At their regular meeting on October 11, trustees of the Blanco Independent School District honored high school science teachers Howard Seltzer, Jennifer Bird, Elise Pittman, and Amanda Fulton for their efforts on behalf of the students of BISD, citing increases in TAKS scores, notably among Hispanic and Economically Disadvantaged populations. Blanco Middle School principal Jesse Salazar recognized eighth grade cheerleaders Peyton Savarino, Lexee Jenkins, Kari Graham, Katherine Biggs, Jamie McClinton, and Abbie Fulton; seventh grade cheerleaders Maddie Kunkel, Vanessa Skilman, Taylor Calder, Bret Nance, and Kenze Adamson; and mascot Merritt Johnson. On behalf of sponsor Mrs. Wheeler, Salazar thanked them “for all the things they do.”
In Open Forum resident Bill Fojtasek protested the $600K set aside for tennis courts in the upcoming November 2 bond issue vote, stating that the money should be added to the $100K set aside for a science lab. “I’m not against sports,” he assured trustees. ”I think every kid should participate in sports,” he added, but said he would need proof that the old courts “are an endangerment.” As someone over 65 on a fixed income, he expressed concern over the taxes he must pay and said the school district “covered up” the cost of courts.
Ron Fieseler, general manager of the Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater District, presented trustees with a Hydrological Atlas and DVD to be used by students and community members. The Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater District includes portions of Blanco, Hays, and Travis Counties. Copies of the atlas will be given to both the Johnson city and Blanco libraries as well as the libraries of both school districts. Dr. Buck Ford thanked Mr. Fieseler and members of the groundwater district for the donation and for their hard work in compiling the exhaustive resource.
Director of Curriculum and Special Programs Kathy Anderson updated trustees on staff development activities for the current school year, quoting Dr. Ford’s words that they are “an investment in our teachers and through them an investment in our students.” Activities include a conference in Austin at the District 13 Center before school started; leadership training throughout the year in the C-Scope program; SPARC training (Structured Planning—Aligning Resources and Curriculum); the Data-Driven Decisions program to improve student success on TAKS testing; School-Ready Collaborative Training; the Data Revolution, creating plans for school improvements; Power of Two training to assist special education students within the regular classroom, and Project Share.
Financial Manager Kay Fraser updated trustees on the District Food Services Program, which has a $500k budget and serves approximately 700 lunches and 250 breakfasts per day to BISD students. Although food prices “have skyrocketed,” in her words, there has been no increase in school lunch prices for the past three years. Menus are individualized to each campus, explained Fraser, who said the focus is on healthier meals containing less sugar and oil while maintaining good taste and an attractive appearance. There has been an effort to increase participation in buying meals in order to increase government subsidies, and in the first six meals there has been an increase of approximately 50 meals per day. Menus are listed on the district web site (blancoisd.org) as well as distributed at each campus. Student and parent feedback is welcomed in developing menus.
A public hearing was held on the district’s Internet Safety Policy, as mandated by House Bill 3171 Section 38.023. As Technology Director Tony Cozzi explained, BISD utilizes an internet filter contracted through Region 13 Education Service Center. All computers and workstations at BISD with internet access are filtered through a NetSpective filtering appliance “that prevents access to P2P (peer-to-peer) sites and applications, effectively ensuring the safety and security of your school’s network.” There was no public input on the presentation. Copies of the BISD Acceptable Use Policy have been distributed to all students and teachers, urging “responsible behavior” or proper “netiquette” for students. Responsible behavior includes the following:
• Be polite. Do not be abusive in messages to others,
• Use the Internet as a resource tool only.
• Use appropriate language.
• Stay on task.
According to the policy, “The use of the internet is a privilege, not a right, and inappropriate use will result in a cancellation of those privileges.” A lengthy list of Guidelines and Prohibitions for students and teachers is included in the Policy.
In a public meeting required by the Texas Education Agency, Kay Fraser reported that the district received a Superior rating from the Financial Integrity Rating System for the 2008-09 school year. “I was very happy to get the superior rating,” said Fraser. “We continue to monitor the indicators, [and] we are continuing to hold our own.” The district received a score of 77 on 22 indicators, with 56 being a passing score.
In other business, trustees ratified additional election workers for the November 2 bond election to fill the slots of workers who have resigned and to add an additional worker. Workers ratified are as follows: Carolyn Stevenson (Precinct 102), Sharon Romero (Precinct 402), and Kim Watt (Precinct 201). Trustees also delegated authority for the superintendent to appoint election workers in an emergency capacity as needed. A special trustees meeting was scheduled for Monday, November 15, at 9 a.m. to canvass the bond election results. A minimum of two trustees constitutes a quorum for the canvass. Dr. Ford reiterated that several informational “Coffee with the Superintendent” meetings concerning the bond issue will be held in the next few weeks—October 13 at BES at 8:05 a.m.; October 14 at BMS at 8:05 a.m., and October 15 at BHS at 8:05 a.m. In addition, an evening Town Hall Meeting will be held at BES on October 19 at 6 p.m.
Finally, trustees approved the second reading of TASB Policy Update 88 and approved a textbook selection committee consisting of staff from the three campuses.