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Mendez Elementary students recently toured fossilized dinosaur tracks in Comal County as part of their ongoing study of the prehistoric reptiles.

Third, fourth and fifth graders visited of the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country, whose collection includes Native American and pioneer-era artifacts in addition to dinosaur tracks and fossils.

The field trip capped a three-month, after-school study of dinosaurs during which students learned how to research their subject matter using books and the Internet and then summarized what they learned in PowerPoint presentations. They also dug for dinosaur bones, mapping the sites as they went; made etchings of dinosaur fossils; and created clay models of the dinosaurs they studied.

The project was overseen by gifted and talented teacher Brenda Butler, technology teacher Robert Moreno and librarian Cheryl Sherman.

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22 thoughts on “Mendez students visit dinosaur tracks

  1. Brad, while I’m ecstatic that the kids are learning about our local natural history, I am flabbergasted at YOUR reporting priorities!

    Just when (if ever) do you intend to let the voters and residents of San Marcos know about the two extremely inportant topics that came up at the last Parks Advisory Board Meeting? Namely, the request to extend our River Park system to the east of I35, and the decision of the board not to accept Casey Develpoments request for a fee in lieu parkland for their latest attempt to develop Sessom Creek.

    When we spoke by phone on Friday, you pleaded short staffing and server issues, and indicated that you’d have something in the paper for Monday. You’ve been Johnny on the Spot with all sorts of topics this weekend…what gives??

  2. Cori,

    I haven’t been able to give the parks board meeting the attention I think it deserves. And while I do think it’s important, I don’t think it’s a pershible story.

    As I told you on the phone, I’m excited that we’re going to be adding another fulltime staff member to our organization in the next few weeks and will be able to cover more stories and do it more quickly. In the meantime, I’ve got to prioritize based on time sensitivity, i.e., getting election stories out before the election.

  3. Thankfully there is still a gifted and talented teacher left to promote programs like this. G&T is being steadily whittled away while we shift funding over to Pride and other initiatives for “at-risk” students. We have crappy computers, over-loaded servers, no bandwidth etc but plenty of free breakfast.

  4. SMsice95, I don’t know how “free breakfast” relates to this story. If you are gripping about the shifting of funds from one area to another perhaps you could speak out on that issue and let the kids have some fun with learning.

  5. The last sentence says “The project was overseen by gifted and talented teacher Brenda Butler…” and I’m expressing my gratitude to her and the G&T program while also expressing my disappointment that the G&T program at SMCISD has been marginalized over the last few years and in fact is given much less attention here than in other districts. At the same time, resources seem to be easy to come by for the more “struggling” segment of the student population. To be clearer, I disagree with free breakfast. Personal responsibility should dictate that if you have kids you have a responsibility to feed them. So as I go back and re-read my sentence I guess my message is, “What would you rather have, free breakfast or great computer labs in the schools?” Both of those items are offered as metaphors and the whole rant is expression of my bitterness at being trapped in a district where excellence is too lofty a goal. I suppose reading the article made me wistful over the possibilities and sad that even a simple outing like this is newsworthy because of its rarity.

  6. Given all the other disparities, I don’t think it is too much to ask for all of our students to at least start the day without having to worry about whether or not they have had a decent meal, even if it is at the “expense” of some benefit for G&T.

    That being said, I am at a loss to understand why this choice even needs to be made, in a property-wealthy district.

    I do agree that this article is not really the place for that debate.

  7. Ted, I agree. We should all be excited that Mrs. Butler continues to do extraordinary things with limited resources – she is truly one of those “master” teachers. Kudos to Mr. Moreno and Mrs. Sherman also!

    SMsince95, our school district’s breakfast and lunch program is funded with federal dollars and if I heard correctly at a previous board meeting – they actually makes a marginal profit. (The school board voted to use some money from the “Food Service Fund Balance” to buy new appliances for a few kitchens.)

    I am also displeased that more and more students are attending our district’s “alternative high school.” I would much rather see this money go to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) courses throughout the district…actually having a G/T Teacher at every campus…decreasing class sizes…etc. etc.

    Intervention in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade is too late. But until we express these concerns at school board meetings and not just here in the comment section of the Mercury…nothing will change.

    Where is SAGE San Marcos when you need them?

  8. It was not my intention to take away from the celebration of these kids or their teachers and I regret if that happened. I disagree with two of your points though Ted. One, what the kids get from the school is not a decent meal. I know the school tries but cinamon rolls are just calories, not nutrition. And you can’t force the kids to eat the healthy stuff the school puts out (a parent could, though). I also disagree about raising this issue here – those kids and their parents probably already know they’re getting short-changed and the administration needs to hear it. On the chance that Mark Eades might be reading this, or someone from the school board – hey, don’t forget about G&T. We’re the ones who are going to raise your TAKS scores and we’re the ones who will move to a district that meets our needs. Lastly, as I said, free breakfast is just an example of some of the things this district has to do just to keep the bottom 20% from falling off the map. I suggest the district not forget about the top 20%.

  9. SMsince95, we’ll just have to disagree. 67% of our students are economically disadvantaged, and 50% are at risk. Our funding (at a glance) for G&T appears to be right at state average, while LEP, for example, apppears to be around 1/10 state average.

    I don’t want to forget G&T, but they are not the ones who are going to get left behind, without special attention. G&T are the top 20%; that is correct. ED and at risk students are NOT the bottom 20%; they are the bulk of the students, and will get left behind, if we are not careful.

  10. Another quick glance at recent reports, shows that we are below state average for number of teachers, number of “professional support” positions, and number of “educational aide” positions, but well above state average for number “auxiliary staff” positions.

    These might be areas to investigate, where G&T, ED, and at risk students could all benefit. In particular, it appears that we might benefit from a 43% increase in the number of educational aides.

    Of course, strictly looking at staffing/funding numbers does not tell the whole story, nor does it identify the whole solution.

  11. From the TEA website:

    “Auxiliary staff includes such employees as food service workers, cafeteria monitors, school crossing guards, security guards, clerks (such as attendance, purchasing, accounting, payroll, general office, file, mail), receptionists, secretaries, maintenance workers (bus, plant, etc.), groundskeepers, bus drivers, custodial staff, data processing key entry personnel, delivery personnel (mail, equipment, etc.), aides to the school nurse, and library aides.”

    We appear to have two lf these positions, for every Educational Aide position that we are short.

    Also from their site:

    “Educational Aide: Performs routine classroom tasks under the general supervision of a certified teacher or teaching team.”

    So, we’re short on bilingual teachers, teachers in general, and teachers’ aides, and have a surplus of some of the positions listed above.

  12. Well, at least my feelings of depression are justified. I appreciate your attention to education Ted and I’ve defended you in these comments in the past so I accept your numbers. But the only consolation I’m left with is that it will be easy for my high performing kids to graduate in the top 10%. Of course, once they do get into an institute of higher learning, it remains to be seen how well they were served at SMCISD.

    And thanks, Mr. Arredondo, for staying engaged.

  13. SMsince95, like I said, I don’t want G&T students forgotten. I’d like to see us continue to lift all of the students.

  14. It’s the privilege (nay, the obligation) of any marginalized group here in the great USofA to complain loudly that their very important concerns are not being addressed and I plan to continue to assert that right.

    You say “CONTINUE to lift all students” and I assume you picked that word on purpose. I might have said BEGIN to lift…

    Having some inside information it seems to me a great number of our students are taught to have an adversarial attitude toward the schools. That too many parents automatically take the side of their sweet baby. So, it all begins at home and I haven’t heard yet how to crack that nut.

  15. Relative to where we were a few years ago, I’d say that we have started. We still have a long way to go.

    Re: starting at home, I suspect that there are a number of ways to reach out to parents. Bear in mind that many of them are the products of the same school district.

  16. I had the previllege of working at the same school (and on occasion) with Mrs. Butler. She really is a very good teacher. This district will be the worse off if she ever retires.

    Mr. Marchut, while I agree with much that have you posted the only exception I would make is that this district has barely begun the long process towards improvement.

    The drop out rates for hispanics is totally unacceptable and was long ago predicted. The first time I heard of what we now find was in a 1988 study presented by a research group out of San Antonio. We have had the better part of thirty years to address this issue and we are moving so very slowly.

  17. Mr. Hernandez, I do not disagree.

    Keep in mind that a few short years ago, we had board members and administrators claiming that SMCISD was the envy of all of the districts around, that we were an “exemplary” district (we just didn’t get the recognition for it), and that people were moving here, because of our schools.

    If memory serves, we were rated Academically Unacceptable, when the next report came out.

    We have improved since that near rock-bottom. We are no longer Academically Unacceptable, and we no longer have people looking us in the eye, and outright lying about where we are. We have a superintendent who seems serious about improving things. We even have a football coach, who said (I believe) that academics come first.

    Like I said, we have started, and we have a lot more to do yet.

  18. Why do we continue to waste valuable resources on trying to force kids who truly don’t want to be in school to get an education?

    Set these kids up with some vocational training and focus our schools on those who have an actual desire to learn.

  19. They’re kids. They don’t know what’s good for them.

    We need to figure out a way to convince the parents of the value of what the schools have to offer.

  20. I would argue that by their freshman year, they have a pretty good idea if they’re going to be “into” college or not. I’m not saying that it should be a permanent decision, though.

    If a kid takes the vocational tract, one of two things will happen. Either they’ll find themselves in a happy place, they’ll learn a trade, and become productive members of society; or they will realize just how important an education actually is to them. For this second group, we set up a transition program (not that different from our current “alternative school” system) to allow them to re-integrate into the academic tract – and when they get there, they’ll be happy to be there for a change.

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