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.
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.