San Marcos resident Jean Baggett, left, recent San Marcos High School graduate Juan Miguel Arredondo, center, and San Marcos CISD Assistant Superintendent Michael Abild at Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss a superintendent search. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Among the thousands of taxpayers within the San Marcos CISD, only one arrived at a meeting on Tuesday to indicate what she wants to see in a new superintendent.
Tuesday’s meeting — the only one of its kind scheduled so far — was facilitated by consulting firm Bob E. Griggs & Associates, which the district hired to look for a new superintendent. Tuesday’s meeting was an opportunity for the community to “give and receive input on the next SMCISD superintendent profile under development by Bob E. Griggs & Associates,” according to the district’s website.
San Marcos residents Juan Miguel Arredondo and Jean Baggett attended Tuesday’s superintendent search meeting. Arredondo, not yet a district taxpayer, recently graduated from San Marcos High School and attends his first year at Texas State.
“I think it’s horrible that only two people showed up, and I don’t even have kids in the district,” said Baggett, a San Marcos CISD taxpayer.
The turnout at Tuesday’s meeting contrasted with the Oct. 18 San Marcos CISD Board of Trustees meeting, where the subject of the high school football team drew a standing room only audience. The atmosphere at the Oct. 18 meeting became so contentious that police were dispatched to prevent an argument outside the boardroom from becoming violent. During the Oct. 18 meeting, one parent threatened to take his child out of the district unless it keeps head football coach Steve Van Nest, who some parents blame for the struggling football team.
Bob E. Griggs & Associates owner Bob E. Griggs asked attendees whether it is important that a new superintendent have a doctorate, whether the district should consider a candidate from a much smaller district, and whether the ideal candidate should be someone with superintendent experience. Baggett and Arredondo said the ideal candidate must have a track record in alleviating problems of improving his or her district in ways, and said a doctorate and superintendent experience are not essential attributes.
Baggett said the ideal candidate should not be from a much smaller district, while Arredondo said prior district size is not important as long as the demographic factors of the candidate’s old district are similar to San Marcos CISD. Baggett and Arredondo said the ideal candidate should have children attending San Marcos CISD schools.
Baggett said prior teaching experience is an important trait in a new superintendent.
“You want somebody in here who has a passion about teaching and wants to be successful with these kids,” Baggett said. “That passion will filter down to the children.”
Arredondo is co-chair of San Marcos ACCess, a group promoting annexation of San Marcos CISD into the Austin Community College district. Arredondo said the district should hire someone with a track record of decreasing dropout rates. Arredondo said a “significant” amount of students who entered their freshman year with him either did not graduate from the district or graduated from Phoenix Academy, the alternative high school for at-risk youth.
The latest state Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) report indicates 76 percent of San Marcos CISD students grade 9-12 graduated, and 14.1 percent dropped out, during the 2008-09 school year.
“Since I’ve moved here, the people that I’ve talked to don’t send their kids here,” Baggett said. “They’ll drive them to New Braunfels, to Wimberley. New Braunfels rates one hundred and something, Wimberley is in the 100s, and we’re in the 500s (out of 897 districts ranked on schooldigger.com). What’s going on here?”
Arredondo said the ideal incoming superintendent should not be someone who hastily discontinues established or planned programs, such as the high school academies currently in development. Arredondo said the ideal candidate should not “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” but should give programs a chance to succeed or make needed improvements to them.
Griggs said candidates originating from within the current district staff pool will not be given more consideration than those from outside the district, though Baggett said it would be ideal to hire someone familiar with the unique problems and strengths of San Marcos CISD.
San Marcos CISD Superintendent Patty Shafer unexpectedly announced her resignation on Aug. 30. Shafer’s last day is Dec. 31 and the district may have a replacement hired by the beginning of January.
By the time district trustees see the preliminary superintendent profile, Bob E. Griggs & Associates Consultant Hoyt Watson said his firm will have sought input from teacher groups, school principals, district staff, the San Marcos Education Foundation, the San Marcos Ministerial Alliance, Hays County Commissioners Will Conley and Jeff Barton, San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz, Texas State University President Denise Trauth, the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, and San Marcos Interim City Manager Laurie Moyer, among others.
Hoyt said his firm will present its preliminary profile to trustees on Thursday and offer a final profile after about another week of work. Griggs said his firm will offer trustees an analysis of superintendent salaries from comparable districts. Griggs said his firm probably will not recommend that the district spend more money on a superintendent than comparable districts spend.
Baggett said she found out about Tuesday’s meeting from Open San Marcos, a local government transparency advocacy group. San Marcos Local News ran a staff report about the superintendent search meeting on October 15, and the San Marcos Daily Record published an article on Tuesday about the meeting.
When asked how the district advertised Tuesday’s meeting, San Marcos CISD Assistant Superintendent for Business and Support Services Michael Abild declined to offer any comment. Abild said he attended Tuesday’s meeting to secure the district’s central office boardroom — where the meeting occurred — after attendees left.
San Marcos CISD District 5 Trustee John Crowley attended the meeting, but said he would save his feedback for Thursday’s board meeting. Hoyt said trustees will view his firm’s draft superintendent profile in a closed meeting and will probably not publicize the document. Hoyt said keeping the profile secret until a candidate is selected will make for more honest incoming resumes.