Superintendent's Message

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.
 
 
October 27, 2021
Like many of you, I will never forget where I was at or the emotions I felt when President Reagan was shot, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, or the Twin Towers were attacked. All left a lasting impression on me because of the feelings of shock, sadness, and uncertainty associated with each of these events. 

For me, Friday, March 13, 2020 will always have that same sense of shock, sadness, and uncertainty, because it was the last day of school in BCISD before every school district in the state of Texas was closed for the first time in known history due to the pandemic.

Our staff met the challenge of that school closure by standing up an at-home learning program for the remainder of that school year, and then worked tirelessly the next school year to offer both in-person and remote learning options for students under the weight of restrictive COVID protocols. As we planned for a return to a normal school year this year, we were met with the challenges of increased case counts, supply chain delays and shortages, and a shrinking workforce.
 
The pandemic opened many parents’ eyes to the role that teachers play as part of the fabric of school-based supports like education, meals, childcare, health clinics, and counseling. I witnessed among our parents and community a well-deserved, new found appreciation for what our teachers do. Unfortunately, I have seen some troubling trends that are eroding that sense of appreciation.

Everyone has felt the stress of the pandemic in one way or the other, and it has sometimes impacted the ways we interact with others. The news is filled with stories of airline passengers acting poorly, or customers at a restaurant acting in a rude manner. Although a majority of parents are supportive of our schools and staff, we sometimes see examples of parents lashing out on social media before even attempting to address an issue with a teacher, principal, or school. Sometimes I believe we forget that even though we all make mistakes, parents and school staff generally have the best intentions. By having a positive presupposition that we are all doing our best, questions and concerns can be addressed in a respectful and supportive manner.

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 in a respectful and supportive manner. When concerns are expressed as soon as possible, it allows for early resolution at the lowest possible administrative level.

At the beginning of October, Burnet CISD celebrated World Teacher Day by sharing our appreciation for our teachers and providing them freshly-baked cookies. In November, teachers in Burnet CISD will receive an extra $1,000 on top of their market-leading regular salary and benefits. This is in recognition of the extra work that they have put forth, especially during the pandemic.

Teacher burnout is a real issue nationwide. Although these gestures are nice, they are never enough to fully share the appreciation that we have for our teachers and the work they do in Crafting the Future. In order to support our school heroes, let’s work together to resolve issues collaboratively in a respectful manner, and look for ways to express appreciation for our teachers and school staff.
 
 
 
September 22, 2021
It is hard to believe, but Friday, September 24 represents the last day of the first six-weeks grading period. I am finding it to be true that as I get older, time passes quicker. Due to closing schools earlier this September for two days because of COVID, the school calendar has been adjusted to make up the lost time. Monday, September 27, which was originally scheduled to be a student holiday/staff development day, is now a regular school day for students and staff. Similarly, Monday, October 11 has also been changed to be a regular school day for students and staff. The final change that has been made is that Thursday, December 16 will be a full school day instead of an early release day.
  
Like school districts across the state and nation, Burnet CISD experienced a significant increase in the number of COVID cases as we started school. Although the case counts are still higher than last year, we have seen a downward trend in the number of positive COVID cases the past few weeks. 

Between an increase in COVID cases and the typical fall illnesses, the District has also experienced a significant decrease in the average daily attendance. The District usually averages a 95% attendance rate for students, but that rate has been in the 80’s the past few weeks. Because school districts are funded on student daily attendance, Burnet CISD could be facing a significant budget shortfall. With that said, students who are not feeling well need to stay home to get better and stop the spread of any illness, but I would encourage families to refrain from planned absences on school days. 

Homecoming Week is happening now 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 23 at 6:00 p.m. on the Historic Square, and the Bonfire Pep Rally at 7:45 p.m. at Burnet High School. Of course, you have to wrap up your Homecoming Week by coming out Friday evening and watching the Burnet Bulldogs take on the Waco Robinson Rockets. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.

In Burnet CISD we want to hear your feedback, comments and suggestions on ways to improve our District. To facilitate receiving feedback, ten 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 8, 2021

We are scheduled to resume classes at all BCISD campuses on Thursday, September 9, 2021. Buses will run on regular schedules, and we are looking forward to welcoming back many quarantined staff and students. 

 

We do have evidence that some COVID-19 cases on campuses have involved completely asymptomatic individuals, those with only mild allergy-like symptoms, and those who were fully-vaccinated months ago. We acknowledge that masks do not completely eliminate viral spread, but they could possibly reduce the overall load of viral exposure over a day. The use of face coverings will remain optional in BCISD, but we do request that you thoughtfully consider your family’s decisions regarding mask-wearing. If your student can tolerate a face covering for part or all of the day, we ask that you consider the option in indoor spaces. If your family no longer owns reusable masks at home, students can request a mask in the campus office. BCISD remains committed to fostering an environment supporting personal choice and responsibility. 

 

We know of multiple times so far this year that students with COVID-positive family members have been present at school. We suspect that this has contributed to asymptomatic spread of the virus on campuses. Public Health Guidance from the Texas Education Agency was updated last week to permit Districts to keep students and staff off-campus when they are in a household with a COVID-positive individual. Until the recent change to TEA guidelines, close-contact quarantines were solely a voluntary decision of parents, and school districts did not have the authority to exclude such students from school. However, BCISD now requires that any time a member of your household tests positive for COVID-19, you follow the procedures below:

  1. Complete the COVID Self-Report Form as soon as possible for any BCISD student or staff member who is COVID-positive.
  2. Other students in the household should remain at home for at least 10 days from the last date of exposure to the infected household member unless they are fully-vaccinated or have had a confirmed COVID diagnosis within the past 3 months. If no symptoms are present, the household-based close contacts can return to campus 10 days after their last exposure to COVID-19, or following a negative PCR-type test after the last day of exposure. Because the stay-at-home period lasts 10 days from the last date of exposure to the infected individual, not from the date the family member received the positive test result, this means close contacts could be home longer than 10 total days if households are not able to be physically separate from the sick family member. 
  3. Complete the COVID Self-Report Form for additional students in the household who will be staying home as close contacts so that the campus can be aware of the pending absences. 

 

Independent of household members, parents can still voluntarily keep their child home to quarantine for close-contact that they believe occurred in any location. However, the steps above are now required for household-based close contacts to follow.

 

Due to staffing challenges, Burnet CISD is currently only able to offer COVID rapid testing for staff. If your child needs to have a COVID test performed, please consider avoiding hospital emergency rooms for routine testing because this can cause additional burdens on the hospital system during a challenging time. The state maintains an interactive map that is updated daily and lists statewide COVID testing sites. The link for the interactive map is:

 

https://tdem.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=1e91fb79fa44417898738e5bff31a3d8

 

The Burnet Fire Department also offers COVID testing Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at 2002 S Water (Hwy 281) in Burnet. Appointments are required and can be made by calling (512)756-2662. The cost is $25.00. At-home COVID test kits are also available at local stores like HEB and Walgreens.

 

In addition, the following link will also help you identify vaccine availability, as well as therapeutic providers throughout Texas, should those be necessary:

 

https://meds.tdem.texas.gov/

 

The Administration reviews COVID data daily, and our goal is to keep campuses open to the greatest extent possible. You can help with our daily data analysis by submitting a COVID Self-Report Form for your family as soon as you are aware of a positive case or close contact. 

 

The single largest factor contributing to campus closures is the availability of adequate adult supervision. With a statewide shortage of teachers and substitutes, this year has been the most challenging one yet to fill vacancies and maintain operations. If you or anyone you know is interested in working as a Substitute Teacher or Substitute Instructional Partner, please apply online. Our substitute pay is market-competitive, and as further incentive during this time with short notice and high vacancies, the BCISD Board of Trustees has approved a temporary daily bonus during the month of September for substitutes of classroom teachers.

 

I believe we all have the same goal of ensuring a safe, top-quality education for the children of our community. Thank you again for your continued support and cooperation.

 

 

August 18, 2021
It is hard to believe that Wednesday, August 18 the 2021-2022 school year officially begins. If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “Where did the summer go?” We have been busy as a district 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. You may have also noticed some of the 2021 Bond projects being completed including seal coating all of the parking lots and renovating Bulldog Stadium Drive by replacing the asphalt with concrete, widening the drive, and expanding parking at the practice fields. The s-curve bridge at Bulldog Stadium Drive is also slated to be widened later this school year.
During the fall semester, the Board will be approving construction documents and contracts to begin work on turfing the baseball and softball fields; constructing a middle school athletic complex, including a turfed field, track, and seating; constructing the Student Activity Center; and constructing the additional instructional wing at Bertram Elementary. Many other campus projects will have to wait until next summer so that the work can be done while students and staff are not in the building.
 
A major reason for the 2021 Bond program is to prepare for future growth in student enrollment, and in many ways, that future growth is here today. We are expecting to start the school year with more students than last year and continuously grow for the foreseeable future. The Board of Trustees will receive a 10-year projection of student growth at the August 30 Board Meeting. It will likely demonstrate a need for additional elementary capacity and middle school capacity in the next 10 years.
 
The Board of Trustees has continued to meet during the summer. On August 30 at 6:00 p.m. the Board will hold a Budget Hearing, and then later that same evening the Board will consider approving the 2021-2022 budget during its Regular Meeting. As promised, even with the passage of the 2021 Bond Program, the Board will be approving a tax rate that is 6.9 cents less than last year’s tax rate.
 
As you are likely aware, there is a lot in the news right now concerning COVID and the Delta variant, and I want you to know that we are continuing to monitor this situation very carefully, and will adjust our plans as needed or required, within the parameters and guidelines established for school districts. Throughout the pandemic, Burnet CISD has followed all local and state mandates and requirements, including the Governor's Executive Orders, and will continue to do so. The District’s Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services (RIPICS) Plan is posted at www.burnetcisd.net and will be updated as needed.
 
As the school year begins, let me take this opportunity to remind everyone to slow down in school zones and stop for school buses loading and unloading. Please also be patient the first few days of school as traffic is always heavier at the start of school, and everyone is learning the traffic patterns at each campus. The increased traffic also means that bus routes will likely not run on time the first week of school. Communications will be sent out as needed with information on any significant delays.
 
Finally, the entire Burnet CISD staff is excited to welcome parents and students back to school. We have spent considerable time talking about communication and the type of environment we want to create for our students. During the school year, it is natural for a parent to have questions or even a concern at their child’s campus. It is important that questions or concerns be dealt with by the person closest to the issue so that they can be resolved in the best and most efficient manner possible. I encourage parents to discuss their questions or concerns through informal conferences with the appropriate teacher, principal or other campus administrator. When concerns are expressed as soon as possible, it allows for early resolution at the lowest possible administrative level. We look forward to working with you to make the 2021-2022 a great school year for our students!
 
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.