SMCISD owns the building at 501 S. LBJ Drive that the nonprofit has used for 10 years to provide classes and activities in Hispanic culture, heritage and art open to the San Marcos community, according to its webpage. Centro rents the building—formerly called the Mexican School during segregation—from SMCISD for $6,650 a year.
“I’d ask that you consider postponing the decision to call for an appraisal or possible sale of this property, take a step back and continue to have conversations about what preservation of a historic building does and what it is, and what its benefits are to the community. Preservation matters,” said Dr. Rosina Valle, a founding member of Centro, during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Instructors, teachers and other educators from both the school district, Texas State University and elsewhere also spoke to the community center’s significance.
Patrick Smith, the coordinator of bilingual literacy education at Texas State said the center has helped them grow the number of highly qualified bilingual and dual-language teachers they prepare.
“They come to the center to study the history of how Mexican-American children have been educated. We use the museums, exhibits and classrooms at Centro to learn about the segregation of Spanish-speaking children, and the educational rights of bilingual immigrant families,” Smith said.
The board was initially going to discuss the potential to sell the property in executive session, but after the outpouring of public comments, trustees moved to hear from the district’s lawyers in open session. Board members expressed confusion, with Trustee Anne Halsey taking issue with her perception that the item was placed on the agenda in haste.
“I expected we would be getting a report from the committee and potentially a recommendation on an action item. I didn’t think we were going to suddenly move into a discussion with a lawyer about whether or not we’re going to sell this one particular property,” Halsey said.
The board tabled the agenda item to take it up at a later date.