Pictured: Marta Salazar, with Educational Management Solutions, makes a presentation to the Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD board and audience members at a meeting Tuesday.Photo by MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR

Should help district focus on TAKS areas that need improvement .

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

BEN BOLT - Based on the recommendations of school superintendent Dr. Grace Everett, Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD trustees on Tuesday approved an $18,972 purchase of the Process Manager System, which is used to desegregate TAKS scores.

Marta Salazar, with Educational Management Solutions, made a Power Point presentation to the board about the program, which the district hopes will fulfill some of the Texas Education Agency requirements concerning special education under their current designation as a Stage III campus.

"Because of our Stage III designation with the state, we've been under a microscope," Everett said, following the presentation. "We're in deep trouble. It's not for lack of trying."

The program separates testing scores by classification and student groups, giving the district a better view as to which specific groups need more attention and in which areas.

Using this information, the district should be able to better direct their resources towards shoring up testing areas in which students have the most difficulty, without wasting funds on test portions where the district has a proven track record of performance.

During her time with Robstown ISD, Everett said the program helped the district focus on problems in the lower grades.

She said there are other programs out there, but she is most familiar with this program, which is used by several districts in the area, including Brooks County ISD, Premont ISD, Calallen ISD and Robstown ISD.

"The database aids in the alignment of instruction with course objectives and state exams," Salazar said during her presentation.

The goal is to analyze the data taken from test scores and use it to improve instruction in the classroom. The database, Salazar said, can easily be adapted to the special needs of the district.

Trustee Oscar Garcia had some concerns about the usefulness of the program at first. He noted several times in the past money was spent on programs that ended up being left by the wayside.

"I'm just trying to make sure that if we use $20,000, it will be of use to the district," Garcia said.

After assurances from both Salazar as to the usefulness of the program and Everett concerning the need for such a program, the board voted unanimously, 6-0, to approve the purchase.

In other school business at Tuesday's meeting, the contract with the Jim Wells County COPS in Schools program was also renewed for the 2007-2008 school year. The district's portion of the cost includes $16,100 for an officer at the high school campus, and $5,670 for the COPS Supervisor.

Everett also gave an update on the ongoing drug testing classes.

"We've had a very good turnout at both meetings, with 103 students so far," Everett said.

The district held meetings on July 16 and 23 for parents and students to hear information on the new drug-testing program for students in grades seven through 12.

The district estimates there are anywhere from 220 to 260 students who participate in school-sponsored, extra-curricular activities and would fall under the drug-testing guidelines.

In order to participate, students must undergo mandatory testing at the beginning of the year, and may be randomly drug tested during the year.

Attendance at one of the five meetings being offered by the district is mandatory for students wanting to participate in activities.

There will be three more meetings - July 30, Aug. 27 and Sept. 10. Drug testing for those students in band, football, cheerleading and other activities will be on Aug. 6 and 7.