San Marcos CISD Trustees President Judy Allen, who is up for re-election. Photo by Bill Peterson.
By BILL PETERSON
Judy Allen first won election to the San Marcos CISD Board of Trustees in 2003 and now is running for her third term. Allen has operated for the last four years as the trustees president. Allen grew up in San Marcos, left for a few years to earn her graduate degrees and teach, and now has lived in San Marcos for the last 32 years, during which she has been a professor in family and consumer science.
Newstreamz interviewed Allen, 61, at The Coffee Pot on the downtown square.
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
I live at 724 Burleson, which is just six blocks from downtown. I’ve lived at that particular location 25 years and I’ve lived in San Marcos for 32 now, but I grew up in San Marcos, also. So, I grew up in San Marcos, then I graduated from the university up here, and I was gone for seven, eight, nine years, came back and I’ve been here for the last 32 years.
Do you have children?
I have two. I have a 25-year-old son, who graduated from the high school. He’s a senior up here at Texas State. We think he’s going to graduate at Christmas. And I have a daughter in Austin at Austin Community College who graduated from the high school here last year. So, both of them came through the public school system here in San Marcos.
So you don’t have children presently in the San Marcos CISD?
If your children were blessed with children of their own and they lived here, would you recommend that their children attend schools here in the San Marcos CISD?
Definitely. There’s no question about it. When my son was ready to go into kindergarten, my mother, who lived here, being a grandmother, she said – and, of course, grandmothers think their grandchildren are all brilliant, and they are – she said, “Judy, if you want to put Sage in private school, I’ll pay for it.” Well, cool, I thought. So, we went to visit. We went to the private school here in town, then we went to Crockett Elementary School. We were not back to the car and I said, “Well, there’s no question. He’s going to Crockett.” And I believed that and I still believe in the quality of education. I have never regretted my children going to school here.
What is your educational background?
I graduated from San Marcos High School, went up here to Southwest Texas (Texas State) and I graduated with a degree and that time it was home economics education. Everybody up there was an education major. So, I had a home economics education for my major and I was a math minor. My goal at that point was to go off and teach in high school. But I ended up going to graduate school – my mother said, “Why don’t you go to graduate school?” and I said, “Well, that sounds interesting.” So I went to graduate school at the University of Missouri and got my masters degree in family economics and management. And then after that I taught two years at Texas A&I in Kingsville, went to the University of Houston, taught three more years and, at that point, to teach at a university, you either had to go on to get your PhD or you’re not going anywhere. So, at that point I also knew I needed to go back. So, I went back to get my PhD at Texas Tech and it was in home economics education with a collateral area in business. And then I came here to start teaching.
What do you know about the San Marcos school district?
I know that it’s a quality education. I know that every one of our teachers is highly qualified, which is one of the No Child Left Behind criteria. We are at 100 percent qualified teachers. I believe that our administrators that we have in place and the principals – this is the second year, I believe, we’ve had this set of administrators in place – I think we have a good set of principals. I think we have a good superintendent here. I think the management team, upper level, is good at what they do. I’m pleased with the curriculum. We’ve done a lot of putting in new curriculum in the last six years. I think sometimes school districts put in a curriculum a year or two, they switch out and put in something else and sometimes they don’t really give it a chance. I think we’ve got some good curriculum. We are so blessed to be here with Texas State in partnership. We’ve got so many working with us in the school district. We are so blessed. That is tremendous for our students and our teachers to have those resources. I really think we’ve got a quality system here. And our facilities are state of the art. I don’t care what school your child is in, they’re all now equitable. We worked hard to make sure they were equitable when they were built.
How many students are in the San Marcos CISD?
A little over 7,000 – 7,100, 7,300, something in that area.
How many teachers are in the San Marcos CISD?
I don’t know. I could find out, but that’s never been anything that I’ve had to know. When I’m signing their contracts, it seems like a million.
What is the annual budget of the San Marcos CISD?
Something like, I think it’s like $54 million, somewhere in that range. Again, that’s not a fact I need to call upon very often. I know when we’re in the budget season and we’re looking at income and expenditures, I’d be much more aware of it. We’ll start that process in about a month. We haven’t really dealt with those numbers, but somewhere in that area.
Where do you think the weaknesses in the school board lie?
I guess because last year, with us having two new board members, it just takes a while. That’s nearly a third of our board. I’m not saying the people are weak. It takes that time to get that training to understand what you can and can not do. Does that make sense? If we have two more come on this year brand new, then we’ve got over half the board. And I think a strength of the board is that training we can bridge over time. So, I guess the weakness right now, as they get more and more training they’re going to become more and more effective. I’m not saying they’re not effective. But I just think that they are going to understand. I think it took me over two years when we went through the budget process, the third time I thought, “I think I’m begriming to know what they’re talking about.” It’s a language and all the components and where the federal money is being spent and I thought, “I think I’m learning it.” And you’re elected in May and you start budget right away. That first year, I tell you, I just didn’t have that expertise. There’s just no way you can know what you need to know. So, I think you get better over time. We had two new last year and the year before we had one new. So, we’ve had a lot of change over. So, I guess what I would say is that I think we’ve got to have some stability. It makes the board stronger, let me put it that way.
What would you like to say to our readers?
I would like to say to them that if folks haven’t been in our schools recently, I think they would be pleasantly pleased. Just even the facilities alone. But seeing what’s going on in the classrooms. Being aware of the accomplishments of them. I would say that if you don’t know what’s currently the situation in the school board, you’ve thinking about five years or ten years or maybe when you were in school here, you would be pleased with what’s going on. And so, I think that’s what helps us get out this message about what kind of district we have now.
Do you feel that you have accomplished what you set out to do when you were originally elected?
Yes. I was concerned about was the fund balance when were less than $1 million. We are now in that acceptable range. In fact, we’ve got some for one-time emergencies. We’ve got a good fund balance. I’m pleased with where we’ve come financially. That bond issue was a big topic when I came on the board. We were able to get that passed after several failed attempts. We needed those schools. We are now completing that entire bond. I’m pleased that I was on long enough to see that, also. My other goal was to close the gap (in test scores) and we have made progress in all those areas. Our scores are coming up, our students are doing better. We have a lot more work to do, but we are bringing those scores up and I think the board is committed to that, also. So, I’m pleased with what we have been able to accomplish.