It’s hard to believe the school year is well past the half way mark. We have accomplished many things the first semester but have many things left to do in less than half the year! One accomplishment I am very proud to announce is Mason Elementary has been nominated as a 2014 National Blue Ribbon School! There are two ways to qualify for nomination. A school may qualify as an Exemplary High Performing School or an Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School. Mason Elementary qualified as an Exemplary High Performing School.
This announcement, made official from the United States Department of Education (USDE), Friday, January 31st, is the beginning of a very lengthy, detailed application process. The official award to schools will be made sometime in September. From this point forward, Mason Elementary will not be competing with other schools for the award. The determination will be made based strictly on the information provided in the application submitted on or before March 21, 2014. Mason Elementary is one of 26 schools nominated from the state of Texas. With all the great things happening at Mason Elementary, I am confident the students and staff of Mason Elementary will be one of the schools recognized in Washington D.C. later this year. Congratulations to all who helped contribute to the success of our school! “It’s a great day to be a Mason Puncher!”
On another note, I would also like to inform you of the progress made/steps taken in the efforts to improve our facilities. MISD has hired Randy Fromberg, out of Austin, as our architect to help us with some design options. One of the top priorities of the school board and administration is to have all elementary/jr. high students under one roof and get rid of the portable buildings. The first of the portable buildings were put there almost 20 years ago. They were not designed to be a permanent solution to overcrowding and are showing their age. Since those first portables were occupied, there have been several others added. In this day of heightened awareness of the dangers of unlimited access to our buildings and students, it becomes necessary to revisit and re-evaluate our facilities plan. Another piece of this puzzle that cannot be ignored is our current elementary/jr. high building was built in 1951. As in all aging facilities, there are numerous issues to be addressed. Security, classroom size, aging plumbing and electrical systems, student safety in regards to traffic flow during drop-off and pick-up times and energy efficiency, are just a few of the areas of concern.
MISD will be making the final payment on the bond currently held on February 17, 2014. In 2004, MISD issued a bond in the amount of $3,000,000. This bond financed the high school science lab, art room and band hall. The bond matures in 2024, but will be paid ten years ahead of schedule as promised. In addition to paying the current bond in full ten years early, MISD also has a construction fund balance account of just over $2,000,000. This fund balance account was started several years ago with the knowledge improvements would need to be made at the elementary/jr. high building in the near future. Administration changes and state funding cuts caused this project to be put on hold for a while but I believe it is now time to get this project underway.
A meeting was held (February 6, 2014) with the school board, Facilities Task Force and the architect. The purpose of this meeting was to introduce the Facilities Task Force to the architect and discuss options, costs, etc. of new construction and renovation. I also shared more recent information regarding the financial part of the equation such as projected interest rates, payment amounts and tax commitment required to make those payments should a bond election be held and passed.
I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the members of the Facilities Task Force. We first met in April of 2013. They have devoted a great deal of time to the needs of our students and staff and I sincerely appreciate their efforts. We still have a tremendous amount of work to do, but we are making progress! This is not a decision to be made lightly. All options must be carefully weighed and considered before entering into a construction project of this magnitude. I wish to assure you the Facilities Task Force, Board of Trustees and I take this responsibility very seriously. Should you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to come by for a visit or give me a call at the office. I would be happy to discuss our facility needs with you.
Mason ISD is celebrating its 125th birthday this year! We are planning a small celebration on March 5, 2014. March 5th happens to be the 125th day of school! More details to follow.