August 2, 2023 533 PM
To the good people of Marfa, TX,
Like the guy said, it’s deja vu all over again.
About six years or so ago I was on the school board, and it became necessary to hire a superintendent. I wanted to search for a candidate, interview and find the best person for the job.
It did not happen that way. I did get the board to advertise the job, and we received resumes from two well-respected educators with some strong recommendations. However, the rest of the board refused to interview either one. Mr. Aguero was hired. One board member made the comment we would lose Montessori if he wasn’t hired. This is not an indictment against Mr. Aguero. I just thought we should look at all our options.
My point is we seem to be in the same situation. I do not understand why you would not want to find the best people for the job. Mr. Alferez may be the best person, but until you advertise, get candidates and interview, you will never know. If the board wanted to hire from within, why was the high school principal not asked to apply? I understand she did a very good job and had the certifications.
I do not understand why the board would not want to go outside the district to look for staff. Hiring from outside can bring new ideas, new styles and expose students to new things. Isn’t that what a school is supposed to do, broaden student minds?
If a district doesn’t hire from outside, it can get the reputation it is a closed system and sometimes good applicants won’t apply.
I understand a good teacher resigned and she had a change of plans and wanted to stay. My understanding is, the building principal brought her name back to the board. The board failed to rehire her. What’s going on there? In a district where housing, healthcare and long distances from major stores is an issue, why wouldn’t you hire a certified teacher that wants to stay in the district? It’s obvious the principal thought she did a good job or she wouldn’t have brought her name back to the board. The question is will the district have a certified teacher in that position when school starts?
The way hiring works in almost all districts, the superintendent is hired by the board. The superintendent and a committee will interview building principals and recommend one to be hired. The principal and a committee will interview classroom teachers and recommend candidates to the board to hire. This way administration and teaching staff generally have the same teaching philosophy and work better together. I don’t believe state policy has boards hiring at the classroom level.
I can’t speak very well to the child molestation issue as I don’t know much about it. Having said that, it is the most important issue this board faces. Protecting our children is JOB #1. While these acts may not have happened at school, one of the alleged perpetrators worked at school.
I do know this: when a child is harmed, either physically or mentally, and needs help in a small town, the school is the place we go. The school usually has more resources than any other entity in the community.
Frank (Buddy) Knight
Being a teacher at Marfa High School is the most fun and fulfilling job I’ve ever had. I laugh every day, and I am surrounded by colleagues who truly go above and beyond for the students we work with. Our small staff works hard to give students a great school experience, through extracurriculars and competitions, through a culture of caring fostered by small classes and our tightly knit community. We offer theater and robotics classes, teachers sacrifice weekends to pile kids in the Suburban to compete across Texas in golf or track, to travel to science fairs and the Visual Art Scholastic Event.
I know that I couldn’t do my job as well in another school: MISD has given me a lot of freedom to develop the art, journalism, and yearbook classes into what I envision. My students are granted enormous journalistic freedom to report on happenings at MISD, and the administration has always been happy to grant walking field trip requests for my art students to see shows and artist studios around town, even at short notice. Moreover, the small class sizes and overwhelming support from staff makes teaching mostly fun and always rewarding. I have friends and colleagues who have worked in larger school districts and the overwhelming consensus is that kids from Marfa are uniquely kind and polite to each other and even to their teachers.
Being a teacher is undoubtedly hard, and harder when there’s turnover or upheaval, as students and staff benefit from consistency. Marfa’s recent hiring of very long-term staff to fill open positions, I think, shows that the board is aware of this. Since I moved to Marfa, in 2015, there have been five high school principals. The hiring of someone who has worked for the district for more than 10 years shows the board is looking to reestablish that consistency. And, while there are things that need to be fixed, like pay and housing availability, like burnout and teacher retention, my experience as a teacher at Marfa has been so warm and positive. Although I see the necessity in reporting on the school and its issues, last week’s article felt unbalanced in its interviews and seemed to shoehorn in the disturbing allegations against Sonya Murillo with little nuance about what the school’s role can and should be in such a delicate, sensitive time.
I look forward to reading more about the school district in the paper, and to seeing my students’ journalism articles appear again once the school year starts.
Art, Journalism & Yearbook Teacher at Marfa High
I read the MISD article in your July 27, 2023, issue and was “shocked”!
It seems the leadership is paralyzed by the total lack of effective communication. I’ve been in business for over 40 years, and the one thing that has always been a problem is “effective communication.” This problem is also involved in daily life within a family environment.
MISD needs to get a grip, or consolidate with another school district in the best interest of the students!
Richard L. Stone
Long time BBS subscriber
To the Editor and our Community,
Our Board and Interim Superintendent had prepared a detailed response to questions posed by a reporter for the paper. Unfortunately, the article that was published did not incorporate all of our comments and explanations. First and foremost, the Marfa Independent School District (MISD) Board of Trustees and Interim Superintendent would like to publicly apologize to the students and to the parents of those students who were directly impacted by the Serrano/Murillo cases currently under investigation. Our priority is to offer our immediate support directly to those families who may be affected. To our knowledge, no families or students had reported any issues with Ms. Murillo while she worked as a substitute or after she was arrested to District personnel. Our MISD Board Policies and State law provide and it is the responsibility of all MISD teachers and staff to immediately report any abuse, neglect or harassment involving a student. If it is determined that an employee was aware of any issues involving students and Ms. Murillo that should have been reported and failed to follow the law, disciplinary actions would be warranted.
We want to remind all students and their families that the MISD family is here for you. Upon publication of Thursday’s news story, our Interim Superintendent took immediate action to reach out to law enforcement to contact those families and offer MISD support. However, law enforcement has not provided us with the names of the individuals referred to in the article. We ask that if any students were impacted by these two individuals, to please come forward so that we can investigate further and provide support to you and your family immediately. The Interim Superintendent is working with off site counselors to provide support for all our students. Moving forward, the MISD board has agreed to visit its Crisis Communication Plan, working with the Region 18 Education Service Center, to ensure we execute all protocols set in place in a more timely manner.
Regarding the quotes from the two former employees that were published; it is their right to express their opinions of the board and MISD leadership. However, the MISD Board will retain its professional obligation to stick to the facts. The Board disagrees with the allegations made by Ms. Arguello that she was not rehired due to retaliation. The fact is that the checks and balances of the board set up by the Texas Association of School Boards and outlined in the Framework for School Board Development is to ensure that the sound direction of all 7 board members are on equal footing to prevent preference independent of personal matters, thus preventing any “unethical” behavior. The facts are that Ms. Arguello did seek re-employment but rescinded her application at the July 17 Board Meeting before the board’s vote.
Regarding staffing shortage, last week’s story stated that around 30% of its positions remain vacant. The district did start with seven open teaching positions, plus those of Student Services Coordinator, Junior High-High School Principal, Cafeteria Manager and mechanic. As of this week, the District has filled six positions. Remaining open positions include elementary teacher, Student Success Coordinator, Junior High-High School Principal, Cafeteria Manager, mechanic and substitute teacher. We are a District of Innovation which allows flexibility in staffing. We are in dire need of state funding to increase teacher and staff salaries, just like most rural school districts in our area. We are working diligently to seek the best solutions for our District when it comes to school finance and the limited funding available. But rest assured, we are more than ready and excited to welcome our students back for this coming school year!
Regarding the MISD Board’s reasoning to hire Mr. Alferez instead of Ms. Porter as Interim Superintendent. The priority of the board is to ensure that those in leadership bring motivation and vision that will help our students succeed, well beyond post-secondary education. The board sees that motivation and vision in Mr. Alferez and soon our community will too. Ms. Porter was qualified and considered for the Interim Superintendent role. The board weighed heavily on this decision between both Porter and Alferez. It was a very hard decision that was not made lightly. Ms. Porter was already in a very strong position as principal and adding Mr. Alferez to this dynamic leadership team was the vision of the board to maximize student outcomes. On May 23, 2023, TEA approved Mr. Alferez’s path to continue his certification as a Superintendent. Previously to Marfa, he was an Assistant Principal for Presidio High School before being promoted to Principal for Presidio High School / Early College High School CTE Texas State Technical College. Mr. Alferez served in that role for 5 years at Presidio ISD. He has a Master’s Degree in School Administration from SRSU and has Superintendency coursework completed. He is seeking the Region 18 candidacy into their Superintendency program. At a future Board meeting and after careful review of Mr. Alferez’s performance, the Board may consider extending Mr. Alferez to the full time position of Superintendent upon completion of his certification.
We are grateful that The Big Bend Sentinel brought to light all of our personnel matters in one fell swoop. We are going to take this spotlight and use it to share in all of the incredible gains we’ve made at MISD. We haven’t done enough to tout the success of our coaches, teachers and students. We want you, the community of Marfa, to celebrate with us.
The MISD Board is prioritizing its communication and outreach to students, teachers, staff and the greater Marfa community. With new leadership and a unified board, we are confident that the community will see and feel the difference in how we communicate our efforts to make Marfa ISD the best it has ever been. Marfa ISD is the heartbeat of this town and we are going to make sure that our student body walks these halls with their heads up high, proud to be a Marfa Shorthorn. Can we get an “OH YEAH!”
The Marta Independent School District (MISD) Board of Trustees and Interim Superintendent Arturo Alferez