When the Ballinger ISD school year kicks off later this month, superintendent Jeff Butts looks to continue the progress made in several programs last year, “Overall, both academically and extracurricular programs showed a great deal of improvement last year.”

 The school’s grade from the state TEA in 2018 was a “C” and Butts believes that will improve this year, “Academically we’ll probably end up at a B. Year before last we were a C. I really don’t judge our staff or kids on that grade. No matter what grade we receive, even if it’s an A, we’re always going to continue to strive to improve and get better.”

 As is the norm with all of the schools in Runnels County, the new teachers will report first, “The new teachers will start on August 6th and all teachers will begin on August 8th.” Butts says that Ballinger Junior High will have a new principal this year, “Leslie Griffiths is our new junior high principal. She came to us from Shallow Water ISD. She was an instructional specialist up there. She has a lot of energy and is going to do great things here. Our previous principal was a great person and was a wonderful person for our community and school and we appreciate all that he did.”

 Butts and the school district are always looking to improve and stay focused, “Overall, we self-reflected on 2018-2019 and found areas where we could do things better. One big thing we’ve changed is at the business office. We’ve revamped the way we conduct business and track financials. We have tightened down on the procedures and processes. Caroline Tolliver is our assistant superintendent and has taken over responsibility for the business office. Last year we had some challenges but it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it. And we’ve done something about it. The teachers are upbeat and the students and community have made positive changes possible.”

 The administration and all of the staffs at the respective schools in BISD feed off of Butts’ energy and leadership. He is always positive and it’s apparent that leading by example are more than just words to him, it’s the way he carries himself as he performs his duties day-to-day and as he visits and gives presentations to civic groups such as Rotary and the Noon Lions Clubs. Butts believes that leadership starts at the top, although he prefers to talk about his staff, teachers and students rather than about himself, “The staff does a great job of keeping our kids focused and putting them first. As long as putting ours kids first remains our focus then whatever happens, happens, but we don’t ever lose that focus.”

 Butts says that this year BISD will have a new vocational program that he expects to make a positive impact, “We’ve got with Howard College and have a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) program this year. We are really excited about that. We have 4 or 5 kids enrolled in it already.” Another aspect of the students lives that he looks to make an impact in is their character, “District-wide, were going to focus on the character of our students. Our students already have great character and we’re going to work and build on that and instill a sense of accountability. If a kid gets an office referral, it’s going to impact any extracurricular activities he or she is involved in. This includes band, athletics, cheerleading, DECA and theater arts, among others.” The district has already started with that endeavor, “We have been working on character since about Christmas. Take athletics. The goal of athletics isn’t focused on developing a great athlete, it’s focused on developing a strong work ethic and understanding commitment. We want a student who graduates from BISD to be an outstanding citizen.”

 The school district will also be helping the students with their goals and pursuits and part of that is focusing on occupations that they might want to pursue as well as those that they may not want to pursue, “In junior high, you might have 15 things that you’re interested in. You get to high school and now maybe it’s 5 things that you’re interested in. When you graduate, maybe it’s now down to 2 or 3 things. By narrowing down those things, they will have a better idea of what occupation that they want to pursue. It will help make them more successful and I think we’re already on the right track.”

 BISD faced some significant challenges last year but as Butts said, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it.” The district has worked to resolve those challenges and make positive changes. The administration’s interest is in the students as people and citizens, not just as someone who is there to get a diploma and move on. They teach the person while teaching the student and strive to impart strong character traits and a solid work ethic in each of them. There is never any way to tell what challenges the upcoming year will have for any school district, but BISD is focused on their tasks and that’s putting the students’ first.

 Butts says that in addition to their commitment to the students, BISD has lowered the tax rate this year from $1.17 to $1.06, “This was part of the legislation that came out of this last session. With all of the discussion in the spring about property taxes, I was hoping to get this out to the public before we adopt our budget for next year later this month.”