San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) community members are invited to attend Leadership SAISD‘s first “Ed Chat” Wednesday, Sept. 21, which will feature a discussion and Q&A session with State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123), SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez, and SAISD Board President Patti Radle about the district’s forthcoming bond and tax ratification election (TRE).

Doors for the event will open at 5:30 p.m., and the chat will be held from 6-7 p.m at Plaza de Armas Gallery, located at 115 Plaza de Armas. 

The event is free and open to the public. To register, click here.

The talk intends to “bring passionate people together to get information, understand what those ballot items are, and be able to have conversations,” Leadership SAISD Executive Director Durquia Guillén told the Rivard Report.

Placed on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot by the SAISD Board of Trustees in Aug, the $450 million bond would renovate the district’s 13 neediest schools, while the 13-cent TRE would raise $15.6 million annually for extracurricular activities and classroom technology, matched by $16.5 million in State contributions.

(Read More: SAISD Board: Bond and Tax on Ballot)

The ballot measures were the recommendation of a 16-member Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed to analyze SAISD’s capital and operating needs. According to their Aug. 1 presentation to the board of trustees, the tax increase from the TRE would go into effect immediately, adding approximately $91 to the average homeowner’s annual tax bill. Assuming fixed property values, this will rise to around $175 by 2020 as the tax raises to fund the bond are gradually introduced.

Formed in 2012 by concerned parents as a way to inspire community discussion and awareness on issues facing the district, Leadership SAISD – an independent, nonprofit organization – is entering its fifth year of providing a “free, six-month program for community leaders interested in meaningfully impacting San Antonio’s educational landscape,” according to a Leadership SAISD news release.

Participants in the program, ranging from parents, teachers, and aspiring education leaders from all seven SAISD districts, commit to meeting for five hours once a month to engage with educational figures and intellectuals from the district and beyond. Six of the 16 members on the Blue Ribbon Task Force are Leadership SAISD alumni.

“The purpose of the Ed Chats series is to take the success we’ve had with the (Leadership) SAISD cohorts beyond our program and bring issues impacting the SAISD school district to the public,” Guillén stated in the news release. “We encourage everyone interested in education and the upcoming election to attend and get involved.”

Guillén expects the event to primarily feature a one-on-one discussion between Martinez and Bernal, whose visits to all 55 schools of his district’s schools culminated in his recent report, “What They Said: What I Learned from Conversations with Texas Educators.” The event also will provide an opportunity for audience members to voice questions and concerns about the two ballot measures.

In previous interviews with the Rivard Report, Martinez described the bond and TRE as critical to improving the condition and performance of SAISD schools and tapping into a continuous stream of state funds.

The $450 million bond would resemble the SAISD 2010 Bond and serve to update schools that haven’t been renovated in over 40 years and currently fail to meet standards and code requirements. These schools include: G.W. BrackenridgeBurbankEdisonJeffersonLanierSam Houston, and Fox Tech high schools; DavisIrvingTafolla, and H. Rogers middle schools; and J.T. Brackenridge and Bowden elementary schools.

(Read More: SAISD’s Proposed Bond: When HVAC Equals Education)

The TRE, on the other hand, would provide universal access to extracurricular programing, responding to national and district-specific research that shows strong correlations between student performance and engagement in summer and after school activities. The TRE also would modernize 2-3 schools per year to include 21st century classrooms in the hope of better preparing students for future work environments.

Top image: The cafeteria at Sam Houston High School is filled with educators during A History of Public Education in San Antonio hosted by San Antonio Teach for America.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

Local Education Leadership and Finance on the Ballot in November

Diego Bernal Publishes Findings from District-Wide Listening Tour

SAISD Board: Bond and Tax on Ballot

Task Force: $450 Million Bond, Tax to Transform SAISD Schools

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Daniel Kleifgen

Daniel Kleifgen graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he came to San Antonio in 2013 as a Teach For America corps member.