Putting Kids First Means Putting Teachers First Too

The Seguin ISD has placed on the ballot on September 10th a Tax Ratification Election (TRE) asking voters to increase the tax rate by two cents per $100 of property valuation. They state that this additional money is needed in order to fund raises for the district’s teachers and other employees.

There are many concerns present in our community as to the Board of Trustees’ financial management. These concerns make advocating for the TRE difficult at best. We want to make absolutely clear, however, that we stand as one with the employees of Seguin ISD. The mission of the Seguin ISD is to educate our young people. In order to do that effectively, we need to honor, value, and respect our educators. The Seguin ISD Board of Trustees should be making teacher compensation a top priority. Only after that is funded should they concern themselves with other things.

Most people live by a very simple rule: we pay for what we need first. Then we pay for what we want.

Educate Seguin reached out to the district and asked the district’s financial officer to answer some of our questions concerning the budget and the proposed TRE. He has refused a request to meet with us and refused to answer our questions via telephone. This leaves us with the limited facts we can gather from public documents and board meetings:

  • The district’s budget for “Instruction” was over budget by $1.8 million last year. Since teacher pay and staffing levels were set in advance, teacher pay is not the cause. We observe that there are many large payments to “consultants” listed in the district’s check register over the last year. We suspect this is the reason for the deficit in this budget category.
  • The Board of Trustees approved funds to pay for a variety of “supplemental” expenses last year such as:
    • $21,000 for golf carts
    • $15,000 for holiday parties
    • $40,000 for additional payments to district attorneys
    • $500 hotel rooms for board members and administrators
  • The Board of Trustees also approved funds this year to pay up to $1.5 million for a new scoreboard at Matador Stadium. The teacher pay raises would cost $1.4 million this fiscal year.

Teachers should be a top priority, and their raises should be implemented immediately. The district and the voters can then have a conversation prior to the TRE vote on September 10 about how best to meet the district’s needs in the future. Approving the pay raises now demonstrates to district staff and the voters that the Board of Trustees is serious about educating our students and respecting our teachers and other personnel.

The narrative from the district is “if you support teachers, you should support the tax increase.” The community fully supports teachers, and we are certain it will do what is necessary. However, there are many questions about the district’s budget and the need for a TRE that they are refusing to answer. We will continue to ask those questions and we call on the district to answer them. We have a responsibility, as Educate Seguin, to educate the community on this issue. That’s our mission.

In closing, we will simply emphasize that our teachers should be a top priority. We have heard trustees say this themselves. Now they need to act on their words. We understand that there are many challenges in funding and that money for teacher pay needs to be available not just this year but into the future. However, we also know that the district has the funds available, right now, to give our teachers and staff the raises they need and deserve. There is no excuse for leaving them and their families to twist in the wind, waiting on the results of the TRE. We call on the district to align its budget with its stated priorities. Give our teachers and district staff what they deserve. Today. Do What’s Right.

Together, we can do better.

Bob Stephens

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Secondary Class Size Limits

As parents, students, teachers, and concerned citizens we have witnessed the adoption of any number of teaching initiatives in Seguin schools, initiatives which recognize  everything from the presence of different learning styles to the integration of technology. Seguin ISD teachers report that their responsibilities have become ever more extensive, complicated and regulated. Like a priest with a small and vocal congregation, they must be everything to everyone. We support real class size limits at the secondary level for all core classes as a goal to be realized in the near future. These classes in English, Social Studies, Math and Science are necessary for graduation so all students, regardless of background and ability, must take and pass them. Furthermore, these are the subjects covered by high-stakes standardized tests, tests which generate a school’s academic rating. Because of this emphasis, we believe that no tested core class should have more that 25 students. We realize that this will involve increasing staffing. We believe that there is no more effective teaching initiative than the direct, personal attention of a professional educator. Smaller class sizes will make this possible. We recognize the uniquely beautiful and essentially democratic desire to educate all children that is the goal of a public high school. We also recognize the presence of economic, social and cultural factors that complicate this desire. We believe that smaller class sizes and more teachers is a simple and elegant way to address these multiple challenges.

Expanded Mental Health Services for Students

By Kim Stephens

Seguin ISD’s mission is to provide every child an excellent education in a supportive environment so they achieve their highest potential and become leaders and contributors in the global community through rigorous and relevant learning in partnership with committed staff, parents, and community. In order to make this mission achievable, it is imperative that Seguin ISD include mental health professionals in that supportive environment to all students and their families on all campuses.

Addressing mental health needs in school is critically important because 1 in 5 children and youth have a diagnosable emotional, behavioral or mental health disorder and 1 in 10 young people have a mental health challenge that is severe enough to impair how they function at home, school or in the community.1

Many estimates show that even though mental illness affects so many of our kids aged 6-17, at least one-half and by some estimates as many as 80% of them do not receive the mental health care they need.2

Being able to recognize and support kids mental health in schools matters because:

  • Mental health problems are common and often develop during childhood and adolescence
  • Mental health problems are treatable.
  • Early detection and intervention strategies work. They can help improve resilience and the ability to succeed in school & life.

In addition, youth with emotional and behavioral disorders have the worst graduation rate of all students with disabilities. Nationally, only 40 percent of students with emotional, behavioral and mental health disorders graduate from high school, compared to the national average of 76 percentand, over 50% of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities ages 14 and older drop out of high school. This is the highest dropout rate of any disability group 4

Schools provide a unique opportunity to identify and treat mental health conditions by serving students where they already are. School personnel play an important role in identifying the early warning signs of an emerging mental health condition and in linking students with effective services and supports. To this end, Educate Seguin believes that Seguin ISD needs to make available professional mental health services on all campuses by the 2017-2018 academic year. These professionals need to have the capacity to identify students with, or at risk for, mental health problems, to refer them for assessment and interventions appropriate to their needs, and to monitor and manage their behavioral, mental health, and emotional needs at school. This will enable us to live up to our promise to help all children in Seguin ISD reach their highest potential.

Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., et al. (2005). Life-time prevalence and age-of-onset distribution of DSM-IV disorders in the national co-morbidity survey replication. Archives of General Psychiatry 62, 593-602.

2Kataoka, S.; Zhang, L.; & Wells, K. (2002). Unmet need for mental health care among U.S. children: Variation by ethnicity and insurance status. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159(9), pp. 1548-1555.

3U.S. Department of Education, Twenty-third annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Washington, D.C., 2001.

4Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health. (2005/2006). National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Portland, OR: The Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI). childhealthdata.org/browse/survey/results?q=1099&r=1