At the December 10 meeting of the Blanco ISD trustees, parents Ann Broyles and Chrissie McGinnis once again addressed the board with their concerns about deteriorating facilities, including 12-year-old portable classrooms at Blanco Elementary in which fifth graders are housed, mold in the pre-K portable classroom, and the condition of the original old yellow building. “Why are our students still in portables?” asked Broyles, adding that students and teachers in the 12-year-old buildings must be evacuated in case of severe weather. “I would hope we would do better for our students and teachers,” she concluded, ending with the question, “Do we have surplus money? We should be using it for students.”
McGinnis provided the BC News with a copy of the Department of State Health Services Environmental Inspection Form, based on an inspection done November 20, 2007, which cited numerous roof leaks, structural damage to ceilings, and moldy areas needing repair. “Where is our pride?” lamented McGinnis, asking rhetorically, “What are our district’s policies dealing with maintenance? Why are we continuing to ignore these problems?” She reiterated Broyles’ request that any surplus money be used to begin repairs immediately. President Matt Herden asked both women for copies of their remarks.
In his report, Superintendent Cliff Gardner addressed the concern about the condition of the old yellow building by asking Dr. Shirley Beck to update the trustees on her efforts to obtain grants for its renovation. Beck acknowledged that it is hard to find “bricks and mortar” grants at this time, but that she has “cleared the decks” of other commitments so that she can devote more time to soliciting grants for the project, which will cost roughly $1.5 million, according to an architect’s estimate. As she outlined the steps, the first priority is to put a new roof on the building, adding that the facility has deteriorated badly over the years. She informed the trustees that most grants will require matching funds, meaning that the school district, alumni, and other community members need to chip in as well. She welcomed the assistance of Chrissie McGinnis, who she praised as “the first person in two years who has offered to help.” In response to the proposal expressed earlier by McGinnis that fifth graders might be housed in the restored building, Beck countered that it is an antique building and that the current administration building would be a better facility to house students, leaving the restored building for administrators.
Secondly, Gardner provided the trustees with a Facilities Assessment Update. He has met with an architect, who will prepare data to report to the trustees. Also, he has met with energy management consultants with the goal of saving money on energy costs. Finally, the administration is soliciting the assistance of community members to serve on a facilities assessment committee. “I think you’ll be pleased with what we come up with,” he concluded.
Finally, Gardner read the results of a Mold Assessment done by King Consultants showing that several applications of disinfectant had successfully removed the mold. Several air quality tests have shown that the air in the building is safe to breathe; however, it was recommended that the area under the building be vented and that it not be used for storage.
Keith Neffendorf of the firm Neffendorf, Klein, Horry, & Doss, P. C. presented the annual financial audit as of August 31, 2007, in which he characterized the district’s financial position as “good,” with net assets of $8,203,000, general revenue of $10,058,000, and a fund balance of $10,058,000. “The district has done a good job of collecting taxes,” Neffendorf remarked, citing a 96% collection rate. He also informed the board that in 2007, state funding of the district increased slightly, up to 30 per cent, with local contributions accounting for 63 per cent of revenues. He also commended financial officer Kay Fraser for doing “a good job of record keeping.” Fraser also reviewed the district’s investment policy, as required by the Public Investments Act, explaining that the district’s investments, which include CD’s at Blanco National Bank and funds invested in Lonestar Pool and Texpool are, in her words, “very secure, solid, and very liquid. We can access them at any time.”
Curriculum specialist Kathy Anderson updated the board on the new curriculum- enhancing program called C-Scope, sharing common successes and what she called “bumps in the road” expressed by representatives from districts using the program at a recent C-Scope Support meeting in Austin. Common successes include a rise in “rigor and expectations” for students and greater student involvement. The consensus was that beginning teachers benefit greatly from the resources available in the program. Anderson commended elementary science teachers Mike McClure and Kevin Engbretson, who have achieved state-wide recognition for aligning all units of the elementary science curriculum with C-Scope. She also praised teacher Tish Saerhoff, who has been invited to be an instructional writer for the state. “Bumps in the road” included the need for more planning time for teachers and more training in using parts of the program; however, Anderson joked that other districts have “copied us” in hiring subs to free up teachers to do more planning. Other praise went to BISD’s three administrators—Scott Kvapil, Dr. Buck Ford, and Justin Barton, for their efforts to provide interventions for struggling students. Kvapil’s use of the General Education Intervention Support (GIST) program, according to Anderson, “took the lead in District 13” , which has been asked to be a model for other districts.
During the Open Forum portion of the meeting, Blanco Elementary science teacher Mike McClure gave kudos to the board and praised the administration of BES and the district, which he said, “has always given me everything I need. We have leadership which comes to us and asks our opinions and then incorporates feedback into their plans.” McClure also cited improvements to the elementary school, including a new awning and new fencing.
As part of his report, technology coordinator Tom Cozzi also stressed the need for remaining positive, affirming, “I am so impressed by this district. There is a tremendous amount of talent at all three schools.” He also praised Kay Fraser, whom he characterized as “student-driven” and “creative.” He reported that the district has 25 new computers in the district, to be used for remedial math and reading. The software that will be used has the capability to diagnose individual students’ needs, he explained, as part of the “benchmarking” process which predicts TAKS performance scores.