San Marcos CISD board postpones action on curriculum staffing

The San Marcos CISD board of trustees voted March 25 to renew the contracts for all but two of its administrators.

The board members voted 5-2, with trustees David Castillo and John Crowley opposing, to approve the package of staffing recommendations made by Superintendent Mark Eads. The recommendation included taking no action on the contracts for a pair of administrators who oversee curriculum and instruction.

The vote came the same evening that trustees heard a report showing that San Marcos CISD campuses had fallen short of the Texas average in more than half of the state-mandated exams taken by third- through eighth-grade students in 2012.

Greg Rodriguez, the San Marcos CISD director of accountability and school improvement, said the district's scores were similar to the state average for almost all of the exams. There were two exceptions, however. The district outperformed the state average, 79 percent to 68 percent, in fourth-grade math, while San Marcos CISD's eighth-grade social studies performance was 47 percent, compared with a statewide average of 59 percent.

"We know we have to change the way we teach and the way we do business," Rodriguez said.

Final results from the 2012 State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness were released to San Marcos CISD in January, Rodriguez said. The 2013 tests are scheduled for the first week of April.

During the board meeting, Eads said the district has taken several steps to improve scores, such as incorporating technology in campuses and making adjustments to staffing.

"There have been some programs implemented and changed as well," Eads said. "We have also refocused on instructional coaches. We're actually making gains from the previous year."

After the meeting, Eads said he recommended taking no action on the contracts for Yolanda Almendarez, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, and Pam Guettner, director of curriculum and instruction.

"I recommended to approve an extension of all administrators' contracts," Eads said. "I took no action on two administrators' contracts. When I take no action, it's one of three reasons. Either the employee has told me they're going to retire in the future ... or told me they're going to resign, ... or I will be reassigning them to a new position, and if I do that, I don't do that until June."

Eads declined to say which of the three reasons went into his recommendations for Almendarez' and Guettner's contracts.

Although it was not discussed at the March 25 board meeting, four of San Marcos CISD's nine campuses also fell short of the Texas Education Agency's standards for adequate yearly progress in 2011–12, according to a TEA report released in February.

The high school, both middle schools and Crockett and Mendez elementary schools missed the benchmark. Bowie, De Zavala, Travis and Hernandez elementary schools met requirements for adequate yearly progress.

Also at the March 25 meeting, trustees voted to change the academic grading calendar from a six-week grading period to a nine-week grading period. San Marcos High School already uses a nine-week grading period, and administrators said the switch would allow teachers more time for instruction.

Eads said district officials would also be taking a hard look at possible shortfalls in the 2013–14 budget.

"My hope is we do not have to cut any staff," Eads said. "I do not anticipate letting anyone go. There may be some positions that are not filled."

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