By David Boggan
When the Class of 2015 from Boerne High School and Boerne-Samuel V. Champion High School conduct commencement ceremonies June 6, the 550 seniors receiving diplomas will hold the distinction of being the first students in the community’s history to graduate from schools both named to Newsweek’s Top 500 High Schools in America list.
That 2014-15 designation by the national news magazine is just one of the superlatives used to quantify the quality education students receive in Boerne schools. Top marks from the Texas Education Association, the Niche survey and other rating entities validate the community’s priority on public education.
Like recent senior classes before them, the Class of 2015 will have a graduation rate of better than 99 percent. Keeping with past trends, the next stop for approximately 70 percent of graduating seniors will be a four-year university. Another 25 percent will advance to a two-year college or vocational training school. Academic recognition will be earned and scholarships will be abundantly generous.
“Our seniors step off that stage with a diploma and, I believe, an automatic advantage of having received their formal education in a community that cares so much about education and places a priority on achievement,” says Boerne ISD superintendent David Stelmazewski. “Everything that I know, both statistically and anecdotally, about our students’ success after graduation tells me that we are on the right path in our schools with regard to instruction, parental involvement and community support.”
Many of Boerne ISD’s college-bound students have an instant advantage with the high success rate of advanced placement courses. These college-level courses taken in high school translate into college credit, which translates into significant tuition savings for many students and their families. Last year, BISD students sat for more than 1,300 advanced placement tests, with 67 percent of those earning scores that potentially led to college credit. Conservatively, that represents a cumulative tuition savings of $2.4 million at a state university or as much as a $5.5 million in savings at a private institution.
The number of local individuals and organizations that award scholarships to Boerne seniors has increased through the years. Over the past several years, local scholarships have surpassed $200,000 in value, offering a tremendous financial boost to the community’s college-bound students.
“The generosity of our community — while not surprising — is amazing,” says Stelmazewski. “For these organizations and individuals to reach out and assist our students in this generous way, you just know education is a priority in our community. Couple that support with the untold number of scholarship dollars our students receive directly from their selected universities and you start to see what a tremendous impact is made on students’ ability to continue their educations.”
The district’s emphasis on establishing a top-tier Career and Technical Education (CTE) program extends similar post-graduation benefits to students whose path may not include college. The technical training received in areas of study such as automotive technology, health careers, manufacturing, culinary arts and other career-directed choices help students earn internships and in many cases full-time employment right out of high school.
“Our partnerships with local and area businesses has really made a difference in the success of our CTE program,” superintendent Stelmazewski says. “We have, for example, a very visible partnership with Toyota of Boerne. Over the years, they have supported our automotive technology program, contributed vehicles and equipment, developed work opportunities with our students, and paved the way for these students to gain appropriate certifications with the possibility of employment after graduation. And that is just one example. There are many, many more.”
Stelmazewski recalls a recent trip to Austin to visit with legislators on school finance issues. Toward the end of the day, he and school board members traveling with him were pleasantly surprised to see a 2014 graduate from Champion High School in the corridors of the state capital. In addition to taking a full freshman class load at the University of Texas, this young lady was working fulltime for a member of the House of Representatives and gaining invaluable experience in the realm of politics and business.
“This community has invested heavily — and wisely — in the education of our students,” the superintendent says. “Each time I encounter one of our successful graduates, I am reminded of how many people — parents, teachers, friends, community members — had a hand in assuring that success. It is a good feeling to be a part of a young person’s successful walk across that commencement stage and off into their future.”
Boerne-Samuel V. Champion High School | OCO Architects, Inc. / Pfluger Architects | Photo by Chris Cooper
Boerne High School | OCO Architects, Inc. / Pfluger Architects | Photo by Mark Menjivar