At the second of two special meetings held July 15 and 17, trustees elected Dr. Buck Ford as the new BISD superintendent. Dr. David Behrends moved for the appointment, and MaryAnn Weaver seconded. The vote was not unanimous, however, reflecting a continuing split among trustees. Bernie San Miguel and Troy Immel abstained. However, in comments after the meeting, both expressed hope that Ford will be successful and pledged to support him. Said San Miguel, “I’m just hoping we have a quick turnaround on our elementary test scores.” Both Immel and Charles Riley agreed, “We want him to do well and will support him.”
The selection of a new superintendent was on the minds of trustees and those in attendance at the regular July 14 meeting. In open forum, local resident Bill Fojtasek advocated hiring a superintendent from candidates already familiar with the workings of the school district. Citing his years of experience working for the Texas Education Agency, he asserted, “When you hire from within, you don’t need to grease the wheel.” Previously, at a special board meeting held June 24, trustees had voted to nominate Craig Spinn, Gene Solis, and Buck Ford as finalists for the BISD superintendent position.
Blanco High School tennis player Austin Carrola and his father Ernie spoke to trustees in support of new tennis courts for the high school and an addition to the stands at the Panther stadium. Austin reminded trustees that the current courts, located on the elementary school campus, were built in the 70’s and are already beginning to crack, in spite of recent re-surfacing. He added that the courts are not convenient for the 30+ members of the middle school tennis team or the 40+ members of the high school team to practice on. Reading from notes prepared by his father, he added that many residents of all ages in the community would benefit from new courts.
Later in the meeting, trustees continued the discussion about courts as well as stadium seat additions. According to athletic director Danny Rogers, Tony Petri and Kay Fraser have already researched additional seating, which would cost approximately $112K for a 1250-seat unit. For approximately $100K, 600 seats could be added on the home side and 250 on the visitors’ side. Dr. Ford asked about the timeline for installing any seats that were approved, and Fraser responded that it would depend on the vendor chosen for the job.
In regard to tennis courts, Rogers said that he and former superintendent Cliff Gardner had priced new tennis courts at the time the existing ones were resurfaced, obtaining an estimate of $50K per court, including nets and fencing. Trustee Troy Immel questioned how many courts would be needed, and Rogers responded at least four. Fraser estimated that new lighting would cost approximately $25K, adding that the last lights purchased were bought with a PEC grant. Trustees recommended that Rogers get pricing on six courts, without lighting. Trustee Charles Riley expressed concerns about the safety of the baseball bleachers.
Martha Gosnell, City of Blanco coordinator for the Safe Routes to School program, reviewed a “Safe Routes to School Assessment of Blanco Schools” prepared for TXDOT by the Texas Transportation Institute. The study was done as part of a grant application for $100K which could help build safe sidewalks for elementary and middle school students who walk to school. Study findings included the need for school zone signs with posted times on them and signs both at the beginning and the end of school zones. Gosnell clarified that TXDOT would take care of signage on Highway 281. Some crosswalk markings were found to be out of compliance with the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, as were the barricades used to close 11th Street each day. It was recommended that “Non-standard” signs such as the “Slow School Zone” signs used along Rocky Road should be removed to avoid driver confusion and replaced with standard school zone signs. According to Gosnell, traffic guards at the elementary school should receive training by the Blanco police department. Gosnell concluded that there will be an “International Walk to School Day” on October 8, encouraging students to walk to school. Prizes will be awarded.
In other business, trustees voted to approve the following: participation in the Region 19 purchasing cooperative for “administrative and instructional software and hardware products used by school districts in Texas”; a resolution authorizing a tax resale of property in the Lake of the Hills subdivision for $400 to Diamond D Developers, Inc. of South Dakota; and an increase in school breakfast and lunch prices by $.25 for all levels of students. Breakfast costs for students in grades K-5 will be $1.50; lunch costs will be $2.00 for students grades K-5 and $2.25 for students in grades 6-12.
Trustees also approved the sale of four school buses, all of which have logged over 100,000 miles. Two buses are 71-passenger and the other two are handicapped buses. In a later e-mail to trustees, Ford clarified that the district will have two handicapped buses when a new handicapped bus which has been ordered arrives, and that, in his words, “We believe this will enable us to meet the needs of the handicapped students in our district.” In answer to a trustee’s question, Fraser clarified that the new handicapped bus will have seat restraints and a wheel chair lift, as well as air-conditioning. Fourteen special education students are transported on two routes by these buses. Two new pick-up trucks have also been purchased, one for maintenance and the other for ag use. Both are replacing old vehicles.
A draft of the 2008-09 budget was presented for review by the board. Ford explained that the Operating Fund budget is increased 7.04 percent, or $653,080, over the previous year. Increases are in the areas of salaries and payroll taxes. Other increases are in the areas of technology, library books, and fuel costs. One of the buses, Fraser explained, will be purchased with money from the current budget, since the price will go up significantly if the vehicle is not purchased in August. Troy Immel questioned whether fuel costs might be lower because the UIL district alignment will require less travel. Fraser responded that she calculated 1/3 less transportation cost than last year, estimating $6.00 per gallon. Trustees voted to change the August meeting to August 4th in order to facilitate budget adoption. The deadline for budget adoption, explained Ford, is August 20th, but it must be posted 10 days in advance.
In executive session, trustees were given the results of a state-mandated security audit performed last spring by Jennifer Neafcy from Region 13 at a cost of $2,200. They also deliberated employment of personnel, announcing in open session the hiring of Elizabeth Inge as a special education teacher at the high school .