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Salado ISD Board of Trustee Candidates

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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.