Marfa school board unable to nominate new president, but does pledge to have face-to-face class next year 

MARFA – At Monday’s meeting, the Marfa Independent School District Board struggled to nominate a new board president, but was able to come together to make a pledge to have only face-to-face classes next school year, barring another coronavirus outbreak.

At the beginning of the meeting, new board member Rene Gonzales was sworn into his position. Then Superintendent Oscar Aguero moved onto his report. Aguero gave an overview of the preliminary results from the STAAR exams, highlighting how certain grades struggled with the math portion of the tests. He said the dip in the results could, in part, be pinned on the turn to online learning throughout the course of the pandemic. It was also the first time the students took the STAAR exam online.

Aguero’s report was not all gloomy though: He announced that the school is slated to receive $1,068,000 from the federal government over the course of the next three years. The money is part of a coronavirus relief package for schools.

Aguero said that 20% of that money must be used for “learning loss” sustained by the district throughout the course of the pandemic. Another portion would be allocated toward preventing the spread of the virus – plexiglass shields, disinfectants, etc. The rest would be at the district’s discretion. Aguero said they have until July 27 to come up with a plan on how to spend the money. “We need to put some money in math,” he said, adding that the district is looking into possibly hiring tutors for students who are falling behind in class.

The board then discussed a shake up in the committee’s hierarchy. It was motioned by Board President Katie Price Fowlkes to restructure the board to where Christa Marquez would become president, Price Fowlkes would step down to VP and Teresa Nunez would remain secretary.

The motion initially passed with four fors and three nays, however Shawn Brugette – who had voted in favor of the motion – rescinded his vote and chose to abstain, leaving the tally dead even at three to three.

Yolanda Jurardo then suggested for Nunez, the current board secretary, to be in the running for president. After a bit of discussion, the board voted on nominating Nunez to be president, yet the tally again resulted in a tie: three in favor, three against, and one abstention.

While trying to figure out how to break a tie in accordance with the school board’s policies, the members debated who should fill which roles.

Nunez, who wanted the role of president, said that veteran board members like herself should be at the top of the committee hierarchy. Price Fowlkes said she motioned for Marquez to be president – even though she is relatively new – as Marquez has been very engaged at the meetings since joining the board.

Before Brugette felt comfortable making a vote, he wanted to know who the candidates would be in advance of the meeting. Gonzales, who had just been sworn in that meeting, agreed. The board eventually tabled the motion for the next meeting.

Toward the end of the meeting, the board passed a motion to only offer face-to-face instruction for the next school year. Aguero said that the teachers needed information on the school’s plans regarding online classes. “Five teachers will leave us if we have mixed teaching [next year],” he said. The board was most concerned about whether this motion would be tying the board’s hands: for instance, if there were another coronavirus outbreak, would the school be forced to only offer in-person teaching? Aguero said that they could always make a future motion to go back online, but stressed that the teachers wanted to know the board’s plans sooner rather than later. In the end, the motion passed.