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 and April 18 editions and at saladovillagevoice.com.
Question #1: Does Salado ISD do enough to prepare students in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)? If so, how? If not, how would you suggest to improve this? (200 words)
Question #2: Does Salado ISD spend enough of its budget directly in the classroom? If so, how? If not, how would you suggest to improve this? (200 words)
Question #3: Does Salado ISD pay its teachers enough? If so, how does it compare to other districts? If not, how would you suggest to improve this? (200 words)
Question #4: What facilities are in need of improvement? How would you suggest this being done considering the I&S tax rate is maxed out and considering the M&O tax rate is maxed out as well? (200 words)
Question #5: Are there any areas in the SISD budget that you think could be reduced? If so, what and how would you suggest belt-tightening? (200 words)
Question 1: I feel the school district does all they can to prepare students in the areas of STEM based upon the funds they are given. We offer dual credit and an opportunity to earn an associates degree through the Texas Bioscience Institute.
Question 2: Yes we have invested money into our technology that is used directly in the classroom setting along with making sure the teachers have the resources and supplies they need for their students to be successful. It is also nice that the teachers are offered an opportunity to apply for mini grants throughout the year to help in this area.
Question 3: I feel that teachers in general do not get paid enough for all the many things they are asked to do. Teachers go above and beyond just the school day when the kids are there. Many of them are there hours before and after to make sure our students are getting a quality education. This doesn’t just apply to teachers but our entire staff. With this being said our administration has tried over the last few years to increase our salaries up in comparison to other districts. Unfortunately the state limits our resources to giving the staff what we feel they deserve.
Question 4: As most of you know we are improving all of our campuses. We are building a new intermediate school, increasing the safety at the Thomas Arnold campuses and moving some of the athletic facilities to the new site to ease up the traffic congestion. The way we will be able to do further improvements is as new residents and businesses move into the area they will increase the school revenue through their property values.
Question 5: At this point I do not think there are any areas we can cut back on. We are a growing district and as we go through this growth our expenditures will increase. I feel the school district does a good job in appropriating the funds we have.
Question 1. Our district is working to bring more of a STEM focus to the daily classroom. In particular, Mrs. Tomlin (sixth grade science) and Mrs. Gilchrest (sixth grade math) worked together to have a STEM Day in November 2018 for the middle school. The students learned about different career paths in STEM areas and participated in hands-on activities such as programming robots and using a ham radio. This interest in
STEM at an early age shows the students the possibilities of future career fields. I believe the district is improving in this area but we have a long way to go.
Question 2. I do not know complete details of the SISD budget, but I do think classrooms always need more funding. The teachers can use whatever monetary assistance is available.
Question 3. I don’t think a teacher will ever make enough! Since I have not served on the school board nor worked for the district, I do not know the salaries of the SISD teachers or how they compare to other districts.
4. The middle school is in the greatest need for improvement, which will be resolved in the fall of 2020 with the completion of the new middle school on Williams Road. An argument could be made that each facility needs improvement in one way or another.
TAE needs to be updated with better technology, while the high school is projected to be too small to accommodate students in the near future. The district also truly needs a performing arts center and a new agricultural barn.
Question 5: I am not sure at this time what area of the SISD budget needs to be reduced, if any. Dr. Novotny wrote an excellent column for the Salado Village Voice just two weeks ago regarding the lack of funding our district receives from the state. According to the column, “Texas public school funding per student is well below the national average.” In addition to this, “our district receives one of the lowest amounts of funding per student out of the over 1,000 school districts in Texas.” This information makes it difficult for our district to pinpoint an area to reduce without lowering existing standards.
Question 1: First, we need to ensure that we are Educating our students so that they are fully prepared academically and technologically to succeed in college careers, vocational careers, military careers, etc. With regards to STEM, the US Department of education projects that through 2020, the demand for STEM related careers will grow up to 62%. It is imperative that we prepare our students for those careers by offering courses that will allow them to compete and excel in a STEM related workforce. This is especially important as we become a more technologically advanced society. SISD currently offers some STEM related courses. we need to ensure that we continue to gauge demand and stay at the forefront of education by starting STEM education early, optimizing opportunities to teach STEM and by offering advanced courses taught by teachers with expertise in given areas as demand and finances allow.
Question #2: Salado spends about 55% percent or about $9 million of an approximate $16M budget directly in the classroom. We need to always strive to provide that teachers have the resources they need to conduct effective, engaging, and innovative classroom instruction. How do we do that? We have to look carefully where the rest of our money is being spent, and get the “best bang for the buck”. I realize that state and federal laws dictate certain requirements for funding and that school funding per student in Texas overall is inadequate so creating a budget that works is extremely difficult but I am prepared to help find solutions that will ensure SISD continues to offer the best education possible for its students.
Question #3: Salado’s average teacher pay is about $5,000 less than the state average. To bring our teacher pay structures up to a more competitive level we need to look carefully at other expenses to determine if they are critical to meeting the educational mission of our school.
Question #4: We are currently addressing some of our facility needs by building the new middle school and by making needed improvements to the elementary school. However, the elementary and junior high facilities are quite crowded and are rapidly approaching the end of their usable lifetime. Even the high school is groaning under the load of a large student body. I applaud the efforts of the district to maintain and utilize the space we currently have. Realistically, building new facilities is in the future as more families move into the district, so we are going to have to be prepared for it. In the meantime, we are going to have to look for creative ways to use and maintain the spaces that we have in order to meet the educational requirements mandated by the state.
Question #5: Everyone has their opinion about what a school should provide and how much should be spent to achieve the desired outcomes and to provide the desired programs. The danger is that if all wants are fulfilled, funds to achieve the core academic goals are then spread too thin and the quality of education is diminished for everyone. There is no easy solution to this issue, but overall, I think SISD has juggled available funds well and our students have been provided excellent educational options and have achieved remarkable academic success. However, we must continue to strive to do more and achieve more so that we continue to graduate the best and brightest students possible. To accomplish that, we must remain focused on our goals and must continue to be cautious with regards to how we spend our money to accomplish those goals.