This week, I was invited to a meeting at Seguin ISD for “Key Communicators”. It was an introductory meeting in which we met with a facilitator and discussed our perceptions of the district, the perception of the district outside the community, and how to improve the education we delivery to our young people. The goal is to take this input, together with other input being gathered through meetings of teachers, staff, and members of the public, and develop a strategic plan for Seguin ISD.
In some ways, this was refreshing. It was nice to be invited. It was nice to be in a room of others with an interest in public education. It was nice to think that our input is valued. The district has a long history of holding the public at arm’s length. Hopefully, this meeting signaled a much-needed change in that pattern.
In other ways, though, it felt like deja vu. Those invited were largely those involved in similar initiatives over the last decade. While our district is 2/3 Hispanic, the group was mostly Anglo and there were few parents of our Hispanic students present. The issues discussed were largely those that we have struggled with for decades: improving the district’s image, improving the quality of instruction, increasing parental involvement, and dealing with attendance and discipline issues.
As someone who has been advocating for improvements in Seguin ISD for over half a decade now, this can feel discouraging. Why have we not made more progress? I think there are a lot of reasons. First, the challenges of educating children of poverty are enormous and not easily overcome. Second, it must be said that our district’s governance, the Board of Trustees and Central Administration, has not been equal to the task. Third, for a long time our community was content with a low-quality educational product. In fact, our complacency in regard to the latter enabled the former to persist and fester.
However, I remain optimistic. With the new trustees elected last November and a new superintendent and administrative structure, it appears that the pieces are finally in place to begin building a foundation upon which improvements can be realized. Notice these words: “begin” and “foundation”. It is going to take time and patience. And most importantly, it is going to take engagement on the part of the community. The question is, do we have it in us to remain engaged over the next few years? With luck, there will be no more Jumbotrons, no more $500 hotel rooms, no more attempted radio station takeovers. With luck there will be quiet competence and true transformation. But we must make our own luck. We will need to stay engaged even though it won’t be as “exciting”. Change is difficult and the change-makers are going to need us behind them, both supporting and nudging them, until Seguin ISD is considered a district to come to rather than one to get away from. The road will be long but it is one we must travel together.
Together we can do better.