Boerne Independent School District keeps lines of communication open.
By Leah Williams
With more than 9,000 students, about 20,000 parents and 12 campuses in the Boerne Independent School District, Superintendent Thomas Price, Ed.D., knows the importance of communications — not just talking, but listening. BISD has a redesigned website, social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and even a new YouTube series. “We’re trying to create various formats where we can share what’s going on at the district,” he says, “and make it easier for everyone to have a voice at the table.”
Cordillera Ranch Living magazine recently talked to Dr. Price about how BISD is reaching out.
CRL: Tell us about the new YouTube series, Boerne Insider!
Dr. Price: Boerne Insider is designed to shine the light on some of the great things that BISD kids and staff are doing that sometimes get overlooked because there’s so much going on. Our premiere episode was in December 2019. My co-host is Courtney Darter Bruce, BISD alumni and parent. BISD Director of Communications Jocelyn Durand is doing a great job behind the scenes as director. Each monthly segment will make sure we spotlight students as much as we can. We’re experimenting and hopefully we’ll get better as we go!
CRL: When you came on board in 2017, you created separate advisory committees for parents, students and staff. How is that working out?
Dr. Price: The three committees are Parent Advisory, Student Advisory and Staff Advisory, and they each meet separately. It’s been fun. I have learned a lot. It’s easy to get isolated and hear from the same people over and over again, and I wanted to make sure that I was hearing the concerns of a wider range of people. The Parent Advisory Committee gives us a chance to answer questions and clarify rumors or issues. One of the challenges from the Staff Advisory Committee was how to attract more substitutes, which resulted in the board raising substitute salaries. For the Student Advisory Committee, we’ve addressed things like dress codes, and when we were looking to contract for cafeteria food services, the company came in and cooked for the students, who then rated the meals on a scorecard. This year, when we introduced a new incoming group of students, we asked the old group to explain what we do on this committee. “The administrators listen to us,” said one student. “They don’t give us everything we want, but we feel listened to.”
CRL: How are members of these committees chosen?
Dr. Price: The Parent Advisory Committee is for any parent who wants to attend. As the group has grown, they selected lunchtime meetings as the most convenient. For the Staff Advisory Committee, each campus sends two teacher representatives, either voted on or selected by the principal. The Student Advisory Committee starts at Grade 8 with a program called Students of Character where students vote on their peers. We have a boy and girl representative in each grade from Mark T. Voss, North and South Middle Schools, Boerne High School and Champion High School.
CRL: How and why did the parent and staff surveys change this year?
Dr. Price: One of the things we got feedback on was that people were tired of answering surveys twice a year. So we changed it to once a year for both parents and staff and it looks like we’re still getting just as many people completing the survey. This year we added students from Grades 3 and up. We want to ask them things, too, like how can we make it better, how can we make learning enjoyable but still hold everybody to high standards.
CRL: How are surveys conducted?
Dr. Price: It’s all electronic. We use customer-support and survey company K-12 Insight. All surveys are anonymous, with this safety net: If someone sends in anything really ugly or threatening, the company is able to trace it back. Otherwise, there are no consequences to speaking your mind. We need to hear the good, the bad and the angry. Sometimes anger is justified, and we can always do better.
CRL: What’s new and next?
Dr. Price: We’ll just keep going and growing. A recent demographic study shows BISD growing by at least 500 students a year for the foreseeable future. Registration for school year 2020-21 opens March 1 — the Skyward link from the BISD website is making enrollment/registration much easier, especially for multiple children from the same family. With growth like this, we can’t leave communications to chance. Improvement and development must be focused and intentional, otherwise we risk losing that small town feel that makes BISD so special.
For more information, visit www.boerneisd.net
Facebook and Twitter and Instagram @boerneisd