School board hears security camera updates, finalizes district staff pay

MARFA — The Marfa Independent School District Board met briefly on Tuesday to handle mixed business including new security cameras and the staff compensation plan for the 2022-2023 school year. 

Ernie Villarreal, Lori Flores, Teresa Nuñez, Yolanda Jurado, Ruben Martinez and Superintendent Oscar Aguero were all present. Aguero first gave his superintendent’s report, stating early August was full of festive events to kick off the year ahead of school starting on August 17. Incoming seniors will paint North Gonzales Street at 7 p.m. August 10. Parents and community members will have an opportunity to meet teachers and the fall’s student sports participants at meet-and-greet events on campus starting at 4:30 p.m. August 15. 

Aguero said facilities were being prepped for the start of school — disinfection company GermBlast recently serviced facilities, and the high school gym floor was resealed. He provided a print out with the total donations the district has received for the auditorium renovation project, which are now totaling around $16,000. 

Next, the board discussed recalling Christa Marquez, who recently resigned from the school board, from her role representing MISD on the Presidio County Appraisal District board. The school board opted to recall Marquez and appointed Villarreal to serve in her place, with many stating his experience as a certified tax-assessor collector make him a good candidate. 

Aguero then asked for the board’s permission to enter into contract negotiations with security camera company Verkada. He said the district was looking to install 37 new cameras, the bulk of which would be leased, by September. Some outdoor cameras would be motion-detected, he said, and indoor cameras would be a mixture of 180 and 360 degree radiuses to help cover the building’s blindspots. 

The cameras would be primarily web-based, he said, but the district was looking into how to hardwire a few to act as backups in the event of an internet outage and was assessing its current internet provider, Big Bend Telephone. Aguero said who the district allows to access the live security camera footage was very customizable, but the Marfa Police Department and principals would have access. Teachers could even be allowed access to view a live stream of the hallway outside of their door on their cell phone, for example. 

The board is currently pursuing putting a school bond on the ballot in the upcoming November election to fund, potentially, an all-new K-12 building. When board members asked if the security cameras could be moved and reinstalled in other facilities, in the case the school bond passes and a new building constructed, Aguero said that was a possibility. The district has a remaining $12,000 in grant monies to allocate to the new cameras. Depending on whether the district chooses a five or ten year lease, the new security camera system will run them somewhere from $81,000 to $125,000. 

In closing, the board reviewed salary structures for district support staff such as maintenance personnel and instructional aids. This budget cycle, the district shook up its plan for hourly worker compensation, changing salaries from a single scale to a multiple level scale in order to help longer-term employees achieve more regular raises through evaluations.

Some board members previously raised concerns about the new multiple midpoint salary system, wondering if a step system where employees received raises every year they stay with the district would be more beneficial. But because that involves assessing individual employees, there wasn’t adequate time to assess and potentially implement that system so close to the school year, some said. The board ultimately voted to approve the compensation plan for the 2022-23 school year and will reevaluate the support staff salary structure next budget cycle. 

The school board will hold one final community bond workshop meeting on Monday, August 1, at 5 p.m. in the district conference room located at the administration offices at 400 W Lincoln St. All are welcome.