San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 15th, 2010
San Marcos CISD sets superintendent search meetings

STAFF REPORT

San Marcos CISD has scheduled meetings for district employees and the community to give input into the ongoing search for a new superintendent.

San Marcos CISD educators, community members, parents and business leaders are invited to discuss the next San Marcos CISD superintendent profile currently under development by the superintendent search team.

San Marcos CISD employees will meet Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. at De Zavala Elementary School’s  cafeteria, or Oct. 26 at 4 p.m. at Hernandez Elementary School’s cafeteria, or on Oct. 27 at 4:30 p.m. at San Marcos High School’s auditorium.

The community is invited to attend a meeting on Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Office Board Room, 501 South LBJ Drive.

San Marcos CISD is looking for a new superintendent after Superintendent Patty Shafer announced her resignation in August to address family matters.

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24 thoughts on “San Marcos CISD sets superintendent search meetings

  1. I respectfully disagree with the notion that places hope and reliance on the SMCISD superintendent.

    Long term San Marcos residents have seen MANY superintendents come and go over the years. Some “sups” were well liked by the community and almost all had some controversy – as it is common to the job. Several former San Marcos “sups” are still active in Texas public education and very notable in their accomplishments.

    I suggest we abandon our search for a “Messiah” and simply ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY for our situation. The more we place reliance on the superintendent the more we suffer when he/she leaves. We have serious issues that we fail to face. As one interim superintendent said (referring to our lack of academic accomplishment and the dropout rate): “you have made your bed in this town and now you have to sleep in it.”

    The superintendent profile is a standard exercise with predictable results – it is kinda like writing a letter to Santa – you might get some of the stuff but probably won’t get everything and the fun is in writing the letter. If history is any indication, it is best not to get one’s hopes up.

  2. Ted asked:
    “Um, do you have any specific action items?”

    Bob said:
    “Make San Marcos the most teacher friendly district within 150 miles and you’ll attract and keep the best and brightest. We need to work with TxState to utilize more teachers aids to come in early and stay late so teachers can leave on time and not pull bus duty or other things that get in the way of teaching, preparing lesson plans, grading papers, calling parents and all the other garbage that gets dumped on them by administators.”

  3. Yes. This is a more appropriate place for this dialogue. It took me a minute to figure out what you were doing though.

  4. The new superintendent can and should work more closely with Texas State. And, I bet we could learn a LOT about how to improve K-4 performance (and subsequent High School graduation rates, and better preparedness of our students as they leave High School to enter their next phase in life) by asking the existing K-4 teachers. Now, how to ask in a way that will not bring recrimination – that may be a challenge.

    In the meantime, I hope a lot of interested people show up to convey their thoughts at the Tuesday 6:30pm meeting. Agreed, it takes a lot more than “one person” to make it happen, but the superintendent does and should have a primary role in providing leadership, setting the stage for better things to happen.

  5. Ted, I am so very glad you asked!

    First a few definitions:

    Payers – the people or entities who pay for public education in SMCISD. Keep in mind that the Payers are not necessarily the Customers (see below).

    Customers – the students (and their parents) who attend SMCISD. Keep in mind that the Customers are Payers – if they were not then they would not be eligible to attend SMCISD but not all Customers pay the SAME amount.

    Providers – the people who deliver the educational programs to the Customers paid for by the Payers. These folks could be Payers and/or Customers – but 1 thing is for sure – they are paid (by the Payers) for their work.

    …until the next installment – I have a volleyball game to attend!

  6. I appreciate Bob’s suggestions, although I am not clear why a superintendent could not do that, or would inhibit that, or wouldn’t suggest that, or have other good ideas, if s/he had success in a similar school district elsewhere.

    I’m also still not clear what suggestions Mike is offering.

  7. Also, I did not say that the solution *ends* with a new superintendent. I said that it *begins* with a new one.

    Surely you are not saying that the superintendent has no impact, and that the fact that our last superintendent erroneously identified our district as “exemplary” (with a perception problem), shortly before we were named “academically unacceptable.”

    http://www.newstreamz.com/2009/06/16/smcisd-rated-among-50-over-achieving-districts/

    A superintendent who acknowledges our condition would be a step forward and one who has had success in a similar district would be two or three steps forward.

  8. Bob- Can you clarify “work with TxState to utilize more teachers aids…” ? Do you mean use TSU students in hired ‘teacher assistant positions? Or TSU students as volunteers in our schools?

    Thanks

  9. Continued from Comment #5…

    It is my opinion that we have not involved all of the San Marcos stakeholders of education (Payers, Customers, and Providers) into a long term relationship.

    For example:

    Payers usually get involved with education when taxes are concerned – such as a bond proposal or tax rate increase. Otherwise, this group as a whole tends to remain very quiet – to the delight of the providers! Recently CARE-SMCISD (Citizens Advocating Responsible Education – SMCISD) has emerged in opposition to ACC annexation. To the best of my knowledge, this group has not been significantly involved in SMCISD school board meetings, school district improvement committees or any other matters directly related to academic achievement. I venture to say that the same can be said for 95+% of our other Payers.

    Customers usually get involved when there is a problem but usually fizzle out in a short time. A couple of years ago a student brought a gun to school which inspired a couple of residents (Cecil Pounds and Brad Davis) to start “A Call to Excellence.” Over the course of about a year, this group had a series of meetings with lots of surveys and notes. Little, if anything, has been heard from the group since and one must wonder what exactly they accomplished with their many hours of effort. Parent -Teacher-Student organizations generally spend their efforts on fund raising and usually avoid the matters of academic achievement.

    Providers are mandated by state law to establish a DEIC (District Education Improvement Council) as well as CITs (Campus Improvement Teams) in an effort to connect education Stakeholders (Payers, Customers, and Providers). The most recent DEIC documents on smcisd.net are dated 2007 and there is no mention of DEIC nor CIT deliberations in local media nor on the school district web site. The local newspaper routinely prints press releases from the school district but rarely anything else. The internet news media has been a bit better.

    So, it is easy to see and understand why we (as a community) do not take ownership of our school system and why we are quick to place hope in a messiah – the superintendent or a school principal. Unfortunately, this approach compounds the problem.

  10. Graduating teachers already have to do 1 or 2 semesters in the school without pay. Let’s structure that to be the best balance of a learning experience for the student teacher and assistance to the teacher.

  11. The University could also “spread the wealth” …It used to be that Cooperating Teachers (SMCISD teachers) were paid a stipend to mentor a TSU student teacher. After all, it does mean more time the teacher has to spend “teaching” another student- and let me assure you, it is extra work. (I might be wrong; TSU might give SMCSID $ but it doesn’t make its way down to the teacher doing the work…)

    The University charges their students a pretty hefty fee to ‘work for free’ in a local school. So, the TSU students aren’t using TSU facilities daily or w/ a TSU professor daily yet their whole fee is going TSU.

    I guess where I’m going w/ this is that many posts encourage TSU investing in our schools. I would just be wary that they don’t use their ‘free labor’ students and then drop the responsibility of monitoring and running the programs on our teachers.

    Of course if community businesses /volunteers step up to monitor and run it; that would be great.

  12. Superintendent Tenure and Turnover Rates –

    Media has often reported that superintendents stay on the job only 2.5 years on average. A quick search yields good research about superintendent length of tenure and turnover rates.

    For the 50 largest cities in America, the average tenure is 4.6 years. A 2004-2005 study of Texas superintendents revealed an average tenure of 5 years also. HOWEVER (and this is important), superintendents remaining in the same district for 5 years or more had a tenure of 10.2 years and if they stayed LESS THAN 5 years then the tenure dropped to an average 3.2 years.

    It seems like San Marcos fits into the 3.2 years average group of school districts. The current superintendent Shafer came in spring of 2007 and leaves in fall of 2010 – so about 3.5 years. I seem to remember her predecessor Perez staying about as long. As a side note, Perez is leaving Midland after a 3.5 year stint.

    So, why would anyone place such high hopes on a position that appears to be a revolving door? Factor in the politics and dynamics of the 7-member school board, changing state and federal mandates as well as funding issues and you have a very challenging situation for anyone – perhaps more so for someone who only sticks around for 42 months (on average). Keep in mind that 42 months includes 4 summer breaks of 3 months each, 4 winter breaks of about 2 weeks each, 3 spring breaks of 1 week each and a basket full of other holidays.

  13. Here is a typical scenario happening in communities that do not take responsibility for their own public education:

    The messiah superintendent arrives in town amid much fan fare – not quite Palm Sunday, but you get the picture. The new “sup” diagnoses the district illnesses and prescribes hiring a new Assistant Superintendent of Teaching & Learning who then goes on to implement several curriculum changes to the tune of $250-300K each. Enamored with all the new ideas, the school board and parent groups rally around the effort while many veteran teachers are less than enthusiastic muttering “here we go again.” It takes about 2 years to complete this process with tremendous expense in resources (time and money). 18 months later the superintendent along with his/her favorite fellow administrators are off to another district to repeat their magic leaving behind yet another district in search of a replacement messiah with replacement ideas. And the cycle continues.

    On a smaller scale, the same scenario happens with school principals.

    Consider the terrible effect this has on students as they progress through the system. Consider the loss of talent as teachers, particularly veterans, are driven off by the message that they don’t know how to teach. Consider the financial costs as 1000’s of textbooks are replaced, substitute teachers are paid while salaried teachers are trained, and perfectly good materials are trashed.

    Knowledgeable San Marcos natives will be able to put names and faces to every one of the characters in the scenario above.

    It is easy to say “Hire a good superintendent” then sit back, wait for results and then complain when the results are less than stellar. The real victims in our complacency are our children.

  14. “…who you put into that classroom is the most important signal you will ever send to the students.”

    Mr. Marchut, you do your research and you have all the “facts,” but TAKS scores only reveal so much. I ask that you visit these under performing classrooms and see what is really going on. The students that we refer to as subpopulations and as mere statistical data are coming from homes were parents choose between paying the bills or putting food on the table. They are coming from households were either both parents or at least one parent is in jail. They are living with siblings or grandparents. The facts are that many of us have no idea what their home life is like. The idea that a superintendent will come in and make our district exemplary and improve all the things that we want improved are as ridiculous as thinking C.A.R.E – SMCISD actually “cares” about SMCISD. Teachers are always going to be in the classroom. It might not always be the same one, but if all teachers provided an exemplary education, our district would be exemplary.

    Please don’t take this as, “It’s the teachers fault, let’s blame them.” What I am trying to say it that the issues come from the classroom, whether it be because of the student or the teacher, that’s where our statistics come from. Before we fix the TOP of SMCISD, why not focus resources on the most important part of the school district, THE CLASSROOM.

  15. @Ted – I appreciate your persistence.

    I am full of ideas on how to improve San Marcos public education – my wife says I am full of a few other things… but that’s a bit off topic.

    The point I am trying to make in Comments #1, 5, 9, 12, 13 is that we need to change our way of thinking about SMCISD.

    Perhaps an analogy is in order. Let’s just say I am fat – really fat – obese fat.

    Someone comes along and says “hey mike, you are really fat.” An accurate observation but not really helpful in improving my health problem. Kinda like saying SMCISD is underperforming – merely a fact.

    Someone else comes along and says “hey mike, eat more fruit and vegetables.” Again, this is good factual advice but is still not effective in changing my weight. Like saying SMCISD needs smaller classes.

    Finally someone comes along and says “hey mike, you are fat and you are going to stay fat until YOU make a decision to change your lifestyle by getting more exercise and eating right – but YOU have to make that decision and commitment for YOURSELF, no one else can do it for you.” Like …. what I have been saying all along.

    A laundry list of suggestions will bounce off the SMCISD like the healthy lifestyle message bounces off our fat people (me included). I believe effective change will only happen when we (as a community) acknowledge our public education problems and accept responsibility for solving them.

  16. I can agree with that, but we *are* going to hire a new superintendent and the last one *was* in complete denial about the state of our schools, so more careful selection is probably in order this time. Perhaps more citizens would be concerned about the problem, if the people in the middle of it (like the superintendent) weren’t blowing smoke up our butts, about how we are an exemplary district, which just never got the recognition it deserved, or my favorite, “everyone outside of San Marcos is envious of our school district.”

    We all need to own the problem. I’m just suggesting that we don’t pay $180,000 per year to someone else who wants to tell us that we look great just the way we are, and that the problem is the unrealistic standards set by the fashion industry, to use your fat analogy. We should pay that money to someone who has a successful track record of improving districts like ours, and then we should collectively get serious about improving our schools.

  17. Also, I am very aware of the financial state of our residents and I have lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods we’ve got. I’m not the one gazing at cranes on the horizon and musing about our prosperity. Unfortunately, the problems have been around long enough, that those parents are also products of the same failed school system. I *never* said that a superintendent would solve all of these problems. I have offered plenty of other ideas and I have been working to get people to pay attention to the state of our schools for years.

  18. Ted Said: “We all need to own the problem.” Great Ted – glad to have you on board. Now you get a specific action item!

    As for the superintendent search – here are my off-the-cuff recommendations:

    Fire the head hunter search firm immediately – save our money.

    Look local and start internally.

    Ratchet down the salary if necessary to match $$’s with qualifications.

    We don’t want a miracle worker or anyone who promises to be.

    We need stability for 5+ years so structure the employment contract with incentives for staying on the job while preserving “terminate at will with or without cause”.

    Call in our veteran principals and administrators into a closed-session meeting with the school board (sorry Steve Harvey) and ask a few choice questions: Who is the most trusted senior member of the staff? Would you follow this person if they were the superintendent? What is your #1 problem with administration?

    Do not, under any circumstances, hire an outside “interim superintendent”.

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, school board members need to drop their personal agendas and put on their “thinking hats” – if they don’t have the time, disposition or brains for the job of trustee then consider resignation along with Shafer.

    There is much work to be done for our children and the clock is ticking – Tick Tock!

  19. #13 Mike- You are right on. Someone ask how much the district has spent on “Balance Literacy” (a theory- not curriculum )and the consultants the last 6-7 years.

    Our district has hopped on every ‘progressive’ wagon passing through to say “Look how progressive and forward thinking we are!” I wonder how those HS Academies are really going to end up looking like…

    # 19 HELL NO!- a closed door meeting w/our present administration to set up questions. I can hear their first question: Will you guarantee our jobs will be safe? Do you got our backs? However, I think the Principals- they should be able to meet w/candidates W/OUT admins. in the room.
    (I’m a big supporter of the best practice of Site-Based Management. Campuses-top of pyramid)

    Personally -I liked the Loretta Lynn look-alike they hired after Montenegro for a year. Her only job was to eliminate waste and run the district like a business. It was awesome the way she cleaned house.

  20. @Hugh – “the Loretta Lynn look-alike” – ah yes, Ann Dixon. She is infamous for her second career as “interim superintendent” – at last count I think she has been hired by at least 11 districts. Galveston paid her $16,000 per month plus expenses this past summer.

    I share your concern about closed door meetings but I suspect folks might be more willing to speak freely if they don’t have an audience and the press. At SMCISD board meetings the audience is mostly district employees and maybe someone from this news organization.

  21. I was just about to point out that our district and No Child Left Behind have left out an important component- parental involvement and accountability. I bet if you ask any teacher to describe ‘failing’ students home study habits, they would say: frequent absences and/or tardies, doesn’t do homework , and a general lack of parent’s interest in child’s education.

    That’s what I WAS going to say until I read the article about the great parent turnout and passionate debate over the football coach….

  22. Ted go get the flu shot……but for now get some rest and drink lots of fluids ………. and …. get well soon

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