Welcome from Keith McBurnett
Welcome to Burnet CISD. Located in the Hill Country, Burnet CISD is spread out over 700 square miles and serves 3,200 students in 6 campuses. Burnet CISD has a rich history of excellence in academics and extracurricular activities, and is committed to CRAFTING the FUTURE. That future is as unique as each of our students. For some that means preparing them for college or a trade school, while others it means preparing them to earn a certification or enter the workforce with demonstrable skills. Our students are excelling inside the classroom and outside the classroom. I am proud to be the superintendent of Burnet CISD and to be a member of this wonderful community. You will find that there is a real sense of care and community within the District. If I can be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me.
In order to keep District stakeholders informed, I write a newspaper article on a regular basis and post it on the District's website. You will find the most recent articles below.
April 17, 2019
Two weeks ago the Rotary Club of Burnet gave away $21,000 in community grants to local non-profit organizations and service organizations. As a member of Rotary, I am very proud of its community grants, and it is another reason that you can add to my list of why I love living and working in Burnet. This community gives back to its citizens and there are hundreds of volunteers across the community working to serve people in need. I see examples every day in which these nonprofits are supporting the students and families of Burnet CISD. Kudos to Rotary for helping out these organizations and a big thank you to the local non-profits and service organizations that exemplify the Rotary motto of, “Service Above Self.”
Another group of people who truly exemplify “Service Above Self” are the Burnet CISD Volunteers of the Year. Our VIPs or Volunteers In Public Schools make a difference by giving back to Burnet CISD. Please help me congratulate these outstanding volunteers:
Burnet High School Volunteer of the Year - Gloria Flores
Quest High School- Michael Barnard
Burnet Middle School- Craig Lindholm
Bertram Elementary- Afton Floyd
Shady Grove Elementary- Vicinta Stafford
RJ Richey Elementary-Kristina Bailey
Parent Resource Center- Nancy Cranfill
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children. Everyone’s participation is critical. Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is the best thing our community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development. Burnet CISD is committed to creating a safe environment for students, and we are lucky in Burnet County to have the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center (HCCAC) as a resource to help in preventing child abuse and supporting families that have been victimized by child abuse. To learn more about the HCCAC please go to www.hccac.org.
Finally, please join me in welcoming Rachel Jones and her family to Burnet CISD. Rachel is the District’s new Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and her first official day was this past Monday. She is hitting the ground running by meeting with campus staffs to hear from them directly what support they need from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction to help all students be successful.
As a reminder, Rachel’s hire is just one part of a reorganization plan to provide greater direct support to campuses and teachers. The District has hired an Elementary Curriculum Coordinator to support elementary campuses and a Secondary Curriculum Coordinator to support secondary campuses, especially in the areas of curriculum revision, instructional resource adoption, professional development and formative assessments. To provide direct support to classroom teachers on a daily basis, the District is in the process of hiring an Elementary Instructional Coach and a Secondary Instructional Coach. This newly configured Department of Curriculum and Instruction is designed to support campus staff in continuing to improve teaching and learning and the District’s achievement as measured by the state accountability system. The Curriculum and Instruction Department should be finalized by May in order for the team to begin planning together this summer for the 2019-2020 school year.
March 27, 2019
We have always had dedicated volunteers in Burnet CISD, but through the District’s Strategic Planning we have formalized the process this year by having our volunteers submit an application, go through a background check and track their volunteer hours. This means that we have taken another step toward ensuring the safety of our students. We are very proud to have over 500 VIPS (Volunteers in Public Schools) working in our schools and they truly are VIPs to Burnet CISD. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” Our volunteers have resoundingly answered that question through their selfless service to Burnet CISD.
To show how special our volunteers are to us, Burnet CISD is hosting a Volunteer Appreciation Reception on April 11 from 4:00-5:00 p.m. at the Burnet CISD Central Office located at 208 East Brier. One of the highlights of the reception will be the awarding of volunteer of the year awards for each of our campuses. If you have volunteered in any way with Burnet CISD, please join us on April 11 so that we can say thank you!
Technology alone cannot transform a classroom, but in the hands of talented student-focused educators, technology can create opportunities for personalized instruction and learning. Because we know that technology can be a game changer for students and teachers, we are currently having discussions about putting a computer device in the hands of every student in Burnet CISD. At middle school and high school, that would mean that students would be assigned a computer and would be able to travel with it from class to class and even to home. At the elementary level, it means having a device for every child in the classroom, and the devices would stay at school. Today, we have a lot of computers in our schools, but students and teachers often still have to share devices.
We are not having conversations about what we want to do with more technology. Rather, we are having conversations about what we want to do differently in terms of teaching and learning in our classrooms, and then we are making decisions about what technology best accomplishes our goals. There have been other school districts that have adopted 1:1 initiatives before us, but it is very important to me that we do it the right way. Buying devices is a fairly simple activity. Utilizing technology to enhance teaching and learning is more challenging, but ultimately it has to be our goal.
It is a costly initiative, especially since Burnet CISD has become a recapture district and is projected under current law to send $3.4 million back to the state next year to be redistributed to other school districts. So, not only are we having conversations about infusing technology into classrooms, but we are also discussing how to fund the initiative. Even with the challenge of funding, we have been building and investing in our technology infrastructure so that it will be ready to support a future 1:1 initiative.
As a District, we are very proud to offer world class learning opportunities while being a smaller, more rural school district. Infusing technology into all of our classrooms, and placing it directly in the hands of our secondary students to use at home and at school is critical as we prepare students for the future. As we continue to have conversations and to plan for that eventuality, I will look forward to sharing with you details of the initiative.
February 27, 2019
Imagine how shocking it was for me to read in my newsfeed Wednesday evening a week ago the following headline, “Are Texas Kids Failing? Or Are the Tests Rigged?” In the summary of the Texas Monthly story, Mimi Swartz writes, “Leading educators and testing experts have studied the exams and find that they are asking kids to understand passages aimed two or more years above their grade level.” I would encourage you to take time to read the article in full for yourself at www.texasmonthly.com.
As I read the article, I couldn’t help but get mad knowing how hard our students and teachers work only to find out the challenge they are facing (reading passages that are 2 or more years above the grade level being tested) is not realistic when considering 56% of BCISD students are economically disadvantaged, 8% are English language learners and 13% are served through special education. It appears to me that the bar of what we expect of students has been raised so that we are no longer testing AT grade level knowledge, but rather ABOVE grade level knowledge. Former member of the State Board of Education, Thomas Ratliff estimates that, “25 to 30 percent of Texas school kids are misidentified as reading below grade level.” That is a shocking number, and at what cost to our students and families?
Superintendent of Schools for Alief ISD, HD Chambers sums up my feelings exactly when he states in the article, “Every reading and literacy expert who has studied our concerns can’t be wrong on this. This is not anti-testing, this is not anti-accountability. We just want the truth.”
As I have shared previously, we are not satisfied with the letter grade of C that the District received as part of the A-F Accountability System, and our teachers and students are working hard to make improvements within the existing system. When a district is two points away from earning a B, the reality is that every student and test question matter. With that said, this new information highlighted in the Texas Monthly story, truly makes me question the current accountability system. An accountability system is only as good as the tests used to measure students, and there is evidence that Texas may be missing the mark.
I recognize that we cannot change the test or the accountability system today, but along with four of our School Board members, I will be meeting with our State Representative and Senator this month at the Capitol. We have added this topic and the Texas Monthly article to our Legislative Priorities that we will be discussing with them.
February 13, 2019
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and for over a hundred years Sweethearts Conversation Hearts have been a staple of elementary Valentine’s Day Parties. Growing up I have fond memories of the candy, but if truth be told, they were never my favorite candy to eat. I preferred chocolate over the chalky candy hearts, but when I think of Valentine’s Day candy, I am most nostalgic for the Sweethearts Conversation Hearts. Some of the most popular heart phrases over the years have been "Marry Me," "Be Mine," "Be True" and "Kiss Me." Unfortunately, Necco, the company responsible for producing the hearts has gone out of business and the new manufacture of the hearts won’t have inventory available until Valentine’s Day 2020. Valentine’s Day Parties will go on as planned, but there will be a little bit of the tradition that is missing this year.
A tradition in Burnet CISD that continues to be strong is Spirit, Pride and Honor. These three words have been a part of Burnet CISD for a very long time, and a committee of the Strategic Planning process wants to make sure that our students truly understand what the phrase means. To that end, the committee has created Sprit, Pride and Honor standards. Informational posters have been produced with the intent of teaching students these important character traits:
• Spirit (What you are doing.) Creating a fun, safe, positive, and exciting classroom culture for all students.
• Pride (How you are doing it.) Taking pride in your work, your school and yourself. Hard work and dedication.
• Honor (Why you are doing it.) Respect. The way you treat others and yourself. The golden rule.
Sometimes, people think Spirit, Pride and Honor is just about athletics, but as you can tell from the definitions, it is much more, and I appreciate the work of our staff members to be intentional in maintaining this important tradition.
President Trump recently offered his State of the Union address to the Nation, and on Wednesday, March 6 at the Community Center, Mayor Crista Goble and I will be offering short talks on the State of the Community from the city and school district’s perspective. Our event is more fun to attend because we treat attendees to a great lunch, and I promise our speeches won’t last as long as a typical State of the Union address. The doors open at 11:30 a.m. so that attendees can visit tables representing the city and school district. Lunch will be served beginning at 11:45 a.m. and the program will begin at 12 noon. The lunch is always delicious, and once again the dessert is being provided by the Burnet High School Culinary Arts Program. The event is free of charge and citizens are encouraged to attend. No RSVP is necessary.
Finally, this past Saturday, the District honored the 6th group of inductees to the Burnet CISD Hall of Honor and the BCISD Educator of the Year at the annual Chamber Banquet. It was a special evening honoring people that make up the fabric of Burnet CISD and the Burnet community. I want to personally congratulate the following recipients:
Distinguished Former School Board Member- Danny Floyd
Distinguished Former Athlete- Stephen McGee
Distinguished Burnet High School Graduate- Travis Lewis
Distinguished Former Employees- Bonnie and Donald Fawcett
Educator of the Year- Adrian Connolly
In the way they each live their lives, our honorees have answered what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said is, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question- What are you doing for others?” We thank them all for their contribution. In addition to their names being added to perpetual plaques, a brief story on every honoree will be posted on the District’s web site at www.burnetcisd.net.
January 30, 2019
Each year, on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is observed as a "day on, not a day off." On January 21 students in Burnet CISD learned about the contributions and sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Jr. and each campus participated in service projects. Some of the projects students participated in include: canned food drives, cooking meals for first responders, picking up trash, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, making treat bags for the animal shelter, creating therapy bags for nursing home residents and helping clean up areas impacted by the floods.
In response to the day, one parent wrote on Facebook, “I love that the kiddos learned so much by not missing school today. Usually a “holiday” means a day in their PJs watching cartoons, but instead they were learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. and spending time helping others. Brodie has talked so much about who he was and what he stood for and that’s something I could not have given her if she had missed today.” Burnet High School principal Casey Burkhart also heard from a former student who is currently attending Texas A&M University, and he wrote, “It was touching to see images from the MLK Dawg Day of Service, which exemplified Spirit, Pride, and Honor to the highest degree. I showed my roommate and some friends and it was very impressive to us all, as MLK day is a very serious and important time for our university, and our nation, and it is apparent that Burnet is doing its part to honor MLK’s legacy.”
Reading, writing and arithmetic are important parts our written curriculum, but just as important to us is developing a servant’s heart in our students so that they recognize that they are a part of a bigger community in which they need to give back. Although, Burnet CISD’s MLK Day of Service won’t ever show up on any of the state assessment reports, we believe the lessons learned are invaluable to our students. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Our students and teachers are already discussing how to make next year’s Day of Service even bigger and better.
On January 21 the Board of Trustees approved the Burnet CISD Legislative Priorities for the 86th Legislative Sessions. There are four priories that focus on the following areas:
• Unfunded Mandates: Burnet CISD believes any mandate of local school districts through legislation, must be accompanied with adequate funding to fulfill the mandate for the life of the mandate.
• Assessment/Accountability: Burnet CISD believes that the number of standards expected to be taught and learned should be reduced and students should only be assessed on the “essential” standards or “readiness” standards.
• Safety and Security: Burnet CISD believes safety and security funding should be flexible and allow local leaders to address their own specific needs and not create future unfunded mandates. Burnet CISD should not be denied funding because of its early investment in safety and security measures the past 5 years.
• School Funding: Burnet CISD believes the basic allotment funding schools should be increased while reducing the growth of recapture which causes districts like Burnet CISD to send money back to the state.
These priorities will guide the Board in its discussion with legislators. Board Members are scheduled for their first visits with legislators when they visit the Capitol at the end of February.
As a reminder, I hope you will join me next week for the Join the Journey’s 6th Annual Safe and Drug Free Wellness Fair on Thursday, February 7 from 5:00-6:30 p.m. at the Burnet Middle School Auxiliary Gym (1401 North Main). The fair will include a FREE pizza meal along with health screenings, drug/alcohol education, a Genius Bar featuring Chromebooks, an inflatable obstacle course, and great door prizes.
January 16, 2019
January is School Board Recognition Month, and Burnet CISD is joining school districts across the state in thanking these community volunteers for their commitment and contributions to our public schools. The theme this year is, “Planting Seeds of Success” and utilizes the visual of planting and tending to a plant as it grows.
Debby Boone (yes, the same one that sang the 1977 hit song, “You Light Up My Life”) once said, “Dreams are the seeds of change. Nothing ever grows without a seed, and nothing ever changes without a dream.” The Burnet CISD Board of Trustees is especially effective in planting seeds of vision, high expectations and goals that communicate their desire for Burnet CISD to set the standard for other school districts across the state. Because of their leadership, Burnet CISD offers a wide array of award winning instructional and extracurricular offerings, which allows students to “plant the seeds” of their choice for their future.
Elected Board Members play a crucial role in our community and schools. Trustees are extraordinary people who voluntarily tackle the enormous job of governing a school district with 3,200 students, 490 employees and a $28M budget. Each one of them does it because they want to give back to this school district and to our community. Their actions and decisions affect the present and future lives of our children- they are truly CRAFTING the FUTURE for our students.
From a personal perspective, I have the opportunity to visit with a lot of superintendents across the state, and those conversations reinforce for me what an outstanding Board of Trustees this Board truly is. I am very lucky to be a member of this exceptional “Team of 8”.
Although showing our appreciation should be a year-round commitment, taking advantage of the designated School Board Recognition month in January assures that these important people receive the thanks they deserve. So please join me in thanking the Burnet CISD Board of Trustees comprised of President Andy Feild, Vice President Angela Moore, Secretary Earl Foster and Trustees Robby Robertson, Suzanne Brown, Mark Kincaid and Ross Behrens.
At the January 21 Board Meeting, not only are we going to have the opportunity to recognize the Board of Trustees for their volunteer service, but the Board will also receive information and take action on issues covering topics like academics, personnel, budget and policy. I would encourage our community members to visit a Board Meeting sometime to learn more about Burnet CISD, and to gain a perspective on the important work of the Board. The January 21 Board Meeting will kickoff at 6:30 p.m. with a hearing on the District’s Texas Academic Performance Report followed by the Regular Board Meeting at 6:45 p.m.
Finally, I want to encourage you to mark your calendars for Join the Journey’s 6th Annual Safe and Drug Free Wellness Fair. The fair will take place on Thursday, February 7 at the Burnet Middle School Auxiliary Gym (1401 North Main). The fair will include a FREE pizza meal along with health screenings, drug/alcohol education, a Genius Bar featuring Chromebooks, an inflatable obstacle course, fitness tips and more. We will also have great door prizes available like a Bluetooth speaker, a Google Home, a bow-fishing trip, an electric scooter and more. Participants will go on a TREC for tokens that will allow them to be eligible for the door prizes. In this case TREC stands for Treatment, Response, Education and Communication- all ways that Join the Journey is addressing drug use in our community. I hope you will join us for this knowledge and fun-filled TREC!
December 10, 2018
Spirit, Pride and Honor means a lot of things, including being the very best at everything we do in Burnet CISD. Last year, Burnet CISD earned five state championships in UIL Social Studies, UIL Current Issues and Events, FFA Wildlife, FFA Forage and 110 Meter Hurdles. This year, the Esprit de Corps made it to the UIL State Marching Competition placing 18th out of 165 4A bands across the state, and on Saturday 24 band members earned a seat with the All Region Band. The Board of Trustees and administration is committed to continuous improvement in academics and extracurricular offerings. With that goal in mind, the administration is making several staffing adjustments for the 2019-2020 school year in the areas of curriculum, instruction and athletics.
The District will be reducing two senior leadership positions in Curriculum and Instruction and replacing them with one Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, the District will be adding an Elementary Curriculum Coordinator to support elementary campuses and a Secondary Curriculum Coordinator to support secondary campuses, especially in the areas of curriculum revision, instructional resource adoption, professional development and formative assessments. To provide direct support to classroom teachers on a daily basis, the District is also adding an Elementary Instructional Coach and a Secondary Instructional Coach. This newly configured Department of Curriculum and Instruction is designed to support campus staff in continuing to improve teaching and learning and the District’s achievement as measured by the state accountability system. The District is currently interviewing candidates for the Assistant Superintendent position, and the candidate is expected to be in place in the spring of 2019. All other Curriculum and Instruction staff changes will go into effect in August 2019.
Burnet CISD has set a goal of winning the Lone Star Cup (awarded annually by UIL to six high schools, one in each of the six UIL classifications 1A-6A, based on their team performance in district and state championships). To that end, after studying other successful athletic programs, the District will be splitting the current Athletic Director/Head Football Coach position into two separate positions. This will allow the Athletic Director to have sole focus on the District’s overall athletic program and the Head Football Coach to have sole focus on the football program. I believe separating the Athletic Director/Head Football Coach into two positions (which is the standard today in 5A and 6A athletic programs) is a trend that we will see going forward in 4A athletic programs, and with this move, Burnet CISD will be ahead of that trend.
Under this plan, Kurt Jones, who has served as Athletic Director and Head Football Coach since 2012, will remain in his role as Athletic Director, and Rick Gates will continue to serve as Girls Athletic Coordinator. Jones has 23 years of experience in education, including 18 with Burnet CISD. In his 7 years as Athletic Director, the Burnet Athletic Program has advanced every team sport to the playoffs, experiencing postseason success in Girls Basketball, Boys Basketball, Softball, Girls Soccer, and Football. In addition, both the Girls Cross Country Team and the Girls Golf Team have advanced to the State Meet/Tournament in that time. Along with his duties of supporting and coordinating all of the District’s athletic programs, Jones will also coordinate school safety and emergency planning, cheerleading, physical education, stadium management, rentals of athletic fields and facilities, and the School Health Advisory Council for Burnet CISD. The Athletic Director’s office will be located at Burnet High School beginning in the spring of 2019.
Jerod Rye, current Burnet Bulldogs Offensive Coordinator, has been named the Head Football Coach of the Burnet Bulldogs and will be responsible for coordinating and leading the football staff, athletes and budget. In Rye’s 20 years of experience in education he has been a part of three football state championship games and has held several coaching assignments including: Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, Quarterback Coach and Receivers Coach. Rye has also previously served as a Middle School Athletic Coordinator and understands that the foundation of a varsity football program is built beginning in middle school. In addition to two different coaching stints at Burnet High School under three different head coaches, Rye also coached at 6A Midlothian High School where as Quarterback Coach he coached former Baylor QB and current Miami Dolphin Bryce Petty. Rye believes that athletics is a great avenue in the educational process to teach life lessons to student-athletes, and that if we focus on making our kids better people and students first, we will see the results that we all desire on the athletic fields. Coach Rye will assume his responsibilities in January 2019.
This investment of significant resources in the area of curriculum, instruction and athletics and the District’s historical strong financial support of the fine arts program are all indicators of our desire to be the very best in everything we do by providing unprecedented levels of support for our staff and students to achieve at the highest levels possible.
As we wrap up the first semester of the 2018-2019 school year, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. As a reminder, Christmas Break is scheduled for December 22 - January 7 with students reporting back to school on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.
December 5, 2018
On Tuesday, January 8, the 86th Legislative Session will begin, and for 140 days the Legislature will work to set the State’s budget for the next two years and address policies and laws in areas as diverse as transportation, border security, healthcare and education. Even though the session doesn’t kick off until January, pre-filing of bills began in November and by noon of the first day to pre-file over 400 bills had been filed. To give perspective of the enormity of the process, during the last legislative session over 6,600 bills were filed.
Sometimes the work of legislators seems so far removed from our everyday lives, but the reality is the decisions made in Austin during the upcoming January – May time frame impacts all of us. As for Burnet CISD, there are two specific areas that we will be advocating for and watching closely.
At a time in which schools are facing an increasing demand for safety and mental health support, Burnet CISD believes every school district needs access to additional state funding to help support their local needs for school safety and mental health. This funding should be flexible and allow local leaders to address their own specific needs and not create future unfunded mandates. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has requested funds to support these efforts in fiscal year 2020, but TEA should not be picking winners and losers regarding this funding. Funding should be made available to all school districts. An increase in state funding or through an allotment, will allow schools to have adequate dollars moving forward to fully invest in these programs with local solutions.
Ask any teacher the biggest challenge they face, and time to plan and teach is always at the top of that list. The State Board of Education and TEA have increased the number of testable standards while going through a process of streamlining the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Within the 22 tested subjects, the number of standards has grown From 924 to 995 standards. The more standards that are mandated for teachers to teach at each grade level or content area, means less time for teachers to teach those standards and for students to learn those standard before the high stakes assessment takes place. With the state’s accountability system relying heavily on one exam, it is critical that students have sufficient time to master “essential” standards of the TEKS. Burnet CISD believes that the number of standards expected to be taught and learned should be reduced and students should only be assessed on the “essential” standards or “readiness” standards.
An early positive note for education during the upcoming legislative session is the fact that Dennis Bonnen, the projected next speaker of the House, singled out school finance as the priority for the House. As I mentioned earlier, Burnet CISD will be advocating and watching closely.
The deadline to submit nominations for the sixth annual Burnet CISD Hall of Honor is quickly approaching. Nominations are being accepted through January 7 for the Hall of Honor and can be submitted electronically by going to www.burnetcisd.net and selecting the Hall of Honor link under the Community tab at the top of the homepage. In February, we will honor four individuals in the following categories: Distinguished Burnet High School Graduate, Distinguished Burnet High School Athlete, Distinguished Former School Board Member and Distinguished Former Employee. We are looking for nominations of individuals that have not only brought great honor to themselves, but they have also brought great honor to Burnet CISD.
November 14, 2018
There is nothing fair to students or parents about using a one-time multiple-choice test to label schools and districts. I shared this message recently during a community forum. To support my statement, I have included below a math question from the 2018 3rd Grade STAAR test that I also shared with community members.
Hakeem received 13 phone calls on Tuesday. This expression can be used to show the number of phone calls he received on Saturday.
13 x 4
Which statement is true?
F. Hakeem received 4 more phone calls on Saturday than he received on Tuesday.
G. Hakeem received 4 more phone calls on Tuesday than he received on Saturday.
H. Hakeem received 4 times as many phone calls on Saturday as he received on Tuesday.
J. Hakeem received 4 times as many phone calls on Tuesday as he received on Saturday.
Answer choice H is the correct answer. Did I mention that this was a math question? Now imagine if you had to answer this math question, and you have a reading disability or English is not your first language. Parents are always surprised when they learn that the 3rd Grade Math STAAR test does not have any questions in which students are given an algorithm to calculate such as 89 X 34.
In reviewing the item analysis for the 3rd Grade Math STAAR test, there are some interesting findings. Only 55% of all 3rd graders in the State of Texas answered the item above correctly, and there were 5 other questions on the 3rd grade math test that only 55% or fewer students answered correctly. In addition, there were 4 questions that only 56%-58% of all students in the State of Texas answered correctly. With so many students not answering these questions correctly, is the problem with the students or the test items?
In Burnet CISD, there were 15 third graders who were only one question away from passing the 3rd Grade Math STAAR test. When, as a District, we were 2 points away from receiving a letter grade of B, that one question means a lot to the student’s performance and the District’s rating. The fact is, a single letter grade does not tell the full story. In an article, Moak, Casey and Associates (school finance and accountability experts) wrote, “To a great extent, the state’s inaugural A-F grading system could be considered a proxy for identifying schools that serve high poverty student populations, rather than an indication of educational quality.”
With that said, our staff is committed to preparing students for the future and for the state assessments this spring. I have the opportunity to see our teachers and principals in action every day, and I am so impressed by the focused work they are undertaking to make sure students are as prepared as possible for all of the different ways the state measures student achievement. I do not agree with the current accountability system, but as a District, we will do what’s right for students while also striving to receive a letter grade that better represents the efforts of our staff and students.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the administration, I would like to wish our students, parents and community a Happy Thanksgiving. All campuses and district offices will be closed the week of November 19 – November 23. When classes resume on Monday, November 26, we will have four weeks of school before the end of the first semester and Christmas break which is scheduled for December 24-January 7. To kick off the Christmas season, Burnet High School would like to invite the community to attend the 3rd annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at the BHS courtyard amphitheater. On November 29 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Burnet High School is inviting the community to put an ornament on the tree, hear some caroling and drink some hot cocoa to help get the community in the Christmas spirit. I hope you will join us.
October 31, 2018
Growing up, there was something magical about the World Book Encyclopedia set that my parents had at the house. It was a treat to get lost in the facts and pictures found on the slick pages with that unique, musty “book smell.” I recently saw an ad from the 1960’s for the World Book Encyclopedia that stated, “Help your children’s mind grow, too, this summer with the World Book Encyclopedia.”
When I was growing up, education was all about facts and information- a limited set of facts and information that fit nicely in a 20 volume set of encyclopedias. While education today still has a foundation in facts and information, there is a greater emphasis on how to find information and what to do with that information. As Tony Wagner states, “Today, knowledge is free. It’s like air, it’s like water. There is no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.”
Even during a time of hyper-accountability and a state assessment that wants to narrow the scope of what students are taught, as a District, we are continually having conversations about what it means to CRAFT the FUTURE for and with our students. It sounds easy, except when you consider the fact that information, products and jobs are ever changing. Think about this. The following jobs didn’t exist 10 years ago: app developer, social media manager, cloud computing specialist and drone operator. Then consider this. The following things didn’t exist 10 years ago, and yet many people would say that it would be hard to live without them: iPad, Spotify, Instagram, Airbnb and Uber.
CRAFTING the FUTURE means preparing students for the jobs that we know exist today, and preparing them for the jobs of the future by focusing on teaching students how to apply new knowledge in unique situations and settings. We have definitely taken steps forward as a District to better prepare students for the future by implementing classes like Project Lead the Way Computer Science. At a time when computer science affects how we work and live, PLTW Computer Science empowers students to become creators, instead of merely consumers, of the technology all around them. The program’s interdisciplinary courses engage students in compelling, real-world challenges. As students work together to design solutions, they learn computational thinking – not just how to code – and become better thinkers and communicators. Students take from the courses in-demand knowledge and skills they will use in high school and for the rest of their lives, on any career path they take.
Even with examples like PLTW Computer Science, we still have work to do as a District. I look forward to sharing with you in the future some of the other things we are doing to make sure student learning in Burnet CISD is relevant.
Speaking of new things, like the iPad, the iPhone hasn’t been around that long, and yet, smart phones and tablets have become an inseparable part of our lives, especially for our young people. The question is at what cost? The average young person spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. The phenomenon is relatively new and we are just starting to understand some of the negative consequences of so much screen time. Burnet CISD wants to help families begin to have conversations about the impact of screen time on our youth and ways to manage it. SCREENAGERS is a docudrama that explores the impact of digital devices on youth and families. Burnet CISD is hosting a free screening of the 67 minute docudrama at the Burnet Middle School auditorium on Monday, November 5 at 6:00 p.m.
October 17, 2018
In September we conducted our first round of drug testing and out of the 69 students tested; there was one positive test for marijuana. The good news is that the number of positive tests has decreased since we first reinstated drug testing approximately five years ago. The other good news is that Burnet CISD, in partnership with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services, provides free drug use counseling in Burnet CISD for students identified through the drug testing program. The bad news is that over the years, some parents have refused the counseling services because they believe their children do not have an issue with drugs.
Since the beginning of school, our administrative team at the high school has confiscated approximately 15 vaping devices. It is against state law for anyone under 18 to be able to purchase vaping materials, and it is against state law for vaping materials to be at school. Unfortunately, we have had examples of parents coming to school to retrieve a confiscated vaping device only to have the student reoffend again at school.
I share this information with you because, the reality is every young person that has been caught with drugs, vaping materials or uses drugs, has an adult that acts as parent/guardian for that young person. Two years ago, I challenged our parents to take action and be partners with us. Today, I am going to make the same challenge. I am asking that every parent/guardian of every young person in Burnet CISD have a conversation with their children about drugs and vaping. Not tomorrow, but today. Our young people need to know that they can die if they use drugs, and they need to know the harmful effects of vaping.
In addition, I am also asking for parents/guardians to search their children’s person, backpacks and cars before sending them to school. Imagine if by this Friday every student had been searched to ensure the safety of all students on our campuses. Imagine what a powerful message that would send to our young people that we are all on the same team, pulling in the same direction. The only way drugs and vaping devices are on our campuses is when young people bring them to campus. We do not want drugs or vaping devices on our campuses.
If you need help on having the conversation about drugs or vaping, please reach out to the counselor at your child’s campus for assistance. If you believe someone in your life is using drugs there is help. You can contact Bluebonnet Trails Community Services at 1-844-309-6385.
The Burnet Police Department has been an outstanding partner in helping us address this issue, and they are committed to identifying and arresting people who provide drugs to others, but there are only so many police officers. There are more of us that act as parents/guardians that have direct contact with our young people every day. As a dad, I will be having that conversation tonight and I will go through my son’s backpacks and belongings, not because I don’t trust him, but because I love him. Will you join me?
October 3, 2018
You have heard me say it over and over- I love this community and this school district. I was most recently reminded again of why during the homecoming football game- or should I say before the football game. I always get goosebumps when our band plays Amazing Grace before a home football game, but I also got goosebumps this past Friday night when the Bulldog team captains walked to the center of the field for the coin toss carrying with them a check in the amount of $5,986.83 to donate to Sonora flood relief efforts which included a $1,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Burnet. Spirit, Pride and Honor is about helping others, and while recovery from flooding is never easy, we hope that our donation will help ease the burden for the residence of Sonora.
At the end of this month, we will celebrate Green Ribbon Week in which Burnet CISD and the community focus on the prevention of drug use within our community. Students will be participating in fun and educational activities the week of October 29-November 2. In addition to the focus on drug use, on Monday, October 8 Burnet CISD will be hosting a parent meeting on vaping and e-cigarettes. Research indicates that some teens who never would have smoked cigarettes are now vaping, and this can be a gateway to drug use. Besides health risks, using a vaporizer for marijuana can also be easier for teens to hide. They generally don’t leave behind a mess and many vape devices can be concealed in the palm of one’s hand.
As you may know, the Food and Drug Administration recently declared that teenage use of e-cigarettes has reached epidemic levels. In order to help address this issue, we will be sharing with students at Burnet High School and Burnet Middle School information about vaping and the use of e-cigarettes. The first group of students will be exposed to the Catch My Breath curriculum during Green Ribbon Week at the end of October. Even though it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy or use e-cigarettes, we are seeing evidence in the District that a growing number of students are vaping. In addition to secondary students being exposed to the Catch My Breath curriculum, we hope that parents will join us for a one hour parent meeting on Monday, October 8 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the BCISD Board Room (208 East Brier). During the session, you will learn about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping for young people and how to talk to your children about vaping without lecturing. In addition, a parent of a young person dealing with nicotine dependence caused by vaping will share her story. I hope that you will be able to join us for this short, but informational session.
On Monday, October 15, the Board of Trustees will hold its annual Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) Hearing at 6:30 p.m. and its Regular Board Meeting at 6:45 p.m. at Bertram Elementary. As you may know, the Board of Trustees traditionally holds its October meeting in Bertram to make it easier for Bertram citizens to attend a School Board Meeting. Once again, Burnet CISD has received a superior rating for financial integrity and the hearing will provide details about that accomplishment. In addition, the Board will be receiving a formative report on student achievement in the District along with a review of District and Campus Improvement Plans.
Mark your calendars now for a return of the docudrama SCREENAGERS. Just over 10 years ago the iPhone was debuted, and since then, smart phones and tablets have become an inseparable part of our lives, especially for our young people. The question is at what cost? The average young person spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. The phenomenon is relatively new and we are just starting to understand some of the negative consequences of so much screen time. Burnet CISD wants to help families begin to have conversations about the impact of screen time on our youth and ways to manage it. SCREENAGERS is a docudrama that explores the impact of digital devices on youth and families. Burnet CISD is hosting a free screening of the 67 minute docudrama at the Burnet Middle School auditorium on Monday, November 5 at 6:00 p.m.
September 19, 2018
Every so often I will see a post on social media that says schools no longer require the Pledge of Allegiance for fear of offending someone. Actually, there are more states than not that require the Pledge of Allegiance be recited each day. In the State of Texas, it is the law that every day, at every school our students recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas Flag. This is followed by a moment of silence in which students may choose to pray, meditate or reflect on the day. In addition, you may not be aware that schools in Texas also recognize September 11th and the US Constitution through morning announcements and special activities on these specific days. So the next time you see a post similar to the one I described, you can reply- “In Texas, we do.”
Homecoming Week is next week in Burnet CISD and that means mums, pep rallies, parades, bonfire and football. It is also a time to welcome back our alumni. I hope that our alumni and community will join us in celebrating Homecoming by attending the Homecoming Parade on Thursday, September 27 at 6:30 p.m. on the square followed by the bonfire at 7:30 p.m. in the field just west of Burnet High School. On Friday, please join us for the pep rally at the BHS gymnasium beginning at 3:00 p.m. Of course you have to wrap up your Homecoming Week by coming out Friday evening and watching the Burnet Bulldogs take on the Sonora Broncos. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.
Speaking of alumni, we are preparing to honor the sixth set of inductees to the Burnet CISD Hall of Honor, but we need your help. Nominations are being accepted for the Hall of Honor and can be submitted electronically by going to www.burnetcisd.net
and selecting the Hall of Honor link under the Community tab at the top of the homepage. In February, we will honor four individuals in the following categories: Distinguished Burnet High School Graduate, Distinguished Burnet High School Athlete, Distinguished Former School Board Member and Distinguished Former Employee. We are looking for nominations of individuals that have not only brought great honor to themselves, but they have also brought great honor to Burnet CISD.
This past Monday, the Board of Trustees heard a status report on the three-year strategic plan that was adopted last January. As you will recall over 40 stakeholders worked together to develop objectives and strategies that focused on the four goals addressing Academic Achievement, District Culture, Educator Quality, and Family and Community Engagement. Some of the activities shared with the Board that have been accomplished include:
• A Leadership Academy has been formed and has met 8 times to analyze 5 years of Burnet CISD’s past STAAR result in ELA and Math to find areas to improve for student achievement. This group is led by District AP’s and is composed of 15 K-12 teachers who specialized in ELA and Math.
• Individual student literacy plans are being finalized and will be available for all students K-6 at the end of September.
• A survey was developed and administer to new staff asking why they chose Burnet CISD in order to inform our recruitment process.
• Each campus has built into the schedule common planning times or times for subject area teams to work together to plan.
• All campuses held training on behavior strategies at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
• An employee “survival guide” was developed for each campus district-wide.
• Electronic marquees are in the planning stages to be added at Bertram Elementary, Shady Grove Elementary and RJ Richey Elementary.
• Each campus has developed a committee to support staff morale.
• A communication survey is being conducted with parents to determine the best way to communicate with parents and to improve current communication practices.
• A Volunteer in Public Schools (VIPS) program has been developed with over 300 people completing an application and background check.
Finally, mark your calendar now for Thursday, October 18 at 8:00 a.m. I will be hosting Coffee and Tea with the Superintendent to provide updates about Burnet CISD. I hope that you can join me for a cup of coffee at the Parent Resource Center located next to the Central Office at 208 East Brier. I look forward to sharing information and answering questions.
September 5, 2018
We are already in the middle of the third week of school and it hard to believe that our athletes, cheerleaders, drill team and band members have been at school over a month practicing, playing and performing. It is amazing to watch the number of activities that our young people participate in across the District in addition to their daily core classes. Having a son at the high school, I see the long hours our students put in to their extracurricular activities and the time spent in the evening tackling homework and projects.
We currently have approximately 20 more students enrolled in school this year than last year. As you may recall, I have shared previously that our demographic study indicates that Burnet CISD will experience modest growth at just over 300 students in the next 10 years. We are watching our enrollment carefully along with the enrollment trend of Liberty Hill ISD. Their rapid growth will eventually spill over into Burnet CISD and we need to be prepared.
Planning for the future means forecasting budget projections, tax rate projections and enrollment projections. The Board of Trustees was proud to be able to lower the tax rate by 4 cents in 2017 and another 2 cents in 2018 while still maintaining future bonding capacity. The Board of Trustees is also proud to have the second lowest tax rate among school districts in the Hill Country and the lowest tax rate for Burnet CISD in decades. Strong financial planning has also resulted in the District having $1.4 million above the District’s fund balance target of three months of operating expenses ($6.9 million). In the near future, if the District needed to make building renovations/repairs or add an additional classroom wing at Bertram Elementary to address future growth, Burnet CISD would be in a position to pass a bond and lower the tax rate at the same time. Not every District has that level of flexibility available to them, and that is due to outstanding planning on the part of the Board of Trustees.
Last year, because of the District’s commitment to continuous improvement, we invited over 40 internal and external stakeholders to participate in a comprehensive strategic planning process. The committee’s focus was developing goals, objectives and strategies as part of a three-year strategic plan toward improving all aspects of Burnet CISD. In its first year of implementation, the plan is ensuring we keep our focus on doing everything in our ability to make sure our students are achieving at the highest levels and are future ready. Campus improvement plans are in addition to the strategic plan, and outline very specific actions to address improving student achievement across the District as measured by STAAR and our own local metrics. The Board of Trustees heard a report last week that lasted approximately an hour outlining many of those specific actions.
As I have shared, we are not satisfied with the letter grade of C that the District received as part of the A-F Accountability System. When a district is two points away from earning a B, the reality is that every student and test question matter. For example, did you know that there were six questions on the 2018 3rd Grade STAAR Math test that 55% or fewer of students in the State of Texas answered correctly? If that many students struggled on those questions, does that still make those questions valid? When you consider the fact that 15 Burnet CISD 3rd graders were just one more correct answer from passing the STAAR test, those six questions make a big difference.
We recognize that we cannot change the test or the accountability system, so we are hard at work making sure we are providing quality instruction, filling in gaps for students and providing targeted interventions so that students are successful on the STAAR and more importantly, prepared for the future.
Finally, Burnet CISD has a long history of outstanding volunteers who have provided hands-on assistance at our schools. The Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) program was started in 2018 to formalize volunteer opportunities across the District. The VIPS objective is to impact student achievement in a positive way, whether directly or indirectly.
Our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds. They may be members of a group that has adopted a school; grandparents of children in school; or individuals who want to give back to the community. Volunteers can read to students, tutor in a particular subject area, work in the library, or assist with special events. There is almost no end to opportunities in VIPS. The process to volunteer is as simple as completing a background check and letting us know how you want to help out. A link to the volunteer application can be found at www.burnetcisd.net
under the Community tab.