August 9, 2023 818 PM
I respectfully urge all Sentinel readers to listen to this recent PBS Newshour piece about the growing decline of small town local newspapers. It highlights the demise of a Texas Panhandle paper in a town of about 2000, Canadian, called the Canadian Record.
It’s easy to take for granted that The Big Bend Sentinel will come out every Thursday, with obituaries, border news, school updates and deep dives into local conflicts that would not be covered in any other forum.
You needn’t agree with everything it covers to recognize its existence is an important communication link for the community. It doesn’t cost much to support. Since I moved away a year ago I appreciate it even more.
Austin, formerly of Marfa
In a recent story published by The Big Bend Sentinel regarding the recent practices of the board of trustees of Marfa ISD, I am decidedly disappointed to hear the news. I am an alumnus of Marfa High School, the daughter of two long-term educators in Marfa and a public-school advocate. In my tenure in public education, I have spent 10 years in the classroom coupled with 11 years of administrative experience as an assistant principal, academic dean of instruction and principal. I have had many conversations regarding the state of affairs for Marfa ISD.
An excerpt from TASB website (Texas Association of School Boards):
Q: Why Do We Need Local School Boards?
A: The US Supreme Court has said education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Our system of local school districts and boards of education epitomizes representative and participatory government — citizens elected from their community making decisions about educational programs based on community needs, values, and expectations. School boards are entrusted by the public to translate the needs of students into policies, plans, and goals that will be supported by the community.
Q: What Do School Boards Do?
A: Local school board responsibilities can be grouped into five categories:
- Adopt goals and priorities and monitor success.
- Adopt policies and review for effectiveness.
- Hire and evaluate the superintendent.
- Adopt a budget and set a tax rate.
- Communicate with the community.
Why then is the board of trustees not posting the superintendent position and not seeking out the most qualified candidates?
The role of administration is safety of students and staff first and then instructional leadership. How can the two be facilitated without staff that are qualified?
Appointing an internal candidate without the necessary qualifications challenges those exact responsibilities. This neglect in process will have a long-term impact on the success of your students and the staff. Qualified candidates that have an interest in the school district will be discouraged from ever seeking employment in Marfa ISD. With the challenges public education faces, schools such as Marfa ISD need to consistently seek the best we can offer children. The job of an administrator is not an easy endeavor, and it’s a slap in the face to those that have put in the work to lead and are turned away from opportunities. It is shameful that a more qualified candidate on the staff was overlooked and now leaves the district in search of a system that values the work and qualifications she carries.
How will an unqualified superintendent evaluate programs and staff to ensure growth and reflection? He won’t meet the minimum requirements to complete T-TESS or T-PESS. He can’t attend the appropriate professional development sessions without required certifications. The board is tasked with setting the standards and then putting policies and practices into place to help the stakeholders meet those standards. It’s disheartening to see the decisions and to know the fallout of those unvetted choices.