San Marcos CISD candidates talk classroom size, student achievement

There are two seats on the San Marcos CISD board of trustees that are up for grabs in the May 11. Kathy Hansen is running unopposed for her District 4 seat, and incumbent John Crowley and challenger Michelle Hamilton are squaring off for the District 5 seat. We asked each candidate three questions:

1. According to a TEA report from the 2011–2012 academic year, SMCISD is averaging between three and four students per classroom more than the state average. What can you do to ensure that each student receives the attention they need to succeed in the classroom?

2. Why should voters choose you?

3. What's the most pressing issue facing the district, and what would you do about it?

Hamilton:

1. As a future SMCISD trustee, I believe that it is important to understand the impact of the AEIS (Texas Education Agency's Academic Excellence Indicator System) data indicator that you are considering within the educational context. While research does show that class size is an important factor in student success, other factors are also important to consider. Teacher experience, grade level and student performance all must be analyzed simultaneously to understand the data or make recommendations for change in current policy.

2. Professionally, I am an educator. I began my career over 25 years ago as a physical education teacher in Michigan. I went back to school to get my PhD and worked with children who are at risk for academic delay in Flint, Mich. Currently, I am a faculty member in the area of health and human performance and the director for the Center for P-16 Initiatives at Texas State. In the past six years, I have worked in many community-based initiatives to support education in San Marcos.

Personally, I am also a parent with an 11-year old son who is currently enrolled in SMCISD. I guess you could say that I have "skin in the game."

3.Collectively, we all have an economic interest in making sure that our students are contributing members to the San Marcos community after graduation. I would say that one of our most pressing issues is ensuring our students who graduate from high school have a plan for life beyond high school graduation. Too many students in Central Texas graduate without being college and career ready. I think we need to begin defining our success as a school system, in part, by the number of students who attain a professional certificate or enroll in a post-secondary institution beyond high school.

Crowley:

1. I hold the superintendent accountable for academic performance and for staffing all the district campuses to ensure high academic achievement. Board agendas need to have more information on what is occurring in the district in terms of improving student achievement. I support expanding Pre-K so students are better academically prepared when they begin their K-12 education.

2. My experience as a trustee. I will be 100 percent aware of district operations (will have a zero learning curve), and my record over the last three years has helped SMCISD make some great improvements. I have worked in public schools for more than 15 years and work daily with district principals, administrators and staff. My strong knowledge of public school finance and budgeting and three years of serving on the finance committee is another positive reason for re-election.

3. Increasing student academic achievement and adequately funding the district's operations, especially after $4 million in funding cuts. The superintendent is addressing curriculum and focusing on more rapid improvement in student success and closing the achievement gaps between student groups. SMCISD is working on a zero-based budgeting process and examining all expenditures, which has the potential of saving over $1 million.

Hansen:

1. Data from TEA is useful in providing information about how SMCISD compares with the combined districts in Texas, but I think it's more important to rely on information from our staff, teachers and administrators, as to what our students need to achieve at high levels. We have the staff needed to educate all of our students. If additonal staff members are needed, we rely on them to let us know so that we can provide the resources necessary to meet these needs. Everyone in SMCISD is working toward the same goal of high achievement for all students.

2. My experience includes teaching in the public schools for 32 years with 30 of those years in San Marcos CISD. This experience has allowed me to provide insight, for the past six years that I have served on the school board, that can assist in making decisions in the best interest of all of our students. Before I vote, I always consider how the decision will impact our students and teachers. I take my role as a trustee very seriously by preparing carefully for each meeting, attending training to improve my knowledge in education, and listening carefully to all constituents.

3. Academic achievement is always my top priority. It's imperative that the state provides all school districts with the funding to ensure that each student receives the education needed to meet their academic potential. It is the duty of the school board to provide the resources for our staff to provide the education needed by each student. We do our best as trustees, and the Legislature must do the same by restoring funding during this current session so that our local school district can operate at its best, and that means educating every student in San Marcos CISD at their highest academic level.