Last evening, July 23, 2016, I attended the regular meeting of the Fort Stockton Independent School District. This was the first time I have attended a school board meeting. I counted approximately 20 parents present in the, standing room only, board room. School Board Members present were as follows; Sandra Marquez, Freddie Martinez, Flo Garcia, Billy Espino, Nacho Dominguez, Tom Ezell, and Glenda Pasqua. Superintendent Ralph Traynham and Assistant Superintendent Paula Traynham were present. This will be a long letter, as I would like to recap the meeting. I am very disappointed in what took place.
The meeting was called to order at 7 p.m. Quorum was established and roll was called. After the pledge of allegiance and invocation were recited, the open forum section of the meeting was begun.
Ms. Lynn voiced her approval of standardized dress in schools amidst Facebook comments opposing the current dress code.
Mr. Billy Jackson addressed the board in open forum with the following concerns; teacher resignations, teacher transfers within the district, hiring and proper vetting of international teachers hired, the increasing number of students leaving FSISD to enroll in Buena Vista ISD, and the contracts awarded to school administrators.
The school district lost 50 teachers last year to resignations. Thirty-five teachers were transferred within the district last year. Mr. Jackson addressed concerns from teachers that changes need to be made, but they are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation in their positions within the campus. Fifty students from FSISD were enrolled in Buena Vista ISD last year. The enrollment at BVISD in 2016-2017 will be 75 FSISD students with 26 FSISD students on the waiting list.
Many who read this might ask themselves, “How did the school board react?”
According to the open forum policy in the FSISD Board Policy dated 4/29/2011, “There is no requirement that the Board negotiate or even respond to complaints. However, the Board must stop, look, and listen and must consider the petition, address, or remonstrance. Prof’l Ass’n of College Educators v. El Paso County Cmty. (College) Dist., 678 S.W.2d 94 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1984, writ ref’d n.r.e.)
The school board allots 30 minutes for the open forum section. You have five minutes to address the board. Delegations of more than five persons shall appoint one person to present their views before the Board. That equates to six parents or community members with the potential to address the board at every meeting.
I am asking Fort Stockton to stand up and make your voices heard. This request is for the benefit of our children and our community. The school board will not answer, but persistence will prevail.
After open forum was concluded, a special recognition was read in regards to the ICU programs. The Fort Stockton Middle School achieved 100 percent of all assignments turned in. This is a topic for another day. However, this was the only mention of academics at the meeting. Of the nine action items, none were to discuss or address issues pertaining to the education of our children.
The first action item was to consider approval of proposal for renovation of the softball and baseball facilities. A representative with the company that will handle the project began his presentation at approximately 7:40 p.m. and ended at approximately 8:30. I did not catch his name and it was not listed on the agenda.
The cost of this project is $5.8 million. That is right. I did not misquote that: $5.8 million. Of that, $1.2 million will be the cost to place artificial turf on the field. Tom Ezell proposed that the $1.2 million for artificial turf be removed and that the current grass fields be maintained.
Nacho Dominguez asked the Board to consider the long-term cost to maintain the grass fields in relation to the cost of the artificial turf. Monies to fund this project will come directly out of the general fund.
Tom Ezell proposed that an expenditure of this amount be sent for a bond election for the community to vote on. He voiced concern for spending that kind of money at this point in time. He pointed out that tax valuations are down due to the fluctuations in oil prices and that the district will be losing monies previously awarded by the state. He stated that the general fund has been built up in order to weather the hard financial times we are in.
He also made the comment that we did not need to spend that amount of money when we are “running teachers off.” Mr. Ezell’s proposal did not receive a motion. The officials you have elected to sit on the School Board did not even entertain the idea of a bond election.
Nacho Dominguez made a motion to approve the proposal to spend $5.8 million on renovations to the softball and baseball facilities as presented. Flo Garcia gave the second and the vote passed with only Tom Ezell voting against.
My question is this; how will that sports complex benefit the education of our students? What could $5.8 million divided between the campuses do for teacher retention, educational materials, and benefits to the students? Our elected officials just took the potential of $1.16 million from each campus, our teachers and our students for the renovation of an athletic facility.
I have spoken with four of the seven school board members. They all voiced that teacher retention and the hiring of quality teachers was a concern. They just took $5.8 million dollars away from our current and future teachers. This has to stop!
After action items were addressed, Mr. Billy Jackson spoke to the board in regards to school safety and the need for a Student Resource Officer (SRO) to be placed in the Middle School and High School. He stated that the program began in 1992 and has not been in place since 2014. There is a lot of history to this that I cannot accurately relate in this letter to the editor and community. I myself do not hold the facts in hand.
In the end, the Board agreed that they need to collaborate with the city on the subject of placing SRO officers in the schools. In my opinion, this was a very heated discussion. I do not want to go into detail because I do not want to misquote anyone.
This is why I am urging our community and parents to attend meetings. You need to see for yourself what takes place. You need to be informed.
I am dumbfounded that something as simple as keeping our children safe at school was such a heated discussion, but a vote was passed, with minimal discussion, to spend $5.8 million on an athletic facility.
At approximately 9:40 p.m., the school board went into closed session. Open session was resumed at 11:54 p.m. At this point, there were only three of the approximately 20 parents in attendance. Mrs. Traynham reported, by name, the new hires to the district. She did not, however, read resignations or transfers. I do not know if that information has been read in the past. I have only heard reports on the news and read past minutes posted on the FSISD website.
On May 18, 2016, I met with Mrs. Traynham and voiced several concerns. I specifically spoke to her about the number of students who were enrolled in Buena Vista ISD. I was told that the percentage was so low that she was not concerned. So I ask this, “How many students do we have to lose for the percentage to be of concern?”
In closing, I urge you to go online and review the minutes of this meeting. See if what I am telling you is openly reflected for the public to read. I know I will be looking. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Thank you.
Concerned parent and community member