Over the past five years, Blue Ridge ISD has changed its philosophy, as well as much of its school board and staff. Now, the district is nationally recognized. (Published Thursday, Sep 27, 2012)
The Blue Ridge Independent School District has undergone a transformation over the past five years.
When superintendent Todd Lintzen arrived in town, he said the state was ready to throw the book at the district.
"The high school was labeled academically unacceptable," he said.
Lintzen said the district was in financial distress and was struggling with academic achievement, behavior problems and a lack of parental involvement.
“It wasn't a good place to be," said Blue Ridge parent Patricia Garcia, who has raised three children in the district.
"My daughter didn't bring home any homework – and that was somewhat the goal," she said, referring to when her oldest, now college-age daughter, was in high school.
But today, with her youngest now in high school, Garcia said much has changed.
"Academics have increased, expectations have increased a lot."
BRISD Board President Stacie Durham, a lifelong Blue Ridge resident, said the district started an overhaul, with a central philosophy of putting the student first.
"We’ve had a complete turnover on the board,” she said. "There was some resistance and there was some unrest. But look at where they are."
Some of the most difficult changes involved changing expectations for faculty and staff.
"We made drastic cuts that year in personnel," said Lintzen, noting that the district cut teachers they thought were not performing, as well as cutting programs they felt were not serving students.
He said while BRISD is the lowest-funded district in Collin County, which limits the salaries he can offer teachers, the district has had success in recruiting fresh faces to lead its classrooms.
The improvement in student performance has led to national recognition.
Blue Ridge High School is a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School – one of just a handful of winners in Texas.
For senior Courtney Davis, who had bounced through several schools before coming to Blue Ridge High, the district’s expanded offerings and commitment to the student has made a remarkable difference in her life.
"I’m so glad to be graduating," she said.
While Davis will graduate with college credit from her dual-credit courses at BRHS, during her junior year, she had shied away from the advanced courses, because of the financial cost.
However, with her teacher's urging, and their help in finding financial aid – even writing a few checks themselves – Davis is one step closer to pursuing her dream of college, even medical school.
"I want to be a doctor," she said.
Blue Ridge voters also supported the district in a bond election, which funded two new state-of-the-art facilities for elementary and middle school students.