By Cassidy Pate, News Editor
The Belton Board of Trustees held a regular meeting on Monday.
A board workshop was held, wherein Kurt Schwerdtfeger, Architect from O’Connell Robertson, provided a construction update on Lake Belton High School (LBHS) – the exterior of which is 90 percent complete – and the Belton High School Orchestra Addition. Both projects are set to open for the 2020-21 school year.
Board Member Manuel Alcozer delivered a Policy Committee Report, in which he discussed the upcoming task of creating a standard operating procedure for the Belton Board of Trustees that combines the code of ethics and the district’s policies and procedures. These must be in line with Texas State Law, as well as the Texas Association of School Boards.
“The goal is to send a standing operating procedure into this district that we’re first of all going to be proud to do; secondly, it’s going to address any changes that occur in the future, and thirdly it will be something that will be set in place for years to come,” Alcozer said.
Michelle Box, Research Manager at Templeton Demographics, presented the Fall Preliminary Demographic Update based on data from the 2018-19 school year. Box said Belton ISD adds approximately 300 students per year, establishing a 2.6 percent growth rate. In the state of Texas, 5.4 million total enrollments in public and charter schools occurred, which indicates a growth of 32 thousand more students than last year.
Approximately one third of our district’s students are Hispanic, about half are white, and about 45 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, and Belton ISD has added about 1,500 students in the last five years, making it the second fastest growing district in Region 12 behind Killeen ISD.
1,960 lots are available to build upon, and more than 5,540 future lots are in stages of development with an increasing rate of home growth in the district, which, congruently, has raised the employment rate and reduced the unemployment rate of the district. 457 (3.7 percent) of Belton ISD students, faculty and staff are interdistrict – coming from outside district lines.
Following this presentation, Interim Superintendent Dr. Robin Battershell gave the Superintendent’s Report. 150 citizens participated in the Community Impact Survey, which provided community members an opportunity to contribute to the superintendent search process.
Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Todd Schiller recommended Stacie Seveska as the principal for Belton Middle School, which will open for the 2020-21 school year in replacement of the BHS9 building. The board unanimously voted in favor of Seveska’s employment.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Deanna Lovesmith offered a request for new middle and high school courses for the 2020-21 school year. The proposed middle courses include: a sixth-grade shift from Art/Th Art to MS1 and Theartre Arts MS1, Coding/Robotics, Foundations of Dance (seventh and eighth grade), Journalism and Yearbook. 14 high school, elective courses are being recommended, and the students will have an opportunity to give input on which of these courses they would benefit from the most.
Dr. Lovesmith added that because the state is requiring districts to pay for Pre-AP courses, former Pre-AP courses will be labeled Advanced (unless College Board curriculum) but will remain at their current weight.
Fifth Grade Teacher at Chisholm Trail Elementary Christina Henning (21 years in education, 15 years with Belton ISD) was recognized by the Belton Rotary Club as the Rotary Educator of the Quarter. Dyslexia Teacher at Tarver Elementary Amy Jourden (20 years with Belton ISD) was recognized by the Temple Rotary Club as the Rotary Educator of the Month.
“The fact that you do have so many years, that’s just testament to your love for what you do and for the kids in the community, so thank you so much for doing what you do,” Board President Suzanne M. McDonald said.
Dr. Lovesmith and Vickie Dean, Director of Accountability, Intervention and Testing, then presented on Targeted Improvement Plans for Belton ISD, as six Belton ISD schools were identified as “Targeted Improvement Schools.” Dr. Lovesmith presented five levers (strategies) for effective schools from the state, and Dean reviewed each school and discussed the targeted support being implemented throughout the district.
Continuing on the curriculum and instruction front, Dr. Lovesmith discussed the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test and provided eight examples of questions that have been asked across various grade levels in order to give the board an idea of what students are preparing for.
“I think it’s important, and I just wanted to show you that because when we’re talking about ratings and letter grades, this is the test; this is what all kids are tested on, whether you’re on grade level or not, whether you’re writing or not,” Dr. Lovesmtih said. “We all know that children progress at different and various stages over a career of 13 years with us counting kindergarten, 14 if you could Pre-K, but the state has set standard levels that students will be able to perform at or are expected to perform at for that grade.”
Principal of LBHS Jill Ross stepped to the microphone to communicate updates on the school’s plans for its inaugural school year of 2020-21: “Planning Beyond the Building.” More on this update can be found on Page A5.
(Leon Heights Elementary, Chisholm Trail Elementary, Miller Heights Elementary, Southwest Elementary, South Belton Middle School and Lake Belton Middle School) were identified as “Targeted Improvement Schools.”