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.
To find out more about Keith McBurnett, click HERE.
May 19, 2021
This year, we kicked off the school year with the theme “Made for This”, and our students and staff have shown, that even with the challenges associated with the pandemic, that they were made to thrive and succeed. I am proud of our staff and students’ resilience during this challenging school year, and their commitment to achieving at the highest levels possible. We want to be the very best at everything we do, and the list of accomplishments from this school year demonstrates that commitment. We have had a large number of students compete at State-level competitions this year, and several bring home State or National Championships! Those championships include:
- Bulldog FFA BBQ- Grand Champion Overall: Greyson Barnett, Hayden Henry, Kori Gililland, and Adrian Lopez
- 4H Wildlife Judging- State Champions: Greyson Barnett, Helaina Weiss, and Jaxon Eason
- FFA Range Judging- State Champions: Greyson Barnett, Jordon Erickson, Emily Carley, and Hayden Henry
- NASA Hunch Culinary Competition- National Champions: Jacey Huston, Will Rundzieher, Nicholai Rowland, Matthew Thrane, and Bridget Bristow
- 4A Boys 3200 Meter Run State Champion: Hudson Bennett
This list represents many hours of work and practice on the part of our students and staff. Kudos to them for demonstrating Spirit, Pride, and Honor as they continue the tradition of excellence in Burnet CISD!
It is hard to believe, but graduation ceremonies will take place next week. High school graduation celebrates more than a decade of hard work, and it is my favorite celebration each year. Quest High School will have its ceremony on Thursday, May 27 and Burnet High School will have its ceremony on Friday, May 28. Both ceremonies will held at Bulldog Stadium, begin at 7:30 p.m., and will be open to the public. Face coverings are not required for graduates or guests at the stadium. Congratulations to all of our graduates!
I want to take another opportunity to thank our community for supporting the May 2021 Bond Program. As soon as voters approved all four of the 2021 Bond Propositions, the administration began working with its architect and financial advisor to take several important first steps towards beginning construction. The actual bonds are expected to be sold in July so that construction funds are available this summer. In addition, at the May 17 Board Meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the delivery method for bond projects and the prevailing wages that will be used for construction projects. The Board also identified and approved several bond projects that will be managed by the District with work beginning as early as this summer. Larger projects like the addition of the wing at Bertram Elementary, campus renovations or some of the athletic projects will take additional surveying, planning, designing and bidding before construction can begin. Monthly updates of the Bond Program will be provided at School Board Meetings and on the Burnet CISD webpage at www.burnecisd.net.
The last day of school for students is Thursday, May 27, and it is a 3-hour early release day. Beginning June 1, there will not be a face-covering requirement in Burnet CISD, and the District will be 100% in-person for the 2021-2022 school year. I wish our parents, students, and staff a safe summer break full of fun, rest, and rejuvenation.
April 28, 2021
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. This year, the Foundation will award $349,902 in scholarships, ranging from $1,000 to $4,947 for each individual scholarship.
In addition, the Foundation also provides continuing scholarships to former HCCF scholarship recipients. This scholarship is called the Community Development Scholarship and provides financial support to students in their sophomore, junior, and senior year of their bachelor’s degree.
Since 1983 the HCCF has awarded $6.26 million in scholarships to over 3,950 Burnet CISD graduates. That is an incredible investment in our young people, and a commitment that you don’t find in other communities- big or small. You can see the Foundation at work on May 20 at 7:00 p.m. at Bulldog Field during the Scholarship
Night, please consider joining us.
The Scholarship Night is just one more reminder that we are wrapping up the school year. Even as we are wrapping up this school year, we have been busy planning for next school year. The first day of school for students will be Wednesday, August 18 and the 2021-2022 school year will conducted with 100% in-person learning without any face covering requirements.
Burnet CISD is also happy to announce that due to a USDA waiver, Burnet CISD will be able to offer FREE breakfast and lunch to all students again for the 2021-2022 school year.
Another part of planning for not only next school year, but for the next 5-10 years, is facility planning. Election Day for the 2021 Bond Program is Saturday, May 1. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. As a reminder, the main purpose of the 2021 Bond Program is to prepare for future growth while maintaining the District’s historically low tax rate. The passage of all four propositions is not projected to increase the tax rate, and in fact, the District is planning on lowering the tax rate again in August. If you would like to find out more information about the May 2021 Bond Program or voting locations on Election Day, please go to www.burnetcisd.net
and click the Bond 2021 link at the top of the page.
April 14, 2021
One of my favorite John Wayne movies is True Grit. In it, Wayne plays “Rooster” Cogburn who is a crusty US Marshal on the hunt for the man that killed Mattie Ross’ father. One of my favorite Cogburn lines in the movie is, “Young fella, if you're looking for trouble, I'll accommodate you. Otherwise, leave it alone.”
In the last several years there has been a lot of research done on the importance of grit in students. Grit is defined as, “a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual's perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal or end state (a powerful motivation to achieve an objective).”
One of the best examples of grit that I have seen in a long time is the BHS Burnet Theatre Ensemble Company (BETC). As you are reading this, the BETC One Act Play team is performing at the Regional UIL One-Act Play contest. The UIL One-Act Play contest is a competition where similarly sized Texas schools present an 18-40 minute play that is adjudicated by a panel of three judges. To get to the Regional contest, the BETC One Act Play team had to win at the District and Bi-District level putting them currently in the top 32 4-A teams in the State.
Not only has the BETC One Act Play team had to rehearse and compete during a pandemic while wearing face coverings and performing in empty auditoriums, but just weeks before their first competition the winter storm hit causing them to lose valuable practice time and their practice stage. Due to the damage at the high school auditorium, the BECT One Act play had to pack up their props and travel to the middle school auditorium each day to practice. In short, they have demonstrated true grit in the face of adversity towards achieving their goal of making it to State.
I hope to be able to report that the team is moving on to the State contest, but even if not, they have already won by staying focused, working hard, overcoming adversities, and representing our community with Spirit, Pride, and Honor!
Burnet CISD’s current $1.146 tax rate is remarkable; it is the lowest in the District’s history, and ranks Burnet CISD as the second-to-lowest tax rate among Hill Country school districts. The District’s tax rate is comprised of two separate rates. The Maintenance and Operation (M&O) tax rate used to fund the daily operations of the District is currently 95.1 cents. The Interest and Sinking (I&S) tax rate that is dedicated to capital projects is currently 19.5 cents.
If approved, the 2021 Bond program will be paid for by the I&S portion of the District’s existing tax rate. Our goal as a district is to proactively plan for growth so that we do not have to raise the I&S tax rate above the current 19.5 cents.
The growth is coming this way, and to see the impact of the growth, you only have to look at Liberty Hill ISD. LISD is projecting to double in size to 12,200 students by 2025. Because of this staggering growth, and the need for new campuses, LISD is proposing a $497 million bond in May, and has had to raise their I&S tax rate to 50 cents to accommodate debt payments. That is 30.5 cents more than our current I&S tax rate. If Burnet CISD had to raise the I&S tax rate to 50 cents that would mean that an average homeowner ($200,000 home) would see their taxes increase by a little over $50 a month.
As a reminder, in Burnet CISD, the Board of Trustees has voted over the last 5 years to lower the tax rate by a total of 18.4 cents, and even with the passage of the May 2021 bond, is projected to lower the tax rate again in August. Preparing for growth now will help maintain a low tax rate.
March 31, 2021
What a difference a year makes! Just over a year ago, I wrote the following to parents, “Even with all of the evidence of spring, the circadian rhythm of our community seems off as other markers of spring are postponed, cancelled or delivered in a new format. COVID-19 has added a chill to many routine passages of spring in our community.”
Not this year. The Bluebonnets are back along with the Bluebonnet Festival, the One Act Play team is advancing to Regionals, the pop of the starter’s gun could be heard last Thursday at the Bulldog Relays, the crack of the bats can be heard at Bulldog Diamonds, and planning is under way for prom, scholarship night, and graduation.
What has not changed during the past year is the care and commitment displayed by the Burnet CISD staff as it has addressed the many challenges of the pandemic.
From the very beginning of this school year, our goals have been to keep our staff and students as safe and healthy as possible; to keep campuses open for in-person instruction; to minimize the number of quarantines for staff and students; and to provide all extracurricular offerings and activities. Based on the data, we have been very successful at accomplishing all of our goals, and the credit for that goes to our teachers, instructional partners, bus drivers, food service staff, facilities staff, and administrators.
Another tradition that always takes place during the spring semester, is the announcement of the Burnet CISD Hall of Honor inductees. Due to COVID, the District is announcing and honoring the inductees for each category during the March, April and May Board Meetings. On Monday night, the Board recognized the Distinguished Former Burnet CISD Employees. The three honorees are John Lopes, Mike Lewis and Deidra Robertson. The committee selected all three for their contributions to the excellence that is the Esprit de Corps. Burnet CISD has one of the best marching band programs in the State of Texas, and it has been built on the foundation laid by John, Mike and Deidra.
We are busy planning for the 2021-2022 school year, as evidenced by the Board of Trustees approving the 2021-2022 school year calendar this past Monday. A copy of the calendar can be found at www.burnetcisd.net.
As we look to next year, we are planning for the 2021-2022 school year based on two major assumptions. In absence of any requirement from the Texas Education Agency, Burnet CISD will operate with 100% in-person instruction, and Burnet CISD will not have any face covering requirement in place.
Finally, early voting for the May 2021 Bond Election will begin Monday, April 19. One of the questions I have been asked is, “Why does the bond ballot claim that the Burnet CISD bond election represents a property tax increase when the District says it will not?” In compliance with changes made to House Bill 3 in 2019, all bond ballot propositions must include the following statement: THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE. As a result of this new requirement, voters in BCISD will see this language on all four bond propositions; however, the BCISD tax rate will not increase as a result of the 2021 bond election. In fact, the District is projecting to lower the tax rate by half a cent in August 2021. Over the last 5 years the BCISD Board of Trustees has voted to lower the I&S tax rate by 18.4 cents, and today’s tax rate of $1.146 is the lowest in the district’s history. To learn more about the 2021 Bond Program, go to www.burnetcisd.net
and click the Bond 2021 link at the top of the page.
March 24, 2021
The Board of Trustees met on March 23 for a Special Board Meeting to discuss possible modifications to operational requirements pursuant to Texas Education Agency Public Health Guidance and Governor Abbott’s Executive Order.
In preparation for the meeting, the Administration reviewed current COVID protocols looking for ways to safely make modifications, surveyed staff, surveyed parents, met with the Burnet County Medical Adviser, met with the District’s leadership team, reviewed current state and federal health guidance, and provided communications to parents and staff.
During the Board Meeting, 5 people spoke during Open Forum. 3 people spoke in favor of making face coverings optional for the remainder of the school year. 2 people spoke in favor of continuing the requirement for face coverings for the remainder of the school year.
From the very beginning of this school year, the District has focused on keeping staff and students healthy, keeping campuses open, minimizing the number of quarantines for staff and students, providing all extracurricular offerings, and keeping traditional activities and events that make the school year special, like the homecoming parade and bonfire. Based on the data, the District has been very successful at accomplishing all of these goals.
The single largest barrier to the District’s continuous operation through the pandemic has been managing ongoing staff and student quarantines, whether due to illness or close-contact determinations. Based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Burnet County Medical Advisor, and in order to help prevent large numbers of required quarantines of staff and students, the Administration recommended to the Board of Trustees maintaining all current COVID Guidelines, including the use of face coverings, with some noted exceptions.
With a 7-0 vote, the Board of Trustees approved maintaining all current COVID Guidelines, including the use of face coverings, with the following modifications:
Effective beginning March 25, 2021
• Face coverings are not required for students or staff in outdoor spaces (i.e. recess, outdoor lunch, classes or meetings) unless they will be close together for more than 15 minutes. Elementary students are no longer required to stay in cohort groups during recess.
• Face coverings are not required for visitors to outdoor venues unless distancing is not possible.
• Face coverings are not required for secondary students during 5-minute passing periods.
• Outdoor venue capacities will increase from 40-50% to 75%.
Effective beginning April 5, 2021
• Based on new guidance from the CDC, beginning April 5, 2021, fully-vaccinated staff members may meet or eat lunch indoors in classrooms or offices with other fully-vaccinated staff members and up to 1 other un-vaccinated staff member without face coverings or distancing.
The Board of Trustees also approved ending all COVID guidelines at the end of the 2020-2021 school year. The Administration is planning for the 2021-2022 school year based on two major assumptions:
• In absence of any requirement from the Texas Education Agency, Burnet CISD will operate with 100% in-person instruction.
• In absence of any requirement from the Texas Education Agency, Burnet CISD will not have any face covering requirement in place.
This school year has been like no other with the number of challenges that staff and students have faced and overcome. As we approach the final grading period, we look forward to finishing the school year strong and celebrating our students’ accomplishments, especially our graduating seniors. As always, thank you for your continued support and partnership.
February 24, 2021
Although Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-34 eliminates the state-wide mask mandate beginning March 10, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced last Wednesday that the requirement to wear face coverings at school facilities remains unchanged, but that a district’s board of trustees could take action to make revisions to this public health requirement.
The School Board and Administration recognize that there are strong opinions on both sides of the mask issue, and we want to be thoughtful about any changes. With the announced flexibility from TEA, the School Board and Administration have been gathering information and input from stakeholders. Information such as guidance from the Burnet County Medical Advisor, guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services, guidance from the CDC, staff survey results, parent survey results, TEA attendance hold-harmless provisions, Burnet County COVID case counts and hospitalizations, and Burnet CISD COVID case and quarantine data is being reviewed.
On Friday, during a meeting with the Burnet County Medical Advisor, Dr. Madrigal recommended that we continue the protocols established at the beginning of the school year, including face coverings, social distancing, and hand washing. It is our belief that these protocols have reduced the number of COVID cases and the number of required quarantines due to close-contact.
Contrary to much of the national dialog, Burnet CISD has offered in-person instruction from day one. Currently, only 9 percent of BCISD students are full-time remote learners. In addition, we have offered students a full range of athletic and extracurricular opportunities along with events like the homecoming parade and bonfire that make the school year special. We have come so far since the emergency school closure last spring. With less than two grading periods of school left in the current school year, we want to be thoughtful about any changes that might allow widespread quarantines to jeopardize students’ opportunity to promote and graduate on-time. We are already at work planning for a “normal” 2021-2022 school year while we remain committed to taking necessary steps to keep our schools open for the remainder of 2020-2021.
On Tuesday, March 23, the School Board will meet at 6:00 p.m. (the location will be announced later this week) to discuss the TEA public health requirements, the gathered information, and any recommended revisions to locally-required health and safety protocols. Any approved revisions to the TEA public health requirements will be widely communicated on Wednesday, March 24. Until then, all current protocols for face coverings for staff and students remain in place.
In closing, I want to wish everyone a happy and safe Spring Break next week.
February 24, 2021
Due to COVID, the annual State of the Community BBQ lunch and presentations by the mayor and myself will not take place this year. Instead, I will be offering a live-streamed State of the District address which will be able to be accessed at the following link on March 3, at 12:30 p.m. https://t.ly/JLhN
. A recording will also be available at the same link if you are not able to watch the event live.
February 20, 2021
Like you, my heart goes out to the many Texans, including those in our own community that went without power or water, and sustained damages to their homes because of the historic winter storm we just experienced. In talking with some of our staff the past several days, the common theme that I have heard from them has been their concern for the wellbeing of our students.
That is why, as soon as it was safe to do so, the District provided Grab and Go Combo Meals for students to have breakfast and lunch meals through this weekend. I want to offer special thanks to the food service staff that prepared the meals and helped to distribute them to families.
On Friday, District emergency response team members from the maintenance, custodial, and transportation departments evaluated all of our facilities and buses. Burnet CISD was blessed not to sustain any serious damage to buildings or the bus fleet. Any damage caused by the storm on campuses was relatively minor and either has already been addressed, or is in the process of being repaired. While you will hear stories statewide of schools not being able to have in-person instruction next week due to weather damage, Burnet CISD is prepared and able to have classes and bus service resume a normal schedule on Monday, February 22.
As I mentioned in a previous communication, because of additional instructional minutes added to the school calendar this academic year, in combination with a special circumstance missed school day waiver from the Texas Education Agency, students will not have to make up the missed days of school related to this weather event.
Please exercise caution the next couple of days, avoiding remaining icy spots, as you work around your home making repairs. We are looking forward to getting back to crafting the future with our students on Monday!
January 27, 2021
On February 8, the Board of Trustees is expected to approve an order calling for a May 2021 bond election in order to proactively address student enrollment growth, protect and preserve the District’s operating budget, and take advantage of low interest rates while avoiding cost increases caused by inflation. The District will be launching a website with details about the 2021 bond after February 8, but today I want to address the statutory bond ballot language voters will see in May.
The proposed bond program will be paid by the portion of the District’s existing tax rate that is dedicated toward capital projects. The current $1.146 tax rate is remarkable; it is the lowest in the District’s history, and ranks Burnet CISD as the second-to-lowest tax rate among Hill Country school districts. The Board of Trustees has voted over the last 5 years to lower the tax rate by a total of 18.4 cents, and even with the passage of the May 2021 bond, is projected to lower the tax rate again in August.
The District administration worked with a community advisory group to identify projects and arrive at a bond program total that not only addresses needs, but that also stays below a debt level that the existing tax rate can service. In other words, Burnet CISD specifically designed its bond package so that no tax rate increase is needed to service the bonds.
When designing the 20-year bond program, the District assumed a 5% growth in property value in years 1-6, and no growth in property value beyond the sixth year. The District also projected a 2.42% interest rate. These very conservative estimates mean that not only can the District service the debt without raising the tax rate in 2022, but the tax rate can remain steady or lower for the entire life of the bond program. Yet, when reading the bond program propositions on the May ballot, voters will find the following phrase, “This is a property tax increase.”
Regardless of the details of this particular bond election, the property tax language is a new blanket requirement passed in the last legislative session that is applied to ALL school bond elections. Some Texas legislators believe that any school bond package represents a “property tax increase” because theoretically, if the school district did not issue bonds it could decrease the tax rate. In other words, the BCISD bond package would result in a property tax increase only if you believe that the absence of a bond would result in the district cutting the tax rate.
As the Board of Trustees has proven, they are committed to having the lowest tax rate possible while also planning for the future. Given the District’s facility needs and its focus on paying off debt early, the District would not lower the tax rate further than the projected decrease even in the absence of a bond program. Furthermore, if we allow the growth and facility needs to build up now, then try to address them all at one time in the future, the District will be forced to raise the tax rate similar to what Liberty Hill ISD has done to address growth in their district. Their current tax rate is 21 cents more than our current tax rate. By managing and spreading out the work over time, we will be able to maintain our low tax rate into the future.
Some community members may disagree with pieces of the May 2021 bond program, but the concern of raising taxes is really not an issue at stake in the Burnet CISD bond election. Even though the language on the ballot tells voters that they are voting on a property tax increase, the claim is misleading.
January 13, 2021
In order to provide teachers and staff additional planning opportunities during this unprecedented school year, the District made revisions to the school year calendar. One of those revisions included making Monday, January 18 a holiday for students and a planning day for staff. Because January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the District will celebrate MLK Day of Service this year on Tuesday, January 19. On this day, students in Burnet CISD will learn about the contributions and sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Jr. and each campus will participate in service projects. We believe as a District that the life lesson of giving back to others is so important, we didn’t want to miss this wonderful opportunity to celebrate a great American and follow his example of service to others.
The month of January is School Board Recognition Month and the theme this year is, “Navigating to Success”. There is a famous quote that states, “It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind which determines which way to go.” Our Board of Trustees does an outstanding job of setting the sails (developing vision and goals) so that elected representatives, and not the winds of whim determine the work of Burnet CISD. We are fortunate to have school board members that provide outstanding leadership and vision for Burnet CISD. Our shared vision is Burnet Consolidated ISD will craft an inspiring future for each student that embodies spirit, pride, and honor.
The past year required an unusual combination of skills and talents from District leaders. Unexpected circumstances resulted in changes in laws and regulations, and those statewide changes required adaptability, quick problem solving, teamwork, and leadership at the district level.
Navigating through unfamiliar waters became a daily task, complicated by the differing opinions and desires of various constituents. These uncertain and sometimes treacherous circumstances created challenges for even the most seasoned among us. A steady hand on the rudder was absolutely required, and that’s exactly what our District’s Board provided.
Our Trustees came through when we needed them most this year, charting a course that protected our most vulnerable, while ensuring that academic progress could continue for all students. It was a daunting situation, but they navigated to success with unerring determination.
Board service is a volunteer effort, accepted by only a few in the community. It is a tough job with no salary. It is a critically important job that requires an election and then mandated training. It is a responsibility that takes time, a mature outlook, and careful decision-making.
Fortunately, in our community, caring adults have signed on for the responsibility and hard work of making our schools the best they can be. They immerse themselves in learning what they need to know to make good decisions that will provide for students, from the very youngest to the graduating senior.
So please join me in thanking members of the Burnet CISD Board of Trustees, which include President Andy Feild, Vice President Angela Moore, Secretary Earl Foster and Trustees Robby Robertson, Suzanne Brown, Mark Kincaid and Ross Behrens. Take a moment to recognize these local trustees, and say thank you for the work the Burnet CISD School Board members are doing on your behalf.
January 1, 2021
As a District, we are excited to kick off the second semester, and to get back to Crafting the Future with students. Campus and District staff will be making final preparations on Tuesday to welcome students back to class on Wednesday, January 6.
During these final days of Christmas Break, I want to take a moment to remind families of the importance of screening their children for COVID symptoms each morning before allowing them to attend school.
The most important step in preventing the spread of COVID (and individuals being quarantined) is to ensure those individuals that are experiencing symptoms, or are test-confirmed to have COVID, or have had close contact with an individual that is test-confirmed to have COVID, stay home and do not come to school. HOME is the first point, and MOST IMPORTANT on the screening continuum for students.
Please make sure you screen your children EVERY morning for any COVID symptoms. If they have ANY COVID symptoms, they MUST stay home. If they have had close contact with anyone test-confirmed with COVID, they MUST stay home. If they are test-confirmed with COVID, they MUST stay home. If you have any questions about what you should do in a certain situation, please contact your campus BEFORE allowing your children to attend school.
If anyone in your family was diagnosed with COVID or came in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID over the Christmas Break, and you have questions about quarantine requirements, please contact your child’s campus on Tuesday, January 5.
As a District, we are committed to continuing to offer parents the option of in-person learning. As I have shared with you before, the biggest challenge to continuing to offer in-person learning is not the spread of COVID on campuses (the fall semester data provided no evidence of spread on campus), but rather staff members being quarantined in large numbers due to close contact. Students and staff screening daily for COVID symptoms will help to prevent quarantines due to close contact.
I want to wish all of our families a Happy New Year, and offer my thanks for your continued support of Burnet CISD and the daily COVID screening protocol requirement.
December 23, 2020
On Tuesday, January 12, the 87th 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, water, healthcare and education. Even though the session doesn’t kick off until January, pre-filing of bills began in November and over 1000 bills have been pre-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, the most important topic this session will be school finance. Given the projected state deficit, and the unprecedented unfunded expenditures the District has had to make in response to COVID, Burnet CISD is advocating that the Legislature maintain the commitments made under HB3, and keep school districts whole in terms of funding.
I am concerned with the gaps in learning created by this pandemic, and now is not the time to make cuts to education. Instead, now is the time to double down on education spending to ensure schools can address the gaps in learning, and continue to offer in-person learning safely. As we have seen, when in-person learning is not able to be provided, working parents are forced to make difficult choices. Funding education appropriately makes sense for the future of our state and nation, but it is also the linchpin of the economy, allowing parents to be able to go to work without worrying about childcare or supervision during remote learning. I look forward to sharing with you updates in the spring concerning the 87th Legislative Session and the District’s budget development process.
During my first year of teaching, I had a student give me a used Uncle Sam Avon cologne decanter for Christmas. It was wrapped, but it was not in a box, and half the cologne was already gone. I told Tony how much I appreciated his gift, and made a big production of putting on the “foo foo juice” in front of my class. All teachers have had a similar experience- a student that really doesn’t have much, wanting to share everything with their teacher because of how important they are to them.
Our teachers have undertaken heroic efforts to continue to make a difference in the lives of our students, even during the most challenging semester of school in the history of Burnet CISD. I can’t begin to express my appreciation and admiration for the work they do every day.
I like the surprise of opening gifts, but my favorite gifts to give and receive are moments of connecting, sharing, complimenting and laughing. I tend to remember moments like that long past ever remembering a gift I received. So, my wish for our staff, students, parents, and community this Christmas season is a break full of moments enjoying opportunities to connect, share, compliment and laugh. On behalf of the Board of Trustees and Administration, I want to wish our students, parents, staff and community a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The District will be closed through Monday, January 4 for Christmas Break. January 5 will be a professional development day for staff, and we will kick off the second semester and welcome students back on January 6.
December 2, 2020
When Pat and I got married, we gave each member of our wedding party a copy of the book, “The Precious Present” by Spencer Johnson. This simple and sweet story is about a boy’s discovery that the precious present referenced in the story is not a gift, but that the gift is the precious present- the right now. Upon discovering the meaning the boy knowingly declares, "The present is simply who I am, just the way I am, right now. And it is precious. I am precious. I am the Precious Present."
I have said more often than I care to admit in the last 9 months, that I can’t wait for the future when this pandemic is behind us. I am afraid that there are moments that I have allowed to pass without appreciating the precious present. I will continue to pray for health and healing, and a vaccine that will allow people not to get sick from COVID, but I am also going to try to recognize and relish the goodness that is all around me, even during a pandemic. Please consider joining me in this pledge.
In spite of the pandemic, our campuses have worked hard to continue activities and traditions that make school special, even if they have to be done in slightly different ways. We have been fortunate to have playoff football and volleyball games, regional marching competition, homecoming parade and bonfire, fall choir concerts, state cross country finalists, and a fall BETC performance. Another example of continuing traditions is Burnet High School’s upcoming 5th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, December 3rd from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Attendees are asked to listen to carols, get a picture with Santa, wear a face covering, drink hot cocoa, and stay apart as we come together to show Spirit, Pride and Honor, and get in the Christmas Spirit.
There are 15 days between now and Christmas Break, and our students and teachers are working hard to wrap up the first semester of school. As a reminder, the last day of the semester will be Thursday, December 17th. December 18th, which was originally scheduled to be the last day of the semester, is now a holiday for both staff and students. During its Regular November Meeting, the Board approved a resolution to make this change to provide a concrete way of appreciating the hard work of the school community by returning time back to staff, and allowing families to enjoy additional time together. Christmas Break will be December 18-January 5. Students will report back to class on Wednesday, January 6th.
Even as the District is managing the pandemic, we are committed to also planning for the future. During its November Meeting, the Board heard a comprehensive report on facility planning and a possible May 2021 Bond Election. Some of the information shared with the Board included feedback from a community advisory committee that met in early November concerning a possible bond election and possible bond projects. The Facilities Community Advisory Committee, comprised of parents and community members, shared with the Board their support for a May 2021 Bond Election for the following reasons:
• Manage construction costs: Pay less now than would be necessary to pay for the same projects later.
• Take pressure off the operating budget: Districts receive funding from the State for daily operations only, and Burnet CISD is expecting significant reductions in revenue next school year due to the $4.6 billion state budget deficit.
• Prepare for student enrollment growth: The DR Horton Factor- new DR Horton subdivisions are currently in Burnet and in Bertram. The District’s demographer has asserted that DR Horton has a reputation as a national builder to build in an area only when they have concrete data showing that people are moving to the area and will need a home.
The Board will continue to review possible bond projects, and will make a final decision in February about the projects and propositions that will make up a May 2021 Bond Election. The Board is committed to having a bond election that will not result in an increase in the tax rate, but allow the District to lower its current historic tax rate of $1.146 again, similar to what it has done the past five consecutive years.
November 19, 2020
I am reading the same headlines as you are about school districts across the state and nation choosing to go fully remote due to a rise in COVID cases. When I am out in the community, parents are asking me, “Are you going to close schools to in-person learning?” My answer is that we do not have any plans to go fully remote after the Thanksgiving Break or at the start of the second semester in January. Rather, our plan is to continue to work together to keep schools open for as many days of the 2020-2021 school year as possible, and based on weekly calls with the Commissioner of Education, the State is going to leave decisions about in-person and remote instruction up to each individual school district.
We are seeing an increase in the numbers of students and staff quarantined due to COVID symptoms, confirmation, or close-contact. In addition, although our substitute teacher pool is limited, our campus leaders have successfully and creatively ensured safe levels of adult supervision to maintain an in-person campus option. Unlike other districts, we do not have a single number or percentage target that would cause us to go fully remote. Rather, we are monitoring our COVID numbers closely and the context of those numbers. The Burnet County Medical Advisor is fully supportive of us continuing to offer in-person instruction, and our approach to monitoring COVID numbers.
I recognize what a hardship it would be for many families if we only offered remote instruction. Although I cannot say going fully remote could never happen, I can say going fully remote is the last option I will consider. Because there is evidence that viral spread is not taking place on BCISD campuses, the biggest challenge we face is not the spread of COVID on campuses, but rather ensuring we have enough staff available to operate schools safely. If new challenges surface, our goal would be to modify operations if necessary and keep campuses open as much as is safely feasible.
As we go into the Thanksgiving Break, I encourage all of our families and staff to be thoughtful about their travel plans and celebrations, and consider possible precautions to protect against COVID. I will be celebrating Thanksgiving at my mom’s, where we will gather outdoors to enjoy a delicious meal and wonderful fall weather. Mitigating a spike in cases or quarantines after the Thanksgiving Break will help us to continue to offer in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year.
I am thankful to live and work in such a supportive community, alongside a staff of caring and committed individuals. Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we work together through this unprecedented school year. Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless.
October 21, 2020
This school year has been a challenge for students, teachers, as well as parents. Beginning this past summer, we have focused on supporting parents’ choices about how they wish their children to learn during this pandemic. The District has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to create as safe a learning environment as possible for students at school, while also working with teachers to provide robust, remote learning. Even though remote instruction this fall is far superior to the emergency remote instruction we provided in the spring, it has not proven to be effective for all learners.
For students and families struggling with remote learning, we encourage a return to in-person learning. Our District’s in-person learning protocols are keeping students safe. Through the first 10 weeks of school, we have experienced only 9 positive COVID cases district-wide, and none of the cases have been traced to on-campus transmission.
We are not suggesting that remote learner families choose to withdraw to homeschool, or transfer to other remote learning schools. Rather, we are honestly communicating that many remote learners’ current paths are not sustainable due to grades and attendance. Success with asynchronous learning requires significant support; some remote students need accountability, encouragement, and prompting all day long from a trusted adult. This is difficult to achieve in every home when parents may balance many other responsibilities during a school day. We are deeply concerned for our struggling remote students. Our staff is working hard to address the learning gaps created by the emergency school closure last spring. However, when remote learners are not engaged and do not complete their assignments on time, those gaps widen too far to address within one year or grade level.
The number of remote learners has decreased since the first day of school. We started the school year with 30% of students remote, and that percentage dropped to 20% at the end of the first grading period. Today the percentage of remote learners is 15%. We would like to see that percentage drop further. It is easy to return to in-person learning. All you have to do is contact your child’s campus, and they will provide you the details on returning to in-person learning.
Remote learning options still exist for quarantined students and students with health considerations. However, remote learning is not a flexible option for family vacations or other optional absences. Our teachers take on additional work every time a student must learn remotely to promote success. We must not increase our teacher’s workloads to accommodate decisions made for preference or convenience.
Remote learning may be necessary for illness, quarantine, or family medical advisement. However, most students will experience greater success on a campus in-person with trained adults that interact with them through the entire day. Because of our low COVID case count data, along with data showing stronger success with in-person instruction, we strongly encourage remote students to return to campus.
October 7, 2020
On Monday, October 19, the Board of Trustees will hold its annual Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) Hearing at 6:00 p.m. and its Regular Board Meeting at 6:15 p.m. Once again, Burnet CISD has received a Superior Rating for financial integrity, and the hearing will provide details about that accomplishment. In addition to the perfect score on the FIRST Rating, I have shared previously that the Board of Trustees in August approved paying off $1.5 million in bond debt early, and lowering the tax rate to a historic low of $1.146. All of this great financial news is due to outstanding planning on behalf of the Board of Trustees with support from increased property values. School districts across the Hill Country have benefitted from increased property values, but it is not an accident that Burnet CISD has the second lowest tax rate in the Hill Country or the second lowest student-to-debt ratio among area school districts.
A state and national trend that is affecting Burnet CISD this year is a decrease in student enrollment, largely attributed to parents keeping their pre-k and kindergarten-aged students at home due to the pandemic instead of enrolling them in school. The conventional wisdom for now is that many of those students will return to school next year school year, especially since first grade is the first year of compulsory attendance.
This one-year drop in enrollment will impact the current year budget. The Board of Trustees will discuss the impact to the budget at the October Board Meeting. Fortunately, the Board of Trustees approved over three years ago to set aside $1 million in fund balance in case of a future decrease in school funding. While the Board had no idea that the decrease would be caused by a pandemic, history informed them that a decrease in school funding was something they should plan for. This additional example of strong, proactive planning on the part of the Board will allow the District to manage the loss of funding this year due to the dip in enrollment.
As we enter the 87th Legislative Session in January, Texas is facing a $4.6 billion budget deficit. With health and education accounting for more than 70% percent of state spending, it seems unlikely that schools will escape the impact of the state’s budget woes. If there ever was a time for the state to double down on education spending, now is the time. As has been proven during the pandemic, schools are a vital part of a healthy economy. Workers can go to work and not worry about their children being at home alone, and educated graduates are better prepared to contribute to the workforce. Schools must spend more money to educate students than ever before, especially given all of the additional health and safety measures. Now is not the time to reduce funding to schools. Before local schools lose any core funding, costly statewide initiatives like mandated incentive pay and legislated teacher reading academies should be put on the shelf and dusted off later when Texas is not in a budget crunch.
When a district’s revenue is reduced, the district must respond with reducing its operating budget. One option to reduce an operating budget is to take care of capital needs through other funding sources like bond funds. BCISD delayed the 2020 Bond due to COVID-19, but the needs continue to exist and with the passage of time, increase. As an example, the HVAC system at Burnet High School was not included in the 2020 Bond Program, but today that system is approaching 20 years old. During even the healthiest of economic times, the operating budget cannot accommodate such a large need, and that is especially true now.
The Board and administration will soon begin discussing adjustments and refinements to its 5-10 year facilities plan, and that will include a future bond program to maintain and enhance our facilities. The good news is, because of outstanding planning, the Burnet CISD community would be able to enjoy the lowest tax rate in its history AND approve a bond program that would not impact the tax rate. I look forward to sharing more information with you as we plan for the future.
September 21, 2020
Did anyone else get goosebumps on September 11th when Roger Moore read the following statement over the PA system before the football game with Boerne?
“On Patriot Day, we solemnly remember the nearly 3,000 people who perished on September 11, 2001. With gratitude, we honor the brave first responders, resolute members of our military, and ordinary Americans who showed extraordinary courage to save others on that fateful day.”
What about when Andrew Hicks, Burnet Band Director played Taps, or when the Burnet Band played its traditional Amazing Grace during a moment of silence? I did, and it reminded me why I am so proud to be an American, and live in the small town of Burnet. I never want to take our community for granted, because the things I just described don’t happen in every community or in every school district, as evidenced by an email I received on Saturday, September 12.
It read: “I am a trustee on the Boerne ISD Board of Trustees and a loyal Greyhound and Charger fan. I would like to extend both my compliments and gratitude for the outstanding pre-game ceremony held at last night's Bulldog - Greyhound football game. The combination of a moment of silence, the praise for those who serve our country, followed by the band's playing of Amazing Grace was very moving and truly touched my heart. More school districts in Texas and indeed, throughout our nation, should follow Burnet CISD's example. Please extend my appreciation to all who played a role in Friday night's game.” This email is a great reminder, that sometimes the smallest acts can have the greatest impact.
It is hard to believe, but Friday, September 25 represents the last day of the first six-weeks grading period. Friday is slated as a student holiday and staff-planning day. Our staff will utilize the time to plan for the second six-weeks grading period, which includes preparing for more in-person learners. As I have shared previously, when we started the school year approximately 70% of our students chose in-person learning and 30% selected remote learning. As we enter the next grading period, the percentage of in-person learners will increase to approximately 80% of our students.
Offering both in-person instruction and remote instruction, in addition to developing and implementing COVID mitigating protocols, has been very challenging. It is important to remember that we were one of the first school districts in the state to reopen, and to offer both options of instructional settings; the first to do something that has never been done before. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) didn’t finalize the rules or requirements for remote instruction until late July. To receive funding, a District’s remote instruction plan must be approved by TEA, and Burnet CISD was one of the first districts in the state to have its plan approved. Currently, only 20% of districts have had their remote instruction plan approved.
All of our plans have not been perfect in design or deployment, but we have continued to make refinements and adjustments as an organization based on feedback from our stakeholders. We will continue to focus on continuous improvement. Even with the challenges of COVID, our staff has worked tirelessly to not only meet the academic needs of our students, but they have also created a sense of normalcy through hosting events like Homecoming parade and bonfire, spirit days, and athletic competitions.
In talking with some our teachers, I have heard a common theme of them working harder than they have ever worked before, and way out of their comfort zone. As we wrap up the first six weeks of school, please join me in thanking our teachers and staff for all of their hard work in rising to the occasion and demonstrating perseverance and resilience in order to meet the needs of our students.
September 2, 2020
On Wednesday of last week, we received the first official notification of positive COVID-19 cases in Burnet CISD among staff and students. These first three cases were contracted outside of Burnet CISD. The same day that the District received the notifications, we followed the guidelines of the Texas Education Agency as outlined in the Burnet CISD Smart Restart plan published on July 20, 2020, and sent a letter to all staff and parents at each of the impacted campuses, and to those on impacted bus routes.
The Smart Restart plan states, “Anytime there is a situation in which a staff member or student was present at school and is lab-confirmed with COVID-19, a letter will be sent to all staff and parents at the impacted campus via School Messenger. In accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including confidentiality requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the notification will not include the specific identification of the lab-confirmed individual.”
Last Thursday, the Texas Education Agency released information on COVID-19 Public School Case Reporting. Under this new requirement, Districts will report to the State the number of positive COVID-19 cases, and the number of close contact determinations. The report is required to be submitted each Monday by 5:00 p.m. and include positive case notifications received the prior Monday-Sunday. Although not required by the State, the District will be publishing the information reported to the State on the District’s web site www.burnetcisd.net
each Monday under the “School Year 20-21” tab. The first report was published on Monday, August 31.
I applaud the efforts of the entire Burnet CISD staff to create the healthiest and safest learning environment possible for our students and staff. We continue to work closely with the Burnet County Medical Advisor to monitor positive cases, and our entire staff is committed to making adjustments to our procedures as needed.
A planned adjustment that we are making is opening a window of opportunity for parents to choose to switch from remote learning to in-person learning, beginning on the first day of the second six-weeks grading period on September 28. Parents are able to complete an online form and submit it by 4:00 p.m. September 11, to be eligible to switch. Having the notifications by September 11 will provide the District two weeks to plan for additional students beginning in-person instruction and for additional bus riders.
Planning for this school year, along with the first two weeks of school, has been challenging for families and staff alike, but I know that by partnering and keeping the lines of communication open, we can do what has never been done before. Given the circumstances of a pandemic, there is nothing “perfect” about what we are doing, but we are committed to continuous improvement each day.
August 19, 2020
Board Member Robby Robertson recently reminded me of the theme song to the 1977 classic American road comedy, “Smokey and the Bandit”. The lyrics to “East Bound and Down” say, “We're gonna do what they say can't be done. We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.” That is exactly what planning for the 2020-2021 school year has felt like. The upcoming school year will be like no other that we have ever experienced before, but our entire staff has worked tirelessly to provide the safest learning environment possible for staff and students while also providing access to quality instruction, whether that be in-person or remote. It is hard to believe, but after a summer of preparation, tomorrow, August 20th will be the first day of school for students.
The theme for this school year is, “Made For This”, and the message I shared with our staff was this, “You were made to make a difference in the lives of our students. You were made to CRAFT the FUTURE. You were made to be a Burnet Bulldog. You were made for Burnet CISD. Whatever your role, you were made for this. Whatever the challenges that are ahead of us, you were made for this. You were made for the 2020-2021 school year.” Thank you to all of the businesses and churches that shared the “Made For This” message through signs and marquees. Many of our staff wrote me to tell me how touched they were by the display of support from our community.
This summer I read, “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History” which chronicled the 1918 pandemic. It is amazing to me how many similarities there are between the 1918 pandemic and the pandemic we are living through right now. What gives me hope is that after the 1918 pandemic, came the roaring twenties. Even as we anticipate a return to a sense of normalcy, I want you to know that we are committed to thriving now with our students, and not waiting for the new normal. We are growing as an organization in our skills and abilities to be flexible in addressing the needs of students and families, and for that, we will be a better school district.
With that said, even with extensive planning taking place all summer, I can assure you that our plans will likely have to change during the year based on new guidance from the State or based on our commitment to continuous improvement. As we implement our plans, we may find that something doesn’t work as planned. My promise to you is that we will be flexible and adapt as needed, and communicate changes to our stakeholders. Many longtime teachers and principals have shared with me that they feel like first year teachers and principals all over again, because everything about school is having to be redesigned. Because of the many unknowns ahead, I would like to ask for your grace and patience throughout the school year as we walk this unfamiliar path.
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 2020-2021 a great school year for our students!
July 1, 2020
We still have not received formal State guidance detailing requirements and suggestions for the return to school. However, based on remarks by the Governor and the Commissioner, we do believe that school will reopen for the 2020-2021 school year with minimal restrictions. That said, we also know that some parents have concerns with children returning to face-to-face instruction. For the 2020-2021 school year, Burnet CISD will offer both remote and face-to-face instruction.
Schools will reopen for face-to-face instruction with protocols in place to promote the safety and health of both students and staff. We have not finalized our protocols at this time because we are awaiting specific guidance and recommendations from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Remote instruction will look much different than it did in the spring. Instruction will be more robust and will include expectations, guidelines, and accountability for students, parents, and staff. New State requirements specify that students must engage with remote learning every day to be counted present and earn credit. Staff facilitating the remote instruction will do so from district facilities.
During the week of July 13, you will be asked to complete a survey regarding returning to school. Specifically, you will be asked to select whether your child(ren) will return to campus for face-to-face instruction or participate in the District’s remote instruction model. When you receive the survey, it will have more detailed information for face-to-face instruction and remote instruction to help inform your decision.
The District has created the beginnings of a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that can be found at www.burnetcisd.net
by selecting the School Year 20-21 link at the top of the page. This web page will be utilized to provide parents with information about the 2020-2021 school. The FAQ section will be updated as the District receives additional information from the State.
The 2020-2021 school year will be unlike any school year we have experienced. While we will be diligent and thoughtful in our planning, we cannot anticipate all of the issues that will arise. As a learning organization, we are committed to being innovative, flexible and agile. I will continue to update you as more definitive details of our Return to School Plan take shape.
June 23, 2020
Last Friday I shared with you that school districts would be receiving public health guidance on reopening schools in the fall during a scheduled call today with the Commissioner of Education. That guidance was not provided today. The Commissioner said that because the COVID-19 situation is rapidly changing, he is unable to provide public health guidance for reopening schools in the fall at this time. He indicated that he hopes to be able to provide that information in the near future. He did share today the new framework of requirements that must be met for students to be counted present for daily attendance during remote instruction.
Once we receive further guidance from the Texas Education Agency, the administration is committed to formulating and sharing a plan for the fall that includes feedback from our parent and staff survey. We want our plan to be complete and to and make sense for Burnet CISD with a strong emphasis on the health, safety, and well-being of our staff and students.
June 19, 2020
Yesterday, in a call with state lawmakers Governor Abbott announced schools will reopen for face-to-face instruction with minimum restrictions. The Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath, shared, “It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers, and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall, but there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely, if the parent so chooses.”
Up until now, there has been a lot of speculation about what the rules would be for schools reopening in the fall, but school districts have not been provided concrete guidance to date. Detailed public health guidance is scheduled to be shared with school districts on Tuesday, June 23. Some of the guidelines are expected to be required, while others will be recommended best practices.
Once we have the guidelines in hand, and with results from the Burnet CISD COVID-19 Stakeholder Survey, the administration is committed to formulating a plan for the fall that makes sense for Burnet CISD with a strong emphasis on the health, safety, and well-being of our staff and students. The plan will address the physical and emotional well-being of students and staff in all areas of operations, including transportation, child nutrition, and extracurricular activity. The plan will also focus on high levels of academic achievement, while also planning for the digital divide among students and the challenges associated with distance learning.
The administration is committed to finalizing the plan as soon as possible, and communicating the plan fully to staff, students, parents, and the community once it is finalized. Even with the projected challenges of COVID-19 for the 2020-2021 school year, we are committed to keeping our promise of Crafting the Future for our students. We will share more details of our Return to School Plan in the weeks ahead so your family can make informed decisions.
May 20, 2020
I have been reading a massive biography on George Washington that spans his entire life, including the Revolutionary War and his time as President of the United States (Spoiler alert, Washington leads the Continental Army to victory).
Today, we consider the role of the President as given, but when Washington was drafted to become the first President, there were so many decisions to make about the role and responsibilities; it had simply never been done before. Through his extensive diary entries and letters to others, it is clear that he agonized over every decision, aware of the lasting consequences for future Presidents and the fledging Republic. Even what to call the President was hotly debated. The Senate suggested, “His Highness, the President of the United States of America and the Protector of their Liberties”. Washington, wanting to move as far away from any semblance to a monarchy, accepted the more simple title adopted by the House: “The President of the United States”.
Although we have not had to stand up a new form of government, all of the decisions Washington had to make given an unprecedented situation has reminded me of our work during the school closure due to COVID-19. Answers to questions that have never been asked before, are suddenly part of our daily conversations and contemplation. Washington expressed uncertainty often during the forming of the new government, and I know that we have all felt that same uncertainty in these uncharted waters of a pandemic.
Given the challenges that we have faced, I can’t even begin to express how proud I am of our staff, students and families. The feelings of uncertainty that have been expressed often among our staff is a strong indication to me of how much they care about getting this right, and taking care of our students- academically and emotionally.
And take care of students we have. In a matter of days of the announced closure, our staff set up a Grab & Go Meal service at 9 different locations spread out across 700 square miles, and were ready to serve meals beginning the first day of the school closure. On average, 500 meals a day are being served to students. In a week’s time, our teachers and administrators stood up a distance-learning program that consisted of online instruction and paper-based packets. Utilizing our own equipment and community partners, we made available over 30 free WiFi locations across the entire District. Although, it has not been quite the same, we have kept our commitment to recognizing our students and staff through virtual means. The work our staff has been engaged in is challenging, and is made even more challenging because we miss our students. But even a pandemic cannot diminish Spirit, Pride and Honor or get in the way of our commitment to CRAFTING the FUTURE.
Our seniors have not had the spring we all envisioned for them, but our staff has worked hard to make it as special as possible. On May 1, senior signs were posted at Burnet High School and Quest High School representing every senior. During the week of May 18, I am encouraging our community to paint the town green in honor of our seniors. On May 21, Quest High School will host a virtual graduation online at 6:00 p.m. On May 22 at 6:00 p.m. BCISD is hosting a Graduation Parade, which will be followed that same evening with Burnet High School’s virtual graduation ceremony at 7:30 p.m. We will officially wrap up the 2019-2020 school year by hosting Quest High School’s in-person Graduation Ceremony on June 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Burnet High School’s in-person Graduation Ceremony on June 5 at 7:30 p.m.
I have been asked often if school will resume as normal in the fall. The simple answer is I don’t know. We are planning for a regular start to the school year, but we are also having to make contingency plans for further school closures. The Texas Education Agency has stated that some form of school closure is likely during the 2020-2021 school year. We will continue to monitor all available information and continue to communicate what we know, when we know it.
Finally, like you, I wear many hats (and now sometimes a mask). I am dad, husband, Christian, superintendent, son, brother, etc., and one of my reflections is that the pandemic has made every hat I wear more challenging. I have had self-doubt about how well I am wearing each hat, and I have had moments of sadness, frustration, anger, along with moments of jubilation and celebration. Maybe you have felt the same way, and that is okay. I have prayed a lot during this time, and I have leaned on close friends and family. I encourage you to do the same thing, and if you don’t feel like you have someone to talk to, then consider calling the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week toll-free at 833-986-1919. I encourage you to continue to take care of yourself and your family.
April 6, 2020
I shared with our staff yesterday that there is no handbook or guide in dealing with a global pandemic or when all of our worlds are turned upside down. We have been challenged with the task of building an airplane while it is flying, so I apologize for the bumps that we have experienced or will experience as we refine our systems in this new reality. I thank our staff for the countless hours they have spent in standing up meal service and instructional supports for students. I want to share additional information with you about the weeks to come.
School Holiday on April 13
Monday, April 13 is a scheduled school holiday for staff and students, and the District will be recognizing the holiday. Grab & Go Meals will be offered on Monday, April 13 as usual, but there will not be any instruction offered on Monday, April 13. Teachers will not be conducting any Google Meets or making assignments for April 13.
Grading Student Work
Our Board of Trustees met last night to approve a resolution providing the administration flexibility from the current policies regarding grading, promotion, retention, and GPA. The Texas Education Agency has already made retention and promotion decisions a local decision during the school closure.
Our next step is to take the broad changes and flexibilities with the Resolution from the Board of Trustees and craft practical steps that our teachers and administrators will take to report student progress and determine promotion and award of credit. We will have procedures for committees to use a combination of grades prior to closure, work done during closure, plus other data we have for a student. As these decisions are finalized, we will be sharing with parents.
In the meantime, our teachers and administrators continue to work hard to adjust to a new pace and context for instruction. Thank you for your partnership as we get better with new tools and become more informed about the various needs of students when in a home setting. Please keep the lines of communication open with your teachers and administrators, and know that they are a phonecall away.
Access to WiFi
The District has compiled the attached map to provide information about WiFi hotspots available for use by students in and around the District during the COVID-19 school closure. The hotspots listed are provided by a mix of BCISD, local businesses, a partnership between Marble Falls ISD and Llano ISD, and other local organizations. Each number on the map represents a hotspot location and the matching entry in the legend includes the address and connection information if it is needed to connect.
We appreciate the businesses and organizations allowing our students to connect in a location closer to their home than our campuses. This service will allow students with limited or no internet connection to park in the mapped location and connect without leaving their vehicle, allowing them to maintain proper social distancing while taking advantage of the connection to complete their schoolwork.
There are many stressful things about COVID-19 and the associated school closure. None more so than the uncertainty associated with this health crisis. In fact, there are studies that show uncertainty is more stressful than being certain something bad is going to occur. As a District, we have tried to address the uncertainty with ongoing and regular communication, but I also know that I am not able to answer today, all of the questions you have about the remainder of the school year. It is fair to say that there is a likelihood that the school closure could be extended beyond May 5. We continue to monitor all available information closely, including participating in twice a week conference calls with the Commissioner of Education. As soon as any decisions are made, we will communicate those to you.
I want to wrap up this note with a reminder that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This new resource offers COVID-19-related mental health support for all Texans. People can call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week toll-free at 833-986-1919.
Continue to take care of yourself and your family,
March 29, 2020
Famed groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil predicted on February 2 an early spring when he did not see his shadow. Locally, Pawnee the Bertram donkey ate his oats on February 3 signaling his agreement with Phil about an early spring. A groundhog and a donkey both say it’s spring, and the calendar made it official on March 19. If there was any doubt left to be had, the drive to and from my office the past couple of weeks has provided irrefutable proof of spring by the beautiful display of bluebonnets lining the road.
Even with all of this evidence of spring, the circadian rhythm of our community seems off as other markers of spring are postponed, cancelled or delivered in a new format. COVID-19 has added a chill to many routine passages of spring in our community. The Bluebonnet Festival won’t take place this year, and Easter services will be offered via Facebook Live, YouTube, or other streaming platforms. Senior Prom has been postponed, little league fields have been silenced, as have the crack of the bats for the Bulldogs and Lady Dawgs. I always wondered if I would need a winter coat or shorts for the annual Bulldog Relays- one of the best run local track meets in Central Texas. The Rotary Golf Tournament was always a reminder to me to get my wife a birthday card, and now I am going to have to remember that on my own. Our Bulldog and Lady Dawg soccer teams both made the playoffs (a first for the Bulldogs), but playoff games won’t be held until sometime after May 4. I knew it was hump day when I attended the Rotary meeting on Wednesdays, but those gatherings have been cancelled for now. I won’t be winning that Gator at the FFA Friends and Family fundraiser this year, but as always, I’m convinced that next year will be my year. Burnet CISD has had quite a streak of state championships recently in UIL academic competitions, and for now, those are on hold waiting for a decision from UIL.
It is definitely springtime, but it doesn’t quite feel like it usually does. With that said, there is still plenty to celebrate about what’s right in our community. Our HEB grocery clerks and stockers have definitely earned their super hero capes during this pandemic. Our first responders, as always, are there for this community. I’m not sure many people even knew Burnet had an Economic Development Corporation, but they do now, as it steps up to offer assistance to our small businesses that are the heart of the community. In one week’s time, our teachers have stood up a distance-learning platform with a mixture of online learning and traditional paper packets. Burnet CISD staff spent spring break developing a system to make sure students could receive a free breakfast and lunch each weekday of the school closure. Our County Judge has approached this issue with measured and common sense actions. The YMCA is providing childcare for the children of first responders. The city council and the school board have both taken proactive actions to ensure city and school leaders have the flexibility and authority to address this evolving health and economic challenge. These are just a few examples of what’s right in our community, even as we mourn the loss of many of our spring traditions.
In Burnet CISD, our first priority is the safety of our students and staff. We have announced a school closure through April 13, but that is likely to change as the President just announced today an extension of federal guidelines for social distancing through April 30, and Governor Abbot indicated today that he would be meeting with Education Commissioner Morath this week to determine guidance regarding lengthening state-wide closures of schools. I can assure our parents and community that Burnet CISD schools will open only when it is determined to be safe for students and staff. I hope to receive additional information from the Commissioner during our daily conference calls early this week. As always, as soon as I have additional information, I will be sharing it with our families. Our team is dedicated to continuing to provide free meals for students, and our campus staff will continue to plan instruction designed for students at home.
Today, there are still unknowns about the status of other events in the District that are scheduled to take place later in the spring. As I have shared previously, my commitment is that “cancel” is not a word we are using right now. We are postponing events, and we are committed to doing everything within our ability to make sure students get to participate in as many spring milestone events as possible.
I want to encourage everyone to continue to honor the Stay-in-Place order, and remind you to wash your hands. I appreciate your patience and support as we navigate this challenging time as a community, state and nation.
March 27, 2020
I am writing to let you know that the District is extending the school closure through April 13th, with a planned return of staff and students on Tuesday, April 14th. The school closure includes the cancellation of all UIL events, extracurricular activities, rentals, and school events during the same period. We will continue to monitor all available information (including Burnet County’s Stay-in-Place Order), and make adjustments to the scheduled school closure as needed for the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and community. I appreciate your patience and support as we navigate this challenging time as a community, state and nation.
Grab & Go Meals will continue to be served Monday-Friday each week of the school closure, and families will receive instructional continuity instructions from their child’s campus.
March 25, 2020
This is the second of two planned communications this week from the District. The next planned communications from the District will take place next Monday and Wednesday. As you know, the Governor’s Executive Order regarding school closure is in place through Friday, April 3. I have had a number of people ask if the school closure is going to extend beyond April 3. Today, I do not know the answer to that question. I participate in a statewide conference call with the Commissioner of Education every day at 3:00 p.m., and it is clear that the number of cases of COVID-19 in Texas are increasing along with the number of communities under Shelter-in-Place Orders. I share this information because, although I do not know if the Governor’s Executive Order is going to be extended, I do think it is a strong possibility. I can assure you, that as soon as we have additional information regarding school closure, we will share that information immediately, and not wait for our scheduled communications.
I have also been asked several questions about our 2020 Seniors, and the status of the many spring milestone events like prom and graduation. I recognize that there is a true sense of loss right now for our students, but especially so for our 2020 Seniors because of the many postponed competitions, shows, and events. I have a 2020 Senior in my home, and I am witnessing the sense of loss as a superintendent, but even more personally as a parent. Like the school closure order, I do not know today what the weeks ahead are going to look like in terms of our ability to hold many of these events. My commitment to our 2020 Seniors is that “cancel” is not a word that BHS Principal Burkhart and I are using right now. We are postponing events, and we are committed to doing everything within our ability to make sure students get to participate in as many spring milestone events as possible.
We have seen the number of Grab & Go Meals served increase each day since Monday. We continue to offer Grab & Go Meals to all children 18 years and younger from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (Monday-Friday) at the locations listed below during the school closure. The meals include breakfast and lunch items. As a reminder, per federal guidelines, the child must be in the vehicle or present in order to pick up a meal.
Briggs Community Center: 215 Loop 308, Briggs, Texas
Lake Victor Community Center: 200 Lake Avenue, Burnet (Lake Victor), Texas
Lakeshore Library: 7346 Ranch Road 261, Buchanan Dam, Texas
Hoover Valley Fire Department: 303 County Road 118b, Burnet, Texas
Cassie Community Center: 3920 FM 690, Burnet, Texas
YMCA of the Highland Lakes: 1601 South Water Street, Burnet, Texas
Bertram Elementary: 315 Main Street, Bertram, Texas
RJ Richey Elementary: 500 E. Graves, Burnet, Texas
This past Monday, the Board of Trustees held a Special Board Meeting via conference call (a first in the history of the District). To facilitate the effective operation of the school district during the emergency closure, the Board approved two resolutions. The first resolution delegates authority to the superintendent to act in place of the Board of Trustees during the emergency closure. The delegation includes:
Authority to continue wage payments to all regular employees for the stated purpose of reducing turnover and increasing employee morale
Authority related to premium pay for hourly employees per Local Policy DEA
Authority related to purchase limits increasing from $25,000 to $50,000
Authority to alter the BCISD 2019-2020 school calendar as needed
Authority to seek waivers from TEA
Authority to declare a catastrophe
Authority to provide assistance to state and local governments through interlocal agreements
The second resolution delegates temporary purchasing authority to the superintendent in order to expedite the purchase of goods and services as needed in response to the emergency closure. The next Meeting of the Board of Trustees is Monday, March 30. It will also be held in a conference call format, and the link, if you want to listen in, is https://www.burnetcisd.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=460012&type=d&pREC_ID=1866084
Burnet CISD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Rachel Jones is joining me in providing updates to families, specifically addressing the District’s instructional continuity program.
Here is more from Dr. Jones:
Next Monday, March 30, we will officially begin “Distance Dawgs,” our instructional continuity program during the District’s closure. You’ll find a new tab at the top of the District webpage www.burnetcisd.net
labeled “Distance Learning.” General information is posted there today, but we will build additional pages in the coming days so that it can serve as a one-stop landing page for this new initiative.
The Distance Dawgs Program will include a variety of learning opportunities for completion at home. Students might work online, participate in a phonecall, or complete paper-and-pencil tasks. We know that not only does the level of internet connectivity vary across the BCISD community, but the numbers and types of devices in families’ homes also vary. Our teachers are working very hard to be creative in the ways available for students to show evidence of their learning so that we can serve all students. If you missed a phonecall from campus staff this week, please make contact so that they can understand your family’s needs for access to instruction.
Campus leaders are working this week on creating schedules of times that teachers will be available to you and your students. We understand that many of you have multiple children who will be learning at home, and you may also be working from home as well. Teachers will continue to facilitate learning; we don’t expect you as parents to be the only help available to your child. Teachers may hold Google Meets, Google Chats, or may call by phone. You can also reach them through email to schedule conversations during times that work for both teachers and your family.
We will continue to hold high expectations for our students’ learning because we think they are amazing! Teachers will be reviewing students’ work and providing feedback on progress. Students in special programs will also receive appropriate services. Staff members will be reaching out in the coming days to talk about whether adjustments to existing plans could be needed due to the distance learning context.
Students are required to participate fully in the Distance Dawgs Program. Beginning March 30th, if your child is unable to participate in distance learning, please contact your campus to report the student “absent.” From March 30th through April 3rd, no formal grades will be entered into Skyward, but teachers will use Distance Dawgs assignments in decisions about promotion and credit in later weeks. In the event that distance learning is extended, we will inform you if we make any changes to grading, promotion, and credit practices.
You should expect to hear from your student’s campus in the next few days with schedules and instructions for next week. Please reach out to your teachers and campus leaders with any questions. We are all learning and growing together through this challenging time, and your constructive feedback is essential as we make adjustments.
Thank you for the privilege of serving your family. I am grateful to be a part of the BCISD community!
In closing, I recently began reading a biography of George Washington, and I was taken by a quote from him I read last night, “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” I have to agree, in Burnet CISD we are committed to persevering with spirit, pride and honor as we continue the mission of crafting the future with our students, even during this challenging time. Please continue to take care of yourself and others, and consider how you can support our local businesses.
March 23, 2020
As promised, this is the first of two planned communications this week from the District (the next one will be on Wednesday). Teachers are returning from Spring Break today. In addition to gathering items from theirs classrooms to facilitate instruction, all teachers will be participating in virtual staff meetings today to begin to discuss home instruction options. Because we want to be thoughtful and equitable about the instructional support we will offer to students, our campuses will spend this first week back planning for instruction in preparation for beginning formal instruction on Monday, March 30.
Today we have released an initial webpage for families to have one place to access all the information that’s been sent by email throughout last week: meal pick-ups, medication retrieval, and other general information. It can be reached by clicking this link Distance Dawgs
. We’ll add to it as we go. One of the resources we have posted is a sample generalized daily schedule to help structure students’ weekdays. This is not formal instructional continuity. The schedule has activity ideas, but they are only for enrichment and waking the brain up after Spring Break. The goal is to help with a daily routine that will ease students into distance learning next week. Your student will not receive any teacher feedback on these activities, and none are required for completion
We also want to invite you to join us as we focus on connection and community-building during these coming days. Don’t underestimate the power of hearing a familiar voice, or of sharing a common experience together. How about some fun? We invite you to join our staff in virtual spirit days. Post to social media with the hashtag #BCISDDistanceDawgs for each themed day. The schedule is posted to Facebook and on our new webpage. Participation is completely voluntary, but for those extroverts out there who feel all bottled up, this could be fun!
We are delivering 600 meals today to students and will continue to offer Grab & Go Meals to all children 18 years and younger from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (Monday-Friday) at the locations listed below during the school closure. As a reminder, the meals will include breakfast and lunch items. Parents are asked to stay in their vehicles as they pick up the meals, and if a family does walk up, no food can be eaten onsite. Also, per federal guidelines, the child must be in the vehicle or present in order to pick up a meal.
• Briggs Community Center: 215 Loop 308, Briggs, Texas
• Lake Victor Community Center: 200 Lake Avenue, Burnet (Lake Victor), Texas
• Lakeshore Library: 7346 Ranch Road 261, Buchanan Dam, Texas
• Hoover Valley Fire Department: 303 County Road 118b, Burnet, Texas
• Cassie Community Center: 3920 FM 690, Burnet, Texas
• YMCA of the Highland Lakes: 1601 South Water Street, Burnet, Texas
• Bertram Elementary: 315 Main Street, Bertram, Texas
• RJ Richey Elementary: 500 E. Graves, Burnet, Texas
The Board of Trustees will hold a Special Board Meeting this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Pursuant to Governor Abbott’s Temporary Suspension of Open Meetings Laws issued on March 16, 2020, this meeting will be conducted via telephonic conference, which will be audible to the Board and public and allow for two-way communication between Board Members. The Board President, presiding officer, and trustees will not be physically present at one location, but a quorum will be required for the meeting on the phone. The public may access this meeting by using the following link:
or by going to www.burnetcisd.net
selecting the “BOARD” tab and then selecting “Board Meeting Live
In response to COVID-19, the Board will consider for approval two resolutions that authorize the Superintendent flexibility in operational issues in order to accommodate school closures and continue to provide instruction to District students. The Board will also discuss the May 2, 2020 Board and Bond Elections and Governor Abbott’s March 18, 2020 Proclamation suspending Sections 41.0052(a) and (b) of the Texas Election Code.
Thank you for your continued support of Burnet CISD. We are committed to continuing to provide timely communication as a way of adding more certainty, during these uncertain times.
March 4, 2020
A question that I have been asked by some community members is, “Why is the District holding a May 2020 election when BCISD recently had a November election?” The simple answer is that even though the November 2019 bond failed, the facility priorities identified in that bond still exist. Second, because of rising construction costs and inflation, the longer the District waits to complete facility improvement projects, the more expensive the projects will become. But the main reason for a May 2020 Bond is that Bertram Elementary’s enrollment is outpacing demographic projections. Bertram Elementary, with a capacity of 450 students, has grown by 32 students since August.
Today, there are 403 students enrolled; the July 2019 demographic study did not project Bertram Elementary’s enrollment being at 400 students until 2022. A bond election will allow BCISD to accommodate student growth at Bertram Elementary and to avoid the addition of portable buildings to that campus. To find out more about the 2020 Bond, go to www.burnetcisd.net
and click the 2020 Bond link in the top right-hand corner of the homepage.
Another way to learn more about the 2020 Bond program and about the District, is to join me on Wednesday, March 4 at the Community Center, where Mayor Crista Goble and I will be offering short talks on the State of the Community from the city and school district’s perspective. 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.
The Board of Trustees held its first Budget Workshop this past Monday in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year. The Board discussed revenue projections along with compensation models and staffing needs in each of the following categories: Managing Student/Teacher Ratios, Behavior Support, and Campus Support. The Board also discussed the current tax rate and its plan to lower the tax rate by at least .5 cents to $1.18, even if the 2020 Bond passes.
In a recent survey of Texans, 59% believe their community public schools have too little money. One way to ensure that Burnet County and Burnet CISD receive the funding that they deserve from the federal government is by making sure that every citizen is counted as part of the 2020 Census. Beginning March 12 households will receive letters with a unique ID that will allow recipients to respond to the Census. Please take a moment to be counted during this important once every ten-year event.
At the beginning of February, the District honored the 7th 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- Elton Heine
Distinguished Former Athlete- Dr. Michael Maxwell
Distinguished Burnet High School Graduate- Ross Johnson
Distinguished Former Employee- Arlee Barton
Educator of the Year- Katie Hewitt
It is so important that these people’s stories are a part of the District’s history. We thank them all for their contribution. In addition to their names being added to perpetual plaques located at Burnet High School, a brief story on each honoree is posted on the District’s web site.
February 10, 2020
BURNET CISD BOARD CALLS MAY 2020 BOND ELECTION
Voter Feedback Informed the Composition of the May 2020 Bond Election
Keith McBurnett, Superintendentkmcburnett@burnetcisd.net
Burnet, TX – February 10, 2020 - The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to call for a bond election on May 2, 2020. The election includes two propositions.
Proposition A totals $23,900,000 and focuses on projects related to student growth, learning environments, infrastructure, and safety and security. Based on feedback from voters, Proposition A does not contain athletic projects, technology projects, painting projects, or ceiling tile replacement projects.
“43% of Proposition A is focused on addressing student enrollment growth in Burnet CISD,” said Superintendent Keith McBurnett. “Bertram Elementary has a current capacity of 450 students. Although the July demographic study projected enrollment to reach 400 students by the year 2022, Bertram has already grown from 371 students to 404 students just during the 2019-2020 school year. By funding a classroom addition at Bertram Elementary now, the District will avoid having to add portable buildings to the campus, and because of rising construction costs due to inflation, building now will save the District money in the long run.”
In separate, but related action, the Board also approved filing an application for minimum class size exception due to one first grade classroom at Bertram Elementary exceeding the state-mandated 22:1 student-to-teacher ratio by one student. “The need for a class size waiver at Bertram Elementary is one more indication that student enrollment growth is an issue the District is dealing with today. The District could hire an additional teacher, but there is currently not an open classroom at Bertram Elementary for an additional first grade classroom,” said McBurnett.
Proposition B totals $5,760,000 and focuses on the construction of a high school weight room with baseball and girls soccer locker rooms, and the turfing of the Burnet Middle School athletic field with a 6-lane track.
“Some stakeholders have indicated that athletic projects should not be included in the bond program, but there have been just as many stakeholders that have expressed the importance of having athletic projects included in the bond program,” said McBurnett. “The Board is committed to listening to stakeholders, and providing the voters choice based on that feedback. To address both points of view, the May 2020 Bond will have a separate Proposition B that contains athletic projects. This means that voters will have the opportunity to vote for or against Proposition A and for or against Proposition B separately and independently from each other. “
Even with the passage of the May 2020 Bond Election, the Administration will recommend to the Board of Trustees in August to approve a tax rate decrease of .5 cents for the 2020-2021 school year. This will represent the fifth year in a row the Board of Trustees has approved lowering the tax rate, and the projected $1.18 tax rate is over 8 cents lower than the tax rate prior to the 2014 Bond Program. In addition, the Board will be paying off targeted existing debt early in the 2020-2021 school year.
“After the failed 2019 Bond Election, the Board of Trustees sought feedback from voters and listened carefully to that feedback. The composition of the May 2020 Bond Program honors the feedback from voters by removing projects to reduce the overall size of the bond program, paying off existing debt early, lowering the tax rate, and giving voters a separate choice concerning athletic projects,” said McBurnett.
February 5, 2020
Two hundred thirty years ago the first U.S. census was held. The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years. The results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets. By accurately accounting for the growing population in Texas, that means more representation for Texas in Congress.
In addition, the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants, and support to states, counties, and communities are based on census data. That money is spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works, and other vital programs. By completing the census, you are helping Burnet County and Burnet CISD receive additional funding during the next ten years.
Beginning March 12, letters will go out to all residences letting individuals know how they can complete the census online or by phone. If a person has not completed the census by April 3, a paper questionnaire will be mailed to the residence.
The security of census systems is a top priority, and census information technology systems are designed to defend against and contain cyberthreats. Individual privacy is also protected. It’s against the law for the Census Bureau to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or your household. By law, your responses cannot be used against you and can only be used to produce statistics. I will be completing the census questionnaire as soon as I receive my letter, and I encourage all Burnet County residents to do the same.
It is hard to believe it has been seven years since its inception, but Join the Journey will hold its 7th Annual Safe and Drug Free Wellness Fair tomorrow on Thursday, February 6 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, a texting and driving simulator, and great door prizes. I hope you will join us for this fun and educational event designed for the whole family.
I hope you will also consider attending the Burnet Chamber of Commerce annual banquet held this Saturday, February 8. Along with the Chamber recognizing members of the community, the District will recognize the 2020 Hall of Honor Honorees. Since 2014, the Burnet Consolidated ISD Hall of Honor has recognized outstanding individuals that through their contributions will forever be linked to Burnet CISD. Each year we recognize four categories of people: Distinguished Former Board Member, Distinguished Former Athlete, Distinguished Former Employee, and Distinguished BHS Graduate.
Located at the foyer of Burnet High School are four 60-year perpetual plaques each representing one of the categories. The name of each inductee is forever engraved on one of the plaques, and during the year of induction a picture of the honoree hangs in the foyer. To date, we have honored 24 individuals as part of the Hall of Honor, and we look forward to inducting 4 more honorees on Saturday, along with recognizing the Burnet CISD Educator of the Year.
January 15, 2020
On September 12, 1962 President Kennedy delivered the memorable “Moon Speech” in which he set forth his vision for putting a man on the moon. During his speech he challenged to nation to, "go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." There is no doubt that President Kennedy’s vision and goal for the space program was a driving force behind Neil Armstrong taking that first step on the moon on July 20, 1969. What is truly remarkable to me is that he established a vision for the future in 1962 in which technology did not exist at the time to make it a reality. His stated vision was the starting point for the creation of hundreds of new technologies. That’s how important vision can be.
The month of January is School Board Recognition Month and the theme this year is Launching the Next Generation. Kennedy’s vision was critical to the success of the Apollo Program, and the Burnet CISD Board of Trustees’ vision for the District is critical to its success. We are fortunate to have school board members that provide outstanding leadership and vision for Burnet CISD. Our shared vision is Burnet Consolidated ISD will craft an inspiring future for each student that embodies spirit, pride, and honor. The challenge for us is similar to what existed in 1962 in that each student’s future is unique to them, and we have to prepare students for that future without fully knowing what jobs will even be needed in the future.
While educating children may not be rocket science, it is a complex, demanding responsibility: ensuring that schools are available, qualified teachers are in place, buildings are safe, and resources are provided. It’s a responsibility that our board members generously accept. They commit to read reports, learn the laws, understand the community’s needs, set thoughtful goals, and wisely handle the District’s financial resources.
The task of educating more than 3,200 students can seem overwhelming. The idea of 3,200 young minds relying on us to provide what they will need to succeed in their ever-unfolding future can feel insurmountable. But when we were children, the adults in our world provided for us, and now it is our turn to provide for today’s students.
But it isn’t just a simple commitment. Serving as a board member means going through an election and making difficult decisions for the District, its employees, and its children. It means being available to hear from concerned parents in the grocery store, at the game, or over the backyard fence. It means committing to the time it takes to do the job right. And in Texas there is no pay for school board members, and there are required training requirements, creating further demands on their time. In short, why would anyone volunteer for this role?
Fortunately, in our community, caring adults have signed on for the responsibility and hard work of making our schools the best they can be. They immerse themselves in learning what they need to know to make good decisions that will provide for students, from the very youngest to the graduating senior. Trustees are public servants who generously work to benefit the most vulnerable members of each community.
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. Take a moment to recognize these local trustees, and say thank you for the work the Burnet CISD School Board members are doing on your behalf.
December 11, 2019
I am a self-admitted Abraham Lincoln buff having read multiple biographies about him, along with nonfiction works about his leadership and the era in which he lived. Lincoln was known for opening the White House to citizens so that they could share with him their issues and concerns. Lincoln referred to this as his, “public opinion bath.”
In response to the failed 2019 Bond Proposition, the District invited those people that voted in the election to share why they voted for or against the bond election. 291 people responded to the survey, which was 12% of surveys distributed. The Board of Trustees and administration have reviewed the results of the survey including every comment provided. The survey served as a “public opinion bath,” and the results are helping to inform a future, revised bond program. Especially in light of the fact that actual enrollment numbers indicate Bertram Elementary could exceed its capacity as early as 2022, instead of the original projection of 2025, the District will need to consider calling a bond election sooner than later. I look forward to sharing specific details of a revised bond program as they are finalized.
In the meantime, I want to address some of the questions and comments that I read as I reviewed the survey results.
Property tax rate: 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. This is evidenced by the Board of Trustees voting 4 years in a row to lower the tax rate, positioning Burnet CISD to have the second lowest tax rate among surrounding school districts. In discussions of future years’ budget projections, the intention is to continue to lower the rate again in 2020.
Debt load: The District is committed to managing its level of debt. This is evidenced by Burnet CISD having the second lowest debt-to-student ratio of surrounding Districts. Since 2012, the District has realized over $3.5 million in interest cost savings through refinancing previous bonds and paying previous bonds off early. The District is planning on paying off early an additional $1.3 million in debt in 2020. In no way has the refinancing of bonds or paying off debt early extended the length of any debt obligations.
Appraised values: 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; if they do not, 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. If Burnet County does not pass the Comptroller’s ratio study, Burnet CISD and Marble Falls ISD could both lose millions of dollars in state funding.
Academic outcomes: Burnet CISD’s current TEA academic accountability rating is a letter grade “B.” Principals from each campus presented plans to the School Board on Monday, October 21 on how campuses are addressing student achievement for all students.
Teacher compensation: Bond funds cannot be used for payroll expenses, but Burnet CISD is proud to lead area school districts in teacher pay and in benefits by using its budgeted operating funds. Burnet CISD is ranked number one in teacher pay among area districts.
Fiscal management: Burnet CISD’s current TEA financial accountability rating is “Superior” or letter grade “A,” which is the highest rating possible.
Facility projects: There were no projects in the 2019 Bond Program being repeated or replicated from the 2014 Bond Program. As an example, the roof of the main building at RJ Richey Elementary received an elastomeric coating as part of the 2014 Bond Program. The RJ Richey gym roof did not receive the coating in 2014, because there was no need at the time for that work to be done. Five years later, there is evidence that the coating is needed at the gym area, and it was included as part of the 2019 Bond Program. So, roof work at RJ Richey was listed on the 2019 Bond Program, but it was addressing different areas than when it was listed on the 2014 Bond Program.
School finance options: A Bond Election does not indicate that a District is not living within its means. The school finance system that the State uses to distribute funds was not designed to support new construction or large renovations. This is evidenced by the fact that 86% of all school districts in the State have current bond debt.
The Board of Trustees and administration appreciate the feedback provided by community members on both sides of the issues. We are committed to listening and learning, while we continue to plan for Burnet CISD 5-10 years into the future.
Next week we wrap up the first semester of the school year and head into Christmas break, which is scheduled for December 23-January 6. We look forward to welcoming students back to school for the second semester on Tuesday, January 7, 2020. On behalf of the staff, students, Board of Trustees and administration, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
November 21, 2019
As you know, the 2019 Bond Proposal was not approved by voters on November 5th. As I shared on election night, we are committed to studying the results of the election, listening to our stakeholders, and bringing forward in the future a revised bond proposition based on the feedback we receive. We are in the process of publishing a short survey we hope voters will use to provide the District feedback about the failed school bond proposal.
With that said, the needs identified in the 2019 Bond still exist. For example, Bertram Elementary has 45 more students today than projected through our demographic study. That means that Bertram Elementary is on-track to exceed its capacity even sooner than the original target of 2025. The District’s operating budget cannot accommodate the cost of adding a new classroom wing at Bertram Elementary to increase its capacity.
The other reality to be considered is that construction costs are going up every year, and in some cases, every month. As an example, when the Board approved prevailing wages as part of the 2014 Bond program, the Texas Workforce Commission wage survey for the Rural Capitol Area listed $9.78 as the average hourly rate for a construction laborer. The most recent data from the Texas Workforce Commission is from 2018, and the average hourly rate for a construction laborer for the Rural Capitol Area has increased by 52% to $14.87.
The District is in a very strong financial position which has allowed the Board to approve to lower the tax rate the past four years in a row, while also maintaining a “rainy day” fund balance of three months of operating costs. In addition, in planning for becoming a recapture district in the next five years (sending money back to the state), Burnet CISD has set aside $1 million so that the District can address any future deficits caused by recapture.
Proactive planning has made it possible for Burnet CISD to earn a Superior Rating in the state’s financial accountability system, lead area districts in compensation and benefits for staff, while also having the second lowest tax rate and the second lowest student to debt ratio among area districts. We are committed to being good stewards of our facilities and our tax dollars. One way to do that is by borrowing money for capital projects when the environment is optimal to do so. Municipal interest rates are currently at a record 20 year low, making large projects more affordable.
In the midst of talking bonds and finances, I would like to change directions and recognize three students that exemplify Spirit, Pride and Honor, and the excellence in Burnet CISD. As you have probably already heard, Hudson Bennet is a Regional Cross Country Champion. Jazlyn Marvin and Mitchel Howard were recently recognized by the Board of Trustees as National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Students. These accomplishments are significant, and it would be easy to think that Hudson is naturally fast, and Jazlyn and Mitchel are just smart, but I want you to know that these accomplishments don’t happen by accident. When I think about these three students, it is their work ethic and grit that made the difference in their performance, and it is those demonstrated characteristics that make me the most proud. Congratulations to all three of them!
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 25 – November 29. When classes resume on Monday, December 2, we will have three weeks of school before the end of the first semester and Christmas break, which is scheduled for December 23-January 6. We look forward to welcoming students back to school for the second semester on Tuesday, January 7, 2020.
To kick off the Christmas season, Burnet High School would like to invite the community to attend the 4th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at the BHS courtyard amphitheater. On December 3, from 6:30-8:30 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.
November 6, 2019
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the administration, I would like to thank the Burnet CISD community members who invested themselves in the development of the bond proposition. We understood from the beginning that this bond election would be challenging because of the large number of voters that do not have a direct connection to Burnet CISD. Nevertheless, with the input from the Board of Trustees and the Community Advisory Committee we knew that this was an opportunity to address needed renovations and future growth while voters realized a 7.5 cent tax rate decrease. As a result, we believed the voters deserved a choice. After conducting dozens of informational meetings with the community, developing an informational website and providing information to voters, we still do not believe that we were able to effectively reach all of the voters.
A lot of people on both sides of this issue have worked very hard. We appreciate their interest in our schools. Tonight, the reality is that the needs identified through the facility assessment still exist, while the ability to pay for those needed renovations through the operating budget does not.
When 85% of the operating budget is accounted for through salaries, utilities, and transportation alone (not including campus or departmental budgets), that leaves the District little in discretionary funds to address major renovations or maintenance issues. For example, one roof replacement can cost over $1 million.
As some of the supporters of the bond have noted, the community will either pay for the needed renovations and classroom expansions now or later. With the impact of inflation, the cost later will be greater than the cost today. Hopefully, with additional information, the community will come together in support of a bond to improve our facilities for the benefit of our students and to address future growth. We are committed to studying the results of the election, listening to our stakeholders, and bringing forward a revised bond proposition in the future.
October 23, 2019
Next week all of Burnet CISD is celebrating Red Ribbon Week (often referred to as Green Ribbon Week in Burnet) in which the District and the community focus on the prevention of drug use within our community. One of the ways that we celebrate is by having students dress up in different types of themes like crazy sock day or spirit day. These are fun activities for our students with a serious purpose. I remember the hectic mornings in my home trying to get my boys dressed in their crazy socks, but I want to challenge our parents to use these theme days as natural conversation starters to talk to their children about the dangers of drug abuse, and to set clear rules for them about not using drugs.
The conversations don’t have to be long or complicated, and parents don’t have to be an expert in order to share information or ask questions. Some conversation starters for parents include:
• Talk to your kids about what the drug trends were when you were in high school. Make it personal, talk about friends or family members who used drugs.
• Ask your kids to tell you about a friend or someone they know who has experimented with drugs and the consequences they faced.
• Tell your kids what your family’s position is on alcohol and smoking pot.
• Ask your kids what they think is the biggest issue facing teens today. Ask how you can help them to better face this issue.
As many of you know, early voting began on Monday, October 21 and will last through Friday, November 1. Early voting times are from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. except on Thursdays when the times are extended to 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Please note there are 10 Constitutional Amendments to consider before reaching the Burnet CISD Bond Election item on the ballot. The Burnet CISD Bond Election item is on the second page of the ballot.
Did you know that classroom design influences levels of interaction, engagement, and collaboration? Through the 2019 Bond Program, Burnet CISD is proposing to refresh the aging furniture in approximately 150 classrooms with new, flexible, high-impact furniture.
The District has piloted this type of furniture in approximately 25 classrooms, and when surveyed, students reported that the new furniture was more comfortable, helped them to better use technology and helped them to better learn. The strategic drivers for the pilot furniture were a focus on mobility and flexibility, student centeredness and technology friendliness.
In addition to new furniture, Burnet CISD wants to implement a 1:1 technology initiative. Our staff has been visiting other 1:1 districts to learn best practices. At the high school level, that means purchasing a Chromebook for every student, and having high school students use the Chromebooks at home and at school. At the middle school and elementary levels, that means having a Chromebook available for every student in any given classroom. Our teachers are receiving the same devices this fall in preparation for the 1:1 initiative rollout in the fall of 2020. The staff Chromebooks are being paid for from the District’s operational budget. The estimated bond budget for the furniture and technology is $4.7 million. To find out more about the 2019 Bond, please go to www.burnetcisd.net.
October 9, 2019
After months of conducting a comprehensive facilities assessment, two Community Advisory Committee meetings, several months of Board deliberations, and over 25 informational meetings to date, voting begins on October 21 for the Burnet CISD 2019 Bond Proposition.
Early voting begins on Monday, October 21 and will last through Friday, November 1. Burnet County residents can early vote at the AgrilIfe Extension Auditorium (Former Burnet Elementary Cafeteria) or the Marble Falls Courthouse South Annex. Llano or Williamson County residents can find their voting locations at www.burnetcisd.net
and clicking on the “2019 Bond” tab. Early voting times are from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. except on Thursdays when the times are extended to 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Because this is a general election, the electronic ballot in Burnet County is two pages long, and will also include 10 Constitutional Amendments. The BCISD Bond Proposition is the last item on the ballot. I have been reminding voters that if they want their opinions heard on the bond proposition, then they have to make sure they scroll to the bottom of the ballot and cast a vote.
As you know by now, the Burnet CISD 2019 Bond Proposition is projected to address student growth accommodation, especially at Bertram Elementary; safety and security enhancements; efficiency enhancements; enhanced classroom learning environments; and useful life extension of aging facilities and infrastructure. A complete list of projects and comprehensive information about the bond can be found at www.burnetcisd.net.
All of the projects could be completed with a tax rate of $1.185, which is 7.5 cents lower than the 2018-2019 tax rate. If approved, the 2020 tax rate is projected to remain the same at $1.185.
Some voters have asked the question, “How can this be a no tax rate impact bond?” The answer is that there are two major factors allowing the District to decrease the tax rate even if the 2019 Bond Proposition is approved. Property values have been increasing significantly since 2014 (as a reminder, Burnet CISD has nothing to do with the appraisal of property values). At the same time, Burnet CISD is paying off existing debt (in some cases earlier than scheduled). By 2024 Burnet CISD will pay off the 2003 Bond that helped to build the high school. It is important to also recognize that Burnet CISD has been very conservative in taking on new debt, as evidenced by Burnet CISD having the second lowest student to debt ratio of surrounding school districts.
One of the challenges that Burnet CISD faces, like all school districts across the state, is that 85% of the District’s $30 million operating budget is committed to staff salaries, utilities, and transportation costs. When most of the operating budget is accounted for through these three areas alone (not including campus or departmental budgets), that leaves the District little in discretionary funds to address major renovations or maintenance issues, especially when considering that one roof replacement can cost over $1 million.
Even with these challenges, Burnet CISD has consistently operated with a balanced budget and received the “Superior” financial accountability rating from the state. In addition, the District’s tax rate and current debt-to-student ratio are the second lowest in the area compared to other districts. The District also has a healthy fund balance of over 90 days in operating funds that the Board has intentionally built over time as an emergency reserve.
I have appreciated the community’s interest in the bond program over the past few months. I hope as many people as possible will take advantage of opportunities to inform themselves on all of the issues on the upcoming ballot, and will take time to vote. Early voting is easy and convenient. Of course, some people like to vote on Election Day, and on Tuesday, November 5, the polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
September 25, 2019
In the past 5 years, Burnet CISD has implemented multiple initiatives to address school safety and security. Some examples include the installation of proximity card access systems at exterior doors throughout the district, the addition of School Resource Officers, the construction of secure entry ways, the deployment of additional security cameras, and the construction of fencing at campuses with multiple buildings.
The work of conducting safety audits at campuses is ongoing, and through our audits, we have identified several projects that are included in the 2019 Bond Program. They include: Installing proximity card access systems at all classroom doors. This would allow us to lock all classrooms doors at the push of a button in an emergency situation, much like we are able to do with exterior doors today. Also included is the construction of fencing at elementary playgrounds, a new fire alarm system at Quest High School, and a lighting detection system at the stadium. The estimated budget for this work is $1.9 million. To find out more about the 2019 Bond, please consider attending one of the upcoming information sessions listed below or go to www.burnetcisd.net
October 1 at 6:30 p.m. Community Bond Presentation
Central Office Board Room (208 East Brier in Burnet)
October 4 at 8:00 a.m. Coffee With Superintendent
Bertram Elementary Library (315 Main Street in Bertram)
October 17 at 8:00 a.m. Coffee With Superintendent
Parent Resource Center (202 East Brier in Burnet)
In Burnet CISD we want to hear your feedback, comments and suggestions on ways to improve our District. To facilitate receiving feedback, eight years ago, the District launched a Solution Seeking Feedback Form on the District’s website. Comments, suggestions, and proposed solutions on any education or school topic are welcome. All you have to do is complete the on-line form found on the Burnet CISD home page (select the Solution Seeking Feedback Form link found by clicking the District tab on the top left side of the homepage). Once the form is completed and submitted, it will be forwarded to the appropriate department or person, and you are guaranteed a response. Some of the best ideas have come directly from parents, community members and staff.
You will notice that the form not only has a space for sharing a question or concern, but just as important, there is a section to offer a possible solution for the District to consider. Burnet CISD is a great school district, but we can always be better. Your constructive feedback will help us accomplish that goal.
September 11, 2019
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 19 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 Manor Titans. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.
Speaking of alumni, we are preparing to honor the seventh 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 Former 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.
The student enrollment in Burnet CISD is currently 3,212, which is approximately 20 more students than our enrollment this same time last year. The District’s enrollment has increased by 93 students since fall 2016. At the September 16 Board Meeting, the Board of Trustees will receive a detailed report from the District’s demographer that includes 10 year enrollment projections for the District and each campus. Under a moderate growth projection, Burnet CISD could add 354 students over the next 10 years. A high growth scenario could result in 615 new students in the next 10 years.
Utilizing TEA guidelines for student to teacher ratios in grades PK-4, and Burnet CISD guidelines for grade 5, Bertram Elementary has an estimated capacity of 450 students. Based on the demographic report, Bertram Elementary is projected to exceed an enrollment of 450 students by the year 2025. That is why the District is proposing as part of the bond program to add a new classroom building to increase the overall capacity of Bertram Elementary to 700 students. In addition to new classrooms, the District is also proposing to increase the parking lot and drive to accommodate the larger school population, which also means reconfiguring and refinishing the walking track. Finally, so that no student ever has to walk outside to move about the campus, the District is proposing adding hallways that connect all of the classroom buildings. The estimated budget for this work is $9,081,724 million. To find out more about the 2019 Bond, please go to www.burnetcisd.net.
Finally, I am fortunate to currently serve as the president of the Hill Country Community Foundation, and I am a proud Rotarian. The Foundation was originally begun as a Project of the Rotary Club of Burnet. More than 35 years later, the Rotary Club of Burnet is honored to have played a role in planting the seed for a Foundation, that to date, has provided scholarships to 3,656 students in the amount of $5.6 million. Every Burnet CISD graduating senior is eligible for a scholarship ranging from $700 to $4,000 to support any post high school education or training opportunity. Getting back to its roots, the Rotary Club of Burnet is hosting The Rotary Scholarship Night for Kids fundraiser on September 21 at Hidden River Ranch. The event was created to benefit and support the Hill Country Community Foundations’ mission by increasing the funds available for scholarships. If you would like to have a fun evening, and give to a great cause, please consider purchasing a ticket at www.thehccf.org.
August 28, 2019
We have had a wonderful start to the 2019-2020 school year, and all credit goes to our outstanding staff and students. As you know, in July our nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic landing on the moon. Even before we had the technology or understanding of how to land on the moon, President Kennedy set forth the challenge and said, “It will not be one man going to the moon…it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.” That’s how I feel about our mission of crafting an inspiring future for students. It takes all of us from teachers to bus drivers, and administrators to custodians to ensure we are living our mission.
Not only does it take our staff, but we couldn’t accomplish many of our goals without the support of our outstanding volunteers. 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 the opportunities available to volunteer through the Volunteers In Public Schools (VIPS) program. 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.
This past Monday, the Board of Trustees held a Budget and Tax Rate Hearing, and later the same evening during the Regular August Board Meeting, approved the 2019-2020 budget. As part of the budget adoption process, the Board voted to lower the overall tax rate from $1.26 to $1.185 for a decrease of 7.5 cents. This is the fourth year in a row the Board of Trustees has voted to lower the tax rate. The Board of Trustees and administration are committed to having low tax rates while also planning for growth, and maintaining or exceeding the standards of the Texas Education Agency.
As you are aware, the Board called for a November 5 Bond Election for $33.1 million that include projects at every campus that target:
• Student growth accommodation, especially at Bertram Elementary
• Safety and security enhancements
• Efficiency enhancements
• Enhanced classroom learning environments
• Useful life extension of aging facilities and infrastructure
Based on current estimates, even with the passage of the 2019 Bond, voters will still recognize a 7.5 cent tax rate decrease, and no tax increase in 2020. This is because the 19.5 cent I&S tax rate is sufficient to service the 20 year life of this bond, and all other existing debt obligations.
The District is in the process of developing a Burnet CISD 2019 Bond informational website with project information, tax rate information, and frequently asked questions. The website should be up and running within the next couple of weeks, and will be able to be accessed at www.burnetcisd.net.
In addition, the District is developing a schedule of informational meetings for the 2019 Bond. One of the first opportunities to hear more about the 2019 Bond will be at Coffee with the Superintendent on September 17 at 8:00 a.m. at the Parent Resource Center located at 208 East Brier in Burnet. Please join me for additional information.
August 7, 2019
The theme for this school year is Climbing to New Heights: Adventure Awaits, and it is hard to believe that Monday, August 19 the 2019-2020 School Year begins. I have a senior who will be graduating in May 2020, and kindergarten students that begin school this year will graduate in May 2032. Try to wrap your mind around that!
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. In addition, we have tackled some significant projects this summer including painting all of the classrooms at Burnet Middle School, renovating selected campus restrooms, and replacing the cracking and failing asphalt at the walkways at Bulldog Stadium. The Board of Trustees has approved the expansion of the Shady Grove Elementary drive. The project is currently going through permitting, and we hope to break ground within the next two weeks. We are working with our contractor to complete the work in stages so that school operation is not impacted. Once completed, Shady Grove will have two dedicated lanes for car rider pickup, and one dedicated lane to access parking. The number of parking spaces is also being increased significantly.
On August 26 the Board of Trustees will adopt the 2019-2020 tax rate and budget. The Board is pleased to have proposed a 7.5 cent tax rate decrease for the 2019-2020 school year during its regular July meeting, and officially approve the reduced tax rate of $1.185 in a few weeks. This will represent the fourth consecutive year the Board has voted to lower the tax rate. Even with the lower tax rate, the District has been able to provide historic pay raises for staff, add an instructional coach at each campus, and add two additional instructional partners at each campus. These new positions are designed specifically to provide direct support to teachers and classrooms.
Besides budget and compensation planning, the major area of focus this summer has been on facility planning. On May 6, the Board of Trustees heard a comprehensive report of needs on each campus/facility, and provided their input about the proposed projects. Over the course of three additional meetings this summer, the Board received cost estimates for each project, and prioritized the projects for consideration. A Facilities Community Advisory Committee (FCAC) comprised of 26 community members met recently for two meetings to review the projects, ask clarifying questions and provide feedback about the projects. On August 12 the Board of Trustees will hear a report on the feedback from the FCAC, and consider approving an order calling for a November 5 bond election. I will be sharing more information with the community about the possible bond election after August 12, but I want to make it clear that a called bond election will still result in a 7.5 cent tax rate decrease.
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 as 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 has an 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 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Burnet High School Gym for food and fellowship as the community is introduced to our band, 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 2019-2020 a great school year for our students!
June 17, 2019
The Burnet CISD Board of Trustees and Administration are proud to announce as part of the 2019-2020 compensation plan a 7% midpoint general pay increase for teachers and librarians and a 5% midpoint general pay increase for all other staff. The starting salary for a teacher in Burnet CISD will increase from $44,500 to $48,100 for the 2019-2020 school year. The total cost of the 2019-2020 compensation plan is over $1.3 million, and well exceeds the legislative requirement of HB 3 by over $400,000.
“We are thrilled to provide this level of compensation to staff, and these pay raises would not have been possible without the passage of HB 3 and outstanding planning on behalf of the Board of Trustees and Administration,” said Superintendent Keith McBurnett. “Our mission of crafting the future with our students to ensure they are college, career, and military ready is made possible by all of our staff, whether they work in a classroom, a kitchen, or on a bus.”
In addition, the Board has approved increasing the District’s contribution for health insurance to $385 a month and the dental insurance to match the high premium plan. This will allow the District to continue to provide to employee-only free health insurance, free dental insurance, free vision insurance, and free telehealth services. “The Board of Trustees has been committed for years to making sure that when staff receives a pay raise, it is not negated by increasing insurance premiums,” McBurnett said.
In planning for the future, the Administration has shared with the Board its intention to recommend for the 2020-2021 school year a starting teacher salary of $50,000, a 4% midpoint general pay increase for all current teachers and a 2% midpoint general pay increase for all other staff.
“Outstanding compensation is just one of the ways that we can demonstrate to our staff how much they are valued and appreciated,” said McBurnett. “A major focus of the District’s Strategic Plan is to recruit and retain outstanding teachers and staff. We believe offering market-leading compensation and benefits is a key element of that plan.”
In addition to market-leading compensation and benefits for staff, the Board has also approved additional staff positions to increase the level of support provided to classroom teachers. This includes the hiring of an instructional coach at each of our traditional campuses along with the addition of two instructional partners at each campus. The Board has also approved hiring an intervention counselor that can support mental health needs for students in crisis.
The District will finalize the budget adoption in August, and the Board of Trustees and Administration are pleased to be able to develop a budget with a strong focus on the people within the organization, while also reducing the District’s tax rate. The Administration is forecasting an 8 cent decrease in the overall Burnet CISD tax rate for the 2019-2020 school year.
“Outstanding financial management does not happen by accident. I want to thank our Board of Trustees for the countless hours they have spent in special meetings this spring, and to the Business and Human Resources staff that have worked behind the scenes to bring the compensation and budget plans forward,” said McBurnett. “Our entire staff is extremely talented and hard-working. Together, we are committed to making sure students achieve at the highest level possible while living our vision to craft an inspiring future for each student that embodies spirit, pride, and honor.”
May 15, 2019
The UIL Lone Star Cup is awarded annually to six high schools, one in each of the six UIL classifications (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A), based on their team performance in district and state championships. The winning schools in each classification receive the UIL Lone Star Cup trophy. In Burnet CISD we have established the Lone Star Cup criteria as one of the many ways in which we measure our success. Our expectation of ourselves is to be the very best at everything in which we compete. At the most recent standings for 4A districts, Burnet CISD is just outside the top 25. We still have work to do to crack the top 25 and continue our march up the standings, and the performance of our UIL academic teams this spring are going to help with our standings when UIL releases the next update at the end of May.
One team that is going to add to that point total is the Burnet High School State Championship UIL Academic Spelling and Vocabulary Team. By capturing the gold medal two weeks ago in Austin, the Spelling and Vocabulary Team showed that hard work and focus pays off. Congratulations to Coach Mike Walzel and his team comprised of Cecilia Navarro, Emerie Danson, Kade Schrader, and Mitchell Howard. In addition, I want to congratulate to Kade Schrader for placing 2nd individually and Emerie Danson for placing 5th individually. In addition to the Spelling and Vocabulary Team, at the May 20 Board Meeting, the District will be honoring a whole host of students that competed at state level competitions this spring. That means there will be standing room only at the meeting, and that is a great problem to have when it is because you are honoring so many students!
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 3. The most challenging aspect of the budget development process at this point is not having a finalized school finance bill approved. Without having a revenue projection from the state, it is challenging to finalize a budget. The other challenge is not knowing how much money we will be required to send back to the state as part of recapture. Under the current law and projections, we expect to send over $3 million back to the state in the 2019-2020 school year. Our hope is that the legislators can wrap up their work on school finance before the session ends on May 27 so that we will have real numbers to work with at our June 3 budget workshop. The good news is that because of strong fiscal planning, if the state did not provide any new money to Burnet CISD, we have the funds available to maintain our current level of staffing and programming, and at a minimum, provide all staff with a 2% midpoint general pay increase for the 2019-2020 school year. With that said, the Texas Legislature must do their job in fixing school finance.
Tomorrow, May 16 at 7:00 p.m., the HCCF will award $390,000 in scholarships to Burnet and Quest High School students. Since 1983 the HCCF has awarded over $5.5 million in scholarships to 3,656 Burnet CISD graduates. That is an incredible investment in our young people, and a commitment that you don’t find in other communities. If you want to see this community’s investment in our future at work, feel free to join us at Burnet High School tomorrow. It is a special evening.
Finally, looking ahead to the end of the school year, I wanted to make sure everyone is aware of the following dates:
May 23 Last Day of School; Early Dismissal; Quest High School Graduation, 7:00 p.m. at the BHS Auditorium
May 24 Burnet High School Graduation, 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Field
May 1, 2019
As you know, through the District’s strategic planning process, Burnet CISD formalized its volunteer program this school year and attracted over 600 volunteers. We hope to build on our success next year by attracting more volunteers, earning a greater number of volunteer hours. Another way that we are going to accomplish the goal of building collaborative relationships that actively engages our district, families and communities is through the soon to be launched Burnet CISD Adopt-A-School program.
The mission of the Burnet CISD Adopt-A-School program is to create school and community partnerships that positively impact student achievement. Adopt-A-School is a partnership between our school district and our community, whereby businesses, churches, or other organizations agree to provide volunteers and/or goods, donations, and/or discounts to individual schools or to support all schools within the District. The degree of participation by the Adopters is as varied as the Adopters themselves. Some organizations are able to organize more volunteers or donate more items, but every organization can make a commitment to a school.
In turn, Adopters will be recognized by an invitation to an appreciation reception in April, being listed on the District's web site and receiving a sign to be displayed at their business or organization.
If your business or organization would like to adopt a school in Burnet CISD, it is as easy as completing a short survey letting us know of your interest. The survey link can be found on the homepage of the BCISD webpage.
Once a business or organization has expressed interest in adopting a school via the survey, then a campus representative will reach out to the business or organization. During this meeting, it will be determined if the adopter is a fit for the campus, and the business or organization will be asked to complete an application to formalize the relationship.
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 16 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 $5.2 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 16- It is a special evening.
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.