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August 28th, 2008
A Call to Excellence focuses on education

Local grass-roots group, A Call to Excellence, has brought concerned parents, residents, and teachers together to discuss ways to improve San Marcos schools. They conduct meetings and gather data to submit to the SMCISD (San Marcos Independent School District).Group member, and concerned resident, Cecil Pounds told Newstreamz, “there were two couples, myself and my wife, Brette, and Brad Davis and Jean Davis, that were sitting around and talking about the things that we had held conversations about with parents throughout the district, and we said; ‘you know we ought to just have a parent-community meeting and see what we could find out’ on the three topics we were covering. The topics were behavior, safety, and retention.”

These three topics are the focus of the discussions in the meetings. “Our parent meetings begin by trying to find out what information we could feed back to the district,” said Pounds, “as far as information or ideas on behavior. Then we fill out a bunch of ideas and get those out there and we’ll have 20 – 30 minutes of brainstorming on that. Then we go to safety. We talk about some of the things we can request, or ask that the district does for safety within the district. The last item that we always cover is the retention of the students and faculty. Part of that is, on the faculty side, compensation, obviously, benefits, community support, administration support, and those kinds of things.”

These meetings started just last year. “Our first meeting was in May of this year,” Pounds stated. “That’s for this current group and set of meetings that we’re having. The reason I say that is, last year, in the fall around September or October, we also had two meetings with administrators and superintendents. There were some parent meetings going back as far as fall of 2007, but this current Commitment to Excellence group, I think the first meeting was in May.”

Since it’s inception, A Call to Excellence has tried to spread information about the organization. “My wife is involved in the Crockett PTO,” Pounds said, “and Jean Davis was, at the time, in Travis with the Travis PTO and is now in the Hernandez PTO. That is part of the intitial way that we got the word out; which was getting to all of the PTO presidents. We called them, we told them what we were doing and what we wanted to do for that first meeting and then just asked them to ask all of the parents to come and be involved. We’ve done it really through word-of-mouth type conversation.”

“Since then it’s been mostly e-mails. Spreading the word to people we get in touch with when we get their contact information. We’re just continuing to spread information and communicate with them through the website.”

A Call to Excellence emphasizes the importance of having a positive attitude. Mr. Pounds said, “We’ve been doing a survey, and we have a survey that’s still on the website. The website even has the results of that posted. It talks about what we’ve done and what the results are. The result that we’ve come up with on our three topics is that the positive behaviors that everybody is working towards, which create a learning environment, will help safety and retention of employees and staff. Positive behavior is what will enhance the learning environment around the district. The way you get positive behavior is by having safety in schools. Those things will lead to keeping the teachers and the students in the district.”

Changing behavior patterns is not easy. A positive outlook can go a long way, and as Mr. Pounds says, “the positive behavior has to come from both sides. It has to be from the schools, holding children accountable for their behaviors and their roles in the learning environment. The other piece of that is that the students have to also be involved. They have to say ‘ok, I’m in the deal also. When there are expectations that are set out there I need to adhere and stick to the expectations that are set out’.”

So far the discussions at the meetings have resulted in a lot of suggestions and ideas for improvement. “What can improve the behaviors of the kids,” Pounds commented, “is career expectations from the district as far as what the rules and the code of conduct are to be, teachers and administration and faculty holding their rules to consistent measures. The other piece of it is building pride, what I call a commitment to Excellence, in the district. Get the students proud of where they’re at and what school district they’re involved in.”

There’s not one particular solution to the problems in our district. Parents and concerned parties are encouraged to become involved and attend the meetings. Attendance to the meetings is on the rise. The rooms may not be packed yet, but as the information spreads more and more people are becoming involved. “In the first three meetings,” said Cecil Pounds, “what we have had is participation from parents and from school board members and administrators. We’ve had lighter attendance from parents than we have from school officials, but we’re still getting a good representation of parents in the meeting.”

The next meeting is on September 4 at the Activity Center here in San Marcos. For more information or to take the survey and see the results so far, visit www.acalltoexcellence.com.

By SARAH STEVENS
Correspondent

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