2023 Bond Package - $321,500,000
On January 17th, the current school board voted to call a $321,500,000 bond package to build two additional elementary schools, a police station/operations center, and make additional renovations/upgrades to current schools and facilities. The bond election will be held same time as the school board election on May 6th.
I have mixed feelings about this bond package. The district is so far behind the rapid growth in facilities after not passing a bond in 14 years that we do need this bond. However, I believe if we are going to ask the community to invest in our schools then we have to ensure the district is providing a better return on investment to the community. We also need to look into ways we can put some of this money back into the community such as finding ways to make sure workers from our community are able to work on these projects or local companies are able to provide services for some of these projects.
As Trustee, I would also support a community bond oversight committee to ensure accountability of previous bonds, this bond should it pass, and all future bonds.
Part of ensuring adequate representation and diversity on our school board means changing the way we elect school board trustees from at-large to single-member districts.
I believe Bastrop ISD should change to a single-member district system of voting in order to allow for better representation of communities around the district. Under single member district systems, the school district is divided into a number of geographically defined voting districts, each represented by a single elected official. Voters can only vote for their district’s representative, with the highest vote-getter winning election, even if he or she has received less than half of the vote. With this system there are challenges such as gerrymandering but it gives disadvantaged communities and candidates of color a chance at equal and fair representation.
As a trustee I will propose a 5-2 single-member election system. Under my plan, the district will be broken up into 5 single-member districts in which we will elect 5 school board trustees representing each of those districts, and we will elect 2 at large trustees who represent the entire district. This plan will allow for a more diverse school board and provide equal representation for every student within our district.
I also do not agree with the appointment of school board trustees when a current member resigns or doesn't run for re-election. I believe the people should always have a say in who their representatives will be and they have that say through voting.
School Ratings & Performance
Currently our TEA rating is a C (75) down from an (B)81. Our literacy rate is 32% with a math proficiency rating of 38%.
The number one priority of an educational institution should be academic achievement.
Since 2013 the academic performance of Bastrop ISD has continued to decline due to various factors such as a high economically disadvantaged population and a high number of non-english speaking students. Data shows that from 2010 to 2019 our reading proficiency rate went from 82% in 2010 down to 32%. Our math proficiency has equally plummeted from 83% in 2010 down to 38% in 2019.
Many people will say that the current TEA rating system is flawed and unfair. However, I say if that's the standard that we have been given then we must at least strive to meet and exceed that standard until someone comes up with a better rating system and better way of tracking academic performance. It's not just TEA ratings that rate Bastrop ISD as low performing. Almost every rating and review report rates Bastrop ISD as below average. Many reviews from community members also speak poorly about the district and its leadership.
I believe the success of the city and community of Bastrop County starts with Bastrop ISD. As our community grows, when perspective homebuyers look to relocate to Bastrop one of the first factors they look at are the schools especially if they have children. Although we may not agree with the ratings or the factors behind the ratings, those ratings have a huge impact on the growth and success of our community.
As a trustee, I will strive to improve our academic performance, our infrastructure, and our staff to ensure Bastrop ISD returns to a world class educational institution. I will work to restore the integrity and reputation of Bastrop ISD to where it belongs as a world class educational institution.
According to data, Bastrop ISD teachers are paid an average of $4,000 less than the state average teacher salary. Our teachers with over 20 plus years of experience are paid an average of $4,500 less than the state average salary of a teacher with 20 plus years of service. Meanwhile our administration staff is paid an average of $5,000 more than the state average administration staff.
As a trustee I will fight and advocate for our teachers first and foremost. Nobody knows what's best for the classroom or the students better than the teachers who are on the front lines in the classrooms every day. Our students education is only as good as the teachers who educate them and in order to attract and hire the best teachers we have to pay them and equip them with the best facilities and resources. We have to get our teacher salaries up to par with state averages and create incentives to attract and retain bilingual teachers as well as incentives for all of our teachers. We also have to get our teachers the best classroom resources, equipment, facilities, and training to give our students the best education in the world.
Every single employee of the district is vital the success of our district.
As the largest employer in Bastrop County, Bastrop ISD has to set a high standard of excellence in our workplaces. We have to ensure every one of our employees are paid livable wages and ensure we support them with the resources they need to perform their duties for the district at a high level.
As a trustee, I will support and listen to representatives of all employees. Bus drivers, janitors, food service, administrators, principals, coaches, medical and our law enforcement officers all play a major part in the educational process of our students. I will advocate to find ways to increase employee minimum wage to $18 an hour. I also support looking into district contracts with Goldstar, SSC, and Aramark to ensure they are fiscally responsible and look into the benefit of making those employees district employees not contractors.
Safety & Security
The safety and security of all students, staff, and visitors should be a major priority within the district. I believe we should utilize our police department primarily to ensure their safety instead of dealing with mostly student issues.
I believe every campus should have at least two full-time police officers with one officer doing a roving patrol around the outside perimeter and exterior school grounds while the other officer does a roving patrol of the interior ensuring all doors are secure and no unauthorized personnel are inside.
I also believe we need to modernize security protocols and utilize updated technology to help ensure the safety and security of everyone on our campuses, at our athletic events, and other school functions.
Educational equality is achieved when every student has the tools they need to achieve academic and social success.
In Bastrop ISD, we have to ensure that every student no matter their race, gender, political affiliation, economic status, or family background has the resources needed to attain and maintain academic success. District wide we have a high percentage of disadvantaged students who do not have the same resources or get the same support as many students in the inner parts of the district. We need to identify the needs of all our students and develop programs, both academic and social, that meet the needs of all students and provides adequate resources district wide.
A common issue constantly heard throughout the community is the lack of communication or engagement from not only the district but from school board members.
As a community leader, I believe that an elected official should strive to be as engaged with their communities as possible. Too many times especially in the past year we have seen and heard many parents, students, and others mention issues about the lack of communication on vital issues from district leadership. Many community events or informational sessions are low attended or simply not known about especially in the outer areas of the district. As a school board member I will strive, just as I do now, to stay up to date with the happenings in the community and keep everyone informed of vital issues or decisions facing the school board about the district. I will also look to find ways to increase engagement within our district to ensure every student, parent, and community member is engaged with the happenings around the district.
Fiscal Responsibility is an important part of academic achievement. Spending the money where its most needed and making sure every cent has maximum impact.
In our current educational systems we spend a lot of money on things that do not matter and we rely too heavily on state or federal funding. State and federal funding isn't always reliable, so why do we budget and plan on income that we may or may not get which sometimes leaves many districts operating in the red. We should do budget reviews to see where we are spending money and how we can cut back on funds that we do not need and reallocate funds to critical academic needs. We shouldn't budget funds that may or may not come. We should maximize the funds that are guaranteed and when those additional funds come, if they come, then that's great and we should allocate them to other critical academic areas.
Discipline & Structure
I believe firmly in discipline and structure. School is one of the many places where I learned how to be disciplined and live a structured life. I've heard a lot of concerns about the discipline issues within our schools with students being disruptive, violent, or worse.
Our schools should be the model for discipline and structure which creates a safe learning environment. We should adopt a sensible dress code, a zero tolerance policy for violent offenses, and adopt a real world business type attitude especially for our older students.
I also believe that not only our students should exhibit a high level of discipline, our teachers and all staff should also exhibit a high standard of discipline with a zero tolerance approach to teacher and staff indiscretions as well.