By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
In typical fashion, the regularly scheduled meeting of the Belton Independent School District Board of Trustees began by honoring outstanding students and faculty from the district on Monday night. Among those recognized were four students who were selected for the Texas Music Educator’s Association 2015 All-State Choir. Auditions were held Jan. 10, when Riley
Wesson and Matt McKinnon were named to the All-State Mixed Choir and Caleb Mynatt and Nicholas Hauger to the All-State Men’s Choir. The students will perform in their respective choirs Feb. 14 for TMEA’s annual convention in San Antonio.
Also recognized were the 71 middle school students were earned positions in the All-Region Middle School Orchestra and Band. Six students – Jenny Choi, Meghan Dunnagan, Mariah Montgomery and Nicholas Mueller from Lake Belton Middle School; Roshan Abraham from North Belton Middle School; and Elizabeth DeVault from South Belton Middle School – qualified in the orchestra. A total of 71 students were named to the first or second all-region bands or were named alternates. Sixteen were chosen as first, second or their chairs in the first band. Cynthia Long was chosen as the Temple Rotary Club Educator of the Month. Long has 13 years of experience in education, all of which were gained in BISD, and is currently a French teacher at Belton High School.
Lake Belton Middle School Band Director Kim Flowers was deemed the 2014 Teacher of the Year by VFW Post 4008 and was presented to the school board at the January meeting. Flowers has 30 years of experience in education, 14 of which have been served in BISD.
Assistant City Manager Gene Ellis was also on hand to present the school with a $21,684.68 check for crossing guard programs within the district. The money comes from a $1.50 fee for vehicle registrations within the county, which is then divided between school districts. After these recognitions and presentations, the board conducted a public hearing regarding the 2013-2014 Texas Academic Performance Report. In the report, Robert Meyer highlighted the fact that all campuses within BISD met standard in their performance and earned a record 38 distinctions.
“That is the highest rating that is possible to be earned, so we’re pleased that the district and all campuses met standard,” Meyer said. “We are not only meeting standard, we are surpassing that and we are doing very well academically.” In comparison to the rest of the state, BISD performed better in all areas, including test scores, attendance and graduation rate. However, the district was also above the average class size throughout the district as a whole, due in part to the district’s quick growth in recent years.
“I’m really concerned about the class size comparison to the state,” board member Amanda Winkler said. “As we continue to plan for 2025, we need to be cautious and considerate, especially as we head into those secondary classrooms. Being that I was a secondary teacher, I remember even just packing 25 students into a classroom was incredibly stressful, and you have so many different learning styles and social issues. I’d really like for us to look at that as we head into the future.” More information about the report can be found online at bisd.net/accountabilityratings.
In her Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Susan Kincannon informed the board that, as of Monday, 626 students from Belton High School and 104 from New Tech High School @ Waskow are set to graduate in May. Of those students, 96.6 percent have successfully completed exams, leaving only 25 of the 730 students with unfinished academic business. Kincannon also reported that 13 superintendents from the Central Texas area submitted a letter to legislatures in preparation for the legislative session, which began Monday. The bulk of the requests included in the letter involve increased funding for school districts.
“We want to make it clear that these issues do matter to our school district,” Kincannon said. “I’d love to hear from you (the public) any issue that are important to you.” The board received a presentation on Project HEARTBEAT, which assists homeless students within the district. According to the report led by homeless liaison Noemi Berumen, the district currently serves more than 200 students who have been identified as homeless. These services include obtaining enrollment documents, transportation to and from school and providing school supplies.
“Every year, we do have an increase in the number of students served,” Berumen said. “We don’t anticipate that that’s going to be any different this year. In (2013-2014), we served 387; right now we’re sitting at 226.” BISD staff were excited to present the board with 20 classes that will be introduced to the high schools next year, including courses in engineering, video game design and radio broadcasting.
““We’ve worked closely with local employers to understand their needs – especially what they’re looking for in new employees,” Kincannon said in a press release. “These new classes will help students develop skills that are in demand.” Toward the end of the meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Phil Haggerty appeared before the board to request additional transportation for the district, including six 77-passenger buses, two 47-passenger special needs buses, one Suburban and a one-ton truck at a cost of $847,550 over five years.
Payments for the vehicles have already been built into the budget. The board unanimously approved the request. The Board of Trustees will reconvene Feb. 23 at 5 p.m. in the BISD Administration Building, 400 N. Wall St. in Belton.