August 28, 2019 800 PM
MARFA – Superintendent Oscar Aguero was back in his element. At 7:45am he was shaking hands, bumping fists and high-fiving elementary students who paraded into the cafeteria to begin the first day of the 2019-2020 school year this Monday. Marfa High School Principal Dr. John Sherrill and Marfa Police joined the welcome wagon as kids unloaded from the school buses and arrived on foot with parents in tow.
Across campus, Sherrill and Aguero arrived to greet a bustling auditorium of high schoolers. As students settled in for the orientation, newly minted ninth grader Samuel Salgado told The Big Bend Sentinel he had a good summer in South Texas, but was still kind of excited to be back in school. After spending time with his grandparents and attempting to build a go kart, Salgado was eager to get into his welding classes, which would accelerate his kart’s construction.
Aguero, now in the midst of his fifth first day with the Marfa school district, told the auditorium a bit of back story. When he first arrived to the Marfa schools, they were rated “academically unacceptable” by the Texas Education Agency, receiving a failing “F” grade.
The superintendent thanked his students – in the past few years, the school has turned its grade around, achieving a high C, 79, two years ago, and last year improving leaps and bounds to reach a B grade of 87. Then he encouraged them to press on toward this year’s new goal of 91, an A rating. He was counting on them to challenge themselves, because their academic performance would change the school’s grade.
Classes began, and as Marfa’s 341 students settled into the new year, Aguero visited every classroom to greet teachers and students and offer encouragement for the coming year.
Kindergarteners told him they were busy learning manners. Third graders in Montessori 1-3 were being paired with first graders, tasked with helping them navigate throughout the school year.
Elementary music classes and the band program are being fully revived this year, after Aguero had previously shut down the program to cut costs when it was struggling to keep a music teacher and band director on staff.
On Monday morning band director Amber Strach bustled around her music room, preparing for classes and worrying that the school only had half the number of recorders they needed. The dire financial constraints currently faced by the district would be laid bare that night at the school board’s budget meeting.
By the time Marfa High School students had settled into the rhythm of classes, Dr. Sherrill’s morning announcements echoed through their halls. After the pledge of allegiance, pledge to the Texas flag and a moment of silence, Sherrill concluded, “Make it a great day or not – it’s your choice.”