Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A Trustee - Community relationship like no other

In 2008, I was a newly elected Trustee excited after winning my first election and ready to make a difference. One of the main reasons I ran was to open access to the administration office for our parents. Back then, parents at my elementary school did not feel the district administration was listening to their concerns.  This was 12 years ago, with a very different district administration from what we have today. 

I remember the first time the Board received our district-wide TASK report (the 2008 version of the STAAR test). The results were interesting and it appeared on the surface that the district performance was as good as could be expected. I realized the report did not include the performance of each individual school, so I requested the report with a breakdown for each school and was surprised when my Trustee colleagues from back then defeated my request with a 3-4 vote during a board meeting. The reason given was the report would take too long to put together, and the district personnel had other duties on which to work on. I knew we had such diverse schools in GCISD that a district-wide performance report could mask the performance of some of the individual schools. At the end of that meeting, a reporter from one of the local papers asked me about that board vote. I mentioned that I was surprised by the decision because we would not be able to accurately assess the district’s performance without knowing the performance of each individual school. The next day an article about the Board meeting appeared in the newspaper.

A week later a package was delivered to my front door, and it was the TASK performance report for both the district and the individual schools. I asked why the change and was told that many parents and tax payers called the district very upset about “their elected Trustee not getting the school performance information he requested”.  I realized very quickly that to be effective as a Trustee, developing trusted relationships with other Trustees and also with the community was critical. 

From that point forward, I have spent countless hours talking to parents and tax payers about their concerns. Those conversations have had a huge effect on the reach and quality of services we currently provide for our students. For example, conversations with parents were key in bringing the Take Flight program to our district, in partnership with the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, to serve students with Dyslexia. Also, major improvements to the gifted and talented services were developed in our LEAD 2021 strategic plan based on parents’ feedback.  

Even after many years on the Board, I do not feel as though I have all the answers or know all the concerns of our community. Ongoing parent feedback is essential in bringing light to things that we can do better and also to let us know whether a program we implement is working or not. I continue to talk to parents every day and follow their school-related postings on social media. Our parents are the measuring stick of our success, as they continue to raise the bar of high expectations for GCISD

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