San Marcos CISD Trustee Peter Baen (left frame, purple shirt) and challenger John P. Crowley (right frame, blue shirt) speak with likely voters at a meet and greet session earlier this week. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Two school board candidates vying for the only contested race in San Marcos CISD mingled with citizens at the Price Seniors Center Wednesday night, leading to a May 8 vote in which Trustee Peter Baen is being challenged for the first time in three elections for the seat.
As Baen said Wednesday night about his challenger, John P. Crowley, “I would also like to thank John because I am completing my third term as a member of the board of trustees, but have never been elected.”
The winner in the race for District 5 trustee seat will represent residents living in the northernmost portions of the school district, including the downtown San Marcos square.
Baen and Crowley were present at a meet and greet Wednesday night, sponsored by the San Marcos Area League of Women Voters (LWV).
Crowley is the director of child nutrition for the Dripping Springs and Wimberley ISDs. Baen is a manager at Thurmon and was appointed to the school board in 2003. Baen won re-election to the school board without opposition in 2004 and 2007.
As their remarks developed, Baen spoke of his ties in the community and the school district’s progress. Crowley spoke much about nutrition and the need for initiatives to steer children towards healthy lives.
Baen said Crowley’s challenge allows residents to reflect on what he said are the district’s achievements, which, he said, include new, refurbished or remodeled campuses, and the district’s dual enrollment program allowing high school students to earn college credit at no cost.
“We have achieved one of the highest graduation rates for public schools in the nation in San Marcos, Texas,” Baen said.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Spring 2010 EDFacts State Profile, 73.9 percent of students in the country who entered their high school freshman class graduated within four years. The figures represent the 2006-2007 school year, the “most recent year’s data,” according to the report. According to the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) most recent District Performance Report, 75.8 percent of San Marcos CISD freshmen graduated within four years, compared with the state average of 78 percent, as of the 2006-07 school year.
Baen said San Marcos CISD student enrollments in the U.S. Military Academy in West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis this year constitute evidence of the district’s success.
“And to demonstrate my own confidence, my campaign manager is, indeed, a senior at San Marcos High School, Miguel Arrendondo,” Baen said. “So, Miguel, we’re very proud of what you’ve accomplished and your efforts to advance student leadership in local government. Campaigning is not something that I’m very good at. I promote a lot within San Marcos, and as a result of that, I’m not used to self-promotion.”
Crowley said during his three minutes on stage that his campaign for trustee constitutes his first attempt at seeking elected office. Crowley said he has lived in the city for 15 years, has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Houston, a Master of Science degree from Texas State, is a registered and licensed dietitian, and works part-time at Central Texas Medical Center (CTMC). Crowley said both of his children are graduates of San Marcos High School.
“I think my kids got a great education here, I’m proud of both of them,” Crowley said.
Crowley added that his professional background in nutrition through the years will inform his direction on the board.
“I’m passionate about kids’ health, I’m passionate about the School Health Advisory Council, which I was the chair of for a number of years — I served on it for over eight years here in San Marcos and I served on it both in Dripping Springs and Wimberley,” said Crowley, who added that he “strong financial manager” who “turned around” the child nutrition programs in San Marcos CISD and the Wimberley and Dripping Springs ISDs.
During the mingling portion of the meet-and-greet event, Crowley expressed support for “more stringent local policies” to insure kids are healthier, and said the board has the power to modify recess time and school day length.
Crowley declined to indicate what health-promoting policies he would support should he attain the office, but said he would have to examine budgetary issues and the practices of other districts. Crowley said that the district should find ways to encourage kids to enter the nursing field, such as through a partnership with Austin Community College.
Baen said during the mingling portion that the district has done “a lot of good things” but “could do them more often.” Baen said 60 percent of the district’s kids receive free and reduced-cost lunches, indicating that San Marcos is a poor community. According to TEA’s latest District Performance report, 61.8 of San Marcos CISD students are economically disadvantaged, compared to the state average of 56.7 percent.
“The reality is that we are a poor community,” Baen said. “We want to increase parental involvement for the benefit of the kids. How do you do that if the kids only have one parent or if the parents are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet because they themselves may not have graduated from high school. We still have students in San Marcos High School that could be — will be — the first in their family to graduate from High School. Which is just kind of like, ‘Wait a minute, this doesn’t seem right.’ And it doesn’t seem right, but it’s reality. So our efforts to elevate the — it’s not about the money, but the mean income in San Marcos is in the low twenty-thousand dollars per year … One of the key things I’d like to see us do a better job at is in the area of vocational education.”
Baen supported the academies model whereby high school sophomores through seniors would be able to enroll in one of four fields of study – academies – yet to be determined. Academies tentatively proposed during a workshop presentation in December included business/finance technology, communication and arts, health and human services, and architecture/construction/engineering.
San Marcos High School Principal Michelle Darling said the cost of implementing the academies may be $500,000. The board may decide in February whether or not to the implement the program.
Before Crowley and Baen took to the stage to offer their three-minute remarks, San Marcos CISD District 4 Board Trustee Kathy Hansen, who is unopposed in the May 8 election, made a statement.
“I want to thank parents and the community and the staff members and the students for allowing me to serve for another three years,” Hansen said. “I’m very excited about that opportunity and the experience that I bring — 32 years of public education, 30 of the years here in San Marcos — and so I’m proud to be able to bring that experience to our board and to the students that we serve, and I’m excited about the opportunity to serve again for another three years, and I welcome phone calls and input.”
Elected officials in attendance at the meet-and-greet included San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz, San Marcos CISD Trustees David Chiu, Jesse Ponce, and Judy Allen, and San Marcos City Councilmember Ryan Thomason.
Early voting in the board trustee election begins Monday and Election Day is May 8. The LWV state convention is this weekend at the Embassy Suites and City of San Marcos Conference Center.Email | Print