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Salado ISD Board of Trustee Candidates

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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.