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Salado ISD Board of Trustee Candidates

Article Index

Four candidates have filed for three three-year terms on the Salado ISD Board of Trustees. They appear on the ballot in the following manner: Rodney W. Bell, Kristi Jarvis, Brian Sunshine and Kim Bird. 

Early voting began April 28 and continues weekdays through May 6. Early voting is 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. through May 5 and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. May 6. Election day, the polls will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on May 10. Voting is at the Salado Civic Center.

Week One Questions

Question #1. In the past two school years, Salado has had two teachers charged with improper relationships with students. In your opinion, did the administration handle these situations correctly? If not, what should it have done? Going forward, is the administration addressing issues of relationships between teachers and students correctly, particularly in this day of social media and personal technology? (200 words)

Question #2. In the latest realignment, Salado will move up to division 4A by 13 students,  of which 10 are additional transfer students. This will require more travel to compete against larger, more distant schools.  Last year, SISD waived its transfer fees to encourage more student transfers in order to receive about $6,400 per student in state funds. Was this the correct policy change? Why/why not? (reader question) (150 words)

Question #3: Education is changing rapidly, utilizing technology and distance learning far more than ever before. Is SISD keeping pace, leading the charge or falling behind? What does the district need to do to improve its use of technology? (150 words)

Week Two Questions

Question #4: What is your assessment of the physical condition of each of our campuses? In your opinion, which ones need improvement and/or expansion?(300 words)

Question #5: Will you support calling a bond election for new athletic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Question #6: Will you support calling a bond election for expanded/renovated/new academic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Week Three Questions

Question #7. Will you support a pay increase for the teaching staff? If so, what level of increase would you support? If not, why not?(200 words)
Question #8. Will you support calling for an Tax Ratification Election to increase the maintenance and operation tax above 1.04? Why or why not? (200 words)

Question #9. How would you rate the performance of the district superintendent on a five-point scale? Do you support extending the contract of the superintendent? Why or why not? (200 words)

Final Questions

Question #10: What do you consider to be the greatest weakness or flaw in the Salado Independent School District and what can you do to change it? (200 words)

Question #11:  Why should anyone vote for you? (200 words)

 


 

Rodney W. Bell

 

 

 

 

 

I am a graduate of Baylor University with dual degrees in Business Management and Information Systems. I am also a 2001 graduate of the nationally ranked Baylor University Executive MBA program. As Senior Vice-President of Technology Services at First Community Services, my role is to manage Computer Operations, PC Support, Servers, Systems, Network, and ATM Operations for the organization. My wife and I have lived in Salado since 2002. I have one daughter, Kendall, who is currently an elementary teacher in the Lewisville ISD. We are members of the First Baptist Church of Salado where I serve as a Deacon and have served as the Chairman of the Audit and Finance committees. I am currently Treasurer for the Body of Christ Community Clinic in Belton. I am a past graduate and past President of Leadership Temple. I have served as a member of the Salado ISD Board of Trustees since 2008 and feel extremely blessed to live and serve in this community. I am extremely grateful to have had their trust and support for the past three years. I have been and will continue to be committed to the highest standards of education and safety for our students in Salado ISD. My managerial, financial, technical and leadership skills have prepared me to set and implement the goals and policies of this district in alignment with the values and expectations of our community.

Question #1. In the past two school years, Salado has had two teachers charged with improper relationships with students. In your opinion, did the administration handle these situations correctly? If not, what should it have done? Going forward, is the administration addressing issues of relationships between teachers and students correctly, particularly in this day of social media and personal technology? (200 words)

Rodney W. Bell Answer:In my opinion the administration handled the two incidents in the precise manner that was required and expected. In briefings with our Superintendent the disciplinary action in each case was very quick, and the appropriate resignations occurred after confronting the teacher. The administrative response has been appropriate. 

Currently, there is a policy in place concerning the communications between teachers and students.  The bottom line, it is against the law for a teacher to have an inappropriate relationship with a student. The action violates the law and the moral character clause to which the professional is expected to uphold. 

Going forward, as is done now, staff should be briefed on the law, policy, and consequences of their actions. Moreover, we need to provide an atmosphere where students notify staff as they become aware of such situations and incidents. 

Question #2. In the latest realignment, Salado will move up to division 4A by 13 students,  of which 10 are additional transfer students. This will require more travel to compete against larger, more distant schools.  Last year, SISD waived its transfer fees to encourage more student transfers in order to receive about $6,400 per student in state funds. Was this the correct policy change? Why/why not? (reader question) (150 words)

The waiver of transfer fees was the correct decision. Our district is considered a property rich district by the State of Texas. Therefore, we forfeit our funds to educate students from other school districts in the state. 

The property rich calculation contains a clause that allows districts to “modify” the allocation they must pay to the state. If you collect tuition for transfer students, then you cannot include the student in the state calculation. If a district “waives” the tuition for transfer students, then they can include the student in the state calculation. By “waiving” the tuition, a district can lower the amount of funds they are required to send to the state. When we collected tuition, we were sending money to the state. By waiving the tuition, this amount has been significantly lowered and we receive additional funding from the state for each student. We can compete in 3A or 4A. We are ready!

Question #3: Education is changing rapidly, utilizing technology and distance learning far more than ever before. Is SISD keeping pace, leading the charge or falling behind? What does the district need to do to improve its use of technology? (150 words)

Rodney W. Bell Answer: In my opinion we are falling behind in the technology movement. Only recently were wireless devices installed allowing a more open access. Compared to other districts, we are slipping further behind. Our students should have access to more technology on a daily basis. The software we run on computers should be up to date so that students are engaged at the proper level before entering college or the workforce. 

Today we have site based committees for each campus. I believe that we need a district wide information technology committee to create comprehensive direction in regards to technology implementation. My background provides a clear understanding of what is expected in this area. We are making strides, but the pace needs to pick up and it needs to start now.

Question #4: What is your assessment of the physical condition of each of our campuses? In your opinion, which ones need improvement and/or expansion?(300 words)

Rodney W. Bell Answer: In my opinion, the physical condition of our High School and Intermediate School campuses are acceptable. 

The campus that needs the most attention is Thomas Arnold Elementary. This facility was built in 1967 and is over 45 years old. Additional construction at this campus also occurred in 1988, over 25 years ago. With the age of this building and the segmented arrangement of the building, this facility, in my opinion, does not meet the qualifications of a premier or safe learning environment for our students. In addition the kitchen and cafeteria need renovations and updates to meet current codes. While the Junior High campus is considered to be in fair condition, it is aging and strategic planning is in need to implement a roadmap for this campus. The Ag Barn is in need of attention to mitigate ADA and safety issues. While the building is used mostly to house animals, the number of students using the facility after hours makes this a high priority. Any plans for future building or expansion should include an Ag Barn.  Our athletic facilities need major renovations. Each year, our students perform to a high level of excellence. However we have failed to match that same expectation with facility upgrades. When we travel to other locations, we are continually lagging in our infrastructure. As we continue to grow, achieving academic excellence should be the top priority when planning for expansion at each level. 

Question #5: Will you support calling a bond election for new athletic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Rodeny W. Bell Answer: I do not support a bond for athletics only. While I firmly believe we need to renovate our athletic facilities, the avenue to get there does not include a bond. A bond is not the cure for all problems and that is the case here. What is needed is a plan that will deliver a set of quality athletic facilities at our high school without a bond. My belief is that we should develop a plan to fund the construction of new athletic facilities at the high school over a period of time. We have not pursued the donation or “naming rights” avenue that might help achieve the goals for this area. There is a master plan for these facilities to help achieve the goal.  However, we need to take action in order to move forward to accomplish the goal.  

Question #6: Will you support calling a bond election for expanded/renovated/new academic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Rodney W. Bell Answer: A facility condition assessment has recently been completed. I would support a bond to build a new elementary school. Any bond I support would have to contain an educational component to the facility. In addition, any bond should also include an Ag Barn renovation or relocation. 

Question #7. Will you support a pay increase for the teaching staff? If so, what level of increase would you support? If not, why not?(200 words)

Rodney W. Bell Answer: Yes. I supported and helped draft the current pay scale for teachers in our district. The level or percentage needs to exceed the districts that are comparable to our size in our area.  We have been successful with the methodology in the past, and we can meet this need moving forward. We need to maintain a competitive pay scale for our teaching staff in order to maintain and attract highly qualified educators for our students.  Our teaching staff does an outstanding job of offering a superior education for our students and our job is to support the staff in every way possible to foster a strong academic curriculum.  We need to keep in mind that our district offers an educational environment that is not found in other districts in our area. I believe our academic standing and size are major factors in why some educators choose to teach in our district. We need to make every effort to provide them with the tools they need to continue the success of our students.

 

Question #8. Will you support calling for an Tax Ratification Election to increase the maintenance and operation tax above 1.04? Why or why not? (200 words)

Rodney W. Bell Answer: No. With a current fund balance over $4 million I believe that we have sufficient funds to support the maintenance and operations of the district. If a Tax Ratification Election were to be held, it is my opinion the tax would impose the wrong tax for the wrong reason.  This tax would not be justified given the existing fund balance. In addition, the strides that have been made to decrease expenses and generate additional revenue have kept us in a strong financial position. The increase of additional revenue is a direct result of the waiver of the transfer fee that was covered in previous questions. While there are some valid reasons to increase the rate, there needs to be an extremely strong case made for calling a Tax Ratification Election.  

Question #9. How would you rate the performance of the district superintendent on a five-point scale? Do you support extending the contract of the superintendent? Why or why not? (200 words)

Rodney W. Bell Answer: I rate the performance of our district superintendent at a 4. Without question or hesitation, I would support the extension of the contract for our superintendent. During his time here, he has served our district with integrity and he has a firm grasp of the educational and strategic issues that face our district. Dr. Novotny is a transparent communicator. He strives to inform the board, staff, and parents of events and issues that face our district. I have found his communications to be timely and well prepared regardless of the situation. It is also a trait that can be seen in his direct reports. During his tenure, he has served our district and community very well. It is my hope that we can continue to retain his services with our district for a very long time.

Question #10: What do you consider to be the greatest weakness or flaw in the Salado Independent School District and what can you do to change it? (200 words)

Rodney Bell Answer: As I have stated in previous responses, I believe that we are falling behind the curve in district infrastructure. Our elementary and junior high school facilities are deteriorating and in need of our attention. We recently received our Facility Condition Assessment and this report should be used as a guide to move forward with improvements. As we continue to grow, achieving academic excellence should be the top priority when planning for expansion at any level.

The board should now prioritize the needs and begin the planning process. My role in this process will continue to be steadfast as it has in the past. If we start a building process, it needs to be done in a way that emphasizes and prioritizes academic achievement for all students in SISD. I will continue to be active in the discussions and ensure that our students and staff are in safe facilities.   

Question #11:  Why should anyone vote for you? (200 words)

Rodney Bell Answer: A vote for Rodney Bell is a vote for the continuation of progress, consistency, success, and respect that currently characterizes our school district and school board. The Salado ISD Board of Trustees is a collection of many thoughts and talents. A majority of my peers on this board have actively communicated their support and encouragement in my campaign. Some would believe that our board “rubber stamps” every action. I am here to tell you that is NOT a true statement. There are times when we disagree on subjects.  However, the tone in each deliberation is very collegial and respectful. I value the work and opinions of each person on our board. I have voted against items that passed with my vote being the dissent. However, I believe that once the board makes a decision, it is my job to fully sustain, support and respect that decision. Once the action is decided, we are collective and we move forward in order to achieve the common goal of creating a path for student success.  

Thank you for the opportunity to represent our school district over the past six years. I would appreciate and value your support in this election.

 


Kristi Jarvis

 KristiJarvis

I have a degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University and a BS in Nursing from UMHB. I worked as a paramedic and nurse for almost 10 years. I have two children, Sydney, a sophomore in Salado High School and Jeremy who is in 7th grade SJHS. Jeff, my husband of 24 years, works as an Emergency Physician and EMS Medical Director.  I have been involved in Salado schools since we moved here 7 years ago. I have been a member, officer and volunteered countless hours in the PTO at Thomas Arnold Elementary, Salado Intermediate and Salado Junior High. I have served on several committees at the campus and district level including the SIS Site Based Decision Making Committee, and the Student Health Advisory Council. I am also a member of the Athletic Booster Club.  I am just finishing up 6 years on the Salado Education Foundation Board where I served the last two years as President.  I am also on the Chamber of Commerce Board and serve as President of the Leadership Salado Board. I believe in showing my children how important it is to volunteer our time, treasure and hard work to give back to our church, schools and Village. 

I’ve always been passionate about my children’s education. I believe Salado is on the right track and I want to make sure we continue to put the students first by giving them the resources and opportunities to excel.  I want our graduates to be the students and employees that universities and businesses seek out and compete for, not just because of their grades or the number of championships they have, but because of their character and determination to succeed.

Question #1. In the past two school years, Salado has had two teachers charged with improper relationships with students. In your opinion, did the administration handle these situations correctly? If not, what should it have done? Going forward, is the administration addressing issues of relationships between teachers and students correctly, particularly in this day of social media and personal technology? (200 words)

Kristi Jarvis Answer: As a parent, it breaks my heart to think the trust in their teachers, that we all encourage in our children, has been abused.  While I am not appropriately privy to the details of either incident, my opinion is that the administration acted swiftly and correctly in each case, both in their initial reaction and  follow up with the parents and students, staff and community. Going forward, I believe we need to make sure strategies to recognize and stop improper relationships should be included in the usual Health and Safety programs for students and staff, right along with internet safety, bullying and fire drills. I also believe parents should be offered the same training because, ultimately, it is our responsibility as parents to make sure our children recognize each of these threats and have strategies in place to be able to deal with them appropriately.

Question #2. In the latest realignment, Salado will move up to division 4A by 13 students,  of which 10 are additional transfer students. This will require more travel to compete against larger, more distant schools.  Last year, SISD waived its transfer fees to encourage more student transfers in order to receive about $6,400 per student in state funds. Was this the correct policy change? Why/why not? (reader question) (150 words)

Kristi Jarvis Answer: The latest UIL alignment numbers show that Salado ISD is growing and will continue to grow regardless of our transfer policy.  Dropping the transfer fee allows Salado ISD to keep more of our local tax dollars in regard to our Chapter 41 status. With our budget stretched thin because of the huge state cuts a few years ago, the policy change makes sense financially .  Besides dropping the fee, the policy was modified to ensure ongoing monitoring of transfer students’ grades, behavior and attendance in addition to district resources.  It allows the district to limit the number and calibre of transfer students we accept. Under these circumstances, I would continue to support the current Transfer Policy.

Question #3: Education is changing rapidly, utilizing technology and distance learning far more than ever before. Is SISD keeping pace, leading the charge or falling behind? What does the district need to do to improve its use of technology? (150 words)

Kristi Jarvis Answer: I believe Salado, like many other school districts, is struggling to keep on the forefront of technology while still being fiscally responsible. We need to remain current in order to expose our students to the latest technology that they will use in college and in the workplace. It is not enough to simply put the technology in their hands.  We need to provide training to our faculty on new and exciting ways to use that technology in the classroom.  I also believe we have to keep our technology infrastructure such as high speed wireless networks up to date and ready to handle our growing use.  A further challenge is finding alternative funding for STEM education.  We need to seek out grants and other available monies to help our already strained budget take on this much needed expense. 

Question #4: What is your assessment of the physical condition of each of our campuses? In your opinion, which ones need improvement and/or expansion?(300 words)

 Kristi Jarvis Answer: There are certainly some aging school buildings in Salado ISD.  Our Elementary School was built in 1967 and our Junior High was built in 1979.  Most maintenance and renovations in these buildings has been piecemeal and it says a lot about the quality of our maintenance workers that all our buildings are still safe and comfortable for our students. It would be logical to assume these buildings will have the most need for improvements or even replacement.  To continue those band aid fixes will get more and more expensive. In my capacity as a parent, I am not privy to the detailed physical condition of things such as air conditioners, plumbing and electrical issues but again I am confident that our buildings are safe for our children at this time.  From my observations, there are, however, cosmetic issues that, if repaired, would certainly give all of our campuses a facelift that would allow our students and staff to take pride in their schools’ appearance, in addition to their academic success . While our Intermediate School and High School are both less than 20 years old, their age does not overshadow the fact that they, as well as the Elementary and Junior High, are out or quickly running out of useable classroom space.  I believe this issue is as important, if not more than the physical condition of our campuses. 

Question #5: Will you support calling a bond election for new athletic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Kristia Jarvis Answer: I would not be in favor of calling a bond election exclusively for athletic facilities. While I believe athletics, like other extracurricular activities, can be an integral part of a student’s success, the school district has many needs that should be considered for inclusion in any bond to come in the future.  I think some athletic facilities should be included in a comprehensive District Plan to update and improve all our facilities.

Question #6: Will you support calling a bond election for expanded/renovated/new academic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Kristi Jarvis Answer: I would support the district starting the necessary groundwork that could result in a bond election.  I would want to see the recently completed facilities study be taken into account.  Physical condition, amount of open classroom space and student safety, as well as technological infrastructure requirements need to be evaluated.   Along with professional advise about the financial and construction aspects of a bond, I would certainly look for input from students, parents, staff and the community.  The district would also need to develop a comprehensive long term plan that takes into account our rapid growth projections as any bond would need to carry Salado many years into the future. 

Question #7. Will you support a pay increase for the teaching staff? If so, what level of increase would you support? If not, why not?(200 words)

Kristi Jarvis Answer: Yes, I would support a pay increase for our teachers.  One of the biggest challenges for any school district is attracting and retaining high quality teachers.  Salary is certainly a big part of that. Unfortunately, Salado is competing for staff with much bigger school districts such as Killeen, Belton and Georgetown. On average, we pay about $10,000 a year less than our competing districts for first year teachers. We should absolutely have a plan in place to shrink this salary gap.  However, any pay increase would need to be worked into our overall budget. We are still dealing with the huge state budget cuts from 3 years ago. Additionally, we have  aging facilities and a growing population that will also require additional funding.  It is critical that while addressing our salary gap, we do so without neglecting these other needs. Finally, it is important that we continue to work on those other issues that attract and keep good teachers. These factors include a good work environment, involved and supportive parents, supportive administrators and a progressive benefits package. 

Question #8. Will you support calling for an Tax Ratification Election to increase the maintenance and operation tax above 1.04? Why or why not? (200 words)

Kristi Jarvis Answer: I would not support calling for a Tax Ratification Election at this time.  While the state allows school districts to use the revenue from a TRE on a broader range of budget needs than a bond (a TRE can fund teacher salaries and educational material in addition to facilities and infrastructure), I would like to see a well thought-out justification for raising taxes at anytime by any method.  I think the district needs to evaluate the recently completed Facilities Study and restructure our Strategic Plan to address the recommendations it made. Any needs assessment from our administrators should reflect our future needs and not just the survival mode we have been in following the recent heavy cuts in state funding.  With an inclusive strategic plan in place that addresses issues including population growth, fund balance, our salary gap and facility needs we can make an informed decision about calling for a TRE or a bond. 

Question #9. How would you rate the performance of the district superintendent on a five-point scale? Do you support extending the contract of the superintendent? Why or why not? (200 words)

Kristi Jarvis Answer: I would rate our superintendent with very high scores. Dr Novotny came to Salado ISD at a time when we needed his high energy personality.  He immersed himself and his family in our district and our community.  He opened up lines of communication within the district between teachers, parents, students, administrators and the community. He has navigated us through the massive state budgets cuts without layoffs or compromising student instruction or safety.  I would support extending Dr Novotny’s contract to enhance the continuity needed to look to the future and further develop our short and long term strategic plans. I look forward to hearing his thoughts on leading Salado into Class 4A, guiding us through new graduation requirements as well as his recommendations for how to address our aging facilities, limited available classroom space and our growing population. 

Question #10: What do you consider to be the greatest weakness or flaw in the Salado Independent School District and what can you do to change it? (200 words)

Kristi Jarvis: I believe our greatest weakness is inadequate staffing brought about by the last 3 years of deep state education budget cuts.  Fortunately, Salado ISD was able to decrease our budget, not by firing teachers, but by eliminating positions through attrition and retirement. This meant more and more of our faculty and administrators were taking on several roles and more responsibilities. While our district tries to lesson these burdens on staff while playing catch up with needed positions, we are also facing record growth in our district, dwindling classroom space and aging facilities. As a School Board Trustee I would urge the district to evaluate all our needs carefully and not rush to throw money in any one direction until a revised Comprehensive Strategic Plan can be put in place.

Question #11:  Why should anyone vote for you? (200 words)

Kristi Jarvis Answer: I ask the voters in the School District to vote for me because I will always think about our children first. The voters deserve a School Board Trustee who will bring fresh new ideas to our District; who has been involved not only in identifying problems but in working out realistic solutions; who will advocate for a balanced education for our students consisting of a strong academic base supported by essential activities such as art, drama, UIL, athletics, agriculture and many others. They deserve a Trustee who understands a student’s success is measured not only by acceptance at a competitive college or finding a rewarding career but also by being a caring and contributing member of society.  They deserve a Trustee who will be a good steward of their tax dollars while pushing for innovation in every aspect of our district and whose passion for our children’s eduction shines through in every decision and in every vote. I believe I am that School Board candidate. 


Brian  Sunshine

 

SISD Trustees must be dedicated public servants who bring experience, knowledge and perspective by listening and delivering transparency to the (a) voters who entrust the district to be a fiscal steward with their dollars (b) parents who entrust the district for a safe and positive education experience, and (c) students who are deserving of, and teachers who provide, the best education possible to make our children career or college ready. 

I seek your support because I...

... Am uniquely qualified: I proudly serve as the Director of Government/Community Relations for Central Texas College, an open admissions provider of quality low-cost public education in an eleven county district AND education supplier to military service members at more than 140 installations worldwide.  For 26 years, I’ve contributed to Fortune 500, privately held, and non-profit organizations - supporting policies that improve the integrity of education.  With a Bachelor’s and MBA in Finance with Honors from The University of Colorado, I’ve been president of two statewide non-profits and chaired countless councils/committees.  

... Believe in service:  In 2009, a cluster of dads and I brought WATCHDOGS, a father/student engagement program, to life at TAE and hundreds of Salado fathers have participated. In 2005, I developed the statewide initiative Kindergarten2College, an early elementary college awareness program, serving thousands. I’m on the SJH Campus Improvement Committee, am an Adopt-a-Highway sponsor (FM2484), was a six season soccer coach, am a Friend of the Salado Public Library, member of the Salado Historical Society, and coordinate community electronics recycling.    

Have a passion for sound policy, planning and measurable outcomes.  I’ve brought both praise and suggestion to the Board, including proposals to align school holidays with federal/military holidays and improving school/student safety, both of which have come to bear fruit. I’ve also publicly advocated for the fiscally prudent restoration of instructional budgets, fairness and equity, academic rigor and the importance of STEM education. 

SISD is on the brink of explosive growth.  We must develop a long range vision/strategic plan for the future, effectively implement the provisions of HB5, and constantly review/improve expenditure efficiency, educator compensation, technology, and student safety/engagement/success.      

... Am a father and husband. Above all, I’m blessed with a beautiful educator (Ellison HS) wife Julie (Sneed), a 1989 SHS graduate, and four outstanding children, one on each SISD campus.  Salado has been my home since 1997.  

Visit www.linkedin.com/in/briansunshine or www.facebook.com/sunshine4salado to learn more.  It would be my honor to represent you.

Question #1. In the past two school years, Salado has had two teachers charged with improper relationships with students. In your opinion, did the administration handle these situations correctly? If not, what should it have done? Going forward, is the administration addressing issues of relationships between teachers and students correctly, particularly in this day of social media and personal technology? (200 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer: If sexual relationships or inappropriate sexual communications between educators/students have been proven or admitted to, employees should be immediately “fired” rather than allowed to resign.  The public trust has been violated with protecting Salado’s most precious asset:  our children.

I’d put the quality of our district’s personnel against any surrounding district.  Nevertheless, teachers, coaches and administrators must be held to the highest standards in protecting our students.  SISD’s employment screening, orientation and ongoing code of conduct training must ensure we are communicating a message of zero tolerance, by word and by deed.   We need to promote and provide a culture of “See Something, Hear Something, Say Something”, where students and teachers are comfortable anonymously reporting possible or potential inappropriate behavior by teachers or students (e.g., bullying) without fear of retribution.   To ensure we attract and retain the best in integrity and strong moral compass, we must address teacher compensation, which hasn’t been improved in years and lags behind larger surrounding districts by nearly $10K/year, and even trails Jarrell by almost $6K/year.   

Finally, Facetime, Skype, and Instagram, pose unique challenges due to the lack of an audit trail, so we must thoughtfully address those with sound policy and consistent enforcement.

 Question #2. In the latest realignment, Salado will move up to division 4A by 13 students,  of which 10 are additional transfer students. This will require more travel to compete against larger, more distant schools.  Last year, SISD waived its transfer fees to encourage more student transfers in order to receive about $6,400 per student in state funds. Was this the correct policy change? Why/why not? (reader question) (150 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer: What’s done is done.   

However, we must have a strategic plan in place that will allow us to rise to the challenge and embrace the higher level of competition that 4A will bring, both academic and athletic.   A transfer policy based upon enrollment forecasts should be part of this plan and it needs to be less about money and more about the students we serve who live in this district.  Larger class sizes, lower academic results from transfers and importing students for the sole purpose of athletic participation all detract from the educational quality and achievement our children deserve.  We must track outcomes of our transfers.  If we continue down this fee-free transfer path, SISD must ensure it has strong, measurable and consistent threshold criteria. Three year olds coming into the Pre-K program next year will increase capacity utilization and decrease the need for transfer revenue.    

Question #3: Education is changing rapidly, utilizing technology and distance learning far more than ever before. Is SISD keeping pace, leading the charge or falling behind? What does the district need to do to improve its use of technology? (150 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer: The SISD Robotics class & several academic UIL teams are bright spots.  However, it’s a challenge for a district our size to not fall behind technologically.  Apple TV’s and IPods for teachers just begin to scratch the surface.  

Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education has an increased emphasis in the new House Bill 5 graduation paths.  Surrounding school districts are offering courses in coding & programming, graphic design, computer animation, website building, telecommunications, networking, and even video game design.  Our resources are limited and we must effectively balance classical and technology driven education, leverage partnerships (dual credit, pooled resources with other districts), have a long range technology plan for all grade levels, and professional development for teachers to integrate new technologies for learning.  To minimize taxpayer cost, we must be more vigilant in seeking available federal, state and private grant funding to expand our technology education and infrastructure. 

 Question #4: What is your assessment of the physical condition of each of our campuses? In your opinion, which ones need improvement and/or expansion?(300 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer:  Without a forecast, expert assessment and master plan, how can anyone tell you with a straight face what our long term academic or athletics facilities needs are and what, if anything, must be renovated/replaced?  Taxpayers deserve a tactical vision and plan for the future.  If an organization doesn’t have a plan beyond the current year, it will make impulsive, expensive and error-prone smaller decisions because broader visionary and strategic decisions don’t exist.Consider that this academic year alone, SISD spent over $200K on track resurfacing (which still has only seven lanes).  If we want a new stadium with a track, why did we spend so much resurfacing the old one? Thousands were spent on an outfield windscreen for the  softball and baseball fields, and SISD is in the process of spending thousands on a marquee outside the high school on what most will consider being on the wrong street.  Finally, the district created and filled a new six-figure salaried administration position. All the above was unplanned for when the 2013-2014 budget was approved just last August, and none of it fits into a long-range strategic plan because we don’t have one.  I would take well-compensated quality educators in older, functional facilities over continued underpaid staff in newer buildings any day.  We must address the teacher compensation issue as part of a thoughtful long-range plan that also includes facilities. SISD should more actively seek grant funding to improve our facilities and technology.  Troy ISD received $500,000 a year ago for sidewalk improvements.  There’s significant partnership money out there and we should make it a priority to leverage it before we contemplate another bond.Finally, SISD’s sitting on $4 million in reserves:  your unused tax dollars.  We should allocate these funds strategically while providing a more moderate cushion for the unexpected.

Question #5: Will you support calling a bond election for new athletic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Brian Sunshine: We must not forget that athletic engagement is a subset of a great education, NOT the other way around.   

I admire ALL my candidate opponents and others who fought passionately for the athletic facilities bond in 2011.  However, I felt otherwise because 1) We were in a deep recession, 2) State funding for education was being decimated by the Texas Legislature, and 3) There was no broader long range plan for the district. It’s now 2014.  There still isn’t.In 2012, we were reclassified from 3A to 2A, had budget deficits in the hundreds of thousands in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, and drastically cut instructional expenditures and increased class sizes over the last three years.  Yet athletics remained relatively unscathed and fully funded, except for the athletics facilities that were to be financed by the bond.

The passage of time suggests the 2011 bond was more a want than a need.

Question #6: Will you support calling a bond election for expanded/renovated/new academic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer: If the SISD is selling a bill of goods to taxpayers, they deserve that the leadership be disciplined on the “need” and keep the “wants” out of the board room. In order to make the case for that need, we must first have an estimate of what our enrollment projections are 3-5-10 years down the line, as any new facilities should be expected to last for a generation or more.  Additionally, leadership must be mindful that taxpayers funded a new high school in 2008, an athletic-only bond failed in 2011, and a sewer system will be on this November’s ballot. 

Whatever case is made, taxpayers deserve transparency, honest forecasts, credible assessments and a compelling executable plan with justification, concrete expected outcomes and accountability before any formal bond proposal is finalized for new facilities, whether academic or athletic.  If we have that, then I’ll support taking it to the voters.   

Question #7. Will you support a pay increase for the teaching staff? If so, what level of increase would you support? If not, why not?(200 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer: Yes!  

A teacher in Salado must work in the district for 12 years to surpass the first year salary of a teacher in Belton. This is wrong!   Words must become action and we have to reward our present and future teachers with whatever we can afford in order to attract and retain the best and brightest. We’ve received and bragged about multi-year five-star financial ratings from the Texas Comptroller – largely at the expense of our low paid, high quality teachers - because salary ranges haven’t been increased in years.  SISD should also take steps to make compensation more of a reflection of performance, either through salary adjustment flexibility or a bonus pool.  Great teachers deserve to be paid more for being more effective in the classroom.   

Finally, imagine if Albert Einstein applied for a teaching job here, he might not get an interview because he doesn’t coach. We must always hire great teachers first and make sure our educators are competitively compensated to secure our success.  In other words, E(ducator) should not necessarily = M(ath)* C(oach) Squared…relatively speaking.

Question #8: Will you support calling for an Tax Ratification Election to increase the maintenance and operation tax above 1.04? Why or why not? (200 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer: No!

The SISD Administration and Board underestimated revenue because enrollment growth was budgeted to grow just 4%.  However, at the time (August 2013) the budget was reviewed and approved, year-over-year enrollment growth for AY 2013-2014 was ALREADY close to 7%.  The excess revenue that followed was then quickly realized, captured and used to fund everything but instruction. Had we diverted our 2013-2014 revenue surplus toward restoring instruction rather than track resurfacing, additional administrative overhead and athletic accoutrements, we could have instead raised every educator’s salary a much needed $4,000/year.   As of April, our current enrollment is 6.5% over this time last year.   I’m confident that with an honest disciplined budget based from prior year actuals rather than prior year budgeted and by effectively leveraging the fund reserve balance, we can make salaries more competitive, sustainable and keep the tax rate at or beneath the $1.04 without requesting a tax ratification election.  Most other districts do.

 

Question #9. How would you rate the performance of the district superintendent on a five-point scale? Do you support extending the contract of the superintendent? Why or why not? (200 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer:

From Good to Great!

There’s little doubt Dr. Novotny is engaged, does quite a good job, and there’s no reason his contract shouldn’t be renewed presuming he achieved the (measurable) established district goals, which unfortunately aren’t available on the district’s website.  Nevertheless, those decisions are appropriately made behind closed doors in Executive Session, just as they’ve always been.

 There’s much to celebrate under his leadership:   Lonestar Cup, Academic/Athletic UIL, OAP, better community involvement/district communication among them. 

There’s also always room for improvement:  Salado’s mean ACT score is in its 3rd year of decline (23.2 vs. 25.9 in 2011), SAT results have been flat, we fell from a trumpeted US News Silver Ranking last year to no ranking at all this year, our culture for student well-being requires improvement, and the challenges with the implementation of House Bill 5 are many.    

If privileged enough to be elected, I’ll push for a long-range strategic plan (3-5 years), which includes a business model  for sustained success, measurable goals, and the disclosure of an annual district report card (which many successful districts already do) that is disseminated to the community - highlighting our results/progress and earnestly identifying challenges and opportunities for continued improvement.   

Question #10: What do you consider to be the greatest weakness or flaw in the Salado Independent School District and what can you do to change it? (200 words)

Brian Sunshine Answer: One in eight students in Salado ISD now lives outside our school district due to the district’s zero fee transfer policy. 

We shouldn’t ask taxpayers to shoulder the burden of tens of millions in new facilities due to capacity issues when 13% of our students don’t even live here or contribute to our village and its economy.No doubt that Salado ISD is a great system that we can all be proud of; however I believe that our district’s biggest weakness is its reluctance to acknowledge any weakness.  Anyone who’s ever been to a school board meeting sees that everything comes up roses every time.  Rarely are challenging policy topics deliberated as they should be.  For the sake of our students’ future success, I will positively press for the tough conversations  necessary - increasing educator compensation; improving student safety, engagement and well being; creating sustainable and elevated academic achievement; better preparing our students for colleges and careers; tightening transfer policies; forecasting enrollment;   managing growth; and effectively implementing new graduation requirements – publicly  and transparently as together the Board develops a well articulated strategic plan with measurable outcomes, holding district leadership accountable for reaching specific milestones along the way. 

Question #11:  Why should anyone vote for you? (200 words)

 

Brian Sunshine Answer: I also realize that if elected, I’ll be just one out of seven trustees.  More importantly, I am one father of four children, one on every SISD campus.  There’s so much at stake, not only for my own children, but for all the students at each campus who learn around them, for all the teachers who educate them, and for all the members of our community who provide for them through their taxes and support in making quality public education possible. School Board Trustees owe everyone the best we can possibly deliver, now and in the future. If voters wish for nothing more than a 7-0 rubber stamp time and again, I’m not your candidate.  However, if you want a candidate with 26 years of proven education policy experience with respect and integrity, who cares deeply and passionately believes in opportunity for all students – and who is certain that separation of powers, good governance, accountability and collaborative policy decisions make for a better public education system, then with your support and your vote, it would be my honor to serve.  

 


 

Kim Bird 

My husband and I have lived in Salado for 11 years.  I am currently a full-time mom to our two children, Morgan, a tenth grader at Salado High School and Drew, a third grader at Salado Intermediate School.  

I am a former school teacher and administrator with a B.S. in Chemistry from Howard Payne University, a M.Ed. in Administration from Houston Baptist University, and a Ph.D. in Education Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi.  I have served two terms on the S.I.S.D. Board of Trustees and have been both the Vice President and President. 

My family has a deep appreciation for this community, and we strive to do our part to keep it vital and improving.  I have been actively involved as a volunteer in a number of church, school and community organizations including the Salado Mentors Program, the Salado Education Foundation, Salado Athletic Booster Club, Keep Salado Beautiful, Leadership Salado, and Salado United Methodist Church.  

I believe that a school system is the cornerstone of a community and must ensure that each child has access to outstanding educational opportunities.  I have dedicated my life, both as a former public school teacher and administrator, and as a current parent and active volunteer, to ensure that every child has these opportunities.  Seeking re-election to the school board is an extension of this mission.  My experience in small, medium and large school districts, as well as at both the elementary and secondary level, has afforded me the opportunity to experience a variety of educational issues and solutions.  I want to be part of the ongoing improvement of Salado I.S.D.

Question #1. In the past two school years, Salado has had two teachers charged with improper relationships with students. In your opinion, did the administration handle these situations correctly? If not, what should it have done? Going forward, is the administration addressing issues of relationships between teachers and students correctly, particularly in this day of social media and personal technology? (200 words)

Kim Bird Answer: In these two tragic cases, Salado ISD administrators handled the situations quickly, appropriately, professionally and according to district policy.  When administrators became aware of the possibility of improper teacher behavior, they immediately took action by launching thorough investigations, contacting parents and proper authorities and ensuring that the staff members were removed from the campuses and away from our students.  In both cases, Dr. Novotny obtained immediate letters of resignation saving the district from termination proceedings.  Our administrators informed parents and the community of the situations and made every effort to be as transparent as possible while protecting the children involved.    

Policies on social media and student/teacher communication are reviewed regularly in Salado ISD.   Training in appropriate student/teacher relationships is a part of all teacher education programs and is reinforced throughout a teacher’s career through annual teacher in-service training, sexual harassment training and teacher mentor programs.  As professionals, educators are held to an Educators’ Code of Ethics under the Texas Administrative Code that specifically forbids this type of behavior.   

In almost every incident of this nature, friends of the student were the first to know.  SISD plans to expand student training in how to respond to such situations.

Question #2. In the latest realignment, Salado will move up to division 4A by 13 students,  of which 10 are additional transfer students. This will require more travel to compete against larger, more distant schools.  Last year, SISD waived its transfer fees to encourage more student transfers in order to receive about $6,400 per student in state funds. Was this the correct policy change? Why/why not? (reader question) (150 words)

Kim Bird Answer: Salado ISD has a reputation for excellence and, therefore, attracts excellence.  When the state drastically reduced funding to school districts, we were charged with finding innovative ways to continue to provide outstanding educational services for our students.  Because the state was recapturing a large portion of the transfer fees we were collecting, this was not producing revenue for our district.  By eliminating this fee, we were able to attract more potential transfer students.  By tightening our policies to only accept outstanding applicants and ensuring that they would not overtax our classrooms or staff, we were able to capitalize on the state funding (about $6,400 per student) that accompanies each student, while optimizing fixed costs such as buildings and electricity.  These additional funds allowed us to augment our budget and avoid painful staffing and program cuts that were seen across the state.  

Question #3: Education is changing rapidly, utilizing technology and distance learning far more than ever before. Is SISD keeping pace, leading the charge or falling behind? What does the district need to do to improve its use of technology? (150 words)

Kim Bird Answer: Remaining abreast of new technologies is an expensive and difficult task for public schools.  Salado ISD must ensure that students leave twelfth grade prepared to be successful in a global economy that requires them to compete for jobs against other applicants from across the nation and the world.  Students must experience such technologies to become proficient with them.  Although we are keeping pace, it is an on-going effort.  Our partnerships with organizations such as the Salado Education Foundation, the Texas Bioscience Institute and other school districts help us find funds to assist in this effort through grants and cooperative programs.  Business partnerships have also helped us purchase new technology.  These must be maximized.  The use of technology also includes experience using the technologies that are readily available such as smart phones and tablets.   By teaching students to use such technologies to solve academic and real world problems, we prepare them for success by utilizing the technology already at their fingertips.

Question #4: What is your assessment of the physical condition of each of our campuses? In your opinion, which ones need improvement and/or expansion?(300 words)

Kim Bird Answer: As part of a long-range planning process, a comprehensive facilities evaluation was recently completed.  This will help guide the school district as we consider how to best utilize our existing facilities, budget for necessary maintenance and plan for the future.  

Salado High School was built in 2007 and, as our newest facility, is in very good condition.  The classroom space, science labs, library and gymnasiums all meet the current TEA recommendations.  We are utilizing all the available classrooms and have a need for additional space for co-curricular programs at our present enrollment.    Salado Junior High was constructed in 1978 as a high school facility.  It now comfortably houses two grade levels, but because of its age and design, needs some improvements.   Although the gym and library meet current TEA standards, the classrooms are slightly undersized.Salado Intermediate School was built in 1999 and is in good condition.  Home to grades 3-6, it has some additional classroom space that can be utilized as needed.  The majority of instructional space meets current TEA recommendations.  Thomas Arnold Elementary is our oldest facility built in 1967.  A primary wing and gymnasium were added in 1988.  Although it is a clean and appealing facility, the structure, while sound, will require improvements in the future.  Also, classroom space is undersized by current TEA standards.      Three of our four campuses were built before the Columbine shooting, a school event that prompted design changes in new school construction nationwide.  Campuses have all been retrofitted with card readers that require visitors to be screened before entering, but additional design changes could further improve student safety.  

 

Question #5: Will you support calling a bond election for new athletic facilities? Why or why not? (150 words)

Kim Bird Answer: Because questions 2 and 3 both address calling for bonds, I have combined my responses to avoid being repetitive.  

The decision to propose a bond election is not made by a school board and administration in isolation.  It should result from a long range planning process that continually evaluates facilities as compared to the safety and educational needs of our students.  When a long range planning committee composed of stakeholders representing all aspects of our community finds needs that can only be funded through a bond, this is when a bond should be considered by a school district.  Other aspects of a construction project must also be considered such as current costs of materials and construction, as well as bond prices.  The last time a bond election was held, construction costs and bond prices were very favorable.   

It is the responsibility of the board to ensure that the educational and safety needs of our students are met, while being good stewards of the resources with which we are entrusted.  If the citizens and students of Salado are best served by a bond package to improve the academic, technology and/or athletic facility needs of the district, it is something that the board must consider.  This consideration would only come after a thorough process that would include community and stakeholder input.  I would support a bond under these circumstances.      

Question #7. Will you support a pay increase for the teaching staff? If so, what level of increase would you support? If not, why not? (200 words)

The actual work of a school district occurs at the classroom level.  Because teachers are the professionals that are charged with educating our children and carrying out Salado ISD’s mission, they are essential to the success of students, campuses and districts.  Salado ISD has an outstanding faculty that demonstrates professionalism and excellence across all grade levels.  Maintaining such a faculty requires SISD to attract and retain competent professionals that are at the forefront of an ever-changing profession.  As such, we must offer competitive salaries that are in line with the districts that surround us.   While we participate in athletics and academics with other schools our size, we compete for staff members with schools of all sizes including Killeen ISD, Belton ISD, Temple ISD, Georgetown ISD, even Round Rock ISD and Pflugerville ISD.  

Salado ISD has continued to offer step increases and avoid large-scale layoffs and program cuts through natural attrition.  This was done in an effort to maintain excellent teaching, while seeking to allay the fears of staff about their continued employment.  Our district must now find a way to bring our salary schedule into line with other school districts in the area.  I will enthusiastically support a salary increase for the professionals that worked harder and smarter for the past few years despite funding cuts and static salaries.       

 

Question #8. Will you support calling for an Tax Ratification Election to increase the maintenance and operation tax above 1.04? Why or why not? (200 words)

Kim Bird Answer:

At this time, I do not believe that a Tax Ratification Election is needed to continue to provide an outstanding education to the students of Salado ISD.  Our reputation for excellence has attracted students and families to our district.  This growth, along with a lean but effective budget, has allowed SISD to weather several years of deep legislative funding cuts to education while maintaining a strong fund balance.  

Question #9. How would you rate the performance of the district superintendent on a five-point scale? Do you support extending the contract of the superintendent? Why or why not? (200 words)

 

Kim Bird Answer: As the Chief Executive Officer of a school district, the superintendent sets the tone and leads the way for a school district.  Salado ISD is fortunate to have attracted a superintendent as competent and professional as Dr. Michael Novotny.   Under his watch, SISD has received many accolades including a 5 star rating on the Financial Allocation Study for Texas, repeated perfect scores and Superior ratings on the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas, a silver award for Salado High School from U.S. News and World Report in 2013-14 (top 8% of U.S. high schools), a Newsweek ranking for Salado High School in the top 5% of U.S. schools, and a Higher Performing School designation for Salado Junior High from the National Center for Educational Achievement.  Additionally, the Eagles have won numerous state championships, the AA Lone Star cup, and national recognitions for students and teams, all while increasing test scores that are above state averages on state required STAAR and End of Course exams.   As a result, I would rate him a 5 on a 5 point scale and support extending his contract.

 

Question #10: What do you consider to be the greatest weakness or flaw in the Salado Independent School District and what can you do to change it? (200 words)

Kim Bird Answer: Over the past decade, we have had an influx of families move into the Salado community.  As I encounter them at community events and activities, we inevitably discuss what brought us all to Salado.  Almost without fail, excellent schools factor in as one of the primary reasons that they chose to relocate to our community.   Additionally, those of us who have been in Salado for awhile remain here for the same reason.  This excellence could not be achieved without an outstanding staff composed of experienced educators who care about their students, working hard to prepare their students for future success.  In order to maintain this excellence, we must continue to attract and retain outstanding educators by offering a competitive salary schedule and benefits package.

I believe this is our greatest challenge at this time.  Our salary schedule must be in line with the surrounding school districts with which we compete for faculty.  By doing so we ensure quality and consistency for the students we are charged with educating.   Working together with the superintendent, the school board can ensure that this remains a district priority in the upcoming budget cycle.

Question #11:  Why should anyone vote for you? (200 words)

Kim Bird Answer: The education of children has been the focus of my life since obtaining a degree in chemistry and a teaching certificate in 1988.  I subsequently obtained my Master’s degree in educational administration, as well as a Ph.D., while serving as a teacher and administrator in small, medium and large school districts facing many different challenges.  As a parent, I have worked alongside teachers and administrators to ensure that Salado ISD has the human resources through volunteerism to improve the educational experiences for all our children.  As an active volunteer in the community and in many local organizations, I have had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of individuals toward a variety of goals, each focused on the mission of improving some aspect of our village.  

I believe my experiences have given me the ability to see district challenges through a variety of lenses and different perspectives.  Most importantly, however, I bring a mindset that is open to different ideas and solutions.  There is no place in the boardroom for personal agendas or self promotion.  Effective school board members must remain focused on the children that we serve and what is in their best interest.