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

Left to right: SMCISD Board President David Chiu, SMCISD Superintendent Mark Eads, and SMCISD Trustee John Crowley voting at the board's Jan. 23 meeting. PHOTO by SEAN BATURA


San Marcos CISD trustees punted this week when asked to choose a new athletic director and high school football coach, voting 4-3 to postpone a decision and seek more applications for the job.

After a process of multiple committees and interviews whittled down a field of 89 applicants, Superintendent Mark Eads recommended board members hire one of three finalists — Todd Raymond of McCallum High School in Austin; Dan Burk of East Texas Baptist University and Robert Wilcox of Kingsville High School. The superintendent has declined to publicly identify the finalists or say which one he suggested to board members to replace Steve Van Nest, who resigned in June; the Mercury obtained the finalists’ names by invoking the state’s Public Information Act.

After meeting in executive session for more than an hour Monday evening, the trustees returned to a board room packed with onlookers and advocates and promptly approved a motion from trustee John Crowley to extend the application deadline to Feb. 23. Crowley, board president David Chiu, and trustees Lupe Castilla and David Castillo voted to wait; board members Kathy Hansen, Margie Villalpando and Judy Allen voted against the motion.

The delay action did not go over entirely well with the standing-room-only audience, some of whom hissed, booed and vowed electoral revenge as it became clear that the board wouldn’t make a decision that night. One attendee said loudly, “Pitiful, absolutely pitiful.”

Some of the audience members had sat on two committees comprised of parents, teachers, community members and district staff tasked with helping the district choose an athletics director. Eads pared the original list of 89 candidates who applied to 23. The Screening Committee narrowed the list further to 12. Eads then narrowed the list of applicants to six and the Interview Committee, after conducting face-to-face interviews, chose the three finalists.

After the meeting, Chiu said he was undeterred by vocal opposition to the delay.

“For adults to be booing and making threats, that’s pretty immature,” Chiu said. “I don’t care if they don’t vote for me. I just got a times three pay raise — zero times three. We’re here to find the best person. If this particular candidate’s still the best, great. But we have the opportunity to find a better person.”

Mark Newton, the pastor at First Baptist Church and a San Marcos CISD parent, urged swift action to fill the athletic director and head football coach position.

“I would urge you as a parent and as a taxpayer…I urge you to move forward tonight, to move forward with this process to hire the name that’s being recommended,” Mark Newton said to trustees before their deliberation and vote. “Please remove politics if that is the case. And for the sake of our children and our community, don’t make this a race and ethnicity issue. We’ve come too far in this community to go backwards.”

Interim athletics director James Chase has been employed on an at-will basis since his contract expired Jan. 15. He came out of more than a decade of retirement to be hired in June after Van Nest resigned with a severance package that included $85,738 and a promise from district officials not discuss the reasons for his departure.

Chiu said it is better to wait a few more weeks to see whether other qualified jobseekers apply and to build more of a consensus among trustees about a finalist.

The school board chief said he wishes there was as much passion among district residents for academic issues as there is for football, a sentiment echoed by the local teachers’ union chief.

“I wish there was more passion about the academic issues in San Marcos,” said Susan Seaton, president of the Texas State Teachers Association’s San Marcos chapter. “Football is great and football is big in Texas, but academics is where the children’s future is. There’s not near as many students that will go on football scholarships as there will on academic scholarships. So I wish that passion would transfer into parental support and help in the schools and in the academic issues.”

SEAN BATURA contributed reporting for this story.

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40 thoughts on “Trustees postpone hiring new SMHS head coach

  1. Odd that the president of the teachers association is lamenting the lack of enthusiasm and help with our academic issues. I thought our schools were awesome.

    You have my passion and support Susan.

  2. David Castillio should have refrained from voting as he was fired as a coach from SMCISD for initiating prayer sessions before games. Now he’s employed by Del Valle as a coach, which is a school our kids play. He does not have an unbiased opinion, and clearly does not vote in the best interest of OUR kids. What a sham vote this was, which is extending the process another month when it has already thaken at least 6 months. How much better do you think you will get, David Chui?

  3. Last I checked, football season is seven months away. So if the board wants to wait and see if it can land a “knock their socks off” candidate, what’s the harm in that? It’s just high school athletics. Let the interim guy run the spring off-season program if he has to. It’s not like this is an NFL program.

    I hope each and every parent who was in attendance for this “all important” vote is also there at the next meeting when other issues are discussed. Or there when a new history teacher is hired, etc. Otherwise, don’t complain if it seems like all our school cares about it athletics because they’ll just be reflecting the behavior they’ve seen in the parents…..

  4. Dano-
    Spring training begins now. What athletic director wants to begin behind other schools, and where are you thinking better canidates will come from? NFL? No. 86 applicants was a lot. Community members weighed in on the decision, and helped choose someone. Who’s really going to want to come to an non powerhouse school district late in training season (and yes, it is late!)?

  5. High school sports should not be year round endeavors. But that’s an entirely different argument.

    If taking the slow road means that we’re not very good next year then so be it. It isn’t like we tore it up the last couple years anyway….

  6. The question about Castillo isn’t whether he should be abstaining from athletic matters, but rather, why he is on this board at all. But Chiu’s lecturing the crowd seems poor form. I thought Chiu was one of three board members we could trust.

    Then they reject the superintendent’s recommendation and the work of the committee, or if they end up offering the guy, they ask him to take a job where the Board wasn’t really jazzed about him. What’s another season is what everyone told last year’s seniors; it may just be their last season and something that means very much to them — whether others think it should or not. Hire the best candidate and then give him the full support of the district; then move on to other issues.

  7. People should focus MORE on academics than athletics. It amazes me how much more heated and passionate people are about football. The paradigm of what we hold most important for our children is embarrassingly skewed.

  8. Castillo was fired for “initiating prayer before games”? I couldn’t find any confirmation of this on the web. If so, that’s pathetic….

  9. Let me say ahead of time that I apologize for the lengthy post…however…

    There are several issues here that I think need to be brought to the forefront. I think there are real concerns that need to be addressed that both K and John have brought forward here. Then we can address the athletics vs. academic issues.

    First, the David Castillo issue I think seriously needs to be considered here. First, the fact that an ex-employee who was terminated (regardless of the reason, and Dano, it was not for prayer before a game I assure you) can now be placed on the school board and not consider that a “conflict of interest” is completely absurd to me. I find that not only extremely naive, but possibly dangerous. The ability for one to affect a personal vendetta against an ex-employer, whether that is reality or not, is defintely cause for concern.

    However, though this should be seriously considered, this is not my primary concern. My main issue is, as John has stated, the fact that this individual is a competing coach in a possible rival district that has now requested that we wait specifically for realignment. This would lead me to believe that this individual is waiting to see whether or not SMCISD will be in said district and then have the ability to influence the athletic decisions for his rival school. Once again, how is this NOT a “conflict of interest”? Keep in mind, the HS is not only hiring a head football coach, but the district’s athletic director who will make all decisions influencing all athletics throughout the district. The ability for a competitor to influence the competitiveness of his competition is, for lack of a better term, simply, unethical.

    Next, whether you like it or not, agree with it or not, athletics is the driving force behind every district in the state. It is the money generator. It is the status generator. People will come into a district with a seriously competitive athletic program and will flee from a dying athletic program like a leper. Don’t like or appreciate athletics? Fine, but don’t expect the district to get all the goodies (e.g. kids, monies, facilities, etc.) that come with it. That’s just the simple facts of the way things are.

    Now, we’re being asked to wait longer, haven’t we already been waiting over a year? How much longer should we wait? How much more favorable can it get? The argument is made that they want to wait for realignment to see what candidates we can get. The problem with this thinking is that after realignment, it’s very likely that we will be in an even more difficult district than we were last year (think lake travis, west lake, etc.) and with this in mind, what great coach/AD is going to want to come into a district he/she knows they are going to get mauled in? Once again, (excuse the conspiracy theory) this sounds like a competing coach trying to keep his competition from being competitive. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

    Finally, like it or not Dano, it IS about the kids and players. This group of kids actually has some very talented players that due to this fiasco (read: joke) is going to be a 3 years in a disorganized mess with no real instruction to improve their abilities, greatly impacting their chances at scholarships to schools in every division from FBS – NAIA. This is a MAJOR problem in my opinion. It’s difficult enough for many of these kids to get out, but to deny them the possible avenue of escape is absurd.

    I agree the academics are a major issue as well, however, I think the two feed off each other, and when one slides, they both suffer. Just something to consider. Thoughts?

  10. Total fiasco – YES
    Politics – YES
    Ethnic/Race issue – YES
    4 board member majority mess – YES

  11. You make a good point about the synergy that must exist between the athletics and academics of a school district. Your point about potential missed opportunities for upperclassmen to earn scholarships is also well taken (even if I believe that we don’t have that many scholarship-ready players on the team as you seem to). I also tend to agree with your assessment of the Castillo situation.

    But with all of that said, the primary focus of the comments on here hasn’t been to call for anyone to start ignoring the athletic department altogether. The cry has been for people to be AS INVOLVED in the academic side of things as they are in the athletic side.

    Aren’t there also kids in SMCISD who are missing opportunities for academic scholarships because of a lack of funding for G/T programs? Aren’t there at-risk kids who miss the opportunity to go to college altogether because of budget cuts to counseling programs? Are these tragedies any less important because they don’t involve sports?

    There were massive crowds in attendance for every step of the process for firing the old football coach and also for hiring the new one. How many of those people attend when the discussion is to seek funding for a grant for counseling services or to hire a new history teacher?

    You say that increased attention on athletics is “just the way it is”. Well, I say that the way it is isn’t acceptable and would like to see it changed. The “way it is” means that parents are teaching their children that the wrong things are important – so does anyone have the right to complain when this country slides further down the drain? Or do we step up and try to re-focus on what is really important?

  12. Excellent points all, and the status quo is the status quo, certainly not the ideal. I would, however, be curious to know the count of parents among the “large crowds” in attendance that have students competing in the athletic programs, and if they indeed make up the majority of the “angry mob”, then perhaps our focus to bring our attention up to par for the at-risk population is to find some way to encourage those parents to be equally passionate with regards to their children.

    That’s not to say that we as a community should not also be increasingly and inherently interested in the academic well being of the children of our community, but I think alot the outrage that we’re hearing and/or seeing is voiced by those directly effected or involved in said programs rather than most of the community at large. I could be wrong on this, but as I said, I’d be curious to note the tally.

    With all that being said, the education system at large needs a serious revamping and is desperate for more serious attention in all aspects. And while this is true, it still doesn’t take away or lessen the fact that what’s happening in this specific instance with regard to the athletic program is a tragedy. While our focus should be increased on the other aspects of our “academic” institutions, it should not derail us in our effort to right this particular injustice.

    I’m not sure of the best course to take in order to encourage large scale participation in and passion for the academic system, but I don’t know how healthy it is to decry the athletic department in hopes to do so.

  13. Bubba, I agree re: parental involvement, and I think this is an area where we have to get creative. Today’s dropouts are next generation’s uninvolved parents. The cycle needs to be broken somewhere, and it is going to take some work.

  14. Also, @ Mark,

    While I’ve heard the racial/ethnic issue you speak of, I think it probably unfair to say this is the case since we’d simply be assuming as we were not privy to the actual discussion of the board on that issue. I understand how it can look, but we can not in all fairness say this is fact unless we too were made aware of that part of the discussion from primary sources.

    Perhaps we should ask Mr. Chiu about the following excerpt from the daily record article: “board members went into closed session to discuss the decision.” Why was it necessary to go into closed session? What were they trying to hide? Should anything they discuss regarding the decision be private or should it be public information?


  15. I’d love to see an outreach program, to get older dropouts to go back and finish their educations, and perhaps go on to college, trade school, etc. Maybe get some local employers involved, and see if they can be persuaded to set up programs for their employees.

    I recently finished my degree, largely because our company offered tuition reimbursement, some flexibility in my schedule, and the CEO came to my office one day and applied some friendly peer pressure.

    There is a lot we can do, collectively, if we really want to make a difference. Just waiting for parents, many of whom struggled in the same system, to magically wake up and know how to solve this, will get us nowhere.

  16. Ted, I totally and completely agree. It still perplexes me that parents can have so little regard for their children, particularly their children’s education.

    I realize there was a time when this was not so much the case and the culture at large strongly encouraged serious academic pursuit. It is a tragic failure of our general society that has brought us to the dilemma we find ourselves in now. To rectify it, I fear, is going to be a long and arduous process that the resolution personally escapes me.

  17. Perhaps, God forbid, the answer is in extra-curricular activities! HAH! Just a friendly little jab…Although it does appear that most students who participate in EC activities do tend to focus more on their academics in order to be afforded the ability to participate in said activities…Often, these activities encourage parent involvement as well…hmmm…

  18. Another valid point, Bubba. I personally remember going to school with several kids who flat out said that without sports, they wouldn’t be in school….and this was 20 years ago. This does illustrate how athletics can be a tool to support the school district as a whole. But at its heart our schools exist to provide an education for their students. Everything else is (or should be) just a tool to reach that goal.

    In the end, though, the truth is that education really does begin at home and until parents begin to invest themselves in their children’s educations there isn’t much the rest of us can do except hope and wish….

  19. The rest of us can push for programs that help to equip/engage those parents. This is not a new problem, nor is it one unique to San Marcos.

    There are people who know how to solve it. I imagine some of those people are in the many exemplary school districts with similar demographics, and at the university, in the PhD program on improving schools.

  20. I really don’t care who is is the AD or the Football Coach, but this decision reflects very poorly on the School Board. What a joke that they can just dismiss the work of so many that worked on the committees and attended meetings and made a selection. It shouldn’t matter what UIL district we are in – we should hire the best fit for our school. Stalling will only cause qualified people to look elsewhere. Coaches want to work in a district that is decisive, where the superintendent leads with the support of his staff, the school board and the community, and where they are able to start with plenty of time to get their program set up – moving family, determining what they have at SMCISD, what they need and where they will get it. Shame on the school board once again – first they cost us $100,000 with their own private election and now they make it less likely we will get a strong AD and football coach – making decisions that are best for the district is what they have been elected to do – and they have FAILED.
    REPORT CARD 2011-2012
    F in Finance
    F in Athletics
    F in Ethics
    F in Leadership

  21. Mary- check to see who voted for this postponement and you will see that it is almost the same group as who voted for wasting $100,000. A few smart board members did not vote for thses bad decisions for the school district. Thanks to those two for doing what is right, shame on the others.

  22. Public schools are monopolies, serving their own ends far too often rather than the public good (as all monopolies inherently do). Indeed, they infrequently bother to discuss what the public good is or for what purpose they are even there.

    It is far too often the same with the public, who will get up in arms about a football game but not so much about what their kids are learning (or not). Really, how much thought do we put into this huge entity that sucks up more money than any other government expenditure in the entire state? Do we even ask what the purpose is? Heck, for that matter, do schools/the majority of teachers even have a strong grasp of general learning theory and group psychology? Speaking from experience (and I have quite a lot), sadly, the answer is no.

    In my mind, schools have largely become self-perpetuating bureaucracies that act as babysitting structures for society, with lip-service given to academics and standardized testing concocted to satisfy some vague demand to produce well-equipped, intelligent students (although the tests DO NOT do this; I know of many examples, probably the best being a student who could not pass his Science Exit TAKS, but was able to figure out how to deliver his girlfriend’s baby — which they had kept hidden — just by looking at the internet and watching the Discovery Channel; I dare say he grasped enough of the concepts of science to be given a diploma, but he could not pass some multiple choice test; makes perfect sense, no?).

    Now, don’t get me wrong. Some great things are going on in classrooms everywhere despite it all. Kids still are learning. But, it could be MUCH better on many levels. Our schools could be serving as the tide that uplifts our entire societal boat, rather than institutions that perpetuate the growing inequality that is barking at the door (and we should ALL be very worried about this; see Rome for exhibit A).

    Our culture, of which schools are largely but a reflection, does not do a very good job teaching its youth what it takes to be a productive member of a community (indeed, I would say much of our cultural symbolism tears away at the concept of community, once again, at our own peril) and our schools — the institutions we have increasingly charged with this task as we become too busy and distracted to do it ourselves — are doing a pretty poor job of instilling work ethic and critical thinking (by design, I sometimes wonder, look up what Woodrow Wilson had to say about the purpose of public education if you’d like a real eyeopener) into the generations that follow and this is a harvest that portends very bad things for our future democratic viability I am afraid.

    Much of what is wrong with our schools can be summed up by the concept of the TAKS/STAAR testing. Pretty much no one I know in education (lots of teachers, administrators, students, academics, even many people at TEA who are responsible for making the stinking tests) thinks that these tests are a good measurement of learning or “performance” whatever that means. It is a general consensus that they are flawed and moving us in a direction that might have some pretty serious consequences. There is little doubt that the whole testing process is rather inefficient and way overpriced. Yet, even though most everyone has reservations about its merits or value, we continue to myopically charge down a path most do not want to go down…and create more regulations and bureaucracy to justify it, blah, blah, blah…

    Check out who the testing companies give political donations to for another happy revelation (and then promptly return to worrying about football, at least that is something tangible we can get our minds around, not the full scale purchase of our political system by monied interests — see Rome again)

    I’m gonna go curl up in to the fetal position now…

  23. All this is pointing to the fact that we have a highly dysfunctional school board, one that all of us, even those of us without children, need to pay a lot mote attention to. This is embarrassing, if I were in high school athletics I would be very hesitant to apply for a job with SMCIDS after this.

    There has been muc discusion about whether athletics is over emphasized. Maybe it is, but I do think there is a conection between striving for athletic excellance, and excellance academically as well. Many parents have gotten their children out of San Marcos and into neighboring school districs, Wimberley, Hays, New Braunfels, through the years. All three are considered better school districts than San Marcos. All three school districts have also excelled in athletics

    It is not as if San Marcos can’t produce great teams. Just six years ago this school produced a football team that went all the way to the quarter finals, and then lost that game in overtime. I know, a freind of mine’s son was on that team. I had never been to a San Marcos High School game, but I went to that one. So did a lot of other people, the stadium was sold out, even though it was freezing.. If the school board can not fix this mess and hire a good coach and athletic director, I see little hope of them fixing the other probelms facing this school district

  24. Somehow nations throughout the world manage to run educational systems — that at least match our own in terms of success defined by several metrics — without attaching formal athletic programs to them. How is that possible?

    On a similar note, out of 50 states, Texas is the ONLY ONE that allows sports to take place as an official class period during the schools day…the rest make them take place after school hours. Look at how well our schools measure up to the rest of the nation: is this a good investment for us taxpayers? Perhaps a question we at least should entertain but I will not hold my breath…

    …by the way, hopefully everyone angry at this “scandal” is also equally upset about our Congressfolk (both parties, mind you) being caught redhanded enriching themselves with insider trading that would get me and you plebes a nice orange jumpsuit…God bless perspective…

  25. I encourage all to read the comments by Mary. She summed up the entire process so well. Yes a big F was earned and deserved!

  26. This fiasco highlights what every taxpayer and parent in San Marcos needs to know – we have a very dysfunctional school board with several members not serving in the best interests of our children. Trustee David Castillo does not have children in the schools and coaches for one of our competing districts – Del Valle. You only have to watch him at the meetings (when he attends) – he is surly, arrogant and contemptuous of everyone there. Trustee John Crowley is another one – has anyone checked into why he left SMCISD employment several years ago? His children are grown and he works for Dripping Springs ISD – what is the real reason he is on the board? Trustee Lupe Costilla is a has been (definition: one that is no longer famous, popular, successful, or useful) who ran for the board again because she missed the limelight. She is mean, mean, mean – just listen to her when she talks. Why is she on the school board? Last is Trustee David Chiu. What a disappointment. Why does he feel like he has to lecture the audience with his views and opinions? Instead of bringing the board together he encourages bad behavior and displays it himself, treating those he does not agree with with rudeness and disdain. It is time for the parents and citizens of San Marcos to start voting these has beens and malcontents out! Get some good, intelligent candidates, who don’t have personal agendas, to run for the school board.

  27. Darn, the debate team has kicked butt and they get jack in the way of money. May be those CHAMPIONSHIPS would account for more if they were football.

    Oh wait. I forgot, there are not state trophies for football in

  28. It is filing time for school board elections – although too bad it is Chiu and Allen up for re-election. The real problems with the school board are Crowley, Lupe Costilla and David Costillo. They all voted against saving the district $100,000 and against hiring an athletic director that had been selected by many and approved by the Superintendent.

  29. Remember David Chiu also voted against the A/D recommendation and perhaps the main leader of the other three weak board members.

  30. To run for city council, you have to live in that city. To run for governor, you have to live in that state. Practically every elected position I can think of requires residency. Why is our school board different? This needs to change.

  31. Wow, a lot of really great comments, and only a few people who need to have a coke,a smile and to calm down.

    As for the trustees that some have attacked, consider this, they were elected by those who voted for them and those who didn’t vote. I know, democracy can be so infuriating. I wish I could replace it with a benevolent absolute monarchy, headed by me of course. Can anyone enlighten me as to the comment about race/ethnicity?

    I like football. No, make that,I LOVE football. My wife knows never to talk to me during even a boring game(as if football could ever be boring) because I won’t remember that she was in the room much less anything she may have said. But lets face some facts, football is not more important than academics. OK, that last sentence hurt me more than anyone reading this could possibly know. Any extra curricular activity is just that, extra, and should be afforded consideration befitting its importance.

    I wish it were possible to have this much interest in the academics and, yes, even the politics of our school district. This district could be so much more than it is if more people would become involved. Remember the meeting attended by only two people, talk about pathetic.

    As for the specifics in the article, it was the boards prerogative to reject or accept the supers recommendation. Personally, I would have gone with the supers choice for HC and AD. If for nothing else because there are more important things than football (ouch!) that this district needs to deal with.

    Class of ’86

  32. OK – now that UIL realignment has occurred (as reported elsewhere), can we get on with hiring the Athletic Director?

  33. Well supposedly they were waiting on the realignment to occur to see what would shake down. Soza from Alice was a favorite but he wanted to bring more people than the board wanted plus he wanted to see what would happen down there. Now that Callallen has left Alice’s District it makes Soza’s job easier and he will not be coming this way. So my bet is the original reccomendations will take place at the next meeting.

    I really hope Chiu is out this next election. His grandchildren do not attend public school in the district and are planning on going to San Marcos Academy when they reach that age.

  34. Today our realignment was announced and we are in nearly the same position as before, except no Seguin to play AND no athletic director/football coach.

    Now what? Tell me what we gained again by waiting? I see the job is posted on the SMCISD website. So there are lots of new people looking now that were not looking then?

    Maybe Mr. Castillo wanted to wait to see where DelValle would be with this realignment. Now that DelValle is with Lake Travis, Westlake and Bowie – lots of his friends may be looking to move to San Marcos.

  35. Also, you should read San Marcos Daily Record’s Sports Editor Randy Stevens’ opine about this school board decision. It’s about time that the SMDR covered something controversial.

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