Marfa ISD school board votes to partner with bond consultants, renews administrator contracts, solicits auditorium renovation donations

MARFA — Marfa Independent School District’s board of trustees met twice this month to discuss everything from reorganizing the structure of the board to partnering with an architecture firm to assess whether a bond supporting the district’s many infrastructure projects is feasible. 

The board met March 21 and March 28. The Big Bend Sentinel was not present at the March 21 meeting but spoke with Superintendent Oscar Aguero after the fact and obtained a draft of the meeting minutes. All board members were present on March 21 and board members Ernie Villarreal, Yolanda Jurado, Lori Flores and Ruben Martinez were present on March 28. 

Aguero received permission from the board on March 28 to enter into contract negotiations with Claycomb Associates, Architects, who will assist the district as it explores the option of putting a bond on the ballot in an upcoming election. Aguero said the beginning stages will likely involve forming a committee made up of teachers, parents and other Marfa residents to discover the needs and wants of the larger community. 

“So, what the bond will be for right now we don’t know. [Claycomb will] help us go through the process to find out what we need and what the community believes we need,” said Aguero.

The district would have to settle on a specified amount for the bond, then put it to voters for approval, as bonds are repaid with interest using taxpayer dollars. 

There is no guarantee that a bond will come to fruition, said Aguero, but if it did, Claycomb Associates would likely be hired to perform the work, whether that means renovations of current buildings or the construction of entirely new facilities. The district will not pay Claycomb to perform the preliminary bond assistance, said Aguero. 

The district’s aging buildings have been a topic of great concern at the past few board meetings. Aguero said a bond might be a more cost effective way to address the laundry list of issues across campus facilities, including HVAC replacements, roof repairs, security upgrades and more. He said they are considering the bond for either the November 2022 election or May 2023 election, but the longer they wait the higher the cost of construction due to the price of materials rising. 

Aguero said he would also like to work with Claycomb soon to knock down a couple of walls at the elementary school in order to make classrooms bigger and received permission from the board to begin that negotiation process. 

The project to renovate the J.E. Gregg Auditorium over the summer is also moving along, with the school district soliciting public donations for new chairs, carpet, a fresh paint job and more. The Marfa Education Foundation donated just over $8,700, and the district will consider local contractors to perform the work, said Aguero. The board voted to approve the purchase of new air purifiers and filters for all classrooms, the gyms, field house, cafeteria and offices for a total of around $66,0000. As for the new track, Aguero told The Big Bend Sentinel that construction is on schedule and slated to be completed by May 26, the day before the high school graduation ceremony. 

At the March 21 meeting, the board also saw a shakeup in its leadership structure, as it recently welcomed two new members. Teresa Nuñez, who previously served as the board secretary, is now serving as board president, Yolanda Jurado as vice president and Rene Gonzales as secretary. Christa Marquez, who only became vice president of the board this past October, will continue to serve on the board but without an officer role. 

The board renewed Elementary Principal Amy White’s contract for the 2023-2024 school year, and approved a probationary contract for newly-appointed High School Principal Luane Porter for 2022-2023. The board also voted unanimously to extend Superintendent Aguero’s contract until the 2025 school year as well as increase the superintendent’s salary by two percent — an increase of about $12,000 to a new salary of $116,000 — and included a $10,000 housing allowance in the contract.