Superintendent hired by school board through '11

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, The Premont Journal

During a school board meeting last week, Leobardo Cano was officially approved as superintendent, the school safety routes begins its planning stages and a new position for a truancy officer was created, school officials said.

Cano was hired by the board unanimously as Premont's superintendent for 42 months through June 30, 2011.

"I'm excited and I thank the board for a vote of confidence," Cano said. "I have a better picture and a better vision of where we need to go, not only in the academic area, but also the financial. We are going to have to change a few things in the scope of getting better at what we do."

The school board meeting was Jan. 16 at the district's Distance Learning Center.

In other business, the board discussed the School Safety Routes grant to start initiating a plan to possibly receive a grant ranging from $350,000 up to $750,000 to fund sidewalks throughout the city.

Cano said the project would relate to health, safety and beautifying the community.

"Our sidewalks in Premont are a commodity and we are limited when it comes to sidewalks," he said. "It's a chance to beautify our community."

He said he plans to include the county and the city in the project to make it a community affair.

"If we can get these three voices (county, city and school district) together, it can be a community effort," Cano said. "If we do get the big grant, that's three-quarters of a million dollars."

Cano said the district would be working on planning a town meeting to get feedback and input from all the entities and the residents of Premont. The kickoff will feature free give-a-ways such as t-shirts and caps. Those plans will be announced soon, he said.

At the board meeting, the district's annual audit report was approved for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2007.

In the informational portion of the meeting, Cano advised the board that the appeal for the Adequate Yearly Progress was denied in December by the Texas Education Agency. Cano said that the previous superintendent, David Garza made the appeal in September, after they failed the AYP. Cano said TEA continues to have a team working with the principals of the schools and the site based management team to improve test scores.

"We have all the right ingredients to do good," he said. "Because of our small numbers, it can also bring us down."

The board also approved the creation of a new position for a full-time truancy officer.

Cano said students missing more than three days, would receive an automatic phone call from the district and once the officer is hired will also get a home visit.

"Our truancy officer will handle our attendance and look into our drop out (rate)," Cano said.

"We are starting from scratch because we've never had something like this. We are going to tailor it to the needs of Premont."