Random tests will be conducted throughout year

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

BEN BOLT - During Tuesday night's Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD School Board meeting, school officials announced that all students passed the initial round of drug testing.

The new drug policy initially tests every student in the district who participates in school-sponsored extra curricular activities, followed by a series of random tests throughout the year.

"Everything went smoothly," superintendent Dr. Grace Everett said concerning the initial drug testing, which occurred earlier this month. "We did not have anyone test positive."

Board members also considered bids for insurance coverage for the school district for the 2007-2008 school year.

Carlisle Insurance was selected as the winning bid, with a cost of $70,000 for property insurance and $15,000 for casualty, fleet coverage and other required insurance coverage for the district.

The $85,000 amount is lower than last year's insurance costs, which were $121,000, school officials said.

The district announced it received a superior achievement rating from the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST).

The district answered 20 of 21 indicators with a positive response. The list of indicators is used by FIRST to determine the financial health of the school district.

Districts with up to two negative responses receive superior achievement. Those with three to four negative responses are considered above standard achievement.

Five or six negative responses will lead to a standard achievement rating, and seven or more "no" to the FIRST questions will lead to a rating of substandard achievement.

In response to the problem of keeping students after school for TAKS tutoring during the school year, board members agreed to extend the school day for middle school and high school students by half an hour, to allow for a 30-minute block period to tutor students for the TAKS test.

The half-hour block will occur between sixth and seventh period. Every teacher will be in charge of one class during that time, which will consist of five or six students.

The lessons will be designed by facilitators in each of the four core areas, and will parallel what weaknesses the students have in each objective, Everett said.

She is optimistic that with the added tutorial period, along with other curricular related measures, the district can see a turn around in its ratings.

"Even this year, I see a possibility for a Recognized rating," Everett said.

Students who are not in need of specific tutoring will participate in accelerated enrichment activities during the 30-minute block.

Board President Gracy Garcia had some encouraging word for the administrators at the meeting and the teachers and staff of BB-PB ISD.

"We support you 110 percent and we want to wish you well," Garcia said at the end of the meeting.

"We are proud to sit on this board because of everything you do. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication."