Archive for the 'Boerne' Category

7 Ways to Improve Education

You’ve heard of the dog days of summer. Well, welcome to the dog days of school.

Standardized tests are almost done, but the standardized calendar is not. Daylight lingers longer, but attention spans do not. It’s a good time to review what works well and what wears us out.

Boerne ISD has its online parent satisfaction survey open through Friday. Superintendent Tommy Price is also assembling committees to set a new strategic direction for BISD. As the conversations unfold, here are seven ideas for improvement:

  1. Group elementary students by their birth quarter. In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell highlights the significant difference between success rates of people born just after an age cutoff and those born months later.

Teaching to the lowest common denominator is a common temptation in education. Grouping students of like ages, down to the month or quarter of their birth, will challenge high performers and help those who need extra attention.

  1. Teach more values. In a politically correct, pluralistic society, we’re better at teaching skills than values. I want my kids to have both.

If kids get values (honesty, hard work, discipline, service over self, respect for authority, etc.), they will acquire skills, even if it’s after they leave home. Knowledge and information aren’t limiting factors in our interconnected world. Character and wisdom are.

  1. Help kids develop a fierce mastery of technology. Boerne resident Kelly Newcom, author of http://www.BraveParenting.net, says smartphone pitfalls (pornography, bullying, addictive behavior) have dramatically increased incidences of suicide, self-harm and depression among kids nationwide.

Schools should carefully monitor and/or restrict device use on campuses and buses. Reducing dependence on smartphones will help kids master offline communication skills and sharpen the original supercomputer: the human brain.

  1. Transition to school uniforms. As decorum slides in our image-obsessed society, a move in the other direction would serve students well.

Uniforms work in third world countries and inner city charter schools. They work in pricey private and parochial schools. They will work in BISD. Let students express their independence and creativity in their work products, not in their attire.

  1. Close the gap between elementary and secondary start times. Elementary students shouldn’t have to go to school in the dark for half the year and then go to bed in the light the other half.

Various issues affect scheduling: bus routes, parental work schedules, morning and evening activities, student performance studies, etc. Still, start times closer to 8:00 am are ideal for all ages.

  1. Shorten middle school block periods. Hour and a half classes are too long, especially for boys. Teachers try to break up the monotony, and block schedules help with moving teachers between campuses, but we need a better way to organize the day.

7. Let the adults be adults. In our “customer is always right” world, the chief / tribesman line can get blurry.

Today, university students sit on regent boards and high schoolers help select principals. A mix of perspectives is beneficial, so long as the wisdom and expectations of the aged prevail.

***

Basic parenting is faltering in some circles. Educators are being asked to pick up the slack. They need our support and encouragement. They also need our input. The dog days of school are a great time to offer it.

 

Kevin Thompson writes frequently for The Boerne Star. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

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Texas town wrestles with growth

The slogan “BOERNE, TEXAS GONE FOREVER” is appearing on a growing number of bumpers. The sticker is usually attached to a work truck or a seasoned sedan. A faded Bush/Cheney sticker may also represent.

I have not chatted with any driver of any vehicle bearing the inscription, but I believe I understand the sentiment: The good days are gone. The suburbs have come.

I saw the sticker most recently at a relatively new burger café in town. The restaurant has a playground, a party room and a patio. Evidently, the driver was trying to warm up to “new Boerne” with an ice cold milkshake. He or she was enjoying an amenity made possible only by growth.

Therein lies the irony: We typically love what’s on the other side of the traffic.

Nearly ten years ago when my first child trotted out for his first soccer game at Boerne City Park, all the cars could fit in the parking lot. Today, you might have to park down by River Road or on the Kendall County Fairgrounds. The number of players and fans keeps increasing.

When my fourth child trotted out to his first game this fall, I endured the inconvenience because I want him to play on manicured fields in a well-run program. I try to remember: If the facilities were sub-par and the organization was lacking, I’d have plenty of prime spaces to choose from.

A recent snippet in the “Star Rewind” section of these pages told of a “New business for Boerne.” The year was 1955. Almega Corporation of Austin planned to come to Boerne “to manufacture toys, games and novelties and set up a complete industrial silk screening plant.”

The company had agreed to purchase an historic Main Street building built by Henry Adler in 1911. Bergmann Lumber, the oldest hardware store in Kendall County and the standard bearer for mom and pop shops attempting to stay relevant in a big box age, now occupies the space.

I don’t know how long Almega Corporation stayed in the Adler Building or if they even moved in. I don’t know what wooden or metal toys they made there or what garments they decorated. Someone with a BOERNE, TEXAS GONE FOREVER bumper sticker could probably tell me.

But the thought of a new business once occupying a now classic structure should give us some perspective.

I needed this perspective recently when I saw a strange object in town. I thought it had rolled off the back of a construction truck before I realized it was part of Boerne’s new public art initiative. Art al Fresco (art in “fresh air”) is a joint effort of the City of Boerne and the local arts community.

It may take me some time to recognize the beauty in my midst. I may very well wish for a windmill or a water tower instead. But I am committed to staying open to change.

Boerne has grown in spurts for decades. Every generation experiences it. The old Boerne commemorated on bumper stickers is really just a figment of a nostalgic imagination. The tranquility we remember over milkshakes was once someone else’s traffic.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Boerne’s Walker heads to The Masters

After winning $1.1 million and, more importantly, a new pair of cowboy boots at San Antonio’s Valero Texas Open ten days ago, Boerne resident Jimmy Walker is off to Augusta. Is he ready?

“He’s primed and ready,” friend Andrew Tosdevin said after a round with Walker last week at Cordillera Ranch. “He just took $17 dollars off me.”

When he’s not taking on earth’s top golfers as the 13th best player in the world, Walker takes on a close-knit clan at the Jack Nicklaus course ten miles east of Boerne. The group plays up to four times a week when Walker is home, according to Cordillera golf pro Marc DeWall.

“They’re all good players, all have single-digit handicaps,” DeWall explained. “Jimmy seems to enjoy their camaraderie and the banter back and forth.”

“We treat him like one of the boys,” said Tosdevin, an accented Brit who met Walker on the driving range three years ago. The two had struck up a conversation about a shared interest: wine. “We talk trash, but in a pleasant way.”

Golf is, after all, a gentleman’s game. But it’s not for the weak-willed. Walker endured nearly a decade of ups and downs between the Nationwide and PGA tours before recording a PGA victory – in his 188th event.

Walker recently told Golf Digest about a low point on the journey:

“After six years as a pro my career hadn’t gone anywhere. Funds were running low, I’d never had a job outside of playing golf, and I was feeling dead-ended. I phoned my wife, Erin, and broached the idea of the two of us getting real jobs.

“When both people are crying on a long-distance call, that’s rock bottom. The next week in West Virginia was the hottest weather I’d ever played golf in. Just putting one foot in front of the other, I somehow won the tournament.”

Seven years and $16 million later, Walker is a different golfer, thanks in part to the work of teaching pro Brian Gathright of San Antonio’s Oak Hills Country Club and Butch Harmon who coached Tiger Woods through eight of his fourteen major tournament wins.

But Walker is no different a person, say DeWall and Tosdevin. He still enjoys time with his wife and sons. He still enjoys taking pictures of stars through a telescope.

“Jimmy is extremely generous with his time and resources,” DeWall explained. “He gives back in ways people don’t know about. He’s given a lot to The First Tee, a program that helps kids from all walks of life build character, cultivate values and make healthy choices through the game of golf.”

Tosdevin agreed, “The beautiful thing about Jimmy is he is just a regular guy. He always has time for people. He’s absolutely genuine and humble. He is simply a super nice person.”

Such a description was once often par for the course among celebrity types. That’s obviously no longer the case, even with golfers.

So it’s refreshing when you hear it and further proof that someone special will represent Cordillera Ranch and Boerne at The Master’s later this week. As the current leader in FedEx Cup points, Walker will be among the favorites.

“He’s playing beautifully,” Tosdevin assured me. “He has a great chance to win.”

At golf and life.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

 

This is Boerne…you never know

A sad but undeterred mother stood on the driveway of her adult daughter’s burned down home. As she picked up some pieces and contemplated the road ahead, she surmised, “This is Boerne. You never know what might happen.”

She wasn’t talking about the tragedy that happened last week at 123 Becker Street on the north end of town. She was talking about the recovery.

By the time I showed up with shovel and wheelbarrow to help with the clean up, Boerne ISD bond contractor Bartlett-Cocke already volunteered to demolish and haul off the totaled structure. An architect donated his services to draw new plans. Several homebuilders expressed a desire to help.

The displaced family of six relocated temporarily to one of the last available 3-bedroom apartments in Boerne. The fire department donated a couple of beds. A thrift store donated a sofa. A random stranger gave a check for $500. A neighbor brought over a dozen eggs. All in less than a week. Yes, this is Boerne.

It is a unique sensation to live in a place so generous. Some people are generous because they can be. Others are generous because they choose to be. Either way, Boerne has a heritage of generosity.

I once heard a civic leader count more than fifty active non-profit capital campaigns in Kendall County. That’s not normal. That’s Boerne.

The persevering mother is confident in her daughter’s ability to fight back.

“We’ll be okay. We come from a very tough family. My mother lived to be 95 years old and only needed one medication.”

Judging by the matriarch’s perspective, I suspect the family will fight back.

“We’re really just thankful everyone made it out alive. The fire department expected casualties when they arrived. They did a very good job. The fire didn’t touch the houses on either side.”

A correlation exists among gratefulness and toughness and longevity.

A correlation also exists between generosity and desirability. Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants have come in droves in part because of the generosity within our DNA.

The same could be said about Boerne. People want to move here in part because our citizens are willing to give their time and wealth to make this a great place to live.

One truth about life is that the tables are always turning. Prosperity one day can turn – on a dime – into disaster the next. You never know when it will be your turn to need. That’s as good a reason as any to give.

If you would like to contribute to the family of 123 Becker, go to http://www.gofundme.com/h8qls4. So far, 83 people have given a total of $10,525. The donation site has been shared 277 times on social media. This is Boerne.

Disasters often strike at the worst possible times, such as two weeks before Thanksgiving. But bad timing can bring people together in good ways. What better time to express gratitude for the gifts we’ve received than to pay them forward to those who need?

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at www.kwt.info. Email him at kevin@kwt.info.

To grow or not to grow

I need to grow. On several fronts. My employers have invested in a new office that I run. They expect it to grow. My family needs me to grow in leadership and provision.

By nature, humans grow. Throughout history, humankind moves forward with innovative technologies and sophistications that cure ills and improve standards of living. As a result, the world population has continuously increased.

Economies are also destined and designed for growth. Our expectation of the Gross Domestic Product, the stock market and other investments is that they will grow. Historically, they have. The trends, over time, are up and to the right.

Growth is the norm, not the exception. However, growth is not always a given. Just ask the fired employee. Just ask any number of rural, West Texas towns.

So, when people say, in effect, “Shut the gates behind me!” my eyebrows furl at their naivete. “Shutting the gates” is either a death knell or an exercise in futility. It is not an effective governing strategy.

Kendall County, Texas, made national news in March when U.S. Census data identified it the 5th fastest growing county in the country.

Of the four counties ahead of Kendall, 3 are in the oil patch and one is a master-planned retirement community in Florida. So, if you take out the counties associated with gas production- the roughnecks and the old farts- Kendall is the fastest growing county in America.

Kendall County and its seat, Boerne, located in the Texas Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin, have long wrestled with growth issues. Scenic landscapes, interstate accessibility, exceptional schools, proximity to shopping and services; all these drive attraction.

People want to live here; therefore, developers want to develop here.

With the uptick in the housing market, developers have dusted off subdivision plans. Five thousand residential lots are in the works in or near the Boerne City Limits. But let’s have some intellectual honesty about the development.

According to the City of Boerne Planning Department, only a few hundred lots will even be available to build on in the next twelve months. After that, lots will come online in units and phases over time.

It will take years before all the proposed lots, houses and people come to fruition. And who knows what might change between now and then?

In 2007, developer-bedevilling doomsdayers predicted the passing of Boerne as we knew it. The reports of Boerne’s death were greatly exaggerated, as Twain might say.

I know personally several of the developers who either have built or are now building local subdivision projects. None are the rape and pillage type. They themselves live here, after all. They see no good in biting the hand that feeds them.

Plus, the development process in Boerne is arduous. The margin for error is slight and not conducive to fly by nights.

In the short run, will some traffic spots get worse before they get better? Sure. Will growing pains plague us from time to time? Of course. But given the alternative of economic stagnation and the flight of our youth, I’ll take a sore joint or two.

So, when you hear smeone say “Boerne: No Vacancy,” think to yourself, “Brain: No Occupancy.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas Hill Country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Man’s dark struggle with Christmas lights

I’m generally a hopeful guy, so I rarely quote Dante’s Inferno. But one place needs the poem’s most infamous line: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

It’s the Christmas lights section at Home Depot.

Christmas lights are the bane of man’s existence. I do not overstate the point.

Of all the electrical appliances a man might assemble, there is nothing, I repeat, nothing like plugging in a freshly strung strand of Christmas lights and having nothing, I repeat, nothing happen.

Yes, smarty-pants, I checked them in the yard before putting them up. Yes, Mr. Know-It-All, they worked then.

Clark Griswold, the Christmas Vacation character who put 25,000 lights on his home, knows the feeling. He had spent days creating his masterpiece amidst spousal questioning: “Are you out here for a reason or are you just avoiding the family?”

When the time came to plug it all in, only criticisms lit up.

“I hope you kids see what a silly waste of resources this was,” derided Clark’s mother-in-law.

“He worked really hard, Grandma,” defended his daughter.

“So do washing machines,” reported his father-in-law.

At this point a man doesn’t want a diagnosis of the problem. He doesn’t want a handful of solutions. He just wants to be held. And he wants a trust fund to pay someone to do this tragic chore for the rest of his life.

For most men, the trust fund is not to be. The Christmas lights are his cross to bear — alone. And if he has small children, the stakes are as high as the roof line.

I understand the logic: no Christmas lights, no Christmas tree, no Santa, no presents.

But man’s dark struggle against the lights is anything but logical.

If it were logical, the extra replacement lights would actually fix a problem once in a while. If it were logical, there would be no microscopic replacement fuses – I last saw fuses like this in my grandfather’s 1982 Datsun.

And if it were logical, the Federal Trade Commission would close every light manufacturer known to man for their most reliable failure rate. 

Instead, a baggie of extra lights and fuses is taped to each strand by a belly-laughing factory worker. Instead, giddy consumers swept by the joy of the season keep forking over hard-earned dollars for what amounts to an exercise in character formation.

Sure, there have been decorative advances: the net of lights you can throw across your shrubs, the dangling icicles, the inflatable Santas and Frosties. Projectors can put a holiday Mickey Mouse on your garage door. Custom homes have exterior outlets lining soffits and eaves for easy access to power.

But there is simply no substitute for the hard work of installing one’s own creation, for overcoming the broken bulbs, for triumphing o’er the inexplicably expired segments.

There is no trading the thrill on the kids’ faces when the job is done. It’s the equivalent of a 1,000-volt attitude adjustment.

Even Clark Griswold’s easily embarrassed teenagers were moved when his lighted sight came to pass. As the Hallelujah Chorus rang out,

“Dad! It’s beautiful!”

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

 


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