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Go Vote Now!

Polls are open right now and until 7:00 p.m.  Please go vote!  And when you do, share your experience here to give us some encouragement for the long day.  Thanks for your support!

Polling Places

District One    New Life Christian Center, 4000 Highway 123, San Marcos

District Two (San Marcos)   San Marcos Housing Authority (CM Allen), 820 Sturgeon, San Marcos OR Martindale Baptist Church, 103 Main Street, Martindale

District Three    Dunbar Center, 801 MLK Drive, San Marcos

District Four     Crockett Elementary, 1300 Gerard, San Marcos

District Five     Travis Elementary, 1437 Post Rd., San Marcos

Closing Argument

Election Day is Saturday May 9th.  Polls close at 7:00, then shortly thereafter, two candidates will start preparing to serve on the board and the other five will fade back.  I am asking you to vote for me, because my varied experience makes me the most qualified to serve and I have expressed the most specific vision to get things accomplished.

Experience with the struggling — I am one of only two candidates who grew up here in San Marcos, and my wife did as well.  We attended schools that others have merely visited, and we have four children from 4 to 16 so we have seen, firsthand and recently, every level of schools in the district.  Through our church and nonprofit work, we have been a part of neighborhood engagement that worked and seen a lot that didn’t.  Throughout the campaign, I have talked the most about the poverty 70% of our students are stuck in, and it is one of the driving forces behind my desire to serve on the Board and improve their future.  For more, please read this.

Experience with the other 30% — The 30% of kids who pay full price for their lunch don’t get as much talk and attention in our district.  As a result, we have seen many local families send their kids to private schools or neighboring public schools.  This trend has a tendency to snowball – kids who perform better on standardized tests leave, their exit causes our scores to lag which causes new families to locate elsewhere and exacerbates our challenges.  That is not the future that I want for our schools, but you don’t reverse the trend by cutting GT coordinators, cutting fine arts, or by spending more and more class time on test preparation.  We need to listen to what parents have to say; we don’t need to lecture parents or tell them that what they have seen and experienced is not true.  Parents who have choices won’t choose second best for their kids, so we have to make the tough choices necessary to make sure that San Marcos is the best choice for all kids.

Work Experience — I am one of only two candidates who currently work in the private sector and outside education, and I think varied professional experience is a big advantage to any board.  When a board is predominantly folks from education and the public sector, there are many voices and experiences left out of the decision process.  Plus, our board has been dysfunctional at times and too often in conflict, so my experience as an attorney dealing all day in conflict uniquely qualifies me to resolve a lot of the tension.  Finally, I have seen bad things come from individual board members who delve too deeply into what should be within the province of campus heads and administrators — being a board member is not designed to be a full-time job, and it won’t be for me.

Specific and Accountable — I have openly and clearly stated that I do not support using fund balance for an administration building, that I oppose further use of waivers that allow elementary class sizes in excess of 22, that the district should cover the full cost of health insurance for its teachers, and that I will not support a budget that does not increase the percentage of money going into instruction from its current level of 58.3% to 60% in the first year and to even more in the years that follow.  These are specific ways that I believe we can achieve my vision of putting all our focus and resources into the classroom where a great teacher inspires students.  As a voter, you cannot hold the other candidates to their vague ideas, but you can hold me accountable to these specific promises.

In the past, voters have taken a chance on candidates who have ignored real challenges in favor of nice talk of perception issues, but such naivety has slowed down our schools improvement.  We can’t take a chance this time; there are 7500 kids in our district right now and they cannot wait another three years for a board that is ready to make the tough choices required to give them the education they deserve.  Vote for me tomorrow and let me go to work for you.

A Very Big Day

I am excited by how much my message of a renewed focus on our schools with smaller classes and more money in the classroom is resonating with folks in San Marcos.  Local teachers have been encouraged, and I even saw that a mailer sent out by a special interest group attributed my message to the other candidates the special interest was endorsing.  I might prefer more honesty, but it means our message is winning.

Still, winning the message does not guarantee a good election result.  I have been outspent by more than two to one and faced special interest opposition by folks who stand to lose if the district moves forward.  If you do not vote, this election could be another missed opportunity where the board has new faces but the same tired ideas.  There are 7,500 kids in our schools right now who deserve more out of their education, and they cannot afford to wait three more years for a board ready to fight for change.  Today, the Justice Center is open from until 7:00 to accommodate voters.  I will be out there after work until they close, so join me and let’s make today the biggest turnout day of early voting.  It should only take five to ten minutes, and your vote could be the first step towards changing San Marcos’ future.

Miller Middle School

When people hear you are running for school board, they always have something to share.  The most common concern that I have heard from parents is the current state of Miller Middle School.  Former teachers have confided about the culture they left, parents have talked of their kids’ struggles, current teachers have complained about what they are seeing, and community members have shared performance concerns.  My oldest son went to Goodnight for middle school, so Miller is the campus where I have spent the least amount of time.  Today, I decided to go have a look for myself.

Mrs. Jones was very gracious with her time to give me a tour.  I also got to visit with several administrators and a few teachers. I met good people giving what they have to give, and the consensus seemed to be that considering the disruptions and changes, they were holding things together pretty well.  Maybe so, but we don’t get graded on a curve like that.  We have to be honest with ourselves — before we work as a community to address a problem, we have to first admit there is a problem. Simply put, there are more than seven hundred kids at Miller right now who are not getting all they wanted or deserved out of middle school. That is a problem, so we need to tell the parents that we are sorry and promise that we are going to do everything we can to fix the problem and never let it happen again.

Once we are all on the same page, we know that Miller Middle School needs a strong leader TODAY.  The board needs to provide Mark Eads all the resources he needs to hire the very brightest star TODAY for the important work of reinvigorating that campus and restoring discipline and pride in the faculty, the kids, and the parents.  And once we have the right leader, we need to give him or her all the resources they need to be successful.  Then we need to keep Miller top of mind and top of agenda for the board and the community in the months and years to come.  A single board member is never going to have all the answers to a problem, but the first step to solving a problem is admitting it exists.  For too long, acknowledging problems has been taboo, as if it somehow would insult the faculty or kids attending right now.  I think the most pervasive insult is low expectations, or worse, apathy and ambivalence towards another’s plight.  To our Miller faculty, parents, and kids, we love you and we are going to do everything we can do to give you the middle school you deserve and expect.

The Purple Bus

I remember the first time I talked to Mike Boone in 2011. Mike was and is the head of child nutrition for SMCISD. A very unassuming man, he spoke with passion and understanding about hungry kids and their parents. He told me he had money to feed kids in the summer but he couldn’t get the kids to his food. His idea was that he would take the food to the kids; he would customize an old retired school bus and make it into a mobile food delivery bus – purple and all. I thought my church could help gather some kids for the bus every day, so we held summer day camps in two neighborhoods for kids.

It was a wonderful partnership. Every day, our team of four to eight would hold a one hour camp of sports, or art, or music, or water fights, and then when everyone was exhausted, the bus would roll in and deliver lunch. There were days where we had eight kids, but there were days at the end of the summer where we had 30 or 40 kids. The relationships we made that year are a true treasure. One of the kids from that first summer liked my Facebook campaign site last week, and that endorsement means as much to me as any that I have received. And the members of the team were the best, and they are serving kids today as a SMCISD teacher, a non-profit leader, and as parents.

We renewed our partnership last summer and I hope we get a chance in the future to partner with the district and its programs. The best ideas aren’t always the grandest; they are usually a simple solution to a problem, but they are always the product of someone who has a heart for someone else who is hungry, or displaced, or otherwise in a bind. The purple bus is a great example. I think there are more opportunities out there for the district to reach out and engage with the community that it serves, and I hope to be a part of fostering those relationships from the school board.

Rattler Student Athletes

So far out on the campaign trail, I have heard candidates take a swipe at our new stadium and scoreboard. Most often those expenditures are juxtaposed against a preference for academics. While academic performance is the drumbeat of my campaign and will be my main focus if I am elected, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, I think pitting athletics against academics is the same old thinking that has been divisive in our district and on the board for years.  So let me tell you a bit about one Rattler student Athlete (the one I know best). My oldest son, Owen, gets about one week off at the end of the school year before he starts cross country summer training.  Coach Collazo meets up with 30 to 60 kids and 10 to 20 alumni and running parents every weekday morning at 8:00 a.m. to run between 3 and 8 miles.  Owen goes on a long run (8 miles or more) on Saturday mornings with me or the group from Core Running. This summer, we expect Owen will run more than 500 miles in three months.  To hold up to this grind, he will be weight training most days and trying to eat anything he can find. Once school starts, he will be running each morning at 6:30 before a full day of pre-AP and AP classes. Two afternoons a week, he will head to New Braunfels after school for soccer training to get ready for the high school soccer season which starts at Thanksgiving.  Cross country will still be going when soccer starts, so he will practice soccer at 6:30 in the morning then run after school gets out at 4:00.   He will get a few hours at home before bed to catch up on his studies, except those nights where he has soccer training in New Braunfels.  Every Saturday is taken during the fall with cross country or club soccer games (sometimes both on one day), so he will have to move his long runs to Sunday.  High school soccer games are every Tuesday and Friday at our stadium or in far-flung places like Kerrville or Floresville. Soccer lasts into Spring Break, but track starts in February, so Owen again has practice at 6:30 in the morning and run track until 5:30 in the afternoon.  To balance the strain, we sometimes have to see doctors or physical therapists. He does all of that because he wants to and because he plans to continue with athletics in college. So far, he has earned academic all-district each season so we haven’t stepped in to slow him down; plus busy kids learn to balance the business of adult life. The payoff for all that training is when he gets to run at the region and state level, or scores a goal that gets put up on the scoreboard at the new stadium.  Owen’s story is just the one I know, but all Rattler student athletes work hard and according to the district, UIL competitors still outperform their peers in the classroom. Owen doesn’t care how big the scoreboard is or how much it cost, but let’s all avoid scoring a few political points if it is going to inadvertently minimize the work he and his friends put in.

I’m In Print

The San Marcos Daily Record ran a piece on my campaign today, in a series of articles Chris Salinas has written on all the candidates. The article is fair, even if I am not sure the quotes are exact, but the main thing is that “I’m In Print”. The best way to summarize how this makes me feel is to share a clip of how it made Navin Johnson feel — classic cinema for sure.

A Letter from John

I am excited to run for a three-year term as an at-large trustee on the San Marcos CISD school board. The election is May 9, 2015 with early voting starting on April 27. If we have not had a chance to spend time together yet, I hope this election provides that opportunity. Until then, you can read more about my background and leadership experience in my online bio.

I am running for school board, because there are 7,500 kids in our school right now, and they cannot wait three more years for leaders focused on giving them the education that they deserve…

To read more of John’s letter, subscribe to our e-newsletter.