Now that the weather has cooled off to some degree, it is beginning to feel like fall in the Hill Country. It’s hard to believe the first six weeks of school has already come and gone! Before we know it, it will be time for the holidays. I thought this would be an appropriate time for some school news. The year is off to a great start! We have several new students and enrollment is holding steadily around 675 students. This has been the trend for the last three years. Currently in grades PK-4 there are 277 students, in grades 5-8 there are 201 students and in grades 9-12 there are 198 students. This puts us just under the mark to stay in the 1A classification if UIL uses the same category breaks as used in 2009. The teachers and students are busy in the classroom trying to prepare for the newest version of the state-mandated testing. The STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) will begin in the spring of 2012. Even with the added rigor of the new test, I feel confident our students will be as well prepared, if not better prepared, than most students in the state. With a cumulative passing rate on TAKS of 95.5% we are in a far better position to face this challenge than other schools of similar size and demographics.On the financial front, our state funding was reduced by approximately $300,000 with a promise of that much more being cut for the 2012-13 school year. The approved budget reflects those cuts and should sustain us through the next year. Unless something unforeseen occurs MISD should be safe from more budget woes for the next year or two. Of course, there is already talk about the next biennium starting with a $9-10 billion shortfall. Once again MISD scored a 4.5- out of a 5-star rating on the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts FAST (Financial Allocation Study for Texas) report. This rating is based on an average of the composite academic progress percentile and the spending index. Districts with the most academic progress and the lowest spending relative to similar districts receive the highest scores. Our composite academic progress percentile is 96% ranking us #1 in Region 15 schools. Only three other schools in our region received a 4.5-star rating with Wall ISD having the closest academic percentile of 91%. We have also received a “Superior” rating on Texas Education Agency’s FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) report which is the highest rating possible.When I took this job, my focus was to complete any commitments with grants in which we were currently involved before applying for more. However, as grant opportunities have presented themselves, I found myself not being able to turn away monies to benefit our school facilities or our students. Consequently we have received $67,000 in grants from the Texas Comptroller’s Office SECO (State Energy Conservation Office) division to replace elementary and high school classroom air conditioning units. The elementary campus was completed over the summer and work to replace units at the high school began this month. MISD funds were used to replace the units on the junior high campus in the summer of 2010. We have applied for a third SECO grant totaling over $100,000 to replace the larger units at the high school and expect to receive notification soon regarding that project. The latest grant opportunity is from the Texas Music Educators Association. The FAISP (Fine Arts Instructional Support Program) grant could supply up to $5000 of instruments and other supplies for the junior high and high school band programs.An article about the school would not be complete without mentioning the great successes our Punchers and Cowgirls have experienced in football, marching and cross country. The dedication of our students continues to amaze me as I see them day in and day out practicing in the grueling heat. It just confirms my belief that we have the best students, staff, parents and community in the state and I am so proud to be from Mason!