Two three-year terms on the Salado ISD Board of Trustees will be up for election on May 4. Early voting starts on April 22 and continues through April 30. Three candidates have filed for the election and will appear on the ballot: Jeff Kelley, Amy McLane and Brand Webb.
This week, Salado Village Voice posed the following questions to the candidates:
#1. What do you think is the greatest strength of Salado ISD Schools? Can this be improved? If so, how? (200 words)
#2. What is the greatest weakness of the school district? What would you suggest/support to improve this? (200 words)
#3. Which individual campus do you think is the strongest? What makes it better than the others? What campus is the weakest and what would you suggest/support to make it a better performing campus? (200 words)
#4. What would you suggest to improve safety and traffic flow for the Thomas Arnold Campus? (150 words)
#5. Are there curricula areas that you think need to be added? How would you suggest doing this? (100 words
#1. I feel the greatest strength in Salado ISD is our employees. All of our staff cares about our students and our community. One thing I think we can do to improve our employees is to ensure they have all the resources they need to be successful in the classroom.
#2. I feel the greatest weakness in our school district is the limited funding at the state level. I feel like we need to support any state representative that can make a difference in a positive way for school funding.
#3. I do not think that there is a strongest or a weakest campus. I feel like all campuses at this time are all working to the best of their abilities to make their students successful. This obviously varies campus to campus due to the age of the students on that particular campus.
#4. One thing that will help the traffic situation is after the new school is built having less people in that area. Until then I would like to see crossing guards to help with traffic flow and getting students where they need be more safely.
#5. At this point I would lean towards suggestions from our administration and teachers to lead us in what they feel is needed as I feel they will have a much better insight into what will help our students.
#1. I believe the greatest strength of the SISD is the people. Our district is strong because of the teachers, the support staff, our principals and superintendent. I believe our teachers care and try to bring out the best in each student. We have a small school in a large district and we compete evenly in academic contests with much larger schools – thanks to the teachers who take the time to work with our kids. A teacher takes the time out of her/his day to email a parent with a word of encouragement, not just the bad news. I do believe the administration should continue to support the teachers and stay consistent with each student.
#2. A great weakness in our district is a lack of CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs and I would like to see this area improved. By offering CTE programs such as welding, agricultural business or construction technology, students can learn skills needed to enter the workforce right out of high school. A food technology and safety class could help our students learn basics for working in a restaurant. An electrical technology class could help provide our community with our next Salado electrician. A turfgrass management program could study the effects of the new football field. A greenhouse operation program could collaborate with Keep Salado Beautiful by growing milkweed to be planted at Pace Park. I would strongly suggest adding more vocational programs to our district.
#3. I believe all the campuses have strengths and weaknesses, but each campus works together for the good of the district as a whole. Our district needs to continue to meet the state requirements regarding academic achievement on each campus. Our graduates need to be prepared to face the future, either in the workforce or at university. SISD needs to continue to keep the standards high and create seamless education plans from Pre-K to 12th grade for every student. Each campus has its separate challenges and student needs, but I believe the three campuses have to work in harmony for our district to succeed with all being a success. As Harry S. Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
#4. Each day I drive through the traffic on Thomas Arnold Road, in the morning and after school, and I am very aware of the issues regarding the traffic flow and the need for a safer system. Once the new middle school is finished, a good deal of the traffic will be moved to Williams Road, which will alleviate some of the burden during school hours. However, until that time, a change needs to be made. Suggestions could include traffic control officers, staggering start/end times, requiring students to be picked up in a car rather than walk out in the parking lot and/or using the area currently used for the baseball field as the bus line in the afternoon, creating an easier flow of car traffic in the main lot. I do believe a change is needed in regards to the traffic.
#5. I would like to see more CTE programs added to the curriculum and the District of Innovation plan gives more flexibility with this. In middle school, a class on investigating careers could give a 7th grader an idea of what he/she might want to do in the future. In high school, a building maintenance technology class could give a student the skills needed to enter the workforce as a building maintenance technician, immediately following graduation. Our district could use local craftsman and business leaders to help with the classes, providing a direct school-to-community link that will only strengthen Salado.
#1. I feel that the support and involvement of the community are the district’s greatest strengths and that can only be improved upon by the district continuing to engage and listen to the community. Another strength is that the district has been able to attract and retain great teachers, staff, and administrators. SISD can continue to improve by seeking additional funds and by continuing to look for innovative ways to utilize the funding it has in order to optimize educational opportunities.
#2. Anyone who has visited any of our schools knows they are very crowded, so I feel that SISD’s greatest weakness is the lack of adequate space and aging facilities. Fortunately, we have taken a major step to address these issues with the passage of the recent bond and the beginning of construction on the new middle school along with other facility improvements. Unfortunately, the district is going to continue to be confronted with space and aging facility issues as the number of students moving into the district increases. This will make providing a safe and nurturing educational environment for our students a continuing challenge. For solutions to this issue, we will have to “think outside the box” in terms of how we utilize our current space in order to come up with innovative ways to use and enhance the facilities we currently have until such time that we are able to build and pay for new facilities.
#3. In a district the size of Salado, I feel that it would be counterproductive to single out one campus versus another as being “strongest” or ‘weakest”. Each of the SISD schools has completed a campus improvement plan in which strengths and weaknesses have been identified and improvement plans have been documented and implemented. While all SISD campuses do have their strengths and weaknesses, the way to best ensure that the district succeeds is to see that we continue to hire and retain highly competent teachers and staff, pay them competitive salaries, keep class sizes small, and guarantee that adequate educational funds and resources are provided to secure continued academic improvement for all students.
#4. Once the new middle school, baseball and softball fields are complete and the current sewage drain fields are no longer needed, some traffic will be directed away from the area and quite a bit of land will become available for use in helping to solve parking and traffic issues. Hopefully, the district is working now on a traffic plan that utilizes these spaces to enhance traffic flow and parking issues around the schools. In the meantime, the district might consider encouraging more students to ride the bus or carpool in order to reduce the number of vehicles coming to the schools. SISD should continue to work with the city and county on identifying and implementing circular routes and better utilizing all entrance and exit points around the schools to ease current traffic issues. Another suggestion is a “no left turn” policy for vehicles exiting the Thomas Arnold campus parking lots and drop off areas between certain hours.
#5. The district should continuously evaluate current college degree pathways and identify and implement courses that will prepare students for their college education. One area of interest to me is the development of a trades program to prepare those students who are not college bound for jobs in the trades sector which is rapidly losing skilled workers. With SISD being a relatively small district, it may be difficult to do this alone. The idea of partnering with other small local schools on such a program should be investigated.