Trust in the community, worried employees, financial shortfalls and above all student results that are less than stellar.  As you can see, the new Administration and the appointed Board of Managers have multifaceted challenges.  While these challenges have existed in many cases long before they came along, they are now theirs to own and to solve.

Apparently the previous administration, for whatever reason, presented a budget using overstated revenues and understated expenses.  The budget seems to have been predicated on inflated enrollment numbers.  In fact, all of their graphing information clearly showed that enrollment was decreasing and the district was on a downward trend. A drop of 1600 students equals a shortfall in revenues of 8 to 9 million dollars.  When you couple this with budgeting expenditures of teacher’s raises and increased health benefits that were based on that non existing revenue you have created a multifaceted challenge if not a downright disaster.  Spoiler Alert - You can’t spend money you don’t have! (That is of course unless you’re our Congress, but that’s another blog).  But there was money spent that did not exist.  Teachers were hired that there were no positions for.

Why didn’t the new administration or the Board of Managers catch this glaring overstatement of revenue?  The reason, I guess, could be as simple as: when they came in to office the budget had already been set and they did not have the luxury of time to go over the budget in detail.  We will go with that until it’s proven otherwise.  At this point, it matters little what the reasons are.  This problem now sits squarely in the lap of the new superintendent Juan Cabrera and the Board of Managers.  They have to stand up, own it and put forth their proposed solutions to fix it.

So how do you take ownership of a multifaceted down right disaster you didn’t create? The first thing is to be truthful about the problems and their scope.  Each issue needs to be addressed.

1. Trust: you combat lack of trust by being forthright; saying what you mean and meaning what you say, you do what you say you will do.

2. Worried Employees: It’s my understanding the over hiring of teachers will not result in anyone losing their job, that through attrition (The natural reduction of teachers due to retirement, resignation etc.) this problem will be solved.  If in fact they are not going to lose their jobs, then tell them so!  And this assurance should come directly from Mr. Cabrera.  This starts a culture of trust and loyalty that is sorely needed. 

3. Fiscal shortfalls: State how and why this occurred without belaboring the point.  Emphasize your intentions to fix the problem, and how these fixes will also improve the culture and efficiencies at EPISD.  How about doing what some other schools out of this area have done?  Have programs where 4 year olds attend school on a full day schedule, this would increase enrollment wouldn’t it?  Or how about something bold like cutting salaries by 5 or 10% off of administrators at the top of the food chain, talk about sending a strong message!  Come up with novel ideas that don’t include tax hikes.

4. Poor student results: This one is the overarching issue that needs to be fixed at all costs even though it has existed for years, in fact decades.  Today is the time to draw a line in the sand and say “No More”!  The community would be relieved and energized to hear a superintendent stand up and speak frankly to the fact that the results of this district are not acceptable.  And let’s be clear, 'this-fixing', this problem has nothing to do with the improvement of scores on those State mandated tests.  It has all to do with developing teaching criteria that motivates, stimulates and invigorates kids to want to learn. It allows good teachers to teach from that point of view “ I can make a difference” and “every kid can learn failure is not an option”.  This inspires kids to want to stay in school!  All of this has one aim, to insure that we end up with kids that are truly college ready.

From here on out this administration and the Board of Managers must convey, not only through their statements but by their actions, to the community that they understand that their responsibility is to be laser sharp on what’s best for the kids and their future.  I also say no bond issues- not until you demonstrate results that prove our kids are getting a first class education that is preparing them for the future. 

Everyday every person that has anything to do with EPISD should be able to answer the question “what have you done today to insure that my kids are prepared for a successful life and are college ready?” 

 I believe this Administration and the current Board of Managers can have an enormous impact in setting EPISD on the right course, but they are going to need the communities support, and that goes back to the trust issue.    

Parents also need to elevate their role in the success of their children. Without Parental involvement the likelihood of a child being successful in school and in life is very low (This sounds like the subject for another blog).

The success or failure of this administration and Board of Managers will rest on these simple words: "What policies have you put in place that will insure a change in the efficiencies, culture and afford our children the best opportunity to be successful"?