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Howell ready to face BISD's challenges

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

As the "lone finalist" in Bandera ISD's search for a superintendent, Regina Howell has already placed the first bricks in the foundation for her leadership of the district. The board of trustees will make Howell's appointment as superintendent official at a Feb. 29 meeting.

Howell has been working with the board since the Fall of 2011 to set some short-term and long-term goals for the district. Howell has worked in the BISD system since 1996. Since that time she has moved into administration, serving as assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and interim superintendent.

When she participated in the goal-setting workshop, "I felt I had a foot in the door in the district."

Howell gives credit to her predecessors in her new position. "This is a very, very good district, from staff to operations, and that's because we have had some great people through here who have laid a good foundation."

Howell foresees three major areas of concern in the short term. First is testing, second is difficult financial times, and third is facilities and operations.

In testing, "the state has changed the rules of the game," said Howell. "We have a 2-year window to learn how to deal with the changes.

We'll get our first indication of how well we're doing in May."

During the change-over from the old TAKS test to the new format, "our great teachers will need support and development." New testing procedures put additional stress on teachers, which trickles down to the students.

By cutting the budget to schools, the state legislature has put a financial crunch on districts throughout the state already faced with rising prices in almost every sector, from bus tires to electric bills.. "We started [cutting] during our budget process last spring," said Howell. "We cannot sleep on these things; we have to plan." Howell said the district is already re-designing programs and practices, making every effort to use "our dollars very carefully."

Facilities and operations is another area where the district will have to pinch every penny until it squeaks, as the old timers used to say. "We completed the final projects on our last bond issue in 2004," said Howell. "That's 10 years. Our transportation and maintenance departments are looking carefully at their programs."

Maintaining a school is much like maintaining a home, Howell said. "You always have renovations, modernization and projects. You need upkeep, just like a house."

These relatively short-term concerns don't cause concern for Howell. "I'm a highly organized individual, and I find these challenges exhilarating and exciting," she said.

On a more personal level, there are several things that Howell holds as important. "District communication - with parents, students, businesses and the community - is very important," she said. "We draw families here because of our programs. I want people to be proud of the district."

Howell also means to make every effort to provide a safe, secure and supportive learning environment.

And finally, she wants to work hard at achieving effective allocation of the district's resources. "We've done a lot to be good stewards of the dime," she said, "and we'll do more."

Howell's pride in the BISD is evident. One source of that pride is the diversity of classes and extra-curricular activities offered. "A lot of 3A schools limit a student to only one extra-curricular activity," she said. "We don't do that." The district also offers a wide-range of career training and technology classes such as building trades, business skills and cosmetology, along with college credit classes.

Despite the budget crunch, Howell does not anticipate eliminating any of these courses. "They're important to us," she said.

As she looks into the future for BISD, Howell admits that her own personality may be her biggest challenge.

"I'm a perfectionist," she said, "and I move quickly. So I'm going to have to remember to slow down and get the team involved, so that 'we' can work together. 'I' can't do it; 'we' have to."