June 15, 2022 635 PM
MARFA — The Marfa Independent School Board of trustees gathered this week, between their summer bond-focused workshops, for a regular meeting to discuss preliminary STAAR test scores, salary structures for district staff and to finalize the contract for a new business specialist.
Present were board members Lori Flores, Christa Marquez, Teresa Nuñez, Ruben Martinez and Superintendent Oscar Aguero.
The board also discussed campus security in the wake of the mass elementary school shooting in Uvalde, including the possibility of permitting teachers and staff to carry weapons; the school district has also partnered with city council to apply for a grant to hire an armed school resource officer to remain on campus. The Big Bend Sentinel’s coverage of those discussions can also be found in the June 16, 2022 issue of the newspaper.
STAAR Test Results
Aguero shared preliminary State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) Test results for grades 3 through 8, stating there were increased passing scores in some areas and decreased in others. Overall, across grade levels, math scores were down compared to reading, he said — a trend reflected across the state.
Official results would be in soon, said Aguero, and parents would be able to access their student’s scores online as early as June 17. Students who did not receive passing scores will be required to return to school earlier to attend tutoring sessions, for which the school is considering utilizing a live virtual educator program called iTutor, said Aguero. House Bill 4545 requires school districts to provide 30 hours of additional instructional time per each subject a student doesn’t pass on the STAAR test.
Moving forward, he said, school administrators, as well as students and teachers, would be asking themselves some key questions in setting plans for the 2022-23 academic year this coming August. Adult staff members will be prompted to consider how to instill positive changes and set realistic expectations for students, he said.
“This is how we’re going to focus our students for next year. Where are we with each kid? And what do we do? Where do we want this kid to be?,” said Aguero. “Student outcomes don’t change until adult behaviors change.”
Bianca Gonzalez, business specialist with MISD, walked board members through the compensation plan for the 2022-23 school year. Aguero said the board would notice he and Gonzalez shook things up this year regarding the structure of staff salaries in an effort to address ongoing issues, incentivize more teachers and support staff to stay with the district and ensure pay rates were sustainable moving forward.
Gonzalez said their adjustments were, in part, a result of the state raising minimum pay a few years ago. She said before that MISD’s salaries were more competitive but the state bumps were significant and they were finally assessing not just meeting the now higher state minimum pay, but exceeding it.
“We asked teachers to do so much,” said Gonzalez. “Most of them would do [additional duties] out of the kindness of their hearts. But it’s nice to get some money for having kindness in your heart.”
Aguero chimed in that it was helpful to be able to say the district offers above the state minimum salary when recruiting new teachers, as well as retaining existing teachers. Aguero said he’d like to be able to offer $1,500 above state minimum and ensure teachers who have been with the district eight years or longer were seeing salary increases versus plateauing, which had been an issue in the past.
“Some of our teachers are gonna get a nice raise this year, and it’s mainly those that have been teaching the longest,” said Aguero.
The new plan involves creating salary midpoints and levels for support staff including administration, secretaries and custodians, in order to create a way for them to achieve higher and more routine raises through supervision evaluations and recommendations, as opposed to the current system where they have one base salary.
The plan also includes a new voluntary separation notice incentive, which Gonzalez said could have been helpful this year, giving the district a heads up about which teachers wouldn’t be returning for the following year so recruitment efforts could be expedited.
The review of the compensation plan wrapped up with the board deciding to further review documents and continue discussions at the next regular board meeting. They intend to assess healthcare plans as well, including the possibility of adding life insurance and medical flight insurance.
In mixed news, the board finalized the contract for a new business specialist, with Gonzalez to remain working in the district but moving on to another role. Rosela Rivera, graduate of Marfa High School Class of ‘97, and previous business manager at Balmorhea ISD, will be taking over the role.
Rivera said she was excited to be coming back to her hometown, has previous experience working as a part of an administration going through a bond — Balmorhea passed a bond for a new kindergarten through twelfth grade campus in 2019 — and likes the direction the Marfa school board is going with the bond.
“Eight years in Balmorhea has given me experience, professional and personal development. I feel like I can come into Marfa and do well for Marfa,” said Rivera.
In anticipation of the school board’s attendance at the Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) conference hosted by the Texas Association of School Boards in San Antonio this week, Aguero addressed the board, stating he was excited about the group and their momentum to make change. He emphasized the importance of focusing on attending conference sessions that would benefit Marfa in particular. He said his ultimate goal was to nominate the board for school board of the year next year for Region 18, the education service center serving the West Texas area.
“I already feel like this board is moving in the right direction,” said Aguero.