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

November 17th, 2010
Teachers object to school board's McCoy's plan

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San Marcos CISD Superintendent Patty Shafer, left, Trustee David Chiu, center, and Trustee Judy Allen, right. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

San Marcos CISD representatives of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) raised opposition this week to the school board’s plan to purchase the old McCoy’s Corporation headquarters for use as administrative offices.

TSTA San Marcos Chapter Vice President Rebecca Kroener told trustees at Monday’s school board meeting that the district should not spend millions on projects that do not directly affect the quality of student education. Kroener said the district should not initiate projects at the expense of budgeting future teacher salary increases and increased funding for classroom supplies.

“Forty percent of the teachers in the state of Texas have to have a second job during the school year — not during the summertime, but while school is going on,” Kroener said. “The average teacher spends about 15 hours a week outside of class on school-related work … In San Marcos specifically, we had a 26 percent turnover last year. In this economy there wasn’t any place to go to, because nobody was hiring. So the fact that we still had 26 percent of our staff turnover was pretty amazing. We have been averaging about 25 percent for the past four years. Those are teachers. The administration (staff) turnover is a lot lower.”

The old McCoy’s Corporation headquarters consists of a 13,861-square-foot building and a 32,414-square-foot structure. The buildings are located on a 5.14-acre tract at 1200 Interstate-35.

“We’ve got administration at five different sites,” said San Marcos CISD Trustees President Kathy Hansen. “And I think it’s very important, if we can afford it, to have them at one site. And that’s what we’re looking at possibly doing.”

McCoy’s initial asking price for the property is $2.775 million, said Michael Abild, San Marcos CISD assistant superintendent for business and support services. In executive session on Monday, trustees discussed the possibility of offering less than the asking price, said Abild. The Hays Central Appraisal District (HCAD) assessed the property’s value at $1,478,800, which includes $283,680 for land and $1,195,120 for improvements. Trustees will likely make a counter-offer that exceeds the value assessed by HCAD.

Trustees have designated $15 million from the school district’s $23 million fund balance for construction purposes in order to shelter the funds from possible tampering by the Texas Legislature. The school district’s total amount designated for construction is $20 million, which includes the aforementioned reserves, remaining bond funds, and the proceeds of property sales.

Hansen said the district’s plans to acquire the old McCoy’s Corporation headquarters for use as an administrative complex would benefit students.

“I think education includes not just what happens in the classroom, but all the people that do support those teachers so they can do the jobs that they do,” Hansen said.

Hansen said properties currently used for district administrative offices can be sold if the district’s offices are consolidated in one location. Another option is for trustees to offer the properties for lease. Hansen said her preference would be to sell the properties and thus put them back on the tax rolls.

“We do rent facilities, but not to companies that are for-profit,” Hansen said.

Kroener said San Marcos CISD ranks ninth or tenth in teacher compensation among 12 nearby school districts.

Without increasing the property tax rate, trustees increased salaries for teachers in this year’s budget. In this year’s budget, educators receive an additional $1,200 added to each year of their 2009-2010 salary schedule, with beginning teachers starting at $40,600.

TSTA San Marcos Chapter President Susan Seaton attended the school board meeting and asked trustees to “slow down” before approving any projects not related to educational facilities.

“Our contention is to make sure this $15 million is going to directly impact the students of our district,” Seaton said.

Monday, trustees authorized $29,996 in reserve funds for additional school supplies for Hernandez and Mendez Elementary Schools. Hansen said the two campuses had recently “started from scratch” and did not have the same materials in established campuses.

“We thought we’d given them enough before, but when we actually went back and did an inventory, there were items missing,” Hansen said. “So we want to bring them up so all the elementaries look the same.”

On Monday, Hansen said she received no complaints from teachers regarding classroom supplies.

“There’s always going to be teachers that want more,” Hansen said. “But whether they actually need more — and teachers purchase what they feel like they want. Being a teacher for 30-some-odd years, I did the same thing. But it was things that I wanted. I always felt like I had things that I needed. If I wanted something extra in my classroom, then yeah, I felt like it was part of my job to buy it.”

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33 thoughts on “Teachers object to school board's McCoy's plan

  1. ” …the district should not spend millions on projects that do not directly affect the quality of student education.”

    Absolutely. I won’t get into the details about the turnover rate, and why it is so high, and salaries and all that, but it is *very* difficult to make a case that new administrative offices are going to improve the education that our students are receiving.

    Let’s see a stated goal of reaching exemplary status for the district (not just a couple of elementary campuses), and *significant* progress in that direction (perhaps all campuses at recognized or better), and then we can talk about rewarding the administration with a new building.

  2. “There’s always going to be teachers that want more,” Hansen said. “But whether they actually need more…”

    Yep, the same can be said for the administrators.

  3. The people of San Marcos soundly defeated a bond proposal for a new administration facility in the last bond election. All other bond proposals passed.
    This is another clear case of elected officials ignoring the will of the citizens in favor of making deals with a few influential (greedy) folks with a clear agenda.
    The District historically has made decisions this way (ex: schools built out in the middle of nowhere because the land was ‘free’ while ignoring/not utilizing prime existing siteslike lamar, bowie…). Everybody’s okay with this?
    Very frustrating.

  4. TSTA would like to correct an incorrect statement made by TSTA rep. Rebecca Korener at the meeting regarding turnover rates in the district. The correct turnover rates are as follows:

    05-06 19.1%

    06-07 23.8%

    07-08 18.9%

    08-09 18.7%

    Data is not currently available for 09-10.

    This was an inadvertent error, and since the mistake was recognized, we wanted to strive to correct it as quickly as possible. Our aim is to always relay accurate and timely information to our members and the public about issues affecting district employees and the community.

    Kristi Taylor
    Texas State Teachers Association

  5. “The administration (staff) turnover is a lot lower.”
    uh, yeah. Many of these women have been there for 25 or 30 years, and have not had an original thought since the 80’s.

  6. The San Marcos school district should be scrambling to find ways to raise the level of education taught in the schools here, not on where administrators office. San Marcos ranks 500+ out of 700+ schools state wide. The Wimberly school district rates in the 100s. Every San Marcos school board meeting should start and end with ‘what can we do to help our students stay in school and increase their ability to learn”. If the board believes it is necessary to be on one campus, I would suggest they do as they do for students….. portable buildings. Once our district achieves a higher rating and we manage to lower student drop-outs, then is the time to discuss where to house administration. Board members: OUR STUDENTS NEED YOU….. please concentrate on educating them!

  7. So much to comment on here! Buildings, Administration, Teachers…

    First, the $2.8 million McCoy’s building for administration. Remind me again why? Quote from Hansen (SMLN 10/20/10) referring to a plan to use the property to house the school district’s central office, curriculum department, child nutrition department, and technology department: “By housing these departments together, we feel efficiency would be increased.”

    WOW – how INEFFICIENT are these departments now? Are they going to be twice as efficient under 1 roof – so only half of the staff are needed and the other half can be fired – if so, then that might be a great reason to consolidate into 1 location – how about at Lamar… or at old Bowie… or at Bonham next to Central Office – buildings we already own!

    I suspect the motivation to consolidate is indeed inefficiency and ineffectiveness – but the solution to buy more buildings is not the only solution. Our school board needs to “think outside the box,” ask your constituents, ask the readers here at SMLN – I am certain we can come up with ways to solve the problem.

    As for teacher turn-over – this is indicative of systemic disease in the organization. Here’s a homework assignment for the school board – ask your constituents (or here at SMLN) for a list of master teachers who have left the district then contact them by phone and simply ask them, “Why did you leave and what would it take to get you back?” A few hours of honest conversation will quickly identify the tumors in this sick body. To confirm your findings call 10 of the best teachers currently employed by SMCISD and ask them, “What will it take to keep you here for another 10 years?” Now, if you are saying to yourself, “A school board member should not have to make their own phone calls and ask their own questions” … then it is time to resign from the school board and make room for someone who is willing to serve the community.

  8. There are some posters on SMLN that do take action, my comments are to those that just ‘comment’…

    Commenting on Newstreamz/SMLN is like screaming into your pillow, you might feel good about it when your done but what good has it done for our community?

    Take some notes from the people who chronically attended city council, school board, and county commissioner meetings – stand up and say something to your elected officials. Until we all decide that something needs to be done and we actually hit the streets, put new people on the ballot, or just good old ‘holdin’ people accountable’, I can promise that NOTHING will ever change besides the ‘School Board Sound Bytes!’

  9. Not sure which bucket I am in, because I don’t chronically attend meetings and would rather not attend them at all. I was at yesterday’s Council meeting, to use my 3 minutes to try to get our schools on Council’s radar. I will be at the next School Board meeting, doing the same.

  10. Mr. Merchant we should really focus on educating our young folk and not compete for a worthless designation. I suspect if that is done then the idiots in Austin would trip over themselves to dole out those meaningless titles.

    As for asking teachers, it’s a step in the right direction, but if you really want the skinny on things ask the janitors, cafeteria workers, para professionals, clerks and secretaries. They know a heck of a lot more about where the incompetence/problem lives and thrives. Those are the forgotten folks who become like so much furniture not noticed till needed and around whom much is said without caution Like i like to say, Don’t kiss the bosses ass kiss his secretary’s.

    Ms. North take care when painting the whole group with the same brush because, “some of those women,” kick butt everyday. They just have to fight their battles on the terrain we provide.

  11. “The administration (staff) turnover is a lot lower.” I’m willing to bet that a majority of our head administrators are retires/rehires and pulling in pretty good salaries.

    SMCISD teacher compensation is 10th out of 12 surrounding districts; how do SMCISD administrator salaries compare?

    “I think education includes not just what happens in the classroom, but all the people that do support those teachers so they can do the jobs that they do,” Hansen said. When I hear this kind of talk, I immediately think: “all those people” usually create extra work for those under them to justify their own jobs.

    I’m also alarmed by (The Boards?) decision to pay Dr. Shaffer’s $1,549 per day as the interim superintendent .

    Well I’m glad that teachers are finally organizing and speaking up.

  12. First statement in above post: I want to restate that retires/rehires don’t get paid higher salaries from our district but pull in more money because of salary plus retirement benefits.

  13. Mr. Hernandez, it is hardly a worthless designation. It is an empirical indicator of performance. “The idiots in Austin” don’t get to dole the designaiton out. The Texas Education Agency handles the ratings and about 20% of the districts in the state are exemplary, the last time I checked.

    To be rated as exemplary:

    90% of all students, as well as 90% of white students, 90% of black students, 90% of Hispanic students and 90% of economically disadvantaged students must pass the TAKS.

    95% of all students, as well as 95% of white students, 95% of black students, 95% of Hispanic students and 95% of economically disadvantaged students must graduate.

    No more than 1.8% of all students, 1.8% of white students, 1.8% of black students, 1.8% of Hispanic students or 1.8% of economically disadvantaged students may drop out.

    If you have a better standard, let’s hear it.

  14. $1,549 per day? Can anyone confirm that? That’s INSANE!

    I’m sorry. I am sure she is a wonderful person and “comes from a great family,” and all that crap people like to throw around, but she was an under-performing super, who was in the top 10% of earners statewide, for that position. Now, she is going to be paid about 2.3x that amount, as an “interim” super??? That’s $100k, if we find a new super at the end of March, as projected (assuming that super starts immediately). If it takes until the first week of July for him/her to start, Shafer will have essentially earned her old, enormous, salary in five months.

    She’ll be making what many parents our students make annually, in a month. She’ll make a teacher’s starting salary in a little over five weeks. Meanwhile, teachers are buying extra supplies, because people like Hansen think it is their “job” to do so????????????

    Wow.

  15. Beginning teachers starting at $40,600 working for a 180 day school year yields $225.56 per day not including paid sick days nor cost of health benefits.

  16. If Shafer is really being paid $1,549 per day, it’s an incredible waste of our tax dollars. Assuming an 8 hour work day, that means she is making $193.63 per hour. Projecting that over a 180 day school year that yields an annual salary of $278,827. If you assume that administrators put in a full work year (260 days for the 9 to 5 crowd), her annual salary at this rate would be an astronomical $402,740(!)

    Now for the unpopular part of my post. I believe teachers are being paid at a fair rate and “teacher raises” aren’t a necessary part of the solution. The teacher’s union has done a fine job of portraying its members as underpaid lackeys for the evil school administrators – to the point where the first thing people always say when discussing improving education is “give the teachers a raise”. But in reality, teachers make decent money.

    On its surface, a salary of $40,600 doesn’t exactly sound like a ton of money. But if that salary pays them for a 180 day year, then you need to adjust to compare apples to apples. The rest of us schlubs work a minimum of 260 days per year for our money. If you annualize a teacher’s salary, you get $40,600 x 260/180 = $58,644….and that’s a fine salary (about $28 per hour), which is in line with what many professionals earn in the course of a year….and we’re *still* one of the lower paying districts(!)

    I’m not saying that the current disparity in our spending is right….school districts should spend the minimum on administration that they can. I’m not saying that things can’t be done to improve teacher retention….I’m sure there are working condition changes and morale boosting things that can be done. What I’m saying is that throwing extra money at teachers isn’t a real solution either.

  17. @Ted – the goal of “Exemplary District” is indeed worthy. Unfortunately, I do not agree that merely staying in school and passing the TAKS results in an “exemplary” education … but it is certainly better than our current situation.

    @Dano – I appreciate a person who understands how to apply math!

    I tend to agree, the annualized salary of a beginning teacher (bachelor degree, no experience) is pretty good but I am willing to be convinced otherwise. I tend to think other factors come into play with teacher retention such as student behavior, parental involvement, choice of curriculum, course selection, administrative leadership and overall work environment. Perhaps TSTA representatives would care to comment…

    I have already written a lengthy discourse on the Superintendent search:
    http://www.newstreamz.com/2010/10/15/san-marcos-cisd-sets-superintendent-search-meetings/

  18. Dano and others,

    I have two siblings who are teachers in out of state public school districts. Just a few points to consider when you are calculating the “value” of a teacher’s salary:

    Teachers may be contracted for 180 days a year of teaching, but (my sibs, at least) are not getting paid extra for required training days, which often take place during the summer months.

    No teacher that I know works a 40 hour week. To keep up with a class, even at the elementary level, requires MANY hours of preparation outside of school hours. Then there is always homework to correct. Teachers are NOT paid extra for this, either.

    Teachers are also generally not paid extra to: chaperone dances or other school functions, coach things like Odessy of the Mind, debate team, or other extra activities.

    Over short holiday breaks, teachers often take advantage of the “extra” time to catch up on paperwork, class prep. or grading. There is not time during the school day when they are with our children to do these things.

    In my opinion, In the USA , teaching as a profession has very little respect, and one place it shows is in the salaries!! It’s hard to attract the “best and the brightest” to a career that is undervalued and underpaid.

    I have no idea though whether that is a major issue with the SMCISD though. Itseems to have so many unaddressed problems….

  19. Few jobs in this day and age allow you to put in your 40 hours and then go home – at least not professional jobs. I worked extra for years (and I still do) for no extra money because I am a salaried employee and that’s what it takes to get the job done so that is what I am expected to do. Teachers are not alone in that aspect.

    As far as chaperoning dances, sponsoring organizations on campus, etc….they may not be compensated for it, but they’re generally not required to do it either. Those things come on a volunteer basis. Should I expect my employer to pay me extra because I might decide to join the Lion’s Club?

    Accountants start at $40-50K per year (less in small markets), and rookies are often asked to put in as much as 2,500 hours (about 50 hour weeks) in their first year. Attorneys start a little above that, with similar workload expectations. Doctors fight their way through several years of poor-paying residency jobs when they start out, often working 100 hour weeks for $40-50K per year.

    There is a “feel good” element to teaching because they are partly responsible for educating our youth and everyone wants our youth to be well-educated. But we also want our taxes done correctly, our legal issues well-represented, and our health looked after.

    Is teaching an important job? Yep. Do teachers work long hours? Sure they can. But teachers are paid a comparable salary to other professionals for a job that, even with the extra burdens you described, still doesn’t require the same time commitment.

    The difference is that teachers have a strong national union that has done a great job of presenting them as “overworked and underpaid”. Heck, we’re ALL “overworked and underpaid”……

  20. Cori,
    That’s the difference between hourly and salary. I have always worked for salary, and when you work for a flat salary you are REQUIRED to put in a lot more time then what a hourly individual does. I don’t understand why most people don’t understand this. When I was a teenager my Mother worked for salary, and when we calculated out the hours she actually worked, she was making less then minimum wage. That is what these teachers should have expected when they went into the profession.

    I’m sorry they have to take an extra job, that’s got to be hard. But to me it’s like someone complaining about the noise of an airport, when they bought their house in that location they knew that airport was there.

  21. Mike, I am not saying that achieving an exemplary rating for the district is the final goal. It is the first step in the right direction and it will force some other things to start falling into place. I am a firm believer in breaking a problem down into chunks and setting goals that are:

    S – pecific
    M – easurable
    A – chievable
    R – ealistic
    T – imely

    This goal is specific, as the criteria is explicitly defined by the TEA. Likewise, it is measurable, as are all of the components required to meet the goal. It is achievable, as evidenced by the 20% of districts already there. It is realistic and timely, if we actually commit to it.

    From there, I would have new goals, until ultimately we reached a point where the dropouts were the exception and the graduates prepared for a meaningful future after high school were the rule.

    Currently, the board of trustees has identified these goals:

    – The academic achievement of all San Marcos CISD students will improve, and the achievement gap among student groups will close.
    – San Marcos CISD will provide a culture of high expectations for all students.
    – Career and Technical Education programs at San Marcos CISD will prepare students to excel in a changing workplace.
    – San Marcos CISD will be acknowledged as a district of choice.
    – San Marcos CISD will maintain fiscal soundness.

    I have no idea what that means, which is probably why people are so inclined to smile and nod whenever a trustee says that we are doing a great job. They’ve defined “great job,” in a way that could mean anything.

  22. msteven- How clever. Comparing a person who complains about noise after moving into a house near an airport to teachers who reveal they need to work a second job DURING the school year to make ends meet…. I really don’t get the connection, unless you mean to say that you see teaching as a job for a “mom with extra time on her hands”. Sure, why not let HER piddle with the kids. How hard can it be? Why HER work hours match her children’s schedule and SHE can work from 8-3 and still take care of her family!
    How dare SHE (after maybe incurring at least a $50,000 student loan) complain that she has to take on a second job!?!
    And look at the benefits! Of course Wifey can be covered under her husband’s insurance policy (but that’s not a problem unless you are a male teacher (and man of the house) and then to cover you, and your wife, and kids it will only be $700 a month out of pocket for a middle plan- don’t even look at the best plan!) And we all know that teachers have great retirement – just be sure to put aside at least 500.00 a month because that “great ” retirement plan will still put you in the poverty bracket during your golden years.

    Your right mstevens- Teachers know what they are getting into and that is why there is a national teacher shortage.
    Our district even hires teachers from Mexico (during this economic crisis) because they can’t find quality bilingual teachers in the U.S. But keep standing on your soapbox how important a good education is and that our kids deserve the best.

  23. The $1,549 per day that the superintendent will get for being interim, starting in January, is TRUE. It is a fact and was a sweetheart deal engineered by the superintendent herself. There are custodians, bus drivers, teaching assistants and others in the district who do not make that much money in a month! This is a shame, San Marcos!

    We have students who do not have food to eat at night and a warm coat to wear, not to mention their parents who struggle with 2 and 3 jobs, and we are going to pay this person $1,549 per day! For doing what?! Answering emails and acting like a CEO of a major corporation?

    This is the same superintendent who has had a “life coach” directing her every move behind the scenes – Washeeda Quintero of Ocatillo, Inc. out of San Antonio. This is open knowledge in the district (and available to anyone who asks under the Open Records act.) True fact – this Washeeda person billed the district over $100,000.00 last year! None of her services have any direct connection to students – it is all directed to the adults in the district to “better relationships.” Shouldn’t the superintendent herself and her staff be doing this – not some outside consultant?!

    Take notice, San Marcos – a superintendent who has to have a “life coach” at the tune of $100,000 per year and then has the audacity to engineer a deal to make $1,549.00 per day?

    What is wrong with this picture and why is the school board letting it happen?!!!!

  24. Hugh,

    None of the challenges that you describe are unique to teachers.

    I pay close to $900 a month to have my family covered under a plan with a $5K deductible. The poor quality of teachers’ health care plans isn’t special to teachers, it is the health care industry in general.

    Do you think that teachers are the only ones with student loan debt? The debt load of graduating students isn’t a problem related to teachers, it’s a problem with the overall cost of higher education.

    I also don’t get why someone who lives in a dual income household and makes almost $50K per year would need a second job “just to make ends meet”…..unless they are living beyond their means. I see a lot of “poor” teachers (and “poor” people in general) driving Lexuses.

  25. If there is a REAL problem with housing administrative personnel, solve it the old-fashioned way: portable buildings. Why should students and teachers have a non-permanent learning environment while central office workers enjoy better facilities??? Education is all about students and their teachers, right???

  26. Ah Dano – if only I had the ability to peer into a car and *see* the economic status or profession of the driver!

    I tell you what- I’ll drive by Hernandez and Mendez and Goodnight; you drive by Crockett, Travis, and Miller. We’ll meet back here online and tally up those numbers of BMWs, Mercedes, and Lexuses in the teachers’ parking lots. Those pesky teachers, trying to make us feel sorry for them!

    And darn those unions! Especially in the state of Texas. Need I note sarcasm?

    Back to the article: Ms. Seaton and Ms. Kroener simply stated that our district decided to allocate $15 million dollars from the balance fund towards an (already budgeted $20 million) administration building (already voted against by the public), and they pointed out that the district’s priority should be towards retaining qualified teachers and supplying the classroom so that teachers don’t have to spend out of pocket for student supplies. As a taxpayer- that’s where I’d want my money to go-to the teacher and classroom.

    ******
    “I’m not saying that things can’t be done to improve teacher retention” Botton line: money talks. The savvy coming-up generation knows that the glass ceiling is really low in teaching grade school- high school(even though you compared teachers’ salaries to beginning Dr.’salaries) and they are being coached by their experienced elders to go for gold.

    *******
    And, yes, I feel good about supporting a ‘feel good’ profession.

  27. I wonder how much it would cost to make SMCISD the highest paying (for teachers only) district along IH35 from San Antonio to Austin? How might someone calculate such a scenario? Send me the data and I’ll do the math….

    There is a good point here. Regardless of what we think is fair or unfair, the market for teachers is set by what employers are paying (along with all the other stuff we’ve talked about). So for example, if I am an entry level teacher and can make 10% more at to Hays or Wimberley then I might start in San Marcos but quickly move to Hays or Wimberley to make more coin.

    What’s the downside of being the highest paying district (for teachers only) in the area?

  28. Money is finite and far from the only thing that causes turnover and it is no guarantee of success. The downside is that we could commit the money, still lose teachers, still have poor graduation rates, still have supply shortages, still have kids with no thought of college or a meaningful future beyond high school, still have pregnancy issues, etc. If, on the off chance that some of the teachers are part of the problem, they’ll be that much harder to displace, if they are the highest paid around.

    If you want to cut down on turnover, find out why people are leaving. Don’t just throw money at the problem. If people are not given the tools to be successful, or if their working conditions are stressful and generally unpleasant, money will do little to make them happy for very long.

  29. BTW -Thanks to SMLN for covering the meetings. I looked on SM Daily Record’s online site (so it might not be complete) and found NO mention or coverage of this Board meeting. I also noted they printed an article about Dr. Shafer staying on as interim, but they did NOT include her pay per day.

    I wonder why.

  30. Pingback: QUOTE CORNER - San Marcos Local News

  31. I find it interesting that the “logical answer” to every problem is building or buying something, at least as it occurs among our local governments these days. It is perhaps not unrelated that there is a very real municipal bond crisis looming as cities, counties and school districts across this country are either insolvent, or are quickly approaching it. We can safely list Hays County among them.

    I and a few others have started a citizens budget project to get a realistic view of where we are financially, and to begin a serious discussion about whether that is acceptable or not. Based on what we’ve found so far, most of the people I’m talking to find it unacceptable.

    Our group is addressing Hays County, and including some data on other municipalities as we can. We’d love to collaborate with those engaged at the cities and ISDs across Hays. Write to me at: LoveHaysCounty@hotmail.com .

    Just about the only building and buying going on these days is by governments. Hmm…

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