By Gary Emmert, Correspondent
The Belton ISD Board of Trustees held a regular meeting at the district’s administration building on Monday, Feb. 11 with all members present.
The meeting began with the usual workshop updates, including delinquent tax collection reports and bond project updates.
The district collected 100.22% of the total revenue from cash collections, accrediting the extra revenue to penalties and interest paid as well as prior year delinquencies collected in the current fiscal year. “For each one of the last five years, we have collected over 100% of your levy in a given year,” said Matthew Tepper. “That number is important because that means that, when you set your budget and plan on having a certain amount of money coming in from property tax collections, you are getting that money.”
The construction of Charter Elementary School is in the final months before completion, according to Kurt Schwerdtfeger and Jarrod Sterzinger of O’Connell Robertson. “The north side of the building which has the fourth and fifth grade wing is the most complete right now, all of the bathrooms are tiled and we have partitions up,” said Schwerdtfeger. “We’re targeting substantial completion, which means the owner will have beneficial use of the facility at the end of March,” added Sterzinger. The structure that will be the Performing Arts Center at Lake Belton High School has been completed in the last month and they anticipate the last of the 400,000 square feet of concrete will poured on the site next month. The construction is about 1/3 complete, according to Sterzinger. They estimated that roughly 400 people would attend the ceremonial placing of the last piece of steel on April 26th, an important milestone in any construction project.
After a brief closed session, groups and individuals were recognized for achievements and awards. Included were the Belton high school cheer squad who took home first place at the National Cheerleaders Association All-Star Nationals. The competition was held the last weekend of January in Dallas. Magic Belles co-captain Amber Kunz was selected as an all-state dancer in January and was just one of just five scholarship recipients, claiming the top scholarship of $2,500 from the Texas Dance Educators’ Association. Belton High School senior and Marching 100 drum major Sara Hoffman was selected as a member of the Texas All-State Band, she plays the clarinet and will perform along-side the best musicians in the state at the Heart of Texas Music Educators’ Convention in San Antonio the week. Kara Fish, Andrew Holcomb, and Ian Farrell have been selected as members of the Texas All-State Choir. Fish, a junior at Belton High School, was selected for the second year in a row.
Miller Heights Elementary School teacher Michelle Mikeska was recognized as the Rotary Educator of the Quarter. Wendy Ingram, second grade math and science teacher at High Point Elementary, was recognized as Educator of the Month. The Bell County Expo Center was named the Big Red Community Partner of the Month.
There were no public comments.
Dr. Susan Kincannon presented the Superintendent’s Report to the board, formally announcing that Jill Ross had been selected as the first principal of Lake Belton High School and Ben Smith will be the next Belton High School principal. With this announcement, Kincannon said that positions are open and posted to replace Smith as principal of Belton New Tech High School and North Belton Middle School will also need a new principal as Joe Brown is retiring at the end of March after 35 years in public education and 22 years in the Belton school district.
There will be a public school luncheon on Thursday, March 7th at the McLane Great Hall on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor as well as a number of activities that week. More information about those activities will be sent out as the events get near.
Texas Legislative updates included concerns about teacher salaries, in which Texas ranks 43rd to 45th in the nation, and school finance reform.
Director of Human Resources, Calvin Itz, discussed the exchange of employee thoughts, feelings and ideas. This process began with the conduction of stay interviews with employees who have five years or more of experience.
What motivated the employees, Itz reported, were the students, the family environment in Belton, colleagues on their campus, and the support from the community. The most frequent comment was “I feel supported,” and that they welcomed feedback. If the employees had a magic wand they would address the students environment and smaller class sizes. One quote highlighted was, “the grass ain’t always greener, but it’s always fertilized in Belton.”
The district also utilized an app called “Though Exchange” which was open on Jan. 29 and closed on Feb. 4. The survey was anonymous and allowed them to put thoughts into themes. The top ten percent theme showed what is most important to the group as a whole, according to Itz.
Community culture was commonly referred to as a positive in the thoughts as well as campus safety.
Dr. Rachelle Warren’s campus culture spotlight focused on Lakewood Elementary. Students were given the opportunity to interact with one another, with starting a conversation as an area of emphasis. Ensuring all staff and students are taught how to manage their emotions was a priority.
Jennifer Land discussed the budget process and provided a brief overview of the services department. “The budget process is really fluid and always in place and happening,” said Land. Monitoring how funding is utilized determines changes that need to be made with the emphasis on what is best for the students. Impacts from the government shutdown were not seen at the school district, however they were preparing for school nutrition programs by maintaining a separate school food service budget.
“It was months out before we would have been impacted,” said Land.
The board considered and discussed the evaluation of the Superintendent and unanimously approved her contract for another year. “I just wanted to thank you and love watching how you analyze a problem and put the solution into action,” said Dr. Rosie Montgomery.
“We are very blessed to have Dr. Kincannon,” said Jeff Norwood.
“The best thing for our kids is always at the forefront of your mind,” said Janet Leigh.
“Any successful organization always starts with great leadership,” said Manuel Alcozer, who also commended her on her handling of the recent new boundaries proposal.
“When I bring a problem that has been brought to me to Susan and her staff, they will do their due diligence and that means a lot,” said Ty Taggart.
“I do love this place and I appreciate each one of you and your comments,” said Dr. Kincannon in response to the board trustees’ comments.