Joe Burns, Copperas Cove Independent School District superintendent, added touches of humor to what could’ve been a very serious report.
During the annual State of the District luncheon March 1, Burns peppered his statements with humor, while acknowledging the district faces some challenges.
“We’re going to learn to live leaner and meaner,” was one of Burns’ telling comments.
That leaner and meaner attitude stems from a reduction in federal Impact Aid funding expected over the next few years.
Because the number of active-duty military-connected students has declined due to a reduction of soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, CCISD will be seeing a dramatic reduction in Impact Aid over the next few years.
Burns explained the formula to the room of about 300 school administrators, local officials and concerned citizens.
In the first year of the funding cycle, 2016-2017, CCISD received 100 percent of eligible funding, or nearly $12.5 million.
For the second year, 2017-2018, the amount of funding drops to 85 percent of eligible funding, or an approximate projection of $9.5 million.
The third year, 2018-2019, sees the calculation at 80 percent of the previous year’s funding, or a projected amount of $7.6 million.
For the fourth and final year, as Burns said, “You get what you get.” The projected amount of Impact Aid for 2019-2020 will be roughly $383,000.
Burns remained optimistic about the situation, however. “It’ll be OK.”
Another option, besides reducing district staffing by attrition to save money, is to ask taxpayers not for more money, but to keep taxes the same even after the district pays off its debt, or Interest and Sinking fund, in 2025.
Burns detailed how local taxes of nearly $14.5 million are a key part of the district’s $80 million annual budget.
“Taxes are never fun to pay,” Burns said. “We appreciate our taxpayers.”
Burns expressed appreciation for many of the community partners that willingly lend time, talents and financial support to the district. “When you do for us, you’re doing for the kids.”
Representatives of one partner, Extraco Bank, gave a presentation about their involvement with the district. Libby Cain, senior vice president and manager of mission and marketing strategy, gave an overview of the bank’s history and mission to assist educational efforts.
Zuly Del Valle, Copperas Cove financial center manager, told the crowd about the local branch’s involvement with Crossroads High School, including providing free senior portraits and caps and gowns to graduates.
“We have a lot planned for them in 2018,” Del Valle said.
That includes adding Copperas Cove High School to the schools which participate in Extraco’s financial literacy program.
“If you knock, the doors of opportunity will open,” Del Valle concluded, encouraging those present to get involved in the district.
Burns highlighted how the district’s Vision 2020 plan actually saw completion in two years, rather than four.
For that reason, the Vision 2021 plan will be presented in June.
Praising the teachers and administrators in the district, Burns admitted he could not avoid mentioning the recent school shootings and threats.
“It’s a pretty somber thing,” Burns said. “Schools and churches used to be sacred places.”
He could not divulge specific safety measures but thanked the Copperas Cove Police Department for working with the district for simulated drills. A video system throughout the district is accessible by the police, as well.
Accessibility to the schools by parents and others interested in being part of the programs is a positive, according to Burns, though “accessibility makes us vulnerable,” he added.
“Even on our best day, we have the ability to be compromised in some way,” Burns said. “The world is changing.”
Burns confirmed the district is praying for the best and preparing for the worst when it comes to security threats.
Highlighting the current enrollment in the district, which exceeds 8,100 students, Burns said, “We have a very, very diverse student body.”
Of the 350 students participating in English as a Second Language programs, there are 32 different languages being spoken, Burns said.
Another sad note came when Burns stated there are 158 homeless students in the district.
Programs being offered to students include an early college high school and dual credit courses. “More than 2,000 students have CTE [Career and Technical Education} opportunities,” Burns said.
The district’s child nutrition department provides more than 300,000 breakfasts per year, and over 780,000 lunches in the same period. The summer feeding program, which is free of charge to youngsters, supplies more than 200,000 meals during the weeks of vacation.
The district is renovating some buildings, Burns said, including the former National United Bank building, which will become the new administrative offices. The total cost of that project will be between $2.9 million and $3.2 million.
The current administrative building will be transformed into offices for record storage, child nutrition and health services, among other uses.
The new $4 million transportation facility will be ready by June, despite recent rainy weather, Burns said. It will allow for ample school bus parking, repair facilities and office space.
On the subject of rain, Burns had nothing but admiration for the team that handled the flooding at Copperas Cove Junior High the weekend of Feb. 24, after a pressurized 4-inch water line burst.
Burns joked about deputy superintendent Rick Kirkpatrick wading through the water in cut-off slacks. “It was a horrible site. He looked like a stork in a wading pool.”
The emergency was dealt with quickly, though, so classes could resume Feb. 26 on schedule, Burns said.
Technology was another topic Burns covered during his address. The entire district is now using Microsoft Office 365 and classrooms are equipped with projectors, computers and laptops.
“New technology draws a lot of power,” Burns said, mentioning that renovations to electrical systems in some schools has been necessary to accommodate the need for more outlets and increased usage.
Overall, Burns sees a bright future for the district, especially with the help of community partners, parents and dedicated staff.