San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 10th, 2009
North to run for San Marcos school board

Managing Editor
Chris North, a community activist who also serves on the County Parks Advisory Team and founded the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, has thrown her hat into the ring for the San Marcos CISD’s May school board race.

North, who will run for an at-large position, said she will focus on transparency and community issues.

“I’ve been thinking about running for the school board but never did,” said North, who has three children attending San Marcos CISD schools. “The catalyst was the new attendance zones.”
The school board recently approved new attendance zones that will take effect this coming fall. North said the process used to determine the new zones was unfair.
“It was a closed process,” said North. “I tried to engage and participate, but I wasn’t allowed. My entire neighborhood was kicked out of the Crockett (Elementary) zone (a short distance from North’s home). We’ve built all these nice new schools, but we keep pushing them out further into the country. We need to keep inner city schools to encourage downtown neighborhoods.”
North also wants to address food and nutrition issues throughout the district, while upgrading the bus system and improving the school district’s image. Specifically regarding meals, North said, “The food is terrible and it gets worse every year. I’m shocked at how bad it is.”
North said she is especially passionate about televising school board meetings. 

“If elected, one of my top priorities will be to have the school board meetings televised, because I believe transparency is critical,” North said. “Televised meetings will give parents an opportunity to become more involved in the decision making process regarding the education of their children.”

North said she has brought up the possibility several times in the past with San Marcos CISD board members to no avail.
North contacted current at-large board member Tom Brown to see if he was going to run again. After confirming that Brown would leave, North hoped to take his seat. However, North won’t be running for a specific seat, because two at-large seats are up for vote and they will go to the top two vote recipients.
North has not written a formal platform, held a fundraiser or brought on a manager, though Amy Kerwin has agreed to serve as campaign treasurer. However, North said she is planning on getting up to speed on all the issues and talking to parents and teachers in the coming weeks.
“We have great schools and great teachers,” North said. “My kids get a great education but we seem to have a reputation we can’t shake that our schools aren’t very good. I hope to change that.”

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0 thoughts on “North to run for San Marcos school board

  1. Chris, I hope you take a look at the graduation rates and the SAT scores and keep your mind open to the possibility that we do *not* have great schools. There is a lot of data available out there, to show that there are plenty of schools in Texas that outperform us and there are plenty of states that outperform Texas.

  2. Where is the line between “excellent” and “good”? Where is the line between “good” and “mediocre”?

    Here are the class of 2007 graduation rates for Hispanic students in various schools around San Marcos and beyond.

    Johnson City 100%
    Ft Sam Houston 93%
    Dripping Springs 93%
    Blanco 92%
    Lago Vista 90%
    North East 88%
    Wimberley 87%
    Comal 85%
    Prairie Lea 83%
    Crosby 82%
    Marble Falls 81%
    Marion 81%
    Schertz-Cibolo 81%
    Navarro 80%
    Katy 79%
    Spring 78%
    Hays 77%
    Leander 77%
    Liberty Hill 77%
    Alamo Heights 77%
    Deer Park 76%
    Weatherford 75%
    Cy-Fair 75%
    Mansfield 73%
    Lake Travis 73%
    Judson 73%
    Harlandale 72%
    Spring Branch 71%

    San Marcos 70%

    East Central 70%
    Seguin 69%
    Del Valle 68%
    Luling 68%
    Austin 66%
    New Braunfels 66%
    Georgetown 66%
    Channelview 66%
    Round Rock 64%
    Pflugerville 64%
    Pasadena 61%
    Lockhart 61%
    Dallas 60%
    Manor 59%
    North Forest 48%

    Here are the mean SAT scores for Hispanic students in 2007:

    Lake Travis 1094
    Dripping Springs 1058
    Wimberley 1058
    Ft Sam Houston 1018
    Round Rock 1016
    Liberty Hill 1005
    Leander 999
    Alamo Heights 985
    Pflugerville 985
    Katy 980
    Deer Park 974
    North East 971
    Mansfield 971
    Cy-Fair 970
    Lago Vista 968
    Weatherford 968
    Navarro 960
    Georgetown 960
    Austin 952
    New Braunfels 949
    Marion 944
    Spring 944
    Seguin 943
    Schertz-Cibolo 942
    East Central 941
    Comal 928
    Pasadena 919
    Manor 917
    Judson 915
    Marble Falls 914
    Spring Branch 911
    Crosby 905
    Channelview 898
    Lockhart 894
    Hays 883
    Dallas 877
    Luling 866

    San Marcos 859

    Del Valle 850
    Harlandale 847
    North Forest 737
    Johnson City N/A
    Blanco N/A
    Prairie Lea N/A

    Perhaps we do an excellent job of graduating economically disadvantaged students:

    Blanco 100%
    Prairie Lea 100%
    Ft Sam Houston 100%
    Dripping Springs 88%
    Marble Falls 85%
    Schertz-Cibolo 84%
    North East 83%
    Navarro 82%
    Spring 82%
    Comal 81%
    Crosby 81%
    Alamo Heights 80%
    Johnson City 78%
    Katy 78%
    Lago Vista 78%
    Del Valle 78%
    Cy-Fair 77%
    Marion 77%
    Deer Park 76%
    Mansfield 76%
    Harlandale 76%
    Hays 73%
    Spring Branch 72%
    Luling 71%
    Pflugerville 70%
    Seguin 70%
    East Central 69%
    Judson 69%

    San Marcos 69%

    Liberty Hill 68%
    New Braunfels 68%
    Wimberley 67%
    North Forest 67%
    Manor 66%
    Channelview 66%
    Dallas 64%
    Weatherford 63%
    Austin 63%
    Pasadena 63%
    Lockhart 63%
    Round Rock 61%
    Georgetown 61%
    Leander 59%
    Lake Travis 55%

    White students?

    Alamo Heights 97%
    Blanco 96%
    Dripping Springs 96%
    Navarro 96%
    Wimberley 96%
    Spring Branch 95%
    Ft Sam Houston 94%
    Schertz-Cibolo 94%
    North East 94%
    Katy 94%
    Lago Vista 94%
    Deer Park 94%
    Cy-Fair 93%
    Marble Falls 92%
    Comal 92%
    New Braunfels 92%
    Lake Travis 92%
    Hays 91%

    San Marcos 91%

    Mansfield 90%
    Liberty Hill 89%
    Round Rock 89%
    Seguin 88%
    Manor 88%
    Austin 88%
    Georgetown 88%
    Spring 87%
    Del Valle 87%
    Pflugerville 87%
    Marion 86%
    Weatherford 86%
    East Central 85%
    Crosby 83%
    Johnson City 83%
    Lockhart 83%
    Luling 82%
    Judson 81%
    Leander 81%
    Harlandale 79%
    Pasadena 79%
    Dallas 76%
    Prairie Lea 75%
    Channelview 72%
    North Forest n/a

    Maybe the white kids have good SAT scores:

    Alamo Heights 1162
    Austin 1133
    Dripping Springs 1125
    Spring Branch 1120
    Lake Travis 1112
    Katy 1104
    Dallas 1101
    Round Rock 1099
    Ft Sam Houston 1088
    Lago Vista 1078
    North East 1074
    Georgetown 1067
    Pflugerville 1065
    Navarro 1063
    Cy-Fair 1061
    Crosby 1060
    Leander 1059
    Blanco 1058
    Liberty Hill 1054
    Schertz-Cibolo 1041
    Weatherford 1041
    New Braunfels 1039
    Hays 1033
    Deer Park 1031
    Mansfield 1031
    Judson 1030
    Comal 1025
    Spring 1025

    San Marcos 1024

    Wimberley 1019
    Johnson City 1007
    Pasadena 1000
    Marble Falls 995
    Manor 993
    Seguin 991
    Marion 990
    Lockhart 954
    East Central 941
    Channelview 911
    Luling 895
    Del Valle 878
    Harlandale 853
    North Forest n/a
    Prairie Lea n/a

    Perhaps it is my education that is failing me. Someone please explain where I should look to find the excellence that we offer.

  3. Ted, you can’t really run a campaign on “Gee, people think our schools suck, and the’re right.”

  4. You can’t run a re-election campaign on that platform. You certainly can run against the incumbents using that message, especially when it is the truth.

  5. San Marcos overall mean SAT score: 905
    Texas overall mean SAT score: 992 (actually 999, according to College Board)
    U.S. overall mean SAT score: 1017

    There is not a state in the U.S. with a lower mean SAT score than San Marcos. The closest is Maine, with a mean score of 931. So, we would be underperforming anywhere in the country.

  6. Susan & Chris,

    It would be great if both of you had an understanding of substantive issues in SMCISD. Chris, you appear to be running because you have issues AGAINST SMCISD.
    It seems as if you lack an understanding of the district and what you would do to promote POSITIVE change in the district.

    Ted, you seem as if you want to BEAT UP the district because of its ‘poor performance’ on standardized tests.
    What are your plans to help the district? What are your solutions to help move the district in a different direction. It seems to me as if it would be much more productive to be part of the solution.

    I personally would love to see a candidate throw their name in the hat who cared about more than their own pet peeves issues. It would be great to have a real business leader or educator in the community that would be in it for the right reasons instead of a vendetta or personal gain.

    I am hope that someone in our community is up for the challenge!

  7. I don’t have any kids and I don’t plan to, so this is not a “pet peeve” issue for me, at least not in the sense that you seem to mean. It does bother me, a lot, that there is a large portion of our population who are being denied the most basic opportunities that some of us take for granted. Beyond that, this is a significant issue for our entire community, which should concern everyone. I have no vendetta and no potential personal gain.

    As for “beating up” the district for poor performance on standardized tests. No. I am beating up the district for poor graduation rates and even poorer preparation for higher education, in a college town of all places.

    Yes, the SAT is a standardized test, but it is a standardized test that determines the fate of the students, rather than the standardized tests that determine the fate of the faculty and staff. Those tests concern me far less and I wish they would go away.

    What would I do? I’d look at the top performing schools in the state, or even the better schools in our area and I’d see what they were doing that we aren’t. I’d forge some relationships with people at those schools, to get an even better understanding of how they have been successful. I’d probably aggressively recruit people who have had success working with economically disadvantaged students. I’d probably push for more interaction with Texas State and with other universities. I’d make sure that the kids understood the ins and outs of getting into and paying for college. Did you know that the university has millions of dollars in scholarship money that goes unawarded each year because there are no applicants? I didn’t. I knew there were millions of dollars in unawarded scholarships nationally. I did not know there were millions sitting right here in San Marcos. I doubt most of the students do either.

    I’m not sure what else I would do, because I am not running and as such, I have not dug too deep into the underlying causes of the problem. I’ve dug enough to confirm that there is a problem, though and I am going to push until I start seeing acknowledgement of the problem and an concerted effort to fix it by those who did run for these positions.

    Last year, when I finally got one of the board members to admit that we’re underperforming, her response, in a hushed voice, was that “a lot of these kids are economically disadvantaged” as though that were a valid excuse. So, this year I dug up some more data, to show that there are districts out there who do a far better job of serving those economically disadvantaged children.

    And here’s something to thinks about: most of those economically disadvantaged families have parents who went through the same school system and were equally underserved.

    So, now you have generations who do not know that some colleges put more weight on interviews and others on SAT scores, that there are countless options for financial aid, that you can start at a community college or junior college and transfer to a 4-year university and get the same degree everyone else gets, that there are colleges out there for everyone.

    Getting into college can be confusing and stressful even for a teen with two college educated parents. When I was in high school, there were tons of resources available and college prep (finding the schools, visiting campuses, SAT practice, application, financial aid, etc) was all a mandatory part of our curriculum. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much help in this area, especially when working with families where nobody has ever been through it before.

    I don’t have all of the answers, but pretending there is no problem sure isn’t one of them.

  8. Oh yeah, I’d probably talk to the mayor and city council about getting a similar down payment assistance program to the one being offered to university professors, which we could use to recruit and retain the teachers and administrators who had significant positive impact.

    What about you Susan, do you have any ideas, other than telling others to come up with ideas?

  9. Great discussion – I encourage anyone running for school board – “go get ’em tiger!” You will find the problems are not hard to identify and the solutions are readily defined and even available. The problem is implementing the solutions.

    For example, read about KIPP schools ( and ask yourself why we don’t do these things here in San Marcos.

    Ted’s posts above (Thanks Ted!) show the statistics – plain and simple. Next time please add our rate of teen pregnancy – “kids having kids” – how we compare to the rest of TX and the USA.

    We (as a community) know what needs to be done…. Why don’t we (as a community) do it?

    Many parents try hard to bring about community change in our public schools but are eventually overwhelmed – “Tick Tock” – for every minute you spend trying to make the schools better you could have spent that minute with your own children making THEM better. To make matters more urgent, our children are getting older by the minute – there is no way to reverse the clock or slow down time. 5 years of the unsuccessful volunteerism in our public schools is 5 years of missed opportunities with your own children.

    I’ll end with a suggestion: Each semester EVERY parent should spend at least 1 full day WITH their student (K-12) in our public schools – go to EVERY class, eat in the cafeteria, go to PE or recess, use the student restrooms and (if possible) ride the bus. Start when your student starts and end when your student ends. Take paper, pencil and a watch to record the day’s activities – how much time is spent actually teaching/learning, how much time is wasted. Record your observations and thoughts throughout the day. Imagine the impact of this simple act…..

  10. To Susan R: I don’t agree with you that Ms. North is running for the SM School Board for reasons of “vendetta or personal gain” as you accuse her of. To my knowledge, she is involved and aware of things that occur in the schools and would like to change them for the better. She is a parent and wants the best education for her children and all of the district’s children and is willing to put her time, effort, and skills into the position, which I applaud. I remember numerous school board elections where no candidates put their name forth other than incumbents, so elections were canceled. I thank Ms. North for stepping up and suggest you communicate with her directly about her ideas and plans for our schools.

  11. Yes, great discussion. Ted, could you tell me the source for the statistics? I’d like to mine them myself. And I encourage anyone with concerns, ideas, or a story to tell to get in touch with me. I’m in the book, and my e-mail is Admittedly I have much to learn here, but I am a pretty good student!

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