Published May 22, 2014
By Devin Corbitt, News Editor
Monday’s Belton Independent School Board of Trustees meeting was filled with warm welcomes as the board accepted multiple employees to the district along with the reinstatement of board members Jason Carothers and Amanda Winkler.
The first orders of business was declaring the results of the May 10 school board election and administering the Oath of Office to Jason Carothers and Amanda Winkler, who were both reelected to their positions on the board.
“Any time incumbents are reelected, it’s a positive vote for the Board, the staff and the superintendents,” Carothers said. “I see it as a positive point for all of us.”
The board also accepted the recommendations of hiring 27 new employees, including four key administrators within the district: Richard Thomas, Coordinator of Fine Arts; Tiffany Weiss, Leon Heights Principal; Samuel Wilds, Coordinator of Advanced Academic Services; and Floridalia Zuniga-Gray, Director of Bilingual Education.
Thomas is currently the band director at Red Oak High School and has 18 years of experience in education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in educational administration.
“Richard, we want to welcome you and look forward to what you bring,” Pittenger said. “We have a lot of pride in our fine arts in Belton, and one of the things we like to say is, ‘Fine arts are alive and well here.’ Our students have excelled, we’ve done great things and we expect to continue to do great things. We look forward to what you bring to us to take us to the next level and get even better.”
Weiss is currently the assistant principal at High Point Elementary and previously held that position at Sparta Elementary. Weiss has also worked as a middle school academic advisor and teacher in Killeen ISD. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in educational administration.
“There is a great legacy of leadership at that campus, and we know you’re prepared for that, so thank you for taking on that challenge,” Pittenger said.
Wilds currently teaches social studies in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Temple High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in curriculum and instruction and a master’s degree in history and has 20 years of experience in education.
“We’re looking forward to what you bring to us and taking us to even greater opportunities for our students to excel,” Pittenger said.
Zuniga-Gray is currently an instructional coach in Manor ISD and has also served as a bilingual specialist, bilingual reading interventionist and reading recovery teacher for 23 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and bilingual education and a master’s degree in educational administration.
“She has a lot of energy that came shining through in her interview, a lot of energy, a lot of passion for learning,” BISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon said. “I was delighted to meet her, and I was impressed that she herself came as an English language learner to our public schools.”
The board also recognized numerous students for both academic and athletic accomplishments at district, regional and state competitions within the past month. The Sons of American Revolution also presented Gretchen Foster, a U.S. History teacher at Belton High School, as the winner of the Tom and Betty Lawrence American History Teacher Award at the state level. She will continue on to the national competition later this year.
Janet Heath was named the Temple Rotary Educator of the Month. She is a Kindergarten teacher at Southwest Elementary School, as well as serving in a variety of other ways at the school.
“We appreciate what you do for our children,” Pittenger said. “Thank you to the Temple Rotary for your sponsorship.”
In other business, Kincannon’s superintendent report included graduation and construction updates.
This year, BISD will graduate 629 students, the largest graduating class in the school’s history. Commencement exercises will be held on June 5 at 8 p.m. in the Bell County Expo Center. The Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation has $84,350 in scholarships, with over $1.6 million in total scholarships reported by students.
Kincannon also reported that Chisholm Trail Elementary is nearly completed, as is construction on the fine arts building at South Belton Middle School.
The board also approved a $130,000 increase to the original bid of $350,000 to renovate Tyler Elementary to transform it into the Belton Early Childhood School in the fall, bringing the total cost of the project to $480,000. According to the contractor, final costs may be lower than this, but will not exceed it.
The project will renovate the restrooms in the school to allow for better student monitoring, removing the lockers in the hallway and replacing the tile flooring.
“Not only are we making the restrooms more suitable for early childhood students, but we’re also making them ADA compliant, and we’re increasing the number of stalls that are available for both girls and boys,” Kincannon said. “We think it’s going to be a good Early Childhood school for us, and we do think it’s a good investment. We think the restrooms are in bad need of being upgraded for the campus.”
During the meeting, board members also received updates and information on the status of the district’s transparency website, which can be found at http://www.bisd.net/transparency; the community and student engagement final ratings for the district and each campus, which are self-evaluations conducted throughout the district and which will be submitted to the state; and the CTE report on certifications offerings, which involves certifications such as welding certificates that students can earn before they enter the workforce.
The next board meeting will be held on June 16.