The Bandera Bulletin

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Students return to school Monday

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Posted: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 12:00 pm

Schools have gotten spruced up.  Teachers are in their last days of training.  All that’s left is for students to return, and that will take place on Monday, Aug. 28, when schools open in the Bandera, Medina and Utopia school districts.

While projections are difficult for school officials to make with enrollment still going on, there is an indication that student counts could increase in the county’s public school systems this year. 

The state Legislature did not drop any financial bombshells on schools like they have in the past, and a few leadership changes have been implemented, leading school officials to anticipate good things for this year.

“I think we’re going to have a great year,” said John Walts, who is in his 15th year as superintendent at the Utopia Independent School District.

Kevin W. Newsom, who was hired in April as the new superintendent for the Medina Independent School District, said quality teachers were found to fill staff openings in the district, and everyone has been working hard to get ready for the new year.

“If you’re a parent here, you have to be excited about the excitement you see in our teachers,” said Newsom.

A key staff change in the Medina district was the hiring of Janell Murff as the elementary principal in the district.  Last year, the district had one principal overseeing both the elementary and secondary schools, but now, each school has its own principal.

A new principal also has been appointed for the Utopia schools after Ken Mueller, the principal for the last six years, retired.  The new principal is Jessica Milam, who had been a counselor in the district.

Superintendent Walts said he expects four more students to enroll in Utopia classes by the time school starts, giving the district 230 students.  That would be the largest student count Utopia had seen in many years.

In the Bandera Independent School District, which is the largest in the county with 2,223 students at the end of last year, four, elementary school positions were added for the upcoming year, and Bradley Kinney joined the district as a new assistant high school principal.

Enrollment in the district has grown slightly the last two years, but officials were not certain that growth would continue this year.

The Legislature has placed no new financial demands on the district this year, a spokeswoman for BISD said, so it will continue to take steps to assure that a 21st Century education is provided all of its students, officials said.

That means that all academic standards are met in core areas while enrichment activities are added to boost regular programing and support services are brought in to narrow skill gaps that exist in schools.

Its efforts paid off last year when the Bandera district earned nine distinction designations for its performance on state assessments, and all of its campuses received a “met standards” classification from the state, officials said.

“I am very proud of our students and staff for this wonderful accomplishment,” said Superintendent Regina Howell.

None of the school districts expect that their tax rates will increase this year.

The Medina school district is proposing a $5.95 million bond issue this year that may cause rates to jump slightly in future years, however.

That district also is expanding the dual credit college courses it offers its high school students and hopes to improve the ways it prepares students for the standardized tests they take.

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