Trustees, and those in attendance at the April 14 BISD meeting, were treated to highlights from a TAG+ Open House held April 1 at Blanco Middle School under the direction of Linda Collard, TAG+ coordinator. Callie Nance, grade 8, performed the piece “Short Story on keyboard; Kellum Nance gave a spirited reading of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”; Abbie Weaver displayed the 6-foot giraffe she had welded; and 6th grader Alexandria Penshorn displayed her exceptional photographs, one of which BC News readers may remember seeing in a recent issue. Ms. Collard explained that each of the 44 TAG students took two to three months to prepare their projects, which included a two-page paper summarizing their research.
Blanco Elementary School PTO representative Crystal Flores, along with several students, presented trustees with a letter of thanks for the recent improvements at the school, including a new basketball court and goal, rock work, landscaping, picnic tables and benches, and painting. Fifth grade science teacher Mike McClure praised the trustees for the superior financial rating which the district has received and thanked Blanco National Bank and Sta-Bilt Hardware for their contributions toward the elementary students’ trip to Corpus Christi over the past ten years.
Director of Technology Tom Cozzi reviewed an extensive list of technology updates on the district’s three campus since August, including 91 new computers district-wide; the installation and implementation of a new district-wide library system and a textbook inventory system with a centralized database (Destiny); and several upgrades, including the fiber connections between campuses, several existing softwares throughout the district; and upgraded routers at the middle and elementary schools.
Curriculum specialist Kathy Anderson reviewed the successes of teachers using the new C-Scope curriculum-enhancement program, including several who will become trainers for other districts using the program, and several who will actually be writing C-Scope curriculum. Extra help will also be provided for those students who need extra help passing the TAKS tests at all schools.
Blanco Elementary School principal Scott Kvapil reported that the math textbook selection committee has completed its work, with Harcourt School Publishers texts selected. He thanked committee members for their hard work. He also reported 3rd grade TAKS reading scores of 83% with 21% of students earning a Commended Performance rating; and 5th grade scores of 81%.
Blanco Middle School principal Dr. Buck Ford reported a passing rate of 97% on the 8th grade reading TAKS test, with 53% attaining the Commended Performance rating. He expressed special thanks to the following for their efforts with students: Anita Boyd, 8th grade reading teacher; Amy Arlitt, 8th grade language arts teacher; Jennifer Seales, instructional specialist; Jacqueline Brown and Carole Pepper, special ed teachers; and Horacio Villegas and Celia Avila, instructional aides.
Financial officer Kay Fraser reported that the district’s enrollment is currently 895 and that the Texas Education Association overpaid the district based on a budget submitted which over-estimated enrollment. Superintendent Cliff Gardner later explained to this reporter that the district would not have to return the surplus, but that the district’s allotment of funds might be reduced proportionately next year. He also asserted that the district is in sound financial shape and was able to put $1.2 million into its investment funds last year.
Blanco High School principal Duston Barton reported on the success of success of Blanco students in recent UIL competition, with a number of students advancing to regional competition.
In his report, superintendent Cliff Gardner thanked Jimmy Klepac of Klepac Greenhouses for their donation of plantings for the three campuses, as well as the maintenance staff, who installed them. “Maintenance did a great job; we’re very proud of how our campuses look,” he enthused. He also expressed excitement about the Accredited Rating the district received on TAKS scores. “The bar has been raised; it is hard to keep the level we have had,” he explained but expressed hope that the district may reach Exemplary status.
Gardner also provided information on the Teen Justice Initiative Program which he explained will act as a support program to the district’s dating violence regulations and guidelines. It also addresses the issue of bullying. According to Gardner, “TJI was developed by the Texas Advocacy Project with their main objective to extend legal assistance to young victims of domestic violence. The TJI will provide free and confidential legal information to young victims of domestic violence in person and over the phone. TJI will also provide free direct legal representation to young people in need of protective order. There is no cost to the district for participating in the program.
Gardner also gave an update on the recent Energy Audit, performed by Bill Savarino with TAC Systems, saying that the preliminary energy analysis gives “a good snapshot” of where the district is and looks, “very promising” with a possible savings of $44,000 or $660, 000 over the next 10 years. Savings could be achieved by the expansion of energy management systems, changing to a red-wire system, and using comprehensive lighting fixtures on all campuses. He recommended a workshop to determine how to proceed on the recommendations.
Architect Randy Fromberg came before the trustees to review the revised architectural services agreement which has been reviewed by a Dallas attorney hired by president Matt Herden. According to the agreement, the district would be under no obligation to pay Fromberg unless it decides to proceed with recommended renovations, based on an analysis of existing facilities and expected population growth. “We’re here to analyze your needs, not to sell you something you don’t need,” he said.
Acknowledging that the board is divided in its desire to proceed, Herden presented a list of reasons why the study is not feasible at this time, including the financial report given earlier by Fraser and the issues of teacher pay and course loads. “I can’t see this as the district’s high priority,” he summarized. In discussion before a vote, both Troy Immel and Bernie San Miguel voiced support for the study, since it would impose no financial obligation on the district and would provide useful information for prioritizing any improvements. The superintendent asked other members for their ideas, and Dr. Behrends called the study “a waste of time” since it might have to be done again in two years. Mary Ann Weaver also asserted, “I think we need to hold off. “ Trustee Kirk Felps expressed support for the study while acknowledging that there are other priorities. In the final vote, Weaver, Behrends, Felps, and Herden voted not to proceed with the study, while Charles Riley, Bernie San Miguel, and Troy Immel voted in support of it. A number in attendance expressed their disappointment with the trustees’ decision, while the superintendent said, “I’m just sick about it.”
In other business, trustees reported that the following persons have filed for candidacy for the Board of Trustees Election on May 10: Place 1—Ann Broyles and Mary Ann Weaver (incumbent); and Place 2—Troy Immel (unopposed). A date for the canvass of votes from the May 10 election was set for Thursday, May 15, at 8 a.m. in the superintendent’s office. Trustees approved a budget amendment increasing the Title federal grants to maximum entitlement for 2007-08, including funds for Title I Part A to $206,724; Migrant Grant to $35,276; Title II Technology to $2,080; Title V Innovative to $1,387; and Title II to $37,729.
Following executive session, trustees voted to approve the resignations of Anita Boyd, Kirk Beckendorf, and Cindy Downing. The hiring of Caroline Wheeler as a middle school special ed teacher and Daron Hughes as an 8th grade math teacher was also approved.
Crystal Flores with elementary students
Abbie Weaver with giraffe (head not shown) and Mary Ann Weaver
Alexandria Penshorn with photo exhibit
Callie Nance at keyboard
Kellum Nabers reading "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
Linda Collard with TAG+ students