We put the following questions before the candidates for Salado ISD Board of Trustees. Below are their answers:
Question 1: Other than facilities and growth, what is the most critical issue facing the school district? How is the district handling this issue? Is there anything the school district can do better? (200 words)
Question 2: What is the greatest strength about Salado ISD schools? What is its greatest weakness? What can be done to improve the weakness without sacrificing the strength? (200 words)
Question 1: I believe the most critical issue facing Salado is in the higher education readiness process for the students. While the Salado High School website have a broad overview of Dual Credit courses at the high school, the Junior High is lacking in college readiness courses like the AVID program (offered only in the 6th grade currently), which prepares students for college readiness and success. A current Salado High School student asked me, “Why do you support dual credit when AP courses are more heavily weighted toward a student’s GPA for class ranking?” The answer is simple. Some students have dreams and aspirations outside of the “STEM” areas, do not want to attend a state university, and wish to peruse other fields of study in the liberal arts like fine arts or humanities. The idea of the dual credit program is to make college more affordable and offer a support system to avoid the issues faced with college retention and student debt. With the higher education coordinating board creating institution “core 40” to aid students in not losing credits transferring from the 2 year college to the 4 year university, the idea can be a win – win for shareholders.
Question 2: The greatest strength of Salado ISD is the shareholders in the community. While Salado has changes since I graduated in 1998, one core value has remained within the school system, which is involvement from parents and community. For example, the support our booster programs receive from local business and the parent involvement with activities like field day, talent shows, fundraising, and volunteer work like the mentor program. Salado ISD greatest weakness is the fear of the unknown with the changes occurring to Salado over the next 5 – 10 years. Human nature is to avoid change or breaking routines. Salado citizens need to remember to find a common goal and work together to make the goal happen to ensure future of our children. A goal I keep in mind as I ask for your support for Salado ISD board of Trustees is to, do as myself and many of my SHS classmates have done, make Salado ISD great for the next generation of Eagles. Red and White Forever!!!
Question 1: Over the past four years Salado ISD lost $ 2.8 million in funding from the State of Texas. While Dr. Novotny managed the budget with direction from the School Board, this was a devastating hit on Salado schools. We were able to control expenses through attrition of staff, hold off on large purchases/expenses, and watch normal operating budget very closely. Our finance team did an excellent job managing the decrease in funds while still giving our teachers the step in salary they richly deserve. Since the Texas Legislature is currently meeting, we are waiting to see the bills passed that relate to school funding. When we are notified of the school funding that Salado ISD will receive, we will continue with the five year plan of raising teacher pay as well as look at the programs that were affected by the $ 2.8 million cut. After these priorities are addressed then I would recommend any facilities maintenance needed as well as review technology needs campus wide.
Question 2: The greatest strength at Salado ISD is the people. From students to parents, from administration to teachers, from maintenance personnel to cafeteria workers, everyone in Salado cares about our students. We may have different opinions and different ideas, but our students and the people that surround them are the best in Texas. We laugh and we cheer, we agree to disagree, and we have good debates on what is best for our students. At the end of the day, we know that we all love Salado and strive to make our schools excellent. Over the past few months we have addressed our weakness by engaging in a strategic plan. Salado is changing and Salado ISD will need to be prepared for the change. We will meet and discuss the changes ahead and look to the future for new ideas, look in the past for ideas that worked, and plan for the next 5-10 years for our students, staff and community.
Question 1: I believe one critical issue is teacher pay. Currently our district competes with surrounding districts which pay much more. These districts attract qualified teachers away from our district as job opportunities open up. Potential candidates prefer surrounding districts to avoid a substantial pay cut. To demonstrate this, the district recently posted positions that not one applicant has applied for. In addition to attracting exemplar potential teachers, we need to strive to retain our existing outstanding staff. Currently salaries are based on years of service, with stipends added for extracurricular work. The district is already trying to bump up salaries, but I think more should be done. As leaders of the district we should think creatively about how teachers can be compensated for their hard work. When the legislature severely cut funding a few years ago, most districts including Salado had to reduce staff and put heavy work load on the existing teachers. Now, with additional funding possibly coming back, most of it should go, if not all, to the teachers but in an appropriate manor.
Another critical issue is technology. It has been and will continue to be a difficult task for any district to decide on what to invest in, how much, and what is the return on investment.
Question 2: Our greatest strengths are the students and parents along with a great group of teachers and staff. It is the combination of these people that allow us to see the outstanding results year after year. The community shows fantastic support for our kids and this can be seen day in and out. If I were to strengthen our schools, I would say that the staff of the district needs to focus their efforts in educating the community on the challenges and issues which face the district, such as facilities and lack of funding. I believe if everyone is well informed with all the facts, they can’t help but be supportive of solutions that are presented to them.