Check out The Facts newspaper from Thursday and Friday to learn more about the candidates for the SISD election. Here are my responses to their questions.
How can the district balance student safety with academic and emotional needs during COVID-19?
Our district has done a great job of reacting and adjusting to the COVID-19 situation. In the spring, we were able to swap to online very quickly, much faster that other districts. One of the reasons is that we were already focusing on technology prior to the pandemic and we already had a 1 to 1 program where students had technology to take home. We had also received a grant from T-Mobile to provide hot spots to homes that did not already have connectivity. Our district is offering both virtual and in person options for the students with 65% of the students currently attending in person and the option to switch methods for students at the end of each 9 week period. The staff and teachers have done a tremendous job of working to improve the virtual learning environment including technology hotlines and help to parents. We are prepared to take classrooms virtual if the need arises. The district is working hard to keep the campus clean, disinfected and to ensure that everyone is following the guidelines from the CDC, Brazoria County Health Department and TEA. We have put in place safety response levels as it pertains to COVID-19 that will guide decisions for responding to cases and every staff member and student has received training on how to follow the guidelines. Our teachers are doing their best to provide some normalcy to the students and address emotional needs. I am very proud of our district and how we have handled the COVID-19 situation and pray that all of our staff and students remain safe and healthy!
Sweeny ISD teachers recently proposed a new Life-Ready Learner profile for the district to strive toward regarding their students. What are your thoughts on the proposed plan? How would you suggest that the district implement the plan for both in-person and remote learners?
I was excited to get the details about the Life-Ready Learner profile and the process used by teachers and school leaders to create it. Sweeny not only wants to educate our students, but to teach and mold them into becoming better individuals who will positively contribute to the world! Some of the qualities of a future Sweeny graduate are collaborative leader, empathetic citizen, resilient achiever, solution oriented contributor and person of integrity. The Board will discuss adoption of this profile at our next meeting. If adopted, the district will create a staged implementation plan and will need to consider both in-person and virtual needs. When asked what I would commit to doing as a Board member, my answer was to strive to be a role model demonstrating these strong moral and ethical principles and values. I think this is important for the leaders in our community.
Sweeny ISD was allocated $354,837 in CARES Act funding. Do you feel that was an adequate reimbursement for the district’s needs and what is your stance on TEA’s current funding of Texas schools?
Since Sweeny did not have to purchase as many devices to move into a virtual learning setting, I do feel that the targeted reimbursement will be adequate for what the district will submit. We will use it to cover the extra expenses incurred for cleaning, preparing the campuses for closure and for preparing to host graduation ensuring safety for all in attendance. It also will be used to cover the extra salaries we had to pay for overtime of employees working during the shutdown. This amount only covers costs for a short time period (March – May). I’m hopeful that another source of funding will be provided later to cover extra costs since May. Overall school funding has changed drastically since House Bill 3 was adopted with one visible impact being tax rate compression reducing our M&O tax rate over 2 years from $1.06 to $.8847 (not including I&S). There are other financial impacts of HB3 including changes to recapture and teacher compensation and incentives. The district is still analyzing some of the financial implications of HB3 and how to implement.