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April 16th, 2009
What does it take to be an Effective School Board Trustee?

By PHYLLIS SNODGRASS
President, San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce

It’s that time again – the time when candidates run for school board trustee for the San Marcos CISD.  Why should the Chamber of Commerce care?  Because school board trustees put into motion actions which ultimately lead to the success or failure of our schools.  They are the governing body that the Superintendent of Schools reports to.  If education is truly the number one economic development tool of our community– then school board trustees are absolutely critical to the future success of our community.

The quality and equity of education is a priority concern of educators, parents, business and community leaders and public officials in San Marcos.  To ensure high quality education, the citizens of San Marcos must identify and elect Board Trustees who are qualified to meet the many difficult challenges facing the district. In an effort to identify and define the attributes that a school Board Trustee needs to meet these challenges, more than sixty leaders from 30 community organizations and many businesses came together in 1993, then again in 2007, to develop an Attribute Profile of an Effective School Board Trustee. Based on national best practices, regional experience, and the expertise of these leaders, this Attribute Profile was created.

The following organizations participated in the collaborative development of and/or endorsed this profile:

• Austin Area Research Organization (AARO)

• Austin Area Urban League

• Austin Council of PTA’s

• Austin Independent School District

• Austin Interfaith

• Austin Partners in Education

• Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce

• Capital Metro

• City of Austin Mayor’s Office

• Community Action Network

• E3 Alliance

• Executive Women International

• Greater Austin Chamber

• Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

• Junior League

• Leadership Austin

• League of Women Voters in Austin

• Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA)

• Ready By 21 Coalition

• Southwest Key

• Texas Business & Education Coalition (TBEC)

• The Austin Project

• The University of Texas at Austin

• United Way – Capital Area

• Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas

• Community, Civic and Business Leaders

• Other regional school district representatives

This representative and very knowledgeable group has created a brochure to help communities in Central Texas choose the very best possible school board trustees. The brochure details the qualities highlighted by this broad range of community partners as the most important attributes of a successful school board trustee.

An Effective School Board Trustee Should: 

• Be a visionary, goal-directed, and willing to take risks. Be willing to set and have experience setting policy priorities.

• Have proven and appropriate organizational, fiscal and leadership skills suitable for the size and complexity of the school district.

• Demonstrate commitment to equity and access to quality education and world-class standards of achievement for all students.

• Demonstrate the ability to build consensus and to achieve collaborative outcomes.

• Value diversity and equity as criteria for decision-making.

• Be willing to set an example and establish accountability at all levels for achievement of all students, by understanding how to identify relevant data and use it appropriately.

• Practice good and efficient governance, understanding the role of policy-maker versus administrator.

• Represent the population served by our district and be a strong advocate for public education.

• Understand the need for alignment from early childhood through college and career success and across education providers to create a continuum of success for students.

• Exhibit personal qualities that embody a positive role model for our children and our community.

School board elections are not the place to resolve personal grievances against the schools (or district) nor should they be used merely as a stepping stone for future public office.  Our schools deserve quality candidates that possess the above attributes and are willing to bring their knowledge and skills to the table to benefit the students of San Marcos CISD.  There is a huge time commitment involved in serving as a school board trustee and each and every one of us should be thankful to our current trustees for the dedicated service that they provide to our community.  A full list of questions that should be asked of every candidate for school board trustee can be found on the chamber’s website at www.sanmarcostexas.com. Our students deserve the best, and it is up to us to support the candidates that will best meet the needs of those students.

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0 thoughts on “What does it take to be an Effective School Board Trustee?

  1. Oddly enough, I didn’t read one statement from any candidate that came right out and said “we suck” and volunteered to change it. They all seem to be going with the buzz phrase of “changing perception.” How do you think that perception came to be in the first place?

    You earn your position in life. If it’s at the top, so be it. If you’re at the bottom, then do something to change it.

    I find it odd that we spent many millions of dollars on improving the physical assets of our school district, yet apparently spent nothing on finding out what really needs to be done to put us on top. I would rather have the schools we had before the “transformation” while putting that money to better use to really make a difference.

    Any ideas on why the Lamar campus continues to blight the neighborhood between Hutchison Street and the Rogers Street Historic District?

    Why not consider giving it back to the people? Because the Pathfinder Program is there? Please. People in this neighborhood DO NOT appreciate housing the misfits of the SMCISD just to keep this a “school.”

    Give it back to the people. Let’s hear a candidate get behind that!

  2. Patriot, what people do you want to give it back to? The students that attend Lamar and their families? They also pay property tax? Some that live near by had their kids attend Lamar.

    Not all people “earn” their position in life. Their position is sometimes handed to them, sometimes good sometimes bad. The myth is that moving up from one socio-economic group to the next level is availible to all because we earn our place in life. Wrong, many factors are involved in how we arrive to our position in life besides what we do to “earn” it. I will admit, we all play a part but other factors remain. If you are wearing boots please stand up and try picking yourself up from your boot straps, you most likely will fall over.

    The candidates did not say “we suck” because that does not add anything to the conversation. Maybe suggesting ideas on addressing issues like the perception will add value and help create solutions?

    By the way, last time I check all these elected officials are volunteers. I encourage everyone to listen to the canidates and vote.

  3. What people do I want to give it back to? Are you serious? How about the people it came from? A great deal of school properties (of this age) were originally donated or given to the district with the stipulation that the district may use the property so long as it’s used for educational purposes. This one is obviously past its prime and of no further use to the district since the only supposed use is for Pathfinder. Give it back to the descendants of the original owners or give it back to the community for development.

    Regarding the idea that everyone doesn’t have the same opportunity to earn their station in life, I’m not following. Everyone has the opportunity and the willing will succeed. The unwilling make their own choices. Looking beyond the idea of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to find reasons to fail is beyond me, and beyond the scope of this country. It’s not designed to be a socialist state. It’s designed to be a place for innovation, effort, and free markets. That’s another story.

    Saying “we suck,” figuratively speaking, DOES add something to the conversation. If you can’t admit that you have a problem, then you have no means to identify the problem or bring attention to it. Without attention, there’s no effort to correct it.

    Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t think our district “sucks” so to speak. There are 3 parts that do:

    1) The high school
    2) The drop out rate
    3) Alternative programs

    The last is of particular concern to me and just about everyone else I know that’s had to deal with the district lately. There are too many programs to provide “alternative” education. Alternative education isn’t necessary. What is necessary is that these students all have the same expections and DO THE SAME WORK. I don’t want anyone “graduating” from Pathfinder to have the same degree my child does when my child went to all 4 years of high school.

    As an employer, I think the district is misrepresenting the qualifications of any student by giving them the same degree. If it’s the same degree, why don’t we make Pathfinder and PRIDE the standard for the district?

  4. Everyone that works hard, obeys the law etc. does not always succeed. That is the myth. Few do but most do not move up from one socio-economic level to the next. That is not an opinion it is a fact.

    How about allowing the school district to revitalize the education center maybe with another use but education no less? Why toss the baby with the bath water? Should the old high school or old Jr. High be given back or revitalized? Lamar was once the high school.

    So you want to cut programming that seek to address a problem (dropout rate) that you have identified? I think Alternative education is one way to address the dropout rate. Maybe another innovative program could help but do not stop looking for solutions. Remember, not all people learn the same or flourish in the standard classroom setting.

    I have found that Universities graduate students with a 2.25 GPA and some with a 2.99 GPA with the exact same degree. Are they misrepresenting themselves? All high school students graduate based on standards created by TEA not San Marcos CISD. I am not the education standards expert but I think that is correct.

    Finally, I commend these volunteers for stepping forward with solutions as they seek to lead San Marcos CISD. Discussing changing perception of SMCISD is the first step in recognizing barriers and addressing them.

  5. I’d be for revitalizing that school if that’s what the community supports. I don’t think that would be my first choice. Government, in all its shapes and forms, already owns WAY too much commercial property in this town – and they seek to own more. My thought is that Lamar needs to be back in private hands – first to the descendents that donated the property (if that’s the case) and secondly, have an open sale. Just as long as it doesn’t get built into one more sorry apartment complex in this town, it would have to be better.

    Like your thoughts on everyone not flourishing in a standard classroom setting. If they don’t, they shouldn’t graduate from high school. They can go somewhere else (trades, whatever). They just shouldn’t get the same diploma. Not following your line on the GPAs of 2.25 vs 2.99. Those two folks are earning the same degree and it’s readily apparent on any transcript just how successful they were in doing so. Someone who doesn’t even graduate from high school shouldn’t get the same degree as those who did everything asked of them and met the expectations of their instructors and the community at large.

    However, alternative education is not a way to address the dropout rate. The dropout rate is just that, a measurement of those who dropped out. Students who quit school and go to an alternative program instead, dropped out of high school, and now they’re in something different. No real thought should even be involved there. Once upon a time, and it may still be the case, if they student were to list “intend to enroll in a trade school” on the exit sheet, they weren’t counted as a dropout. That shades the numbers. PRIDE High, shades the numbers. Pathfinder, shades the numbers. Gary Job Corps, shades the numbers. Not allowing a student to make less than a 50 on any test, shades the numbers. Not correctly accounting for student absences (skipping/non-attendance), shades the numbers.

    How much more covering up do you think you could even do? ID the problem, hold the students accountable. A HUGE component in all of this is allowing students the opportunity to choose something less difficult (PRIDE/Pathfinder)than what’s required. Someone please tell me why we allow them SEVERAL easy outs, when all that’s required is that they show up, study, meet the expectations, and graduate? If it weren’t a problem, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It’s not a mere perception folks, it’s reality. Anytime I see the word perception, my immediate thought is that the person speaking/writing DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM.

  6. It is against the LAW to mandate that apts are not built in an area if the zoning allows it. We can not decide for the owner in this free market. You want to envelop your argument in the free market as long as it suits your perspective. Maybe you would rather we build more prisons when alternatives to education are abandoned. Oh yeah, that was the prison boom in our recent pass in Texas.

    I graduated with honors from Southwest Texas State University but my GPA is not listed anywhere on my diploma. Most employers do not ask for a GPA. They only ask for a diploma if the position requires one. I hope you understand that point. I have over 10 years of HR Management experience in corporate and small business endevours.

    Do students that do not meet the requirements set by TEA for graduation still get a diploma? Are you an educational professional and versed in the current TEA requirements? Using the word “shading” seem kind of shady. It seem that use that word to describe how students meet or not meet requirements set by TEA. Maybe these solutions are not easy outs but rather the innovative ideas that you search for in your earlier comments but do not see when they pop you on the side of the head. Maybe you do not see them as innovative because they are not your ideas?

    You do not seem to have much faith in elected officials/government. Maybe I am wrong. I have never held a public office nor campaigned for one but I believe we are the Government and WE are pretty decent folks as a whole.

  7. No, I just thought you might like to talk about what’s on your mind. Everybody has a point.
    I’m around…

  8. When is the school board gonna make it “not so easy” to get a diploma in this town ala pride high school? Lets make everyone work as hard as the next to get a diploma from San Marcos High School! I see this as encouragemant to fail and still get something out of it ! JMO!

  9. I’m out on this. It’s not illegal to provivde a moratorium on building apartments in this town, just look at how we did it in the 90s. I do ask for GPAs and the transcripts to prove it – it’s not wise to hire blindly, but I guess you have your own methods. By “shading” I’m describing hiding the real numbers. I’m not desbribing anything that has to do with TEA. I am, however, describing putting everyone to the same standard instead of what we’re doing now. And lastly, I’m not enveloping my point in free market ideas as long as it suits my point. Controlling and guiding development is part of our free market system to, again, ensure everyone plays by the same rules.

    If you don’t want to see the point, then don’t. It’s your choice and there are many of you around. You’re not alone and I promise, we’ll work around you. We always have.

    Rhetorical question here, but ever wonder why you don’t see many apartments in Kyle, Wimberley, New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, or Garden Ridge? They’re all right here.

    Thanks for the conversation folks. Patriot, out.

  10. You don’t see as many apartments in Kyle, NB, etc. becasue they do not have 25k+ university students to house. It is illegal to prohibit someone from building an apartment complex on a specific piece of property if the zoning permits it. You can possibly impose a moratorium city wide for all properties but you have to have specific reasons to do so as allowed by State statutes.

  11. Selecting the best candidate for a position is much more than a GPA. I think interpersonal skills, accountability etc. are more reliable indicators of performance.

    Someone please educate me on what is wrong with innovative programs that provide a student the opportunity to graduate? These students should not be handed a diploma but rather have the opportunity to earn one in a setting and with factors that best fit their needs. One of my family members had a stroke at age 14 and if it were not for innovative programming at SMCISD she would not have earned her high school diploma. She is now a 21 yr old productive adult earning about $20.00 an hour and works and lives in San Marcos. She hopes to continue her education but has not done so as of yet. She lives in an apartment but is not a university student.

    I wonder which candidate(s) would cut these innovative programs?

  12. San Marcos is home to approximately 14,000 of the 29,000 students. The rest live in the surrounding cities between Austin & San Antonio.

    You don’t see many apartments at Canyon Lake, Wimberley and Garden Ridge because none of those locales have centralized sewage. It is a pain and the butt and not cost effective to build apartments on septic (for the most part).

  13. “We don’t house 25,000+ students.” No joke? I had no idea.

    Of course I know that we don’t house all of the students. My point was that we have a university with a LOT of students that none of the other towns mentioned have. Heck, just the 14,000 GH claims above is more than the entire population of many of the smaller towns around.

  14. A lot of the students live in those other towns. Kyle has about 30,000 residents and New Braunfels is larger than San Marcos.

  15. Also, the dorms have a capacity of about 5,500, so that leaves about 10,000 students in apartments, minus those who rent houses or live with their parents.

    So, maybe 10,000 students live in apartments.

    I’d guess that about 30,000 non-students live in apartments, based on statistics I’ve seen on home ownership in San Marcos.

    If you ask me why there are so many apartments, I’d say it is because there are so few jobs that pay enough to afford a house and such a transient population (probably leaving to find jobs).

    Supply and demand. The people demand cheap housing that they can move out of in less than a year, so that is what is supplied. Give them some real jobs and a reason to stay and the demand will shift.

    I’m not sure why you would be so bent out of shape that I commented on your statement that we have 25,000 students to house.

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