Breckenridge Texan

School board votes to allow foreign exchange students to participate in commencement ceremony, approves new scoreboard and teacher stipends

School board votes to allow foreign exchange students to participate in commencement ceremony, approves new scoreboard and teacher stipends
May 12
16:10 2022

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

It was standing room only when Tuesday night’s Breckenridge Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting got started at 6:30 p.m. Several topics of interest on the May 10 agenda brought the crowd together and yet divided the school board at their regular monthly meeting.

After the Students and Teachers of the Month, as well as the Valedictorian, Salutatorian and Teachers of the Year, had been announced and honored, the crowd thinned out, leaving just a handful of local citizens focused on two issues — this year’s commencement ceremony and the possible installation of a new football scoreboard.

More than an hour into the meeting, after the announcements and presentations, several of those still in the board room waited eagerly to see if this year’s foreign exchange students would be allowed to participate in the upcoming commencement service for the Breckenridge High School Class of 2022. And, it was another hour before those interested in a new scoreboard for the football stadium found out the fate of that project.

(Click here to read about the students and teachers who were honored at the meeting.)

Commencement Ceremony

One of the topics on the meeting’s agenda was whether or not to allow two foreign exchange students to participate in the commencement activities with the rest of the Class of 2022.

The issue was first brought to the attention of the school board when BHS senior Shalyn Owen started a petition in March on Change.org to allow the students to take part in the ceremony, even though they would not be officially graduating with the local students.

More than 1,700 people signed the online petition in support of Owen’s request. Click here to read the Breckenridge Texan’s first article about the petition and the school district’s comments on the situation.

Shalyn Owen, left, smiles after the BISD Board of Trustees voted 5-2 to allow foreign exchange students to participate in the commencement ceremony later this month. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Then, on March 21, Owen and Breckenridge resident Bo Asher signed up to speak at the school board meeting, and a parent of a senior also spoke to the board during the discussion section of the meeting. Additionally, more than 20 students, parents and others attended the meeting in support of Owen and the foreign exchange students. Click here to read more about that meeting.

However, the topic wasn’t on the agenda for the next meeting in April. School Board President Graham Reaugh and BISD Superintendent Bryan Allen said they didn’t realize there was continued interest in the issue, but they said they would put the item on the May agenda.

When Tuesday’s meeting finally got to the item on the topic, Allen said he had given the issue a lot of thought.

“I’ll be honest, I’ve had a lot of a lot of sleepless nights, thinking about this very topic and what the right thing to do is. And I can sit here and I could probably argue either side of the argument very easily,” he said. “… the conclusion I’ve come down to kind of hit me, really, one day last week. I’m a Post-It note guy … I used to have Post-It notes all over my desk, and when I moved here, I took them all down and I put them in a folder.

“I came across that folder the other day,” Allen continued. “And one of the Post-It notes on there is something that I heard in a conference, but it was just simply the words, ‘The kid must win.’ You know, in school business, we have policies and procedures that are written, and we have them in place, and we have them in place for a reason. But at the end of the day, if we’re not giving the kids the opportunity to experience a great high school experience, or whatever level they’re at, then I think that’s all me. That’s on the leader of the district to try to fix that. So, my recommendation is going to be … to allow the foreign exchange students in the class of ’22 to participate in activities on May 27.”

BISD Superintendent Bryan Allen explains how he came to the decision to recommend that the school district allow the foreign exchange students to take part in the annual ceremony, while board president Graham Reaugh looks on. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Reaugh, however, did not agree with Allen and reiterated his original argument against the request on the basis that the ceremony should be reserved for students who had met all of the requirements for graduation. Since the foreign exchange students only attended school here for one year, they may not have some specific Texas requirements for graduation. Therefore, they receive a certificate of attendance, rather than a diploma. The current BISD policy allows students who are receiving diplomas and certificates of completion, as well as special education students who receive certificates of attendance, to participate in the ceremony.

“I still stand by that I do not want to devalue graduation for kids that have worked for 12 years to go through there and get this,” Reaugh said. “So we start doing one time, you know, give up this or (make a) one time…allowance, we’re going down a slippery slope. And then what did these things count for?”

School board member Nic McClymond made a motion to allow foreign exchange students in the class of 2022 an opportunity to participate in BHS commencement activities. Carrol Kanady clarified that the action would create an exemption to the policy and that the original policy would still be in place; then, she seconded the motion. Board members McClymond, Kanady, Jimmy McKay, Paul Lippe and Chad Townson voted in favor of the proposal. Reaugh and Roy Russell voted against it. With the majority in favor of the one-time exemption, the motion passed.

After the vote, those who were at the meeting for that agenda item congratulated Owen for standing up for her fellow students and for what she believed in. On the sidewalk outside the meeting room, Owen couldn’t contain her excitement. “Oh my gosh, I’m so happy,” she said. “We did it!”

New Scoreboard

Another item on the agenda that has been of interest to many Buckaroo fans was the proposal to purchase a new scoreboard for the football stadium.

BISD Athletic Director Casey Pearce first brought the topic before the school board at the February meeting, where he said that the current scoreboard is bulb-based and difficult to repair. He presented several options for new, digital scoreboards that have video and advertising features. At the earlier board meeting, Pearce also talked about how the digital scoreboard will offer training opportunities for the students taking Career and Technology Education classes.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, he presented the board with a bid from Blackfin Sports Consulting for $386,850 for a digital scoreboard to be located in the northeast end of the stadium. Pearce said that bid is $100,000 to $110,000 less than the other bids. He also said he has “strong interest” from at least five local businesses, as well as from 12 individuals and businesses in Stephens County that are existing booster club sponsors. There are four suggested sponsorship levels, ranging from $75,000, paid in five annual installments of $5,000, to $12,500, paid in five annual installments of $2,500.

“If you get a chance to drive by (Abilene Christian University)…the new baseball scoreboard and their setup is exactly what this setup would be,” Pearce said. “It’s the same size board that they just installed, and this company did it about a month ago. I guess Spring Break is when they debuted that new scoreboard for ACU baseball.”

The current scoreboard was installed in 1998. The digital scoreboard could last 12 to 15 years, Pearce said. After that, the technology will likely be outdated and will need to be replaced.

“I’m not saying that it’s not needed, and I like the technology piece, especially with our CTE programs, you know, we’re looking to enhance those, but I’m also looking at 16 openings for teachers,” Kanady said. She went on to express concern that if local businesses sponsor the scoreboard at the suggested levels, they might not have enough to donate to other BISD organizations, such as the band or cheer teams.

“I’m not saying it’s not needed, but it’s a lot of money,” she said.

McClymond made a motion to accept the Blackfin proposal, and Russell seconded the motion. McClymond, Russell, Reaugh, McKay, Lippe and Townson voted in favor of accepting the proposal, and Kanady voted against it.

Recruitment/Retainment Stipends

Superintendent Allen suggested to the board members that BISD use some of the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds to provide additional incentives to teachers who come to Breckenridge or who continue working for the school district. ESSER is a federal grant program authorized through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

He proposed two options for full-time teacher stipends — $2,500 or $2,000 — and the school board unanimously approved the $2,500 option for the 2022-23 school year. Part-time BISD employees will get half of that amount. The stipends will be broken up into three payments — $1,500 to be paid in August, $500 in November or December, and $500 in May.

Allen said one important thing for everyone to understand is that the stipends are coming from the ESSER funds, which will likely not be available in future years.

“This is not something that you are going to bank on from year to year,” he said. “I mean, this is just basically grant-funded; it’s here until the money runs out. And when the money runs out, then we probably will not be able to fit that into the budget, you know, moving forward. But I think it’s a great opportunity for us to reward the folks that are staying and to help out those new folks coming in also.”

Other business

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Brittany Edgar, secretary to the superintendent, swore in the newly re-elected school board members, Carrol Kanady, Jimmy McKay and Roy Russell.

The school board also approved the following:

  • A contract with GermBlast Infection Control Services to provide disinfection services for the 2022-23 school year
  • To purchase office technology kits with ESSER funds
  • To purchase a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado K3500 work truck and a 2022 Chevrolet Traverse LS from Bayer Chevrolet-Buick-Cadillac
  • An agreement with Communities in Schools of the Big Country
  • The hiring of Catherine Schmidt as the district’s special education director and Shelby Copeland as an eighth grade history teacher.

 

Cutline, top photo: BISD Athletic Director Casey Pearce talks to the Board of Trustees at the May 10 meeting about a proposed new scoreboard for Buckaroo Stadium. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

 


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