Three candidates are seeking two seats (three-year terms) on the Salado ISD Board of Trustees: Jeff Kelley, Amy McLane and Brand Webb.
Salado Village Voice posed the following questions to them and their answers follow. Introduction of the candidates and answers to previous questions can be found in the April 11, April 18 and April 25 editions and at saladovillagevoice.com.
1. What are your thoughts on the District of Innovation for Salado ISD? (150 words)
2. Will you support or oppose a Tax Ratification Election to increase the M&O tax rate for Salado ISD that is already at the maximum allowed by state law? Why or why not? (200 words)
3. There is currently a proposed subdivision in the eastern portion of the school district for 900 lots of 1/4 acre or smaller on which will be built more affordable family starter home. Most of the current rapid growth in the school district is outside of the city limits. What does the district need to do to prepare for this future growth? (200 words)
4. Do you support the current central administration? What are the strongest areas of our central administration? Areas for improvement? (150 words)
5. Do you think Salado schools do enough to combat bullying, either physical or cyber bullying? Is there more that can be done? If so, what? (150 words)
6. Do we have adequate diversity among our school staff? Should this even be a concern? If so, how can diversity be improved? (150 words)
1. The majority of school districts have already implemented this process. It allows each school district to make decisions that will best meet the community and school needs. Our administration, staff and community members are involved the decisions of this District of Innovation plan. I feel like it is a positive thing to have a little flexibility in the decisions being made.
2. If we have to have facilities to support our growth and have no other means I will support it. With that being said I don’t think it will come down to that because of the housing growth and it generating more property taxes.
3. We need monitor the situation closely, be aware of the growth rates and start forming a plan on how to handle that growth rate. Some of these procedures are already in place.
4. Yes I support our central administration. I believe this administration communicates well, a positive working environment, dedicated to their jobs and is always willing to help anyone that walks in the door. I feel in any job there is always room for improvement but I feel they are doing a great job now.
5. I know our schools have put programs in place to try open up lines of communication in reporting bullying. Cyber bullying is a very difficult issue because of how easy it is for people to attack others unnoticed not necessarily on the school grounds. I do think that our staff has been proactive when these situations have been brought to their attention.
6. I do not think that diversity is a huge concern as our hiring is to get the best teachers, support staff and administration in the right places to make our students successful.
1. The District of Innovation plan is a great step for the future of our district. The plan gives the district greater flexibility for determining the school calendar as well as more local control for innovative programming. A major part of the plan will allow the district to start the school year before the last Monday in August, resulting in a more balanced fall/spring semester as well as ending the school year before June. I would like to see more CTE (vocational) programs added to the curriculum and the District of Innovation plan gives more flexibility with this. The plan gives the district more control in hiring CTE teachers, an area I feel SISD needs to make a priority.
2. At this time, I would not support a Tax Ratification Election to increase the M&O tax rate.
Our district is at the maximum allowed by state law and the taxpayers are facing an upcoming tax increase for the bond to build the middle school. If House Bill 3 is passed in the current session by the Texas Legislature, our M&O property tax rate will reduce from $1.04 to $1.00 of taxable value per $100. The bill passed the Texas House several weeks ago in this current session and is waiting on Senate and governor approval. This would be a welcome reduction for our property taxes.
3. The district has made the first step in preparing for the new growth with the building of the new middle school. The middle school can house 584 students, which according to the projected numbers, should be enough classroom space for the next 10 years. The next additions will probably be high school and elementary classroom space, if the projected numbers hold true. Each new house built within the SISD property map has the possibility of adding at least one new student to our district. Growth will continue to be a challenge and the district needs to make sure to be ahead of the changes.
4. I support the current school central administration. Dr. Novotny has done a great job leading our district over the last 8 years and is continuing to move the district in a positive direction for our future. The district, like all of Central Texas, is growing at a high rate and the administration needs to be prepared for the challenges. The district has faced new issues in regards to expanding the administrative roles to accommodate the growing student demand, and this will continue as the district grows. I do believe the administration needs to be consistent in discipline among the campuses, with all the principals and assistant principals working together to help better SISD.
5. Bullying, especially cyberbullying, is a huge problem all across our nation. When it comes to cyberbullying, anyone can sit behind a computer screen and type what they want, and is often something that person would never say out loud. According to the 2018-19 SISD Student Handbook, if a student has experienced bullying or witnessed bullying of another student, including cyberbullying, the student should report the incident to a teacher, principal or other school employee. The school will investigate the allegation and give notice to the parents. Our district also uses the SafeSchools Alert, a nation-wide program that allows anonymous users to alert the district of any safety concerns, including bullying. If the administration finds bullying has occurred, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. I do feel this is a major issue and one that needs to be a priority of the administration. The district has a Safety and Security Committee that continually addresses all areas of safety and security, including bullying, and more can always be done for bullying. This is an ongoing issue and one to be aware of at all times.
6. Our district should hire based upon qualifications, regardless of race or gender. The top professionals should be the ones educating and leading our students in the classroom, on the field or on the stage. As a parent, I want the best qualified candidate to educate my child. However, our staff needs to be diverse enough to represent all of our students so the students can identify with our teachers and administration. I also believe more male teachers and staff need to be hired in the elementary school, giving our younger students positive male role models in the classroom.
1. I am in favor of the Schools of Innovation program which offers higher performing schools flexibility on starting and ending the school year. It allows schools the flexibility to modify the class size requirements as set forth by the TEA. This program does not alter the curriculum, graduation, and performance requirements that are mandated by the state. It provides the school district more local control.
2. First let me say that the current Texas school finance system is broken. Texas ranks 46th in per student spending while other states provide thousands of dollars more per student. This state has one of the best economies in the country and there is no excuse that education isn’t prioritized and funded accordingly. I do not support an increase in the tax rate currently. The current school taxes for a $385000 home (the median value in Salado) are approx. $3477.00 or $1.2238 per $100.00 valuation. I think that increasing the tax rate would place an undue additional burden on taxpayers, would potentially price some families out of their homes, and would slow overall economic growth in the district. The one advantage to the tax, beside additional revenue for the district, would be the potential slowing of new residential growth which contribute substantially to the need for additional school revenue in the first place.
3. SISD is in an area that is experiencing and is expected to continue to experience rapid growth. Unfortunately, the district has no control over the growth that occurs and as result, SISD is projected to enroll an additional 444 students in the next five years and 962 students in the next ten years. While the district has already taken steps to address some of this growth with the current school building projects, this alone will not fully accommodate all of the projected growth so the district simply must be proactive in planning for the future by purchasing land for new schools as funds become available, looking ahead at future expenses and revenues and planning for increases in the number of teachers and staff and related costs.
4. I do support the current administration and of course as a board member I would support the administration as long as the goals of the district are being met and the best interests of the students, faculty, and staff are being met as well. As for a strengths , we do well stretching limited funds to maximize educational opportunities. Areas of improvement, I feel it is important to maximize instructional time each school day from the first day of school to the last day of school and advocating for more challenging coursework for higher performing students.
5. Students, faculty, and staff have a right to expect an educational environment that keeps them safe from physical harm, psychological harm, fear, and humiliation by others. SISD has an extensive policy that defines bullying, explains the school’s jurisdiction and authority when it comes to bullying, and has guidelines for discipline when bullying occurs. SISD should always be on the alert for evidence of bullying, should always take accusations of it seriously, must have zero tolerance for bullying, and must act definitively in prosecuting it when it occurs. The school district does train its students, teachers, and staff on bullying and has SafeschoolsAlert online tip reporting available for the anonymous reporting of all types of incidents when they occur. I feel that one area that can be improved is that the online tip reporting should be promoted more and should occupy a more prominent position on the school website.
6. The makeup of any organization should be a representation of the community it represents. Without diversity, the educational experience becomes one sided and fails to offer a well-rounded education. I do want to see that the most qualified faculty and staff are hired. I don’t believe that race, religion or gender have anything to do with hiring the best person for a job.