By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
The first students to be recognized at the Belton Independent School District (BISD) Board of Trustees meeting on Monday were two groups of students who earned state titles in their respective events.
The forensics team, made up of Maybelline Hernandez, Zach Morgan and Julissa Rivas, processed a simulated crime scene at the State SkillsUSA competition, taking home first place in the event. The TeamWorks team, made up of Bryson Coufal, Chris Foss, Andrew Mendoza and Austin Snyder, constructed a fully functional building in two days, including plumbing, electricity and brickwork. The team will participate in the national competition in June.
The BISD sports teams were well represented Monday night, as the boys and girls soccer teams and gold teams appeared before the board. The girls soccer team claimed the District 12-6A co-championship, earning their eleventh straight district title. The boys soccer team won the area championship this year for the first time since 2009, advancing to the quarterfinal round of regional play. The girls golf team finished their season in second place, just two strokes behind the district champions. The boys team won their district for the third consecutive year.
The arts were also represented well at the meeting, as the Belton High School (BHS) One Act Play was recognized for winning the district competition in late March and advancing through the bi-district contest earlier this month. The group competed in the area contest April 18 and was named alternates. Both the BHS and South Belton Middle School (SBMS) received superior ratings at the Temple College Jazz Festival in late March, the highest rating possible. The BHS Magic Belles also appeared before the board for their outstanding performance in the HTEDance Nationals. The Magic Belles received “Grand Champion” award for their modern, jazz and kick routines; “Super Sweepstakes” awards in the large team category; and second place for their novelty routine. The team received the Showmanship, Choreography, Entertainment, Exemplary Technique and Precision awards. They placed third overall out of 45 teams competing in all divisions, placing second in the large team division.
In the academic field, students from across the district continue to excel. In particular, 16 students qualified for regionals in multiple events at the District UIL Academic Meet on April 11. The regional meet will be held tomorrow at Baylor University. In addition, 19 BISD students were recognized as state qualifiers in the Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP), which identifies academically gifted and talented seventh graders and invites them to take either the ACT or the SAT. Of those, Jenny Choi received “grand recognition” for scoring high enough to be placed among the top 10 percent of high school graduates.
Following student recognitions, two teachers were recognized for their contributions to BISD. LaGay Pittenger was named Rotary Educator of the Quarter by the Belton Rotary Club. Pittenger is a fifth grade teacher at Lakewood Elementary. She has taught within BISD for 22 years, and now teaches language arts, reading and social studies. Erica Garrett was named Educator of the Month by the Temple Rotary Club. Garrett has worked for BISD for eight years and currently serves as an English III and AP English IV teacher at BHS, where she has a particular talent for connecting with struggling students.
The board’s consent agenda included the scheduled replacement of iPads at South Belton Middle School, the Financial Report for the month of March and the sale of a dwelling on 2nd Avenue. The agenda was passed unanimously.
In her Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Susan Kincannon gave the board an update on STAAR testing, which is currently on schedule. She also reported on the progress of the Ag Barn. Although weather set the completion date back from the original plans, the barn is on path to be complete by May 15.
The board received a presentation about the Temple Parks Bond Election, which will affect many park areas within the Belton school district. Overall, the council expressed support of the bond, welcoming improvements to the quality of life of students and residents in Temple city limits.
The bond proposal totals $27,675,000 and will include 24 projects throughout the City of Temple such as improvements of neighborhood parks – think benches and shade sails – new parks, parking and linkage trails.
“We commend you for stepping out on a bond project to build more parks and continue high quality of living for our families,” Board President Randy Pittenger said.
Dr. Merl Brandon, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services and Administration, presented the board with an update to the district’s vision, mission statement and goals. Brandon outlined a vision that BISD will “leader in preparing every student to excel in tomorrow’s world” and a mission to “provide an education that challenges all of our students to excel.” The board unanimously approved the updates.
The board also unanimously approved the hire of two teachers, Jeannette Dreher and Martha Marroquin, as well as moving Sarah Knight from part-time to full-time work. Dreher will serve as the newest Kindergarten teacher at Southwest Elementary School, which Marroquin will step in as a fourth grade teacher at Southwest. Knight will teach sixth grade English at Lake Belton Middle School.
The board then heard a presentation on the Swim Center Feasibility Study conducted by O’Connell Robertson Architects. The district’s current swim center, located at Belton High School, was built in 2007 and serves BISD high school, middle school and elementary students and the local community through swim lessons, senior swims and rehabilitation programs.
According to the study, high priority renovations to the building include adding a concession area and separate coaches locker rooms and office space. The coaches and athletes currently share a locker room built for approximately 20 people. Aside from the obvious complications of adults and students sharing a changing space, this setup is also not conducive for hosting large swim meets. Lower priority renovations include additional swim team storage areas and additional team locker rooms.
The proposed renovations would take approximately one year and four months from start to finish, including a 5-month design phase, 2-month bidding and negotiation period and nine months of construction.
The board will discuss the options further at a later time.
The meeting came to a close with a budget update from Phil Haggerty, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services.
BISD’s financial department has already completed Phase I of their budget: Evaluation. In this phase, Haggerty and his staff looked at the information BISD currently has, including the accuracy of past budgets and the nature of past budget amendments. They then worked through Phase II: Development and Implementation. This phase included planning how to present the information found in Phase I to stakeholders, establishing a timeline to present the information and informing stakeholders of expectations. They have now met with each stakeholder who has a budget and moved into Phase III: Budget Preparation.
“We’re getting a packet together now for Dr. Kincannon,” Haggerty said. “On the 30th of this month, we’ll meet with the Appraisal District to get an idea of what our property taxes will be. There’s been some work in the (Texas) Legislature. We continue to meet with stakeholders, gather information from them, watch the Legislature every day trying to anticipate what they’re going to do.”
Included in the Legislature affecting public schools is House Bill 1, which would increase funding for public schools by $2.2 billion.
“Representative (Jimmy) Aycock, as he said he would, has been working very diligently on this, and we appreciate him,” Haggerty said. “It’s refreshing to have a representative actually tell you they’re going to do something during the campaign, get elected and then go down and actually try to do it.”
The BISD Board of Trustees will reconvene May 18 at 5 p.m. in the BISD Administration Building, 400 N. Wall Street in Belton.