KISD school board members do not write Board Policy. That policy comes straight from the TASB attorneys.

I tried to get two board policies passed one time that I actually wrote, and you would have thought that I was invading Europe! It was amazing the lengths to which Leonard Merrell went in order to stop me from getting those policies passed.

As a Board member, it didn't take long for me to know as much or more than most of the administrators about running our school district. I know that sounds arrogant, but it's true.

Of interest I think, is this Memo that I sent to other Board members in 1994 about things I thought needed attention. What's interesting to me about it now is that almost all of the problems that I addressed are STILL problems for this District! Nothing ever changes, and that is regrettable. These are all policies that should have been addressed and taken care of by the Superintendents. That they did not address them and that the Board did not insist that they do so should be of concern to taxpayers, parents and teachers.

Check this out:

(The following was a memo sent on July 6, 1994. [That's twenty years ago!] It serves to show the concerns I expressed to other board members and the administration. They were all of importance at the time I brought them up, and many of them still are. It is interesting, I think , that almost none of these items were ever addressed. I was never able to convince the Board that it was their responsibility to be in control of the school district or that they were supposed to represent the best interests of the students and the taxpayers.)

To: Board Members and Dr. Stacy [Dr. Stacy was the Interim Superintendent while the Board "searched" for Leonard Merrell.]

From: Mary McGarr

The following items (not listed in order of importance) are items that I believe need review and/or implementation.

1. Policies need to be developed on administrative hiring.(I believe that administrators, at this point in time, need to come from our own ranks. We have had a leadership training program in effect for several years, and it is time to reap the benefits. If that program is not working or we are not hiring teachers who are capable of becoming administrators, then that issue needs addressing.) [What happens instead is that each superintendent who comes along, tries to bring a great many Tom, Dick and Marcias that he knew in Podunk ISD to Katy ISD. They are all happy to jump on the gravy train.  Most of the time, they are not very capable people--just buddies of the Superintendent.  The one we have now even provides harbor for an administrator that have been let go a couple of times elsewhere! These transfers can look forward to big salaries and perhaps a school named for them after a few years of being here. There's no better career path for an administrator than to hitch his/her wagon to a new superintendent!]

2. We need to review the lists submitted by each school summer before last with regard to what principals and parents thought was necessary to secure their building and make the children on that campus safe. We need to know what has been done, what is planned, and what we might undertake this year additionally. Parents were told over a year ago that security meetings would be a regular activity in schools. [What happens instead is that KISD throws millions of dollars at the latest security technology and whether it gets used or not is anyone's guess.  Vendors love to call on public school administrators because they have little knowledge of the business world and are an easy sale.  As far as security is concerned, volunteers and teachers sitting in the halls, standing at their doors and then locking the doors after hours provides the best security.]

3. A program of specific activities needs to be developed so that the Board might assess what is happening to our graduates. We receive data (which I assume we pay for) from ACT, and there are several other methods of determining what happens to our graduates. We need to look at what students want to do in the 7th or 8th grade, what they actually do (with regard to their post graduate education), and what kinds of jobs they are finding. We also need specific information (and not just from last year’s graduating seniors) about what benefits they derived from their KISD education. In connection with this data, it would also be of interest to identify the length of time our top students (Top 10, National Merit Finalists) have spent in KISD schools. All of this data needs to be assimilated into some kind of coherent and useful form so that it serves to guide our plans. [What has happened instead is that finally a Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has been established at the state level, and we DO have same statistics about what is happening with our graduates.  I discuss that elsewhere, and it is not pretty. In my opinion Katy ISD (administrators and board members) could give a hoot what happens to KISD graduates.]

4. We need job descriptions for all administrative positions, and they need to be reviewed regularly (at least every two years) by the superintendent and with board oversight. [What happens instead is that when the "need" for a new position is seen as necessary, no effort is made to look around at what is being replaced, and so, there are just add-ons.  Thus the bloated bureaucracy of administrators.  We went from TWO assistant superintendents in the late 1990's to TEN in 2014, I would say that's pretty bloated!]

5. We need job descriptions for all personnel receiving stipends. This information would be by each position, and would include specific, verifiable amounts of time spent in these extra, paid for activities.

Stipends then would be paid according to how much time OUTSIDE the regular school day was spent with students. The amount per hour would be the same, and no value judgments on the time would be made. If a person received a salary different from the regular classroom teacher (plus longevity pay) for a particular job, then no extra stipend would be necessary. [The stipends are now up to (in 2014) $5,839,264.50! What happens now is that stipends are given to just about every teacher and for sure all the coaches to bump up their salaries.  There is nothing fair about the distribution of this money.  Some board members don't even know that stipends exist!]

6. We need to see mileage reports for the last year from everyone who receives a car allowance so that the continued allotment of these funds is justified and/or adjusted to fit need. We also need to keep track of travel expenses of administrators. I saw a document that said our superintendent last year spent $11,000 on travel expenses. Considering that he had a $600.00 car allowance additionally, that is clearly excessive.  [Board members are not allowed to view the expenses of the superintendent.  Usually only the board president sees them, and probably even that person has to ask to see them.]

7. We need to see regular updates (whether they take up someone’s time to prepare or not) on the use of our attorneys. The charge against the Board budget for school related use needs to be changed. We also need to see a monthly report of board and superintendent expenses. [As a board member I never saw the attorney's expenses or knew about the cases that were in progress when I was on the Board (and I asked for them too).  Sometimes board members are named specifically and they still don't know they are being sued.  Of course they are protected from that, but you'd think they'd at least be told.  I finally found out some things when we got rid of one superintendent and had an interim superintendent.  He didn't have anything to hide I guess, so the board got copies of everything.]

8. We need to develop incident statistics with regard to discipline/security events. There is no way to know if we have a “gang” problem or if we are not prosecuting criminal behavior, or if one school’s parking lot warrants some additional security, et cetera if there are no statistics.  [I thought they didn't have good statistics 20 years ago. You should see the one page print out that they get these days.  Our board members are totally in the dark with regard to the amount of crime going on in our schools.]

9. We really need to work on our public relations. Suggestions from each CAT team should be solicited. The Board needs to know about the on going activities of each school and from the athletic program BEFORE they occur. The public also needs this information in a timely manner. We also need to look at the collection of news articles that is compiled each week. I am interested in knowing how many board members even look at it. I do not. Someone is spending considerable time compiling it, and their time could be better spent.

10. The Board needs to review all curriculum guides. I do not expect everyone to read each one. I just want Board members to see what we have. [I would guess that most board members don't even know what the word curriculum means!]

11. Someone needs to assess the use/abuse of homework in our district, especially at the junior high level. Perhaps this is an item for SBM, but it still needs to be addressed on each campus. (While running for office last spring, the overuse of homework was a frequent complaint from parents. They felt that too much of it was busy work, had no relation to the work being done in the classroom, was never graded properly, was a cause for student cheating, or was the teacher’s answer for enrichment and/or punishment!)  [Whatever happened to SBM?]

12. We need to have a conscientious assessment of activities for female students. It is the law that these matters be equal. Girls need equal access to programs, facilities, instructors, and time. [Parents of female students need to read a copy of Title IX.  They might be surprised at what their children are missing!]

13. We need to revive competition. The deletion of competition is one of the goals of Outcome Based Education. Over the last five years, our district has had all vestiges of competition removed. We have done away with the Science Fair on most elementary campuses, and I expect the plan was to target it at the secondary level next. We have eliminated the History Fair. We have citizenship awards instead of academic excellence awards. We honor the top 10 instead of the valedictorian and the salutatorian. The most popular kid gets to make the graduation speech at one high school instead of the valedictorian who really earned that right. We name thousands of kids to the “Honor Roll” when they only have a 3.5 grade point average (and these averages are based on inflated grades), and then their parents cannot understand when their children cannot get in to our state universities. Our “Honor Rolls” need to truly reflect scholarship. We give scholarships to kids who “deserve” them instead of to kids who “earned” them by virtue of their excellent grades (the word is “SCHOLARSHIP”). We name ten kids “captain” of the football team so that no one has his feelings hurt. The list is endless, but the result is critical. We either believe in excellence and competition or we do not. We are doing a great disservice to our many academic achievers. Public school is supposed to be about academic education, nothing else. When we reward every kid regardless of his academic success, we are espousing socialism/communism. If that’s what we want to do, then we need to tell the world that that is what we are doing! The argument that public schools need to build “self-esteem” is another OBE ploy to imbue socialist beliefs. If students do not have self-esteem when they leave their home, they are not going to get it at school with meaningless rewards. Their self-esteem will come from actual academic accomplishment. [Nothing has changed on any of these matters.]

14. We need to develop policy (either Board or ask for Administrative) that addresses employment of teachers. Included should be a review of qualifications regarding their college education (e.g., did they go to a school, especially since 1975, where they had to make at least 1000 on the SAT? did they take anything besides education courses? what kind of grades did they make? can they write well? can they speak well? could we require a video tape of them teaching a class? could we give them an IQ test before they are hired?) Are we balancing new graduates with people who are going back to teaching after raising a family? Could we see statistics? What percentage of our student teachers are we hiring as permanent employees? How many of our own graduates are eventually hired as teachers? Is that a wise activity? What policies are in effect for constant and close monitoring of new hires so that bad teachers (and we do have some) can be moved on before they pass the probationary period? Are we going back to see who is in the files, or do we hire whoever applied last when a position opens? Are we hiring college students before they have proper credentials over applicants who have all their credentials in order just because they are someone’s friend or relative? What kind of computer cross-referencing of applicants exists? How long do we keep applications? Are irregularities in behavior in prior assignments revealed in references? Are we checking their names against local, county, state and FBI files?  [Obviously we are not doing any of these things either.]

15. We need to have an updated administrative salary list each year. It should not be regarded as confidential information. It is open to whoever wants to see it as per the Open Records Act. This list should be forthcoming every year as part of the salary proposal and should not have to be requested. [Thanks to me, anyone can see the salary schedule on this web site! Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands!]

16. The Board has received a copy of the staff development that occurred this past year, but we need time at a meeting to talk about it. I am not sure that a 326+% increase in this budget item over the past five years is entirely necessary or desirable. (For your information, from 1989-1993 the student population in KISD increased 18%, the tax rate increased 34%, and expenditures increased 40%) I also think the direction of most of the elementary level agenda is toward restructured education that I thought the majority of this Board was against. What is our policy with regard to teacher and administrative travel? Who decides what is paid for by the district and who gets to go to these seminars and conventions? Most of the staff development that is offered outside our district is of the brainwash variety. The teachers’ and administrators’ time and the district’s dollars are being wasted on things that the Board opposes. [Nothing's changed here either except that it is worse.]

17. The Board needs to address the Waller County Appraisal District. If it is costing $300,000 per year more to belong to it (per Bill Moore’s chart) as opposed to belonging to the Harris County Appraisal District, then over the thirteen years we have belonged, we have spent $3,900,000. That’s enough to almost build another elementary school. In four years it will be enough. When we say we use it so that we will have control, I think we need to ask, what control? and for whom? and for what purpose? And given the fact that a majority of our board voted to nominate Steve Hauck for the vacated WCAD board position, and then he was not voted in by OUR elected representatives, I believe I have answered my own question. Our board does not have control of anything that matters. Even if we keep the WCAD, the appraisal district needs to move out of our administrative building and their employees need to be separate and not benefactors of our benefits. We DO need the room they are occupying. I also believe we are a large enough school district that the position of tax collector warrants one person’s attention. We also need to address why this appraisal district cannot be run as efficiently as the HCAD. Our board also needs to look at the Appraisal Review Board composition. Do you know who is on it? Or how long they’ve been there? Or what their vested interests are in holding that position? That is part of our control, yes? [On this one we went from bad to worse.]

18. The Board needs to address the issue of salary increases for each of our employee groups and come up with some sort of policy so this policy is understood and accepted and not a political issue each year. It is not fair or smart to increase all levels of salary at the same rate for all employees, and we are not under any obligation either legal or by policy to do this. The only pressure comes from employees, and they need to remember that this is a government, not a privately held company. It is illogical to give people making 50 or 60 thousand the same percentage increase as those making 13 or 25 thousand. All of the district’s employees work very hard, but their value in the scheme of things is not that different, and the ones closest to the students need the greater reward. We also need to remember that employees should be paid according to their educational background, the difficulty of that education, and the time spent on the job. Pay should not necessarily be geared to longevity especially at the administrative level. [When they didn't address this issue, administrative pay got way out of whack.  Administrators should not be making four and five times what a teacher makes.]

19. The Board needs to have agenda time to review the Technology recommendation that was printed in February. I am greatly concerned about the failure of the plan initially to address the network capability of our district. This problem needs to be rectified immediately. I also think we need to revisit our priorities for having a computer on every kid’s desk. Who is going to monitor the software that students use? Do we have a policy or is it at every teacher’s discretion? Are computers going to be a means for the federal government or the state to implement OBE junk while we all sit by and watch? [The answers are "no one," "no," "yes," and "yes."]

20. In 1990 the Board paid $10,000 for a business services review. I would like to know which of the suggestions were implemented, which were not and why they were not. No sense paying all this money for a consultant unless we are going to follow through and follow up with their recommendations. [Wasted my breath on this one!]

21. The Board needs to review the Food Service Department. Recently there have been news articles concerning nutrition, the use of Federal subsidies, and the ability to use or not use the Federal free/subsidized lunch program. There have also been some reports from some schools (the latest being the report from Winborn) about the quality of the food being served. The Board should be concerned about the nutrition of the students. Read the menu in the Wednesday edition of the This Week section of the Houston Chronicle and tell me if you would eat this stuff week in and week out and if you think it looks nutritious to you!  [Nothing's changed here either.]

22. The Board needs to see an evaluation of the intramural program as it was implemented this year. We have received a numerical analysis, but what I hear from participants is that the students and parents were not that excited about it. This was a pilot program, and if it is unsuccessful, we should not keep it. I am also aware that the SCOPE [Select Committee on Public Education which was chaired by Ross Perot] initiative wanted to do away with junior high athletics and this program looks to me like a way for the administration to do that!

23. The Board needs agenda time to address the elimination of ability grouping. Most parents believe their children, regardless of level, benefit from grouping. We have instituted Inclusion as a policy without our Board ever being allowed to make a conscious decision. We have now been presented with a rather large grant to further inclusion in our district. We were also not given the opportunity to discuss the elimination of honors' classes, the superintendent who just departed implemented it without asking anybody, and I believe our students are losing ground because of this action. This is the first year the PSAT scores at Taylor have ever decreased (We did not get the opportunity to discuss that either!) Inclusion is not mandated by law; we do not have the money to do it properly; and I think we should stop it, or at least curtail it. This program is adversely affecting more students than it is helping. [We still have inclusion too.]

24. The Board also needs to address the inflated grades that are given in our district. This OBE device really is a crime. No one in real life (ideally) wants or gets what they do not earn. We are teaching our children the wrong thing when we tell them they are doing better than they really are. Eventually the truth is told, and it always comes as a shock and is detrimental--especially to their real self-esteem.  [Perpetuating self-esteem baloney is now the centerpiece of the elementary grades.]

Co-operative learning, testing et cetera needs to stop.

25. We need to see evaluations (mid and end of year) for all principals (beginning with last year’s).

26. We need to see absence from duty reports for all central administrators for the past year.

27. We need a comprehensive review of the elementary reading program, a discussion of our use of whole language to teach our students how to read as well as a discussion of efforts to address needs of dyslexic and ADHD students.

28. We need a comprehensive analysis of TAAS scores (at 7th and 10th grades) compared to actual grades received in language arts and math.


I recently ran across this memo to "Nancy."  I don't have a clue who "Nancy" is or was, but the memo tells me I had seen the problems with Senate Bill I that was passed in 1995 and which took away control of the local school district under the guise of "returning local control."

See for yourself.  Rep. John Culberson had given me the draft copy to peruse for problems.  Cedar Hill ISD had it right!


Commissioner Meno has proposed changing the Texas Education Code.  Rep. Culberson has given me a copy to review, and I am just getting started. (It is on 11x14 paper and an inch and a half thick!)  Other school districts and the Texas Association of School Boards are already lobbying state legislators because there are a great many proposed changes that Mr. Meno would like to make that are objectionable to local school boards and to the people who elect them.  The 74th Legislature will consider these proposals when it meets beginning in January.  NOW is the time to object to some of these proposals with our state representatives and senators. 

These recommendations that I have listed were taken from a resolution to oppose them from Cedar Hill ISD. 

l.  A recommendation to add twenty additional days of staff development to the school year.

*  (These days will either be in addition to the days teachers already work or will be days when students will receive no instruction during the school year. Twenty days is equal to a month of school.)

2.  A recommendation for a five percent increase in teacher salaries and two steps added to the salary schedule, without additional funding.  (Katy ISD already pays well above the state minimum, and I’m not sure this raise would be passed on to teachers in our district.  The important point is that they [Meno and Ann Richards] are wanting the political benefit of giving the raises, but are unwilling to provide the funds, leaving that up to the local tax payers.) 

3.  A recommendation to decrease the local school board’s authority to select and hire professional teachers and administrators.  (This effort to transfer the authority of the Board to the superintendent speaks for itself.)

4.  A recommendation to decrease the local school board’s authority to dismiss or non-renew teachers.  (Current practice is for the administration to do this on their own accord and then ask for Board approval.  In my opinion it is one of the checks and balances that is necessary in a democratically run government. The same logic applies to #3 also.)

5.  A recommendation to change the school board’s exclusive authority to “manage and govern” the schools of the district by removing the words “manage and,” leaving school boards with no real authority.

6.  A recommendation to transfer the authority of approving the budget from the Board to the superintendent. (Meno tried to do this two years ago and was unsuccessful.  His plan is to eventually fund all schools through a state income tax.  If the superintendent has the ability to set the budget items, then the Board loses all control, for without control of the money, the Board is powerless.)

(Board members as well as citizens should be very wary of efforts by Commissioner Meno to continue centralization of power  with Commissioner Meno and the Texas Education Agency. The Texas Education Agency has not done anything right yet, and there is no reason to expect that they ever will! When the Board loses authority, so does the local electorate.)

* ( ) My comments.  [ ] My comments in 2014.

(I will add to this list as I read through the proposed changes, as I’m sure that I will find more things with which to object!)