Members of Blanco Woman’s Club Civic Department chose new superintendent Cliff Gardner as their speaker for the March meeting, held at the Blanco Library. Department chair Shirley Beck introduced Gardner, citing the longtime close relationship between the school district and the community. Gardner broke the ice with the group, joking that he is glad that “You women can vote and congregate.” He referred to a recent conversation with State Representative Patrick Rose, with whom Gardner looks forward to working. Of the Woman’s Club, he said, “You’re the people I need to get to know—please let me know how I can help.” He praised the group’s efforts in raising $47,000 for the library expansion and the efforts of Shirley Beck in spearheading the renovation of the original Mission Revival-style Blanco High School building.
Gardner referred to himself as “a people person” who likes to motivate staff and students to do their best. He also calls himself a communicator and a “flexible” superintendent who is careful with money, based on the years when he and his wife put three children through college. He expressed his pleasure at having the opportunity to work in Blanco, explaining that his wife drew a circle around the Hill Country on a map of Texas as the area in which she and Cliff would hope to find work and then retire, and Blanco was right in the center of it. One daughter works in Austin at a new branch of Wachovia on the UT campus, where she was recently asked to open an account for Vince Young. His younger daughter is a speech therapist in the Big Spring ISD, and his son, soon to graduate from Hardin-Simmons University, will work in the Hill Country for a medical supply company upon graduation. His wife Kathy is a teacher at Rebecca Creek Elementary School in Comal County.
Gardner presented the group with an overview of the status of Blanco ISD, stating that the enrollment is around 980 students, although growth is coming soon. “We don’t want to be caught like Comal (County), he said, unprepared for its growth. To that end, he explained that the district is getting ready to do a facilities study and growth projection in order to be prepared as a district. Whether a new school is part of the result of the study, Gardner said that would be “down the road.” He acknowledged mold problems in the portable classrooms and said the district plans to replace them with permanent facilities.
Among the data presented, which surprised members of the group, was the statistic that 45 percent of Blanco’s students are considered “economically disadvantaged” and that only 20 percent of BHS students go on to complete a four-year degree. To that end, Gardner said that he hopes to emphasize vocational/technical education through links with Austin Community College to provide graduates with the tools to be successful in their careers.
Gardner called the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) testing “very tough, very stressful for students, staff and parents” but informed the group that the high school TAKS tests will be replaced by end-of-course testing in the near future.
“We feel like we have the best kids around,” he concluded, citing successes this year in sports, FFA, FCCLA, and UIL competitions. “We have a quality staff that makes sure students have every opportunity to be successful.” He called Blanco “a district that is doing everything right. . . with lots of success in providing quality education to all kids.”
In other department reports, Shirley Beck reported that a town hall meeting with the theme “Update Blanco” will be held at the Old Blanco County Courthouse April 17 from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Presenters will include the Chamber of Commerce, the Blanco Library Expansion Project, and the Historical Commission, among other community entities. Architectural drawings will be available of the planned library. A letter from the Blanco Historical Commission was read thanking members of the club for their assistance at the Sesquicentennial Celebration on March 8.
A slate of officers was voted in by the members as follows: President, Bonnie Holmes; First Vice-President, Candy Cargill Wenzel; Second Vice-President, Diane Turner; Third Vice-President, Mary Jane Holden; Recording Secretary, Cathee Copeland; Corresponding Secretary, Lorie Stetler; Reporter, Suzette Connell; Auditor, Patricia Lane; and Parliamentarian, Nell Krueger.
After the meeting was adjourned, members enjoyed refreshments prepared by hostesses Barbara Crowley, Viki Simmons, Judy Gaines, Tish Johnson, and Carolyn Boydston. An Easter-themed refreshment table included tulips, a calla lilly, and a ceramic Easter bunny. Carrot and lemon glace’ cakes, a three-tiered fruit plate, assorted sandwiches, Easter candy, cranberry punch, coffee, and tea were enjoyed by all.