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Howell presents State of the District program

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Bandera ISD Superintendent Regina Howell presented her annual State of the District report during Public Schools Week on Tuesday, March 17.
"There's a lot to be said that's really wonderful about BISD," she said to preface her program. "We have a lot of smart, successful kids and that's the pride of BISD."
Howell told her guests that all of the campuses met standard in the state accountability system. That accomplishment came despite legislative changes that have proved challenging. "They moved Middle School TEKS standards down into the elementary," she said. "But we have continued to improve in spite of the changes."
Communication is a key element in Howell's goals for the district she leads. "We work with community organizations, like Boys & Girls Club, to help our students," she said. She will continue to encourage those kinds of relationships and expand them to new organizations and groups.
Howell expressed her pride in the districts' students award - winning efforts at all levels, from local to national, in competitions that run the gamut from athletics to scientific inquiry.
"Extra-curricular programs cost money," said Howell, but she believes it pays off in the development of well-rounded students ready to succeed after graduation. She cited the local Education Foundation for raising funds for grants to help teachers improve or expand their programs.
Safety is another area where progress continues to be made. "We work closely with the sheriff's office, the city marshal, the DPS troopers and other law enforcement groups," she said. "Their willingness to serve our students is amazing."
BISD staff train with law officers and representatives from other emergency responders in numerous collaborative efforts. "We're just grateful for the knowledge base they have and are willing to share with us."
Of course a district can't expand programs and properly support its students without paying attention to the financing. Bandera ISD is classified by the state as a so-called "rich district." That means part of the tax monies raised here go to the state to be disbursed to poorer districts in what is often referred to as the "Robin Hood plan for school finance."
The complicated financing formulas are based on daily attendance. "Because of our dropping enrollment, planning is key," said Howell. And much of that planning has to be long range. "It's not the fun part of the job," she added.
Howell indicated that she is always happy to meet with area groups or organizations to talk about the district's financial status.
In budget planning, Howell and her staff are "doing everything we can to save money." She said the principals have been going through a "Drill and Kill" program recently, identifying areas where cuts could be made. "We've had to ask ourselves, are we doing this because we've always done this? Or is it time for a change?"
New buses are a major expenditure for most school districts and Howell said several are being sent to Huntsville in the near future. They will be retro-fitted by inmates to cut costs.
As for short term goals, Howell said the district needs to continue to enhance "the college - ready culture, along with the career culture."
She hopes to see gains in scores for the district's Hispanic and special education populations.
The district will also continue its long-term infrastructure planning.
Time will be spent in monitoring laws coming out of the 2015 Texas Legislature, and the district will continue to educate the public about the requirements of HB 5. That bill, passed by the 2013 Legislature, brought about many changes in school rules and regulations.
"Above all," Howell concluded, "we will continue our goal of excellence in all programs and academics."