San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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April 28th, 2009
School board candidates debate problems

Candidates for the San Marcos CISD school board debated Monday night at the San Marcos Activity Center. Left to right are Judy Allen, Chris North, David Chiu and Vincent Delgado. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

Editor’s note: The League of Women Voters guide to the San Marcos CISD board election can be accessed here.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor
and
ED MIHALKANIN
News Reporter

Four school board candidates told voters at the San Marcos Activity Center Monday night that the San Marcos CISD is a “good” school district with critical problems, then separated themselves by how they would define and address those problems.

The candidates for two at-large positions on the San Marcos board spoke at the San Marcos Area League of Women Voters (LVW) debate on the first day of early voting for the May 9 election. The top two vote recipients will be seated on the board.

The four candidates include the sitting trustees president (two-term board member Judy Allen), a former San Marcos mayor (local businessman David Chiu), a long-time political activist (San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance founder Chris North) and a political newcomer (school volunteer Vincent Delgado).

The school district’s dropout rate emerged as a chief concern. Allen and Chiu suggested addressing the problem at an earlier age, with Chiu going so far as saying, “we need to start with students at Pre-K.”North touted allocating more money for the arts and vocational training to curb the rate of dropouts, while Delgado emphasized parent involvement and shared North’s sentiment of more vocational training.

Delgado said his main concern to which he would first appropriate federal stimulus money is the effort to bring down the dropout rate. Allen and North agreed in using the monies to improve school facilities, while Chiu said “disperse some of the money to the teachers.” Said North, “We have campuses that need help.”

A major issue of concern brought up by San Marcos citizen Ted Marchut is that the Hispanic population performs poorly compared with non-Hispanics. Delgado said “we spend too much time teaching the test (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills or TAKS),” and advised that “we need to get kids off their lazy butts.” The other three candidates said the problem should be addressed during grade school. Chiu specifically pointed to fourth graders, North said the problem should be addressed at kindergarten and Allen said the work should begin in pre-kindergarten.

“We have got to raise the academic achievement for all of our students,” Allen said.

Said North, “We have got to come up with creative and innovative ways of teaching our kids the basics.”

San Marcos High School student body President Miguel Arredondo criticized proposals for “frivolous projects,” specifically cornering North for advocating the televising of school board meetings.

“Where should our money be going?” Arredondo asked, adding that monetary focus should be on students, faculty and staff.

North suggested a partnership with the city or Texas State University, which would involve asking permission from those jurisdictions to use their equipment and cable access channels to broadcast meetings and make the school board’s actions more transparent.

“Have we ever asked the city to use their equipment?” North asked, further suggesting the school district may want to hire a grants coordinator to increase chances of attaining school funding.

All candidates favored salary increases for teachers, with Delgado adding that “we cannot forget staff,” such as custodians and cooks.

“Let’s try and get everyone taken care of,” Delgado said.

When asked what changes each candidate would bring to the school district, answers ranged from planning, school programs and policy implementation.

North said her previous experience afforded her knowledge of planning, which would be helpful she said, due to the district’s under utilization of basic planning principles. Chiu said he would resurrect the Academic Academy which he pushed for implementation during his one year service on the school board after winning election in 1999. Delgado stated his desire for “bridging the gap” between teachers and parents, while Allen gave insight on how she views the board’s role.

“It’s not our job to create policy, but to implement policy,” Allen said. “I can see the big picture.”

Candidates were asked to describe their specific experiences overseeing “large” budgets. Chiu cited his term as San Marcos mayor starting in 2000, describing oversight of a budget more than $100 million. Allen pointed to her experience in dealing with an approximately $70 million dollar budget for the school district. North explained her budget experience in helping to grow the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance budget from $500 to $50,000, adding that as a member of the Hays County Parks Board she is part of the group overseeing the expenditure of a $30 million park bond. Delgado jokingly said he could “make up numbers” but admitted “no experience with a budget.”

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0 thoughts on “School board candidates debate problems

  1. I wish the citizens were allowed more than 30 seconds to ask our questions.

    As I mentioned last night, Texas State University is one of the top 20 schools in the country for Hispanic students earning bachelor’s degrees and there were $4.5 million in unawarded scholarships at Texas State in 2007 because there were no applicants.

    To have this huge opportunity here in town and to have only 15% of our Hispanic students graduating “college ready” according to the TEA, with a median SAT score of 859, is a real tragedy.

    Our schools are outperformed by Hays, Wimberley, Dripping Springs, Navarro, Comal and Schertz, to name a few.

    Yes, I agree that not all students are going to go on to college, but certainly more than 15% ought to be. Also, the median household income in San Marcos is $31,500, so it is hard to make a case that the kids who do not go on to college are instead starting meaningful careers in a trade.

    These numbers are heartbreaking and nobody should be fooled into thinking that the only ones being poorly served are the “various subcategories” of students, or whatever horrible PC term was being thrown around at the debate. Every demographic in our high school is behind those other schools and WAY behind the rest of the country, to say nothing of the rest of the world.

  2. I do think it is great that the LWV takes the time to host these debates though and the news coverage can go a long way toward bringing these issues to the attention of voters.

    Thanks everyone.

  3. I would like to watch the school board on TV. My school taxes are high and it would be nice to see the performance of the trustees. Attending the meetings would not work for me due to my employment schedule. I thought it was the job of the Superintendent to implement the policy created by the elected board.

  4. I think our school board needs more transparency. Chris North brings up a really important question.. Why not ask the city or university if we can use their equipment and cable access channels so that the community is able to understand the actions of those they’ve elected. Our school board trustees go unsupervised by the community, and dont really get news coverage, therefore allowing them to act as they wish. Im not saying it’s a corrupt system, but transparency is necessary!

  5. I think our school board needs more transparency. Chris North brings up a really important question.. Why not ask the city or university if we can use their equipment and cable access channels so that the community is able to understand the actions of those they’ve elected. Our school board trustees go unsupervised by the community, and dont really get news coverage, therefore allowing them to act as they wish. Im not saying it’s a corrupt system, but transparency is necessary!
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

  6. The largest taxing entity in San Marcos has the least amount of transparency. Ted, you of all people should appreciate being able to easily observe the actions of elected officials, especially if they can do it at low/no cost by working with other governmental entities.

    I like the emphasis on vocational programs. FOr a student that lacks the desire for college, skill training might be the tool that prevents him/her from dropping out. You can make a fine living as a skilled laborer. In fact, they could develop vocational programs in coordination with the city’s economic development targetted industries to begin developing the work skills needed to attract good skill employers.

  7. The same argument was made when the city council discussed televising their meetings. It was too expensive and the money should be spent elsewhere, etc. It turned out not to be that expensive and has been a very good investment in my opinion. Would any other voter suggest that we stop showing the meetings on TV now? Do most citizens, even informed ones know where the school board meetings are held, and what day and time? I don’t even know for sure, I am embarrassed to say. I am convinced that unless we demand this happen, or people like North get elected and make it happen, the board won’t do it. It is too easy to make decisions without sufficient public oversight or challenges to the members ideas. I also think the county commission meetings must be shown as well.

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