Posted Date: 10/28/2021
I remember all too well putting in a solid week of football practice while in high school in our attempt to prepare for Friday night’s opponent. The conclusion of Thursday’s practice in high school signified the end of the planning and team preparation for the Friday night game and my high school football coach would always say to the team, “The hay is in the barn”. I don’t think any of my high school teammates or myself knew what that really meant at the time. It was not until well into my adulthood that I had a full understanding of what he was conveying to the team. I can now say the same here, the planning of our bond and the execution of providing information to our community through multiple platforms is near complete. For that reason, this last editorial will serve as the conclusion of my attempt to provide accurate information to our community. Predictably opponents of this bond package have come after me, district board members, and the district’s previous academic performance. Most of what is being said or appearing on social media is based on opinion while I have chosen to rely on the facts of the bond. I felt that the work of the 16 prominent community members who valiantly served on the committee were dead-on when we completed our research and announced what we wanted to do. I am more than confident of the items this bond will address more so now due to the opponents of this bond object to it in very vague terms. We have put together a good plan that benefits not only all C.I.S.D. students yet the community as well and I am finding it very easy to defend our proposal. I hear or read most that this bond is not needed yet critics fail to move that argument to a deeper level than just “not needed”. I tend to believe that Clarksville citizens will require an argument that reaches beyond just the “not needed” level. Factually, teachers and students in Clarksville I.S.D. are still making use of 3 of 4 academic buildings that were constructed in the mid-1960s with no major adjustments or upgrades. We all know that facilities of any kind will indeed erode over time without frequent care and attention. Erosion and depreciation can be slowed but with the lowest tax rate in the county, money has always been rightfully allocated to the most immediate academic needs of students instead of trying the extend the use of almost 60-year-old buildings. Trying to address swiftly deteriorating buildings and meeting student needs with less funds than districts within in our immediate area puts this district in a constant state of hesitation, stress and forces it to make choices where often someone or something will regretfully miss out. The last paragraph serves as a great lead into the next issue. I am now beginning to hear what the current academic state of the district is. The city is home to a district with a state rating that is 1-point shy of a B rating at 79. Taking the reins at 2 traditionally low-performing middle schools before coming here and immediately and positively altering the academic trajectory of those campuses making them great schools, I have often reflected on what was the root issue in those failing campuses that I inherited. Experience and research have taught me that with any failing school within a successful district, the cause of the lack of student progress was not a teacher, student nor parental issue. Instead, the problem was a campus leadership issue. It scaled all the way up to the campus principal and likely stopped there. How does my answer to this question change when we are speaking of a school district instead of a campus? Does the buck stop with the superintendent and the school board? Before arriving in Clarksville, I would have easily said yes. However, when faced with the thought of two different superintendents before me proposing two desperately needed bonds in 2007 and 2009 that both failed, forcing those superintendents to craftily manipulate school budgets, cutting teachers and critical programs, acquiring school loans and frequently saying no to both kids and teachers due to financial constraints the answer to this question may be a bit different for me. With those two failed bond packages on record and Clarksville I.S.D. playing host to the lowest tax rate in both Lamar and Red River Counties, should we not consider that the community itself should feel a sense of responsibility and ownership in Clarksville I.S.D.’s current situation? I can assure all that are reading me that the healthiest school districts are those that are well funded and comprised of both parents and students that are consistently involved in the school system and they adamantly challenge the entire school system to continuously improve. Furthermore, and misleadingly, bond opponents have frequently stated that this package focuses too much on athletics. We do have a healthy portion of our kids who participate in athletics and we find those kids to be some of the absolute best kids in the school system. What is seldom discussed about both athletics and any other extra-curricular program is that they strongly assist with establishing a positive culture, climate, and a sense of school pride within a school system. These very programs also brand a small community such as Clarksville. In other words, they matter and should not be discounted, overlooked or underfunded. Factually, the attention that this bond package has allocated to athletics sits at a paltry 9.5% whereas the 91.5% is appropriately focused on academic enhancement. There are four major public-school districts in both Lamar and Red River Counties for a total of 8. Clarksville is one of only two districts that do not have any bonded debt as 6 of these districts have all comfortably passed bonds. Those passed bond packages have led to teachers having adequate facilities to teach and parents and kids wanting to attend school districts that have the latest in technology and facilities. Remarkably those locally that have been the loudest in opposition of this bond package have taken advantage of those neighboring districts approved bonds in the past to make things better and shipped their kids or grandkids off to those districts while remaining here in Clarksville and not wanting to do the same thing for children living locally amongst us. The kids living in Clarksville deserve the exact same support and academic opportunities in their own I.S.D. without having to decide to attend another district to get those opportunities. Clarksville I.S.D. is simply trying to cross the same bridge that has been successfully crossed by six other school districts in this area. Clarksville citizens are in complete control of the school district’s narrative and future. Strong consideration needs to be given to the thought of what occurs if the facilities continue to deteriorate, the district continues to lose revenue due to a regressing enrollment and the City of Clarksville becomes the first county seat in the State of Texas that does not have its own I.S.D. The community will then find itself paying someone else’s elevated tax rate and not having nothing to show for it locally.