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Board Takes Action To Support Families Facing Economic Hardship

BELTON, TX Recognizing the economic hardship students and families are facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Belton ISD’s Board of Trustees voted Monday to waive the technology insurance fee all students pay for the upcoming school year. The move will save families more than $240,000 over the next school year. 

“Families continue to be impacted by COVID-19 in different ways, and the economic hardships currently being felt by some in our community are heavy on our hearts and minds,” said Suzanne M. McDonald, Board president. “There are so many things to worry about. If this small but tangible action helps eliminate a worry for those facing hardships in our community, it’s worth doing.”

Further recognizing the challenging circumstances facing students and families, trustees authorized the district to cancel more than $40,000 of debt remaining from the end of the 2019-2020 school year. This includes debt accumulated over the course of the year from school meal charges, ID replacement fees, costs of replacement or repair of technology devices and other campus operations.

“We want our students to be able to start the year with a clean slate and not have to worry about this outstanding debt,” said Jennifer Land, the district’s CFO.

Superintendent Matt Smith also updated the Board about the district’s continued planning efforts for opening schools on Aug. 19. The district, he said, sent a survey to parents last week to gauge their current preference for at-home or at-school learning for next year. 

“Since Thursday we’ve received more than 6,500 responses, which represents almost half of the district’s anticipated enrollment of 12,200 students,” Smith said. “We’re continuing to seek feedback from parents and staff through virtual events scheduled for later this week.”

The district plans to release a comprehensive response plan on July 24 before opening the district’s At-Home Learning registration window the following week. 

In other news, the Board approved the hiring of two newly created campus leadership positions. Gabrielle Nino was hired as executive director of elementary campus leadership and Arturo Lomeli as executive director of secondary campus leadership. These positions will be devoted to coaching and supporting principals.

“The additions of an Executive Director of Elementary and of Secondary Campus Leadership are critical to ensure that our work is aligned with our purpose - exceptional experiences for each and every student,” Smith said. “After an extensive and thorough search process, we found two outstanding educators to fill these roles.”

Nino comes from Georgetown ISD where she has served as the director of assessment and feedback. Nino has 18 years in education and has served as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas State University.

Lomeli comes from Leander ISD where he has served as the high school principal for the last 5 years. Lomeli brings 14 years of experience at both the elementary and secondary level where he has served as dean of students, assistant principal, principal and teacher. He earned his bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University and his master’s degree from George Fox University.

The Board also approved the hiring of two principals — Cary Zepernick at High Point Elementary and Sheila Surovik at Belton Early Childhood School. 

Zepernick has 14 years of experience in elementary education as a teacher and administrator. She comes to Belton ISD from Round Rock where she spent the last four years as an assistant principal. Zepernick earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas State University. 

Surovik is a familiar face in the Big Red Community. The veteran educator has served as assistant principal at BECS since 2014 when the full-day pre-kindergarten campus opened. Her career spans 21 years and also includes stints as an early childhood teacher and instructional coach. Surovik earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tarleton State University. 

The Board also approved the hiring of Sara Windham as director of special programs. Windham has 21 years of experience working with special programs, including work as a speech language pathologist and special education coordinator in Georgetown ISD. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University.