Marfa School Board accepts resignation of Board Member Christa Marquez, discusses start of school year, salary structures for support staff at latest meeting 

MARFA — School board members met Monday for a brief meeting in which they accepted the resignation of Board Member Christa Marquez, reviewed plans for the upcoming school year and assessed salary structures for the district’s staff. 

Superintendent Oscar Aguero was present as were board members Lori Flores, Rene Gonzales, Teresa Nuñez, Yolanda Jurado, Ruben Martinez and Ernie Villarreal. 

Aguero, in delivering his Superintendent’s Report, said that at the moment the district had enough teachers employed to start school, but would ideally still like to bring on a reading and math interventionist and a secondary social studies teacher-slash-coach. He said despite spreading the word and contacting people around the state, the district wasn’t having much success in receiving job applications — which he attributed to a statewide worker shortage in the field of education. 

“It’s all across the state. It’s not just us,” said Aguero. 

Next, the board went over various security updates, including a letter from Governor Greg Abbott to the TEA which states schools must perform weekly checks of exterior doors. High School Principal Luane Porter said school staff were continuing to meet with local law enforcement to review the campus’ buildings. 

This coming school year, said Aguero, the school will have a new professional development program for staff hosted by the Colorado-based foundation “I Love U Guys,” which will visit the school to train staff on “standard response protocol,” or how to respond to an active threat situation, thanks to funding provided by the Marfa Education Foundation.

Aguero updated the board on his meeting the previous week with city council members, in which the city agreed to partner with the school to hire a school resource officer (SRO) regardless of whether or not the city is awarded grant funding for the position. Aguero explained that the SRO would only work during the school year and would perform foot patrols of the campus’ buildings and exterior. Gonzales asked whether the school might be able to provide the officer with a golf cart so they could more easily get around campus, to which Aguero said that was a possibility. 

Jurado addressed school staff, wondering if clear backpacks were going to be a requirement this coming year in addition to the regular list of school supplies, which was recently made available on the district’s website. Porter said she supported the idea of transparent backpacks — which some school districts, including Dallas ISD, are requiring for the coming school year as extra safety precautions — but was unsure how readily available they were. Due to supply chain issues, Aguero said it wouldn’t be fair to require parents to purchase clear backpacks with school starting in just one month. 

After approving two budget amendments, Villarreal asked about the status of auditorium renovation campaign funds. Aguero said donations weren’t pouring in but they had received a recent donation from the Class of ‘72 for $2,400 and were continuing to accept contributions.

The first item under new business was to discuss the resignation of Christa Marquez from the school board. Marquez served on the board for just over two years. Her seat, Place 1, will be up for reelection this coming May. Board members went back and forth on whether or not to replace Marquez or simply let the seat remain vacant until the election in May of 2023. 

Aguero recommended not appointing a new member, stating the current board had momentum and attempting to open up letters of interest, select a candidate and train them before the school year starts on August 17 would be a challenge. Plus, it would be a challenging time for a new board member to start — the board is currently in talks to put a bond on the ballot in the upcoming November election to fund an overhaul of campus facilities. 

“I like the dynamic of our current board. And I’m not sure bringing in someone so close to the bond election would affect our dynamic,” said Villarreal. 

“It’s a hard time to be on the board. We’re about to ask the community [for] a tough decision,” Aguero added, referring to the bond election. 

Jurado said she agreed but felt like the board owed it to the public to open up letters of interest. 

“I do understand the dynamic and I love the dynamic. I know it’s a critical time because of the bond, but I’m also thinking of the public and school as a whole, and we’re a board of seven,” said Jurado, who also agreed having someone go through all the necessary training just to have to run for reelection in May was a tough sell. 

Marquez also serves as one of the district’s representatives on the Presidio County Appraisal District Board in addition to Nuñez. School board members worried if Marquez decided to roll off of the PCAD Board as well they would lose their two-member voice on the board and might have to give it up to another entity. They may choose to recall her from the position at a later date but did not yet move to do so. 

In the end, the majority of the board voted not to fill Marquez’s seat, with only Jurado voting against the decision. Marquez did not respond to a request for comment from The Big Bend Sentinel regarding her resignation. 

Lastly, the board reviewed structures for staff salaries which were originally presented to them in June. Some board members argued for greater transparency for the salaries of custodians and aids, stating they should be on a step system based on years served, similar to the teaching staff. After some back and forth, the board voted to approve the compensation plan for teachers, nurses, counselors, and administrative personnel and will meet for a brief meeting next week to solidify the plans for maintenance and paraprofessional staff. The regular board meeting was then followed by a community bond meeting. The Big Bend Sentinel’s coverage of that meeting can also be found in the July 21, 2022 issue of the newspaper.