The Belton ISD Board of Trustees met for a regular meeting on Monday to welcome Superintendent Dr. Matthew Smith to the district and consider the implementation of standards-based grading for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade.

Harvey Allen, Attorney at McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen, P.C., started the meeting with a presentation on property tax collection activity for Belton ISD and revealed that the district has collected over 100 percent of its tax levy for the last five years.

Jarrod Sterzinger of O’Connell Robertson provided a construction update on Lake Belton High School (LBHS) and the Belton High School (BHS) Orchestra Addition. LBHS is 85 percent complete, the orchestra addition is 55 percent complete, and both projects are on track to be completed for the 2020-21 school year.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Robin Battershell offered the Superintendent’s Report and detailed the movement to ACER Chromebooks across the district’s high schools. In upcoming years, incoming ninth graders will receive a computer and, if they are able to keep it in good condition through their high school career, then they will have the opportunity to keep it following their high school graduation.

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB) and Belton ISD co-hosted a paraprofessional (unlicensed) teacher training on Monday and those in attendance learned of teacher certification opportunities for the purpose of turning paraprofessionals into teachers, which is consistent with the district’s growing rate and need for teachers for the upcoming school year. 150 people attended out of the 175 who were invited, Battershell said.

Battershell also noted that middle school students hoping to make a middle school swim team will be required to attend mandatory tryouts next year. On a similar note, Chisholm Trail Elementary School will be adding two double portables to its campus for the 2020-21 school year due to space limitations.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Todd Schiller recommended Ashlie Thomas for the assistant principal position at Lakewood Elementary School, and the board approved of her employment.

Mike Morgan, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, provided the district’s 2020-21 school safety and security update. More information on this topic will be presented in next week’s edition of The Belton Journal.

In accordance with Dr. Matthew Smith being named the lone finalist for the Belton ISD superintendent position, the board unanimously approved both his employment contract and a moving and relocation expenses agreement regarding his start date of Monday, Feb. 24.

“We are so honored and pleased to recommend him, so honored and pleased to look to the future with him,” McDonald said. “We’re in a good place, and we are so excited to have Dr. Smith to be able to continue the journey.”

In response, Smith thanked his former school districts for developing him into the leader he is today, as well as his family for supporting him and the Belton ISD staff for making him feel welcome.

“In the past 21 days, I’ve gotten to know the staff here in Belton ISD…and they have been more welcoming and gracious with their time and effort in the past 21 days in just allowing me to get to know Belton ISD and the community we serve in Belton and Temple,” Smith said.

Smith’s contract will go into effect on Monday, and he will be greeting the students, parents and faculty of Southwest Elementary School at 7:10 a.m. that morning.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” Smith said. “I feel a little disconnected because I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down with the teachers yet, and we all know that the teachers are the lifeblood of the school district, and we need to sit down and listen and learn from them, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Deanna Lovesmith then discussed the transition into standards-based grading for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade classes throughout the district. Standards-based grading seeks to bridge the gap between students, teachers and parents by allowing parents a clearer way of deciphering their child’s grades.

“What happens at the early grades is that those grades are really hard to communicate to a parent how he’s actually doing and how I can support him at home, and it’s a struggle for teachers to really show all his skills,” Lovesmith said. “I really think it’ll be a game changer for communication with our parents at early levels; I truly believe that.”

If this technique proves successful across the district, then Lovesmith said she and her team will consider introducing it into higher grade levels.

The board will reconvene at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 23 at the Pittenger Fine Arts Center.