On Nov. 3, Salado Independent School District voters will elect three board members to three-year terms on the Salado ISD Board of Trustees. Candidates are Kim Bird, Troy Byrd, Savannah Hennig and Troy Smith.
Early voting continues through Oct. 30. There are several early voting locations in Bell County. On election day, Bell County registered voters may vote at any Bell County polling location, not just their home precinct. Precinct 203 voting will be at the Salado Church of Christ Activity Center, 217 Church St. in Salado.
Question 1: Salado ISD and Village of Salado began a partnership last school year to place a Salado police officer in the schools on a regular basis. Has this program been successful? Do you think it should be expanded to have more than one officer in the schools? Why or why not? (150 words)
Question 2: The latest enrollment numbers show an increase of only 6 students from October 2019. Why do you think there is this lull in enrollment in SISD? Is it a good or a bad thing for the district? (150 words)
Question 3: Do you think remote learning should become a permanent option for Salado ISD? If so, what resources should the district offer to improve and support remote learning? (200 words)
Question 4: What one goal would you like to see the district accomplish in the next three years? What would you advocate for in order to achieve that goal? (150 words)
Question 5: Is there anything we have missed that you would like to tell the voters of Salado ISD before the election? (200 words)
Question 1: Safety is a foundational component for student well-being and success. Last school year after annexing our schools into the Village of Salado, it became possible to partner with the Village of Salado Police Department and place a full-time school resource officer (SRO) on our campuses. In addition to having a law enforcement officer present on campus in the event of a crisis and directly involved in the planning for such crises, having an SRO also encourages positive relationships between our students, staff and law enforcement. In the future, as the district grows, it may become necessary to expand this mutually beneficial partnership.
Question 2: Since the 2012-13 school year, Salado ISD has grown an average of 100 students per year. This year, however, SISD increased its enrollment by 6 students. Many area school districts have seen decreased enrollment. This can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Families have had to make very difficult decisions about the health risks of sending their children back to school. Making remote learning available for our students has been one way that SISD has responded to meet these needs. SISD currently serves about 15% of its students through remote learning options. However, some families have opted to respond by homeschooling their children. Looking beyond this health crisis, housing sales and new home projects indicate that SISD will return to its previously estimated growth projections.
Question 3: One year ago, school districts across the nation could not have predicted how many aspects of education would be drastically changed in such a short period of time by the COVID-19 pandemic. Salado ISD has responded to these changes by providing a remote learning option that is available to all students. About 15% of SISD students began the school year remotely. As our COVID-19 numbers have remained low and families have recognized how difficult remote instruction can be on family life, many of these students have returned or plan to return to face-to-face instruction at the end of the grading period. Additionally, state-wide failure rates appear to be much higher among remote learners.
Successful remote learning programs depend on the availability of technology. SISD has provided Chrome Books and Internet Hot Spots for students to ensure they have the resources necessary for success. SISD teachers and technology staff have been trained in new instructional strategies and have worked tirelessly to ensure that remote instruction is as effective as possible. However, decades of research have also shown how important classroom teachers are to student success. The success of remote learners in school districts across the country, the needs of local families and the costs of such programs will determine if remote learning becomes another instructional option offered to SISD students after the pandemic.
Question 4: There are so many worthy goals that Salado ISD is striving to achieve including ensuring academic success for all students, maintaining existing facilities, improving district technology, improving our facilities and resources for programs such as Agriculture Science and Fine Arts, and ensuring that students are able to recover academically from the instructional time lost in the spring due to school closures. However, as SISD strives to do all these things, we must remember what makes us great.
Many families moved to Salado or remained in Salado because of the education and experience offered in the Salado schools. As SISD continues to grow, we must maintain the characteristics that drew us to this community. SISD must ensure that every family and every child feel known and valued. Our leaders should remain visible and involved in our community. Our administrators must continue to be available to parents and community members. Classrooms must remain nurturing and safe places. And, students should have the opportunity to participate in a variety of our outstanding extracurricular activities such as Ag, academic UIL, theatre, debate, art, choir, band and athletics. Salado is a great place to live, and our schools are an essential component in preserving our values and expanding opportunities.
Question 5: For generations people have settled in or near the Village of Salado drawn by its quaint charm, our wonderful neighbors, the amenities nearby and our outstanding school district. It has been an honor to serve on the Salado ISD Board of Trustees and to collaborate with such an excellent student body, faculty, staff, administration, and community as we strive to maintain excellence and continuously improve.
I am a candidate for re-election to the Board because I am passionate about education and the success of this community. I am an experienced public school teacher and administrator having served in small, medium and large school districts in the state of Texas. I have been an active volunteer in this community since arriving in Salado 17 years ago. I have served beside many of you at Salado ISD events and activities, in community organizations and at Salado United Methodist Church. As a parent of a current SISD student and a former student who graduated in 2016, I am committed to ensure that our students leave prepared for the work force, armed forces, technical school or college. Finally, I bring experience and leadership to the school board. As we face future growth and economic challenges, we need proven leadership and a willingness to collaborate with the community, the staff and one another. Your vote matters, and I would appreciate your vote.
Question 1: It is a great partnership between Salado ISD and the Village of Salado to have an SRO officer on or with a quick response time to the campuses.
I visited with staff from the 3 SISD campuses; this is what they had to say:
Elementary: They appreciate having an officer available to call whenever they need assistance. It would be a great benefit if the officer could become more visible on their campuses..
JH: The officer splits time between HS and JH. The officer needs to be more engaged with our students and be more visible in hallways between class changes. It would also be helpful if the officer visited classrooms and talked about safety, violence and drugs/alcohol, etc.
SHS: The officer is on campus but needs to be more visible and interact with the students more. He works in close association with legacy healing drug rehab which is a facility that works with recovering teenagers. As we grow as a district, we need to expand with more officers inside our campus locations.
Question 2: With an increase of only 6 students from October 2019 to now I attribute that lull in enrollment to the pandemic.
Parents are taking extra safety precautions with their children and did not enroll them in school when students returned in September. Homeschooling has become their option till the health of our nation gets better.
With about a 5% drop in enrollment it is not good financially for the district due to funding which is normally based on daily attendance figures. With the pandemic crisis state and national funding may have changed and could be helping or not assisting school districts. I am not sure on this matter since I do not know the current funding status the district currently is getting from the state during COVID time.
Once the pandemic is behind us, I see the district enrollment numbers increasing with students returning to school and more families moving in or those that have moved in sending their children to school.
Question 3: With the current situation we have students learning remotely and others are in the daily classroom experience. Some have chosen remote to continue their education. Data states that remote learning works best for the highly motivated student. The failure rate is around 30% when only online learning is used.
For Salado ISD students it means the parent and the student need to be active daily in the learning in the lower grades and at jr. high and high school the student has to be able to navigate the technology with some parental help when needed.
There are times the remote learning is a necessity for some students due to medical issues, 504 students, the students that is involved in spring extracurricular activities, for example: UIL activities and students that show livestock animals and are gone sometimes up to a week at a time. The remote learning would help the student and the teacher to keep up with current assignments and grading. Will remote learning work for all grade levels?
With moving to remote learning students should be provided with Chromebooks by the district.
The pandemic has pushed remote learning a step farther in our district and many others that have not offered this before. Learning as we go to provide remote learning will be the wave of the future.
Question 4: Salado ISD is doing a good job preparing students for college but there is a GREAT need to be an advocate with more opportunities for students to help provide job training for those students that are not looking for the academic college education.
In the next three years I would like to see Salado ISD expand:
1. Career Technical Education programs to provide trade education such as these listed: Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Architecture and Construction, Arts, Audio Visual Technology, and Communications, Architecture and Construction, Arts, Audio Visual Technology, and Communications, Business, Marketing and Finance, Education and Training, Health Science, Hospitality and Tourism, Human Services, Law and Public Service, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Transportation, Distribution and Logistics
The above programs are currently offered at school districts around our area. I believe we should strive to start out with more Agricultural, Automotive, Carpentry, Plumbing, Digital, Design and Multimedia Arts, Health fields such as CMA, Pharmacy Tech, Lab Tech and Culinary Arts. We have local business resources that can also help as internships and being mentors.
Question 5: I feel with having over 30 years as a classroom teacher and coach I have insight into what students and educators need in their everyday experiences. Students being successful is what I am an advocate for. With my classroom experience I know what everyday is like at school and I look forward to helping our teachers have a good work environment with the tools they need to help students be successful.
I plan to question, research and make decisions the Salado ISD Board of Trustees has before them for the benefit of the students, teachers and community. My policy also will be that parents and/or tax payers can contact me with their concerns.
Let’s keep doing great things during this bad time with our students and move forward into 2021 and beyond.
Question 1: Safety at our schools is of utmost importance to me, and we must continually evaluate the security and safety of our facilities. At the rate Salado is growing and with our schools’ proximities to I-35, first and foremost our facilities must be secure. Furthermore, to deter unwanted activity we must create a safe perception. The presence of a School Resource Officer (SRO) helps accomplish both of these items while also allowing for an almost immediate response time should an incident occur. For these reasons, an SRO was recommended by Salado ISD’s Safety and Security Committee. While I would love to see this program expanded with an SRO on each campus, I believe our district must be larger before this can occur. Eventually, the necessity for more than one officer will need to be re-evaluated as we continue to grow.
Question 2: Salado ISD has grown by approximately 100 students per year for the past seven years. While it may appear that growth did not happen this year, we must first recognize the role COVID-19 is playing. COVID-19 has caused enrollment across many districts in Texas to go down an average of 5% over last year due to families choosing other education options. Salado ISD is one of the few districts in our area that did not lose enrollment this year. Instead, we grew enough to not only offset the approximately 100 students who unenrolled, but also have an overall increase in students. I view this as incredibly positive for our district and proof that our district is still growing, despite COVID-19, and needs to continue to plan for growth.
Question 3: Our teachers and staff have worked tirelessly on providing the best remote learning instruction possible during this pandemic, and I am in awe of their dedication, creativity, and perseverance. They are working extremely hard to give our students the best education possible during these unprecedented times, but there are some items that would need to be addressed before making remote learning a permanent option.
First, remote instruction simply is not as effective as face to face instruction. At the last school board meeting every principal in our district mentioned that a good portion of our remote learners are not as successful in their classes as our face to face students, and because of this, many students are choosing to come back to the classroom. Second, remote instruction is incredibly burdensome on our teachers, and I do not believe their current workload is sustainable long term. Creating solutions for these items is a priority before we could consider establishing remote instruction as a permanent option.
Question 4: Salado High School has roughly 650 students, and 390 of those participate in our FFA program. This is an exceptionally large program in our district and currently, these students are working in facilities that are in dire need of updating. The barns need improvements such as plumbing, electrical, covered walkways, heaters, and gutters. Our Ag shop needs an upgraded transformer to supply enough electric current to our welders, and they need additional welding equipment to improve safety when dealing with heavy metal. We must adequately support one of our largest high school programs by budgeting for these items and updating their facilities. Furthermore, I will advocate for a student survey that gathers interest in additional vocational programs, and then based on the demand, encourage pursuing how we can meet that need.
Question 5: Salado Village Voice has done an excellent job asking questions that have led to a discussion of our academic and athletic successes, vocational programs, school safety, technology, facilities, classroom capacity, district growth, taxes, teacher salaries, student transfer policy, COVID-19, and remote learning. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to share my thoughts on these topics, and I value each reader who has taken the time to familiarize themselves with the school board candidates.
My desire to serve on the board is genuine, and I come without an agenda. I have been attending board meetings for the past year so that if elected, I am already aware of current issues and topics and can be an impactful member on the board from day one. I have proactively received my Open Meetings Act Training Certification so that I am aware of how meetings must be conducted. I have also familiarized myself with Salado ISD’s budget, student handbook, and student code of conduct. I am dedicated to serving on the board to the best of my ability, and I would humbly appreciate your vote.
Question 1: The safety and security of our students must be our top priority. It is critical that our students and staff feel safe when they are on campus. In 2019, we added a police officer to the district to increase safety around the campuses. The Salado ISD Safety and Security Committee was also started in order to give the district feedback and recommendations on a host of security topics. This committee is comprised of parents, school board members, administration, local law enforcement, and military personnel. Over the last few years, we have added several security features. These include additional security fencing, security cameras, key card readers, as well as a security vestibule at our elementary school. All of these implements help protect our students. I do believe that as our district grows, we should consider adding officers, but this will need to be considered within our overall safety and security plan.
Question 2: Despite the challenges facing everyone this year, Salado is still growing faster than many districts in our area. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, a significant number of students chose to home school this year. While our enrollment is higher than last year, many districts enrollment has declined. There are benefits and drawbacks to lower than budgeted enrollment numbers. One drawback is that lower enrollment impacts our maintenance and operations budget, and we need our M&O budget for the day to day operations of the school district. However, lower than projected enrollment does give us more time to enjoy the space we have with fewer students per square foot of instructional space. Importantly, the Texas Education Agency instituted a “hold harmless” rule this year that allows our district to receive its projected funding for at least the first 18 weeks of school despite our lower than projected enrollment numbers.
Question 3: Preparing students for their future should be our mission and we should be open to a diverse curriculum to achieve this goal. The Texas Education Agency and the state legislature decide how funding flows from the state to school districts. For this school year, we are being funded whether a student is learning remotely or in person. If the state does not extend the remote learning agreement, we will not receive funding for students who remain remote learners. Long term, I do not believe we should be offering remote learning if we are able to get back to having all learners in person. Remote learning doubles the workload on the faculty that are required to educate students both in person and remotely. While our teachers are doing a great job under the circumstances, I do not believe we need to require it of them long-term. While we will be prepared if we are required to go fully remote again, I believe our goal should be to get all the students back in the classroom as it is safe to do so.
Question 4: Families move to Salado for the small community and the great schools. We need to work to keep this expectation going forward. One goal for our district should be to continue growing and expanding our curriculum. As mentioned in my previous columns, we need to continue to offer competitive academic programs. We need to build on programs like OnRamps, WIT and AVID. In addition, I would like to see growth in our agriculture, health sciences, and computer science programs. As appropriate, we should also expand our accelerated placement courses in our middle school and high school. Our curriculum needs to be varied and robust enough to prepare all our students for college and the competitive work environment they will face after completing their education in Salado.
Question 5: Salado ISD’s mission statement is to “empower today’s youth to be leaders in a global society through educational excellence.” I am running for re-election because I believe in this mission and I want Salado ISD to continue to achieve educational excellence for current and future students. Despite the struggles we have all faced this year, we need to continue to focus on making the decisions that put our students and families in the best position for success. As an long-term community member, local business owner, and the father of three Salado ISD students, I believe I am qualified to serve our school district. Thank you for taking the time to read our answers and for caring about our school district.