Not too long ago I began wondering just what a school board does and why they exist. That question has let me to interview three people running for the Socorro Independent School Board of Trustees (Paul E Garcia, David Morales and the President of the SISD Board of Trustees (authors note: my interview with her will be running at a future date), and now Joshua Carter Guerra.
Guerra is running for a spot in Socorro’s District One race. This past week I met with him at the Corner Bakery to talk about a few of the issues facing Socorro.
Before we jump into this article, a disclaimer: The El Paso Herald Post does not endorse any individual or party, so these profiles are simply to educate our readers about who is running.
So, what challenges does the Socorro Independent School District face, according to Mr. Guerra?
“The main challenge facing the district is going to be the incoming of charter schools and to Socorro ISD. I kind of listened to some of the other podcasts and I, I heard that some of the other people have touched on it as well. So, I think it’s an issue that we’re all on the same page on,” says Guerra. “Charter schools are very different in the aspects of their certification for teachers. They don’t really follow the same rules, but they’re kind of taking advantage of the money that would be lost. So, it’s about $6,000 per student that we lose when a student leaves to charter school.”
Charter schools seem to be a hot button issue, not only at the district level but with quite a few parents I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks. I’ll share one example with you from Mary Soto.
“When I moved to El Paso from San Antonio, I decided against continuing my child’s education within any sort of charter school,” says Mary. “What I discovered after just one year of his enrollment was certain educational goals that were enumerated prior to enrollment were not being met.”
Mary’s son has additional requirements due to his being on the Autism spectrum.
“Simply put,” Mary continues, “my son was not performing to an unachievable standard set by the school, so they dropped him in order to maintain their record of achievement. And this was a charter school that said it specialized in children just like my son. Yet, he seemed to be the only one there.”
According to Guerra, Socorro Independent School District can lose a lot of funding behind these charter schools.
“I won’t name them, but we know that they’re here. If those charters reached full capacity, we stand to lose about $22 million in Socorro ISD and state funding. So, that is going to be the biggest threat… that’s three charter schools,” says Guerra.
I also asked Guerra about future growth for the Socorro School District. There is only so much land within Socorro, and they are soon to be land-locked by Ysleta, El Paso, and others, limiting future expansion.
“Socorro is growing very fast. I think I saw earlier this week that we’re at 47,000 students,” says Guerra. “Through my office, we sat on the Facilities Advisory Committee for the school district and then we kind of got to visit all the schools and see the growth patterns in the area. And so a way that we’re going to be able to deal with that is to, we just saw recently where they adjusted the boundary lines for the school district, which I think is the best thing — the best way to tackle that. Through the advisory committee, we also realized that we needed to add portables or add more spaces to schools, you know, are more parking. So, it’s kind of looking at the bigger picture of it. But the best way that we’re going to be able to adjust that is what the boundary lines.”
Guerra says that by being proactive and looking at boundary lines, and adjusting, the overall student population of El Paso will be better served.
Something else I learned from Guerra is that teachers within the Socorro Independent School District only receive one-year contracts. At theclose of each school year, teachers must sign a new contract.
“One of the issues that was brought up yesterday, at last night’s board meeting, was instead of giving teachers, you know, one-year contracts, looking into the possibility of offering a two year contract,” says Guerra.
“We give the superintendent a two-year contract. Of course, there’s always going to be issues that come up where we’re contracts need to be reviewed before they’re ended. But I think little things like that where, where we can show our faculty and staff that we appreciate them, that that will make it a happier environment.”
Like the other candidates who are standing for election, Joshua Carter Guerra would also seek to give teachers within the district a raise in pay. That would also go a long way to creating a happier environment within the district.
You can contact Joshua Carter Guerra via his Facebook page
Early voting started Monday, April 22, 2019. If you live in the Socorro Independent School District, it’s time to cast your vote and let your voice be heard.
After the elections, I will be following those who have one their respective seats to see what they do and how they perform over their term. I’ll also be bringing further information on just want a school board is, what it does and how you can be involved.
Do you know of something in El Paso County that is interesting? If so, I would love to hear about it. Give me a call at 915-201-0653 or send me an email: email@example.com