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


COMMENTARY by JOHN McGLOTHLIN

In the run-up to Saturday’s San Marcos School District election, the push to pass Prop. 1 and Prop. 2 was impressive. Most community groups and heavy-hitters united behind a well-organized, well-funded campaign to repeat time and again that “Yes Matters” to San Marcos students.

The bonds passed and we are going to have some nice campus improvements. But without anything else, nice new buildings will not sufficiently address our problems.

I graduated from San Marcos High School in 1994 and my first-born will begin at SMHS in August, so I guess I have been here for a while. I have seen several bonds pass to fund new buildings and renovations. The bond elections have marked peaks in community interest in the schools, but the interest has always waned before we see the real change we need in local education. This is because new buildings do not address the real problem in the district – student poverty.

In four of our six elementary schools, more than 78 percent of the students come from economically disadvantaged households. Children from poor households are as capable of learning as the more affluent kids, but they face bigger hurdles. Most local children in poverty live with a single parent who is forced to work long hours, because San Marcos has largely low wage jobs and rents are inflated by the huge number of college students paying rent with FAFSA loans.

The demands of the long workdays, living in poverty, and their own experience growing up without enough positive role models combine to render even well-meaning parents poorly prepared to parent. The results are kids who spend too long on Playstations, do not get enough rest, are improperly nourished, and do not have the self-control or discipline to succeed in the structure of a classroom. When the fundamentals are that askew, the STARR test results will not be what we desire.

The bond proposals seemed to me to be the right answer to the wrong question, because building new buildings won’t solve the fundamental problems facing our kids. What San Marcos urgently needs is a broader community effort at … well … being a community. If you supported the bonds or if you didn’t, I would ask you to go a few steps further so the money won’t be wasted:

  1. Know a few of your neighbors. I do not mean just the ones in Willow Creek or Spring Lake Hills where I live, but our neighbors in Redwood, Rancho Vista, Regency, etc. It is one city, and nothing is more effective at building genuine concern than relationship. People will use someone else’s tax dollars for ‘those kids’, but people try to really solve problems for their friends.
  2. Mentor a child. A consistent, positive adult presence in the lives of kids who are relationally disconnected and starved for consistency can make a world of difference. There are a number of local mentoring programs; if you can’t find one, email me and I will connect you through the one I work with, Mission San Marcos.

There is likely a lot more we should do, but we can all start right now by doing something. Interest is at its bond election peak, and I would hate to see it once again subside with the only thing left to show for the peak being a couple more buildings to house our disconnected children.

The district has stated its goal of becoming a school of choice for families who currently choose other districts, but first we all need to love the ones we have.

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McGLOTHLIN, a San Marcos attorney, is executive director of Mission San Marcos, a local nonprofit “dedicated to changing the future of San Marcos by fostering enduring relationships with local families.” He can be reached by email here.

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6 thoughts on “Commentary: Making ‘yes’ really matter

  1. I absolutely agree with John. Though many children have disadvantages, they can learn if taught appropriately. Set the bar high, motivate them when they are young, light the fire in them to succeed, promote competition, reward effort, and embrace bell to bell teaching. What it comes down to is how well the teacher teaches. I have worked in many school districts, evaluated over 50 low performing schools, and have seen time and time again what occurs when an excited, smart, articulate, power-teacher takes the helm of his/her class. Miracles occur! San Marcos is a beautiful community with so many built-in advantages that the district can become (perhaps, it is on its way) the very best in the area.

  2. I think I understand what you were trying to express and that it came from a good place but I would ask that we all be careful of deficit minded concepts such as: “The demands of the long workdays, living in poverty, and their own experience growing up without enough positive role models combine to render even well-meaning parents poorly prepared to parent. The results are kids who spend too long on Playstations, do not get enough rest, are improperly nourished, and do not have the self-control or discipline to succeed in the structure of a classroom.”

    Surely such issues are problems for modern day society and San Marcos. However, I would argue that framing them like this contributes to the stereotype that being poor=being a less than fit parent or one who does not care about education. No doubt, low SES and poor standardized test scores pretty neatly correlate (by design? Check out Woodrow Wilson’s ideas concerning the purpose of education).

    However, I would argue the problem is not that those in poverty are any more poorly prepared to parent or that their kids are any more prone to lack of self-control than those that are more well off. No doubt, there are definitely issues to be explored around class, social structures and schooling, but I would argue that they would be more profitably explored if such simplistic typecasting is avoided as it serves little positive purpose and is frequently used as a sort of condescending pejorative (note: I do not believe you used it in the latter sense, but it often is).

  3. This is well stated advice from Mr. McGlothlin. I have been to many PTO meetings and the attendance is pitiful. PTO is a great place to get involved and build the community. At the same time, this isn’t going to fix the student poverty issue also mentioned in the letter. What will fix that is decent jobs. Sadly, employers hear about our schools and factor those impressions into their decision not to locate here. There is no single solution to improving our schools but great facilities are a great start. I’m a believer in the “build it and they will come” philosphy. I appreciate those that worked to get the bonds passed and I look forward to seeing the improvements come out of the ground. I suggest we all keep an eye on the improvements being made and the best way to do that is to get into the schools. If you have kids in the schools, take every opportunity to spend some time there. In my opinion, nothing has a greater affect on student performance than parental involvement.

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