Welcome from Keith McBurnett
Welcome to Burnet CISD. Located in the Hill Country, Burnet CISD is spread out over 700 square miles and serves 3,100 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.
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.
August 15, 2018
It is almost time for parents across Burnet County to tag Burnet CISD staff and say, “You’re it.” Where did the summer go? It is hard to believe that next Monday, August 20 the 2018-2019 School Year begins. We have been busy planning for the new school year which includes hiring new teachers, wrapping up the budget and getting the campuses cleaned and ready for students and teachers. Not only are the campuses cleaned and ready for school, but they will be even safer than ever as Burnet High School, Burnet Middle School and all of the elementary campuses in Burnet CISD will have a School Resource Officer assigned to them. This physical presence of law enforcement on each campus is in addition to the many safety and security measures that have been put in place the last five years including: secure entry ways, proximity card access control systems, surveillance camera systems, telephones in every classroom, expanded radio system with panic buttons and the deployment of the Say Something App.
The Board of Trustees has continued to meet during the summer. On August 27 at 6:30 p.m. the Board will hold a Budget Hearing and then later that same evening the Board will consider approving the 2018-2019 budget during its Regular Meeting. The administration has developed two budget frameworks, and which budget the Board will approve will depend on the outcome of the Tax Ratification Election being held on Saturday, August 25 (Early Voting Days remaining include: 15-17 (W-F); 20-21 (M-TUES.) from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the BCISD Central Office located at 208 East Brier).
As a reminder, for the first time in the District’s history, Burnet CISD will be sending property taxes generated in Burnet CISD to the State as part of the “Robin Hood” school finance plan. The District is projecting that this recapture payment will be $500,000 for the 2018-2019 school year and $2.2 million in 2019-2020. These are funds that will not be available to support innovative programs and initiatives, teacher pay raises or school safety initiatives in Burnet CISD, but will instead be redistributed to other Texas school districts. If Approved by voters, the Tax Ratification Election will lower the BCISD overall tax rate from $1.28 to $1.26 and the District will receive approximately $600,000 annually in additional operating revenue.
As the school year begins, let me take this opportunity to remind everyone to slow down in school zones and stop for school buses loading and unloading. Please also be patient the first few days of school as traffic is always heavier at the start of school and everyone is learning the traffic patterns at each campus. The increased traffic and learning curve means that bus routes will likely not run on time the first week of school. To help parents manage information about transportation, the District has a web based program called InfoFinderI that allows parents to look up bus information like the route number, stop times and stop locations for their children. In addition, the District is unveiling a new app called SafeStop. This app will allow parents to monitor the progress of their child’s bus and will predict an arrival time to a bus stop. Parents can find the link to InfoFinderI and receive information on how to download and utilize the SafeStop app by going to www.burnetcisd.net > Departments > Transportation.
Mark your calendars for Meet the Bulldogs! I hope you can join us on Thursday, August 16 at 6:00 p.m. at the Burnet High School Gym for food and fellowship as the community is introduced to our athletes and teams for the fall sports. Team introductions will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Finally, the entire Burnet CISD staff is excited to welcome parents and students back to school. We have spent considerable time talking about communication and the type of environment we want to create for our students. During the school year, it is natural for a parent to have questions or even a concern at their child’s campus. It is important that questions or concerns be dealt with by the person closest to the issue so that they can be resolved in the best and most efficient manner possible. I encourage parents to discuss their questions or concerns through informal conferences with the appropriate teacher, principal or other campus administrator. When concerns are expressed as soon as possible, it allows for early resolution at the lowest possible administrative level. We look forward to working with you to make the 2018-2019 a great school year for our students!
May 9, 2018
The District has been working on developing its budget since January and conducted its first budget workshop in March. The next budget workshop is scheduled for June 4. A key data point in developing the District’s budget is property values. Burnet County property value estimates were provided to the District by the Burnet Central Appraisal District on April 25. The District had been working under the conservative assumption of a 5% property value increase for the upcoming school year, but the actual estimate came in higher at 9%.
I want to make clear that Burnet CISD does not determine property values, but it is important to understand that State law requires the Burnet Central Appraisal District to appraise properties at least at 95% percent of market value or else the appraisal district fails the Comptroller ‘s ratio study and the State reduces funding to local schools. The State Comptroller’s ratio study compares sales prices with appraised values set by the county appraisal district. Burnet County was determined to be under the 95% threshold in 2017, and is in a grace period. If Burnet County does not pass the comptroller’s ratio study in the future, Burnet CISD and Marble Falls ISD could both lose millions of dollars in state funding.
The District does set two tax rates each year- Maintenance and Operation (M&O) for day to day operation of the District (salaries, utilities, transportation, etc.) and Interest & Sinking (I&S) to pay off the District's debt related to bond programs. The District's M&O rate is currently $1.04 and is as low as it can be without being penalized by the State. The I&S rate was lowered by a penny in August 2016 and another 3 cents in August 2017 and is currently $0.24. Because of rising property values, the Board of Trustees is projecting to lower the I&S tax rate again in August 2018 and recently approved the early payment of bonds totaling $2,550,000. This early payment of bonds, called Bond Defeasance, is a strategy used to decrease the interest expense paid on the district’s bonds. This specific defeasance saves Burnet CISD over $200,000 in interest payments.
The Board of Trustees is committed to having the lowest possible tax rate while maintaining a commitment to planning for the future, offering the highest quality educational programs and being fiscally responsible while servicing its debt. Approval of the final tax rates will be made when the budget is adopted this August.
The increased property value also means that the property wealth per student in Burnet CISD is projected to reach a threshold defined in law which will result in Burnet CISD being subject to “recapture.” For the first time in the District’s history, Burnet CISD will be sending property taxes generated in Burnet CISD to the State as part of the “Robin Hood” school finance plan. The District is projecting that this recapture payment will be $350,000 for the 2018-2019 school year. These are funds that will not be available to support innovative programs, teacher pay raises or school safety initiatives in Burnet CISD, but will instead be redistributed to other Texas school districts. While some school districts in the State have fallen off the “funding cliff” when they become a “recapture district” the Board of Trustees and administration have been carefully planning for the future, by setting money aside to assist with the projected loss in funding.
The one entity that is benefiting the most from increased property values is the State of Texas. As local property tax collections go up, the amount of state aid to fund education is reduced. This means that the State is contributing a smaller share of funding for Burnet CISD than it has in the past.
Because the State adopts its budget for a biennium, Burnet CISD always plans a two year budget framework so that we are looking ahead for any possible budget challenges like recapture. We take very seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and to plan appropriately.
April 25, 2018
As I shared this past December, the 5-year grant funding the ACE Afterschool Program will expire in July. The District is in the process of applying for Cycle 10 of the grant to fund an additional five years. Because awarding of the grant will not be announced until sometime in July, the District is developing two plans: one assumes BCISD receives the ACE grant and the other assumes BCISD sustains an afterschool program for the 2018-2019 school year with local funding.
If the District is awarded the ACE grant, then parents can expect the same high quality ACE Afterschool Program serving more than 800 students a day. If the District is not awarded the ACE grant, then the District is prepared to offer a new, locally funded afterschool program.
At the April 16 Board Meeting, the BCISD Board of Trustees allocated funds to underwrite a majority of the costs of a non-grant funded afterschool program. This locally funded afterschool program would be offered at all BCISD elementary campuses Monday-Thursday from 3:15-6:15 p.m. The afterschool program will have a new name, but will continue to offer homework help, tutorials and fun, enrichment activities in a safe environment. The three biggest changes with the locally funded afterschool program are:
The enrollment will be limited to 105 students at each elementary campus.
Transportation will not be provided.
A very affordable fee of $20 per month will be required.
In order to plan for the 2018-2019 school year, the District will be hosting an afterschool program registration event in May. Registering in May will secure a spot in the afterschool program for the 2018-2019 school year. More information on the afterschool registration event will be coming out soon, so be watching the District's website and Facebook page.
In addition to allocating funds to support an afterschool program, the Board also voted to take action to save money for taxpayers. On April 16, the Burnet CISD Board of Trustees approved the early payment of bonds totaling $2,550,000. This early payment of bonds, called Bond Defeasance, is a strategy used to decrease the interest expense paid on the District's bonds. This specific defeasance saves Burnet CISD over $200,000 in interest payments. The early payment also lowers the District's future annual debt payments, thus providing flexibility for future tax rates and the ability to address future District facility needs with limited to zero impact of the tax rate.
Finally, I want to wrap up by sharing six words with you- Your Generosity. Our Community. Their Future. These six words capture the mission of the Hill Country Community Foundation (HCCF). The HCCF is a non-profit organization committed to the support of civic, health and educational programs that enrich the lives of citizens in Burnet. The HCCF invests in students and the community by offering a scholarship to EVERY student graduating from Burnet High School or Quest High School that is pursuing post high school education or training.
You can see the Foundation at work on May 17 at 7:00 p.m., as the HCCF will award over $300,000 in scholarships to Burnet and Quest High School students. Since 1983 the HCCF has awarded $4.88 million in scholarships to Burnet graduates. That is an incredible investment in our young people, and a commitment that you don't find in other communities- big or small. If you want to see this community's investment in our future at work, feel free to join us at Burnet High School on May 17- It is a special evening.