Unlike the last couple years, the trustees election in the San Marcos CISD set for May 8 figures to be a relatively quiet affair.
The election will touch only one of the five single-member districts in the school district. That would be District 5, where seven-year Trustee Peter Baen is under challenge from John P. Crowley, who is the director of child nutrition for the Dripping Springs and Wimberley ISDs.
District 5 takes in the most northern portions of San Marcos CISD, including the downtown San Marcos square as its most southern extension.
District 4 Trustee Kathy Hansen did not draw an opponent in her bid for re-election and will be sworn to another term in May.
Last year, four candidates ran for two at-large seats across the school district, involving the entire district in the discussion about the district’s image and performance. The winners were sitting Trustees President Judy Allen and former San Marcos Mayor David Chiu.
The present campaign is shaping up as the same kind of discussion, though confined to roughly one fifth of the school district’s eligible voters.
Baen and Crowley both say San Marcos CISD continues to suffer from an image problem. While Hays County has grown by about 50 percent in the last ten years, leading to significant growth in Hays CISD, the San Marcos school district is still around 7,400 students.
“I am concerned with SMCISD’s image as a school district and want to help improve this image,” Crowley said.”Both of my children began their education here in SMCISD and are graduates of San Marcos High School so I have a sincere interest in the district and the community.”
Outside the enrollment figures, both candidates said the school district has made significant progress in the last several years. Ten years ago, the school district was broke, the facilities were falling apart, public mistrust in the school district made significant building projects impossible and academic performance suffered.
Last year, the school district opened the last of its facilities funded by about $135 million in bonding, a fund balance of $21 million against a $57 million operating budget signaled financial health and academic performance was on the rise.
However, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) assigned the school district an “academically unacceptable” rating, based on a new scoring category. The “completion rate” of students graduating within four years came in at 74.5 percent for economically disadvantaged students, one-half of a point short of enabling the district to maintain its “acceptable” rating.
Baen acknowledged that the unacceptable rating was a blow to a school district that appeared, by many other lights, to be heading in the right direction.
“I feel strongly about leaving the district in better shape than when I found it,” Baen said. “It’s not a time to back away.”
Baen, a manager at Thurmon, was appointed to the school board in 2003, then won re-election without opposition in 2004 and 2007.
Crowley didn’t indicate any specific complaints about Baen’s work on the school board.
“I believe Mr. Baen has served the district well in his tenure,” Crowley said. “My experience makes me a better candidate than Mr. Baen and I will be proactive in my role as a trustee.”
Said Baen, “It’s not something that I can take credit for, but we have accomplished a lot in the time that I’ve been on the board … In the end, we have an unacceptable rating. But we can work through this and take advantage of the things we have available.”
Crowley said the school district has made “significant progress” in its educational programs and financial performance. It remains, Crowley said, that the district needs to avail itself of “additional opportunities for improvement in terms of academic performance, especially in the middle and high schools.”Email | Print