvapil’s thanks to the work of the TAKS testing administrators and announced that math texts will be selected by the end of the week. Fourth graders are planning a trip to the Bob Bullock History Museum as a treat. Dr. Ford also announced a Band Boosters Bake Sale to be held at the middle school on March 30 and explained the events of Texas Education Week, which were to involve integrating college awareness into the classroom. This year’s theme is “Education—Go Get It.” Blanco High principal Dustin Barton summarized that there are sports every night at the high school, and that the debaters are at a meet in Austin. The boys’ basketball team are Bi-District champions, and incoming freshmen will be registering at the high school soon. Through an agreement with Austin Community College, sophomores will be able to take college-credit classes—an addition which Barton said “will spice up the curriculum a bit.”
Superintendent Gardner reported the following:
• Senate Bill 9—Fingerprinting and Background Checks—which was enacted in 2007, is an unfunded mandate costing approximately $50 for each certified educator, substitute teacher, aide, and non-certified employee hired on or after January 1, 2008. For more information, visit the SBEC website: www.sbec.state.tx.us. The intent of the legislation is “to ensure the safety of all children, teachers, and staff in Texas public schools,” according to SBEC information. The deadline for fingerprinting, which Gardner said must be figured into future school budgets, is September 1, 2011.
• The Energy Audit, performed by TAC Energy Solutions, will be presented in approximately three weeks with energy-saving proposals and recommendations.
• The tennis courts have been resurfaced in time for spring play. The courts will be locked to prevent inappropriate use, but community members are encouraged to call the district office to get the combination when they wish to play and to re-lock the courts when they are finished. A timer for the lights has been ordered to help manage the use of lighting.
• Beginning in 2008-09, the district will once again be in UIL Region 4 and District 27-AA, which includes Blanco, Brooks Academy, Comfort, Fort Sam Houston (Cole High School), Harper, Johnson City, and Randolph Field. Gardner said the district is “thankful that we’re going back as far as travel is concerned.)
• A Spectator Code of Conduct was outlined by Gardner. Signs will be displayed at athletic competitions stating the guidelines.
Shirley Beck reported on the progress of renovation plans for the Mission Revival-style original Blanco High school building with a narrative that has been written by Lula Corley, Kathy Anderson, and Beck to aid in obtaining “bricks and mortar” grants. It states, “Our mission is to renovate Blanco’s historic 1923 Mission Revival-style building in order to preserve a significant community feature and to provide critically-needed space for educational programs and activities as well as to accommodate community activities.” Beck related various fund-raising possibilities such as the sale of decorative paving stones imprinted with the name of each graduate of the school. Connie Granberg will present the renovation project at the upcoming Town Meeting sponsored by the Blanco Woman’s Club on April 17 at the Old Blanco County Courthouse.
In other business, the trustees certified instructional materials for 2008 and approved a revision to the school calendar to accommodate a change in the Blanco County Youth Stock Show to January 16. Campus Improvement Plans, developed by teams consisting of staff, parents, and administrators, were also approved by the trustees. Superintendent Gardner expressed his appreciation to all who worked to develop these plans to improve student performance. The board also approved the Blanco County Agreement for the use of handicapped voting machines during the upcoming BISD election of trustees on May 8. Trustees also performed a first reading of state-mandated Guidelines for Addressing Date Violence. The guidelines also address sexual harassment and bullying. Trustees also approved Administrative Regulations Regarding Visitors at School Identified as Sex Offenders. According to the guidelines, the only time registered sex offenders are allowed on school campuses is as registered voters or as parents of students at a school. Vendors, contractors, and volunteers who are sex offenders are not allowed on school property except in the case of an emergency, with the approval of the superintendent or a designee.
Finally, as requested by trustees at the February meeting, an attorney from Lake Dallas was flown in at the trustees’ request to make recommendations concerning the architectural services agreement with Fromberg Associates to do a facilities study and growth projection for the district. Superintendent Gardner expressed his disappointment to this reporter that one of the attorneys who usually consults with the district on a contract basis was not used. They could have come from Austin or San Antonio without the costs of a flight, lodging, and a rental car. Trustee Troy Immel moved to proceed with the agreement and trustee Bernie San Miguel seconded, contingent upon Fromberg accepting the attorney’s recommendations for some changes favoring the district. A vote was taken in favor before trustee MaryAnn Weaver questioned whether a vote could be taken. Because the wording on the agenda was changed to “review” rather than “approve,” no action could be taken. The attorney agreed to meet with the architect again and bring back more information at the next meeting.
After meeting in executive session, trustees voted to accept the resignations of two Blanco Middle School teachers at the end of the current school year: Jacqueline Brown, special education; and Danielle Frei, math. Trustees also approved the superintendent’s recommendations for teacher and staff contracts for the 2008-09 school year. Blanco High School principal Dustin Barton’s contract was extended to a two-year contract.