By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX
At a special meeting of the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees on Aug. 7—in a vote of 4-3—trustees green-lighted an $800,000 program with the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) at Houston that will provide the district with instructional support service.
Although the board’s majority ruled in favor of implementing this support service, some trustees have expressed concern about the program’s cost and effectiveness. Trustee Yliana González said, “It’s very obvious that our district needs help…. I know how crucial it is to receive staff development and the effectiveness of that. My concern, primarily, was that it’s a significant amount that we’re investing into this program, and I hope to see (positive) results.”
Reportedly, at least three other schools in the Valley have implemented a similar plan with success. González said those schools “funded the program with grants” while San Benito must utilize federal money “that could have been used to purchase student materials.”
SBCISD Superintendent of Schools Antonio G. Limón said, “Before we made this decision, we made sure that the money we were going to use would not affect areas Ms. González was talking about.” He explained that the usage of these Federal funds “complies with state regulations.”
Arnold Padilla, SBCISD Board President, said the program’s costs were of paramount concern to the Board. “Trustees need to understand that we need to measure the success of what has been in use over the past few years. (A few years ago) we spent $600,000 on one software program that is not being utilized at all. What we have been doing has not worked.”
The Board voted to approve this program for one-year, at which time trustees, with the guidance of the new superintendent, will be able to evaluate whether or not the district should continue utilizing the program. From feedback received by other districts, Padilla and Limón stated they are confident in the program’s success.
“No matter how good a program is,” said González, “it always has its deficiencies, and you always have to support it through other programs. And in order for a (new) program to be successful, you…may need five years. The agreement that we entered into is only for one school year.
Limón stated that the district’s theme for the 2014-2015 school year is “improving instruction.”
The superintendent added, “Improving instruction will equal improved student achievement (and) help teachers improve their instruction under UTHealth.”
“The program’s purpose is to educate, train and assist our professionals to deliver in a much better way,” said Padilla. “We have high expectations for it. Not doing anything or continuing with what has not worked (in years past) is a bad investment in itself.”
González said she feels that the district might be best-served by utilizing many programs and not focusing so much of its resources into one program; furthermore, she said she would like to see the empowerment of the district’s current principals, assistant principals and other educators.
“We have tremendous staff and good people working for us. The program will work with the competent staff that we have. It is a large investment, but we’re also measuring that with unsuccessful ventures in the past,” Padilla said.
Still, González said, “I am skeptical this one program will provide the success we are looking for…. Initially, Mr. Limón informed us that staffing cost were approximately $600,000 and (UTHealth) was expecting to get compensated roughly $200,000. If staffing costs go up, it could cost more. All in all it’s an investment that will cost almost a million dollars.”
“I expect our trustees to support what has been approved by the majority,” Padilla said. “It is in the best interest of the district to support the program—(as well as) our investment and the staff and contractors assisting us with it.”