January 2013

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2012 Review

AISD to utilize Manvel Junior High Annex

Jung working to fill Police Chief position

Congressman Pete Olson Visits Alvin-Manvel Area

Brazoria County Judge Breaks Ankle in Fall

City Council debates future development

City Council approves raise for City Manager

City Council considers recycling program

AISD adopts "balanced" calendar

 

2012 Review

January 2, 2013

 

City Manager Takes Reigns of Government

Newly appointed City Manager Kyle Jung assumed his duties in mid-January in fulfillment of the city charter that was approved by voters in May, 2011. A Dallas native, Jung attended the University of St Thomas in Houston and subsequently earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Texas Tech University. Jung brought practical experience as a city manager and a twelve year stint with the Texas Municipal League where he specifically dealt with the City Managers Association. The League is a state-wide association of city managers with about 900 members.

Interim City Manager Ron Cox had served in the position since July 2011. Upon his yielding the position to Jung, Cox was recognized by Mayor Delores Martin for his contribution to the growth and success of Manvel. Cox enjoyed a long and distinguished history with the city, serving in several advisory and consulting capacities before accepting the interim city manager position. He was instrumental in directing the city in the early stages of the city’s new charter that was passed by voters last May and led the effort in the hiring process for the new city manager.

Jung’s appointment uncovered some conflict among council in June when member Adrian Gaspar suggested the mayor and the city manager exchange offices, contending that Jung could better conduct business with the larger office. Fellow members ultimately agreed that the change would allow him to work more efficiently and would more clearly show the proper hierarchy of the city’s administration.

Mayor Martin expressed disappointment in council’s vote saying she has “served this city to the best of my ability for the past eleven years. I realize the city charter had changed my role and now I serve as the ambassador for this city. I do love my role as Mayor. I am very proud of my city. I am proud of what we have accomplished and will always promote it everywhere I go. Respect is earned, not given. I thought I had earned it, but I guess I was wrong.” She went on to say that she realized a long time ago that an “office does not make a person, character makes a person”.

Council’s view was well stated by member John Cox who emphasized that he has no disregard for the mayor and has great respect for her, but that it was simply a belief that the city manager needs the bigger office to properly conduct city business.

City Expands Business Opportunities

Manvel city council approved an ordinance that would expand the number of permitted uses by businesses looking to move into the city or those wishing to expand current activities. The Previous zoning ordinance allowed just 71 different kinds of business uses while the new ordinance significantly expanded the possibility of new businesses gaining a permit to operate.

City council also approved infrastructure improvements for the extension of water and sewer utilities on the north side of Highway 6. The improvements will extend the service along the north side of Hwy 6 to the intersection with Hwy 288. The Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) agreed to fund up to $220,000; $163,000 for the water line and $51,000 for the sewer line. The contract has a maximum price not to exceed $220,000.

MEDC also agreed to the funding of a new sanitary sewer line and a waterline serving the south side of State Highway 6 with a water line bored under SH6 to connect to the existing line on the north side. The infrastructure improvements should not exceed $1.6 million and will require the city to finance the project with the collateral and payment coming from MEDC funds.

In November, council authorized a waterline extension to Rogers Road with money that became available due to the east side project coming under budget by over $30,000. City Manager Kyle Jung explained that extending the waterline underneath Masters (FM 1128) to the west will allow a fire hydrant to be installed and the two closest water meters to be put on the new line. It also will allow the future extension of the line to the west thereby taking in all the structures along Rogers Road. Currently serving Rogers is a 4 inch line that was put in decades ago.

Mayor Delores Martin said that in the more than eleven years she has been in office various businesses have come in to Manvel excited about establishing operations only to be discouraged once it is realized that the city does not have the water and sewer infrastructure to accommodate their needs. She expressed her belief that the improvements will expand business activity in the city to stimulate economic growth.

Lakeland Development Issues

Construction of the Lakeland development just north of Manvel High School is currently in progress with model homes expected to be available in early 2013. The development is projected to contain more than 600 homes when build-out is complete. The construction raised several issues requiring council action.

Citizens complained of heavy equipment and trucks creating a noise nuisance as early as 4AM on some days. In response, council adopted regulations on construction hours of operation, construction debris left on roadways, the securing of construction materials when there is an impending storm approaching the area, and acceptable sound decibel levels. The new ordinance limits construction hours from 7AM to 9PM. The goal is to limit heavy construction activities such as excavating, dirt work, site preparation, and demolition. Lighter construction activities, such as erection, alteration, installation, and repair would be regulated by the sound ordinance.

Residents living near the development were in a month’s long dispute with city council and the developers concerning the drainage work done on the east side of McCoy. Resident complained of encroachments beyond the easement boundary and ditches dug too deep and steep to be able to adequately maintain.

The developer claimed to have performed construction in good faith on approved plans but nevertheless followed through on a commitment to ensure the issue was addressed to an acceptable resolution.

Personnel changes

Long-time Police Chief Ralph Garcia’s employment with the city was terminated in November. The city manager placed the chief and Captain Duke Adkisson on administrative leave with pay approximately two weeks before the decision to terminate them was announced. Jung explained a lack of confidence in the Chief’s ability to effectively lead the Police Department, going on to say that the determination grew from the discovery of various state administrative requirements not being adhered to, that the Chief failed to keep the City Manager informed of pertinent issues, and that the Chief disregarded instructions to not interfere with an on-going investigation.

Council unanimously agreed with the action while Garcia expressed disappointment that he did not have an opportunity to defend himself at council meetings or during the investigation. Sergeant Art Chapa is serving as interim chief while Jung conducts a search process for a permanent replacement.

Long time Manvel Librarian Kathryn Klentzman retired after 26 years of service with the Brazoria County Library System. She became librarian in 1985 when the facility was located in the old school building. Under her stewardship, the city’s library grew from the smallest branch in the county to the 5th busiest. The library circulates 9,000 items each month, boasts more than 5,000 registered patrons, and provides numerous services including public computers, adult reading clubs, and many children’s programs.

Another long-time public servant, Shirley Brothers, Alvin ISD’s Director of Public Information, retired after 40 years of dedicated service to public education and the district. Brothers began her career in 1971 as a special education teacher in Alvin ISD. After 14 years of teaching, she became the District’s first Coordinator of Public Relations. She was soon named the Director of Public Information, and held that post for 26 years. During her tenure she worked with eight different superintendents, multiple Board members, and an array of administrators, teachers and staff.

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AISD to utilize Manvel Junior High Annex

January 9, 2013

 

The Board of Trustees for the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) approved a budget amendment at its December meeting that will allot nearly $1.3 million to fund a Career Technical Education (CTE) program at the Manvel Junior High School annex. From the funding, nearly $418,000 will go to construction and just over $450,000 will provide furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

Recommendations for a CTE program determined the need for lab space for new programs such as cosmetology and additional facilities for programs such as HVAC, Agricultural Mechanics and Metal, Construction Technology, Manufacturing, Veterinarian Technician, and Information Technology. A CTE Advisory Committee made up of CTE teachers and community members agreed with the district’s administration that more courses leading to certifications were of significant value for AISD students.

The District wants to begin course offerings at the Annex for the 2013-2014 school year.

Based upon the time constraints and budget challenges that will be placed on the CTE project, the Board of Trustees approved a request by the District’s Building Programs Department that the use of the Construction Manager at Risk procurement method be utilized for the project. This method uses a competitive bid process to ensure best quality pricing. To a greater level than other contracting methods, the process provides the contractor be more responsible for keeping the project on budget and on schedule.

In other news concerning District facilities, AISD Superintendent Dr. Fred Brent, was glad to announce the completion of a Long Range Facility Plan at the December Board of Trustees meeting. While acknowledging much growth in the district over the last several years, including the building of new schools and maintaining current campuses, Brent feels the Plan will provide a solid foundation when talking with citizens about what has been done, what future needs could be, and what options are available for maintaining current facilities.

AISD’s Director of Support Services, Pat Miller, claims the district contains 3.5 million square feet. He said the work on the Long Range Facility Plan began in July when an architectural firm was hired to assist the district in facility planning and bond planning. The purpose of the 600 plus page report is primarily for AISD’s Citizens Advisory Committee to understand the history of and future facility needs of the district. It will also serve to address current aging facilities, their site conditions, and their limitations.

Interviews with maintenance and facilities staff were conducted as well as walkthroughs of each building by architects, engineers, and planners in preparation of the report. Systems Level Assessments were conducted on the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in facilities over fifteen years old while systems in newer buildings were tagged with expected dates for a required systems assessment.

A site utilization study was performed that looked at the amount of land contained at some sites in an effort to determine whether or not it is being utilized to its full efficiency. The utilization study served also to address whether additional land should be considered for sale and what limitations and possibilities would be available for a particular site in case of expansion. An energy assessment was part of the report with the goal being to generate ideas to more efficiently utilize the energy consumption of the facilities.

The report states that half the district’s facilities are considered aging but that all are well maintained. Structures over forty years old should be considered for replacement, though renovation and/or expansion could be undertaken to help accommodate expected growth. The report considered the fact that some unoccupied facilities, such as Manvel Junior High, offer a good opportunity to allow the temporary placement of students in case of replacement or renovation of older facilities.

The report reiterated the large amount of growth on the west side of the district and the need for additional elementary schools, Junior High Schools, and a High School in the next ten years to service that area. It also reported the possibility of expanding some east side schools to help stave off the west side needs and reduce the requirement for temporary buildings currently being utilized at many district campuses.

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Jung working to fill Police Chief position

January 9, 2013

 

Manvel City Manager Kyle Jung has received 87 resumes for the Chief of Police position. He requested candidates submit their resumes by December 31 and plans the initial review to take place in early January.

Jung explained that he is “reviewing the submissions now and hope to identify a group of semifinalists shortly. Once the semifinalists are identified, a more detailed review of experience, credentials, and knowledge will be done. This review will help identify a group of finalists who will be invited for personal interviews, a tour of the city, and to meet city employees.”

He went on to say that “once interviews are concluded, I will select the candidate I think is most qualified for the position and, as required by the city charter, an item will be placed on a future city council meeting agenda for the city council to concur with my hiring decision.”

Jung explained that detailed background checks will be conducted on the finalists and a pre-employment drug screen and physical exam will be required before any employment offer is made.

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Congressman Pete Olson Visits Alvin-Manvel Area

January 16, 2013

 

US Congressman Pete Olson paid a visit to the area last week where he offered some remarks to the Alvin-Manvel Area Chamber of Commerce. Olson recently assumed representation of the area subsequent to the change in district boundary lines taking effect this year. Olson is beginning his third term in Congress having first won the 22nd District seat in 2008.

Olson grew up in Seabrook and graduated from Clear Lake High School in 1981. He received a BA from Rice University and earned a Law Degree from the University of Texas. Subsequent to passing the bar exam, Olson became a Naval Aviation Officer and enjoyed a decorated career as a pilot of the P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft. In 1994 his combat aircrew was named the Pacific Fleet’s best in anti-submarine warfare.

Later in 1994, Olson was assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and eventually served as a Naval Liaison Officer to the US Senate. In 1998, Olson became a legislative aide to then Texas Senator Phil Gramm and assumed the Chief of Staff position to Senator John Cornyn who replaced Gramm in 2002.

Olson serves on the House Energy & Commerce Committee having wide jurisdiction over energy, healthcare, and the telecommunications industries, including oversight of five cabinet level departments and seven independent agencies.

In his remarks, Olson explained that he voted against the recent Fiscal Cliff legislation. While it did some good things with the tax code in keeping ‘current tax rates for approximately 99% of citizens, it did nothing to address the biggest problem we have, which is out of control spending.” He claims that for every one dollar saved over forty was spent in the bill. Olson says it is time we stop kicking the can down the road. Sequestration, which will automatically cut funding to defense and other government programs, was put off until February 28.

A big thing to deal with immediately, Olson says, is the Country’s debt ceiling which is technically limited to about $16.2 trillion which was hit on New Year ’s Day. “Happy New Year,” Olson said, as he explained that every US citizen owes over $50,000 for their share of the federal debt.

Olson said the US Treasury currently has enough money to keep the government in operation through late February or early March and emphasized that he will not agree to an increase in the debt limit unless “every penny is matched with some sort of cut in spending”. He would like to see even twice or three times that amount in spending cuts. “We can’t keep pushing this debt on our kids and grandkids,” he says.

Olson said he is “thrilled to be a member of Congress” and is “working for you guys.” He welcomes and encourages citizen input and described other things he can do for constituents, such as flying a flag over the Capitol for special occasions, arranging Capitol or White House tours when visiting DC, dealing with VISA problems, or any trouble with the Federal Government. Olson said “you would be amazed how when a member of congress calls some bureaucrat in DC all the sudden something that was a problem is not a problem anymore.”

Olson briefly addressed other issues, including the likely gun control battle that looms ahead, saying it is too early to tell how that will proceed. He did posit his opinion that “blaming gun owners and manufacturers is missing the target.” He feels efforts would be better directed to our mental health system and not allowing people access that should not have their hands on any sort of weapon at all. He also calls on Hollywood to stop glorifying violence and encourages parents to set limits and controls on the violent video games that many kids engross themselves in today.

Olson has regional offices in Pearland and Sugarland as well as his Capitol office in Washington. Complete contact information as well as other material can be found on his website, http://olson.house.gov.

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Brazoria County Judge Breaks Ankle in Fall

January 16, 2013

 

Brazoria County Judge Joe King is recovering from a broken ankle suffered in a fall at the back door of the County Court House last week. According to his Chief Administrator, Arthur Velasquez, King was heading to a meeting when his leather boots slipped on a wet surface due to rain. He twisted his right leg and hurt an ankle, learning later after an ambulance trip to the hospital that he had broken the ankle.

Velasquez explained that the Judge had a knee replacement procedure done about a year ago and was originally concerned that it might have been damaged in the fall. Fortunately the knee survived with no further injury other than some soreness. The Judge will be on crutches for at least three weeks and is currently wearing a boot cast.

Velasquez said the Judge drove himself to work the very next day and he is carrying on County business as usual.

Judge King has served Brazoria County for more than 42 years. He has been the County Judge for six years and prior to that was Brazoria County Sheriff for 24 years. He also has worked as a Texas Department of Public Safety state trooper. Judge King has aided numerous civic associations and volunteer efforts and currently is a director of the Brazoria County Cattleman's Association and is a past director of the Brazoria County Fair and the Brazoria Association for Citizens with Handicaps.

Judge King recently received the Distinguished Alumni award from the University of Houston--Clear Lake and has been recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with one of the highest honors given to non-federal law enforcement personnel. King’s current term runs to 2015.

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City Council debates future development

January 23, 2012

 

Manvel City Council discussed the second reading of a proposed amendment to the city’s Zoning Ordinance that would authorize a Specific Use Permit for 5.2 acres located on FM 1128 near the intersection with DelBello Road. The first reading of the proposal was approved by council at their last December meeting.

The discussion at the January 14 meeting led to comments from some members questioning the amendment on whether or not it reflects the direction of future development the city desires. Member Lew Shuffler prefaced his reservations by saying that he is all for new business coming to the city and explained his main goal for serving on council is to set a good direction for the growth which is soon coming. Shuffler’s vision for the city’s primary thoroughfares include homes, businesses, strip malls, and restaurants like other towns along highway 6 have developed. He feels 1128 should be “reserved for the modernization of the city.” He expressed concern that bringing in heavy industrial or commercial could detract from other businesses wanting to come into that area. “I don’t think it is going to do us good in the long term as the city develops to attract businesses along our main roads,” he said.

Melody Hanson was in agreement with Shuffler questioning “whether or not it is in the right spot there,” referring to the FM1128 location. She said her concern was that it “is heavy commercial, not commercial,” and wonders what businesses would want to be beside it having to deal with the sound and dust.” Hanson went on to say she always envisioned Hwy 6 to be heavy commercial and said that she “never anticipated 1128 being so.” Her vision sees business and residential and some mix of that along 1128 primarily because “there is residential not too far away” from the proposed site.

Member Adrian Gaspar favors the amendment. He reminded council that there is another company just down the road conducting a similar business where 18-wheelers come and go a few times a day. He sees that part of 1128 possibly becoming an area for trucking companies and heavy equipment storage. “They are not going to work on the site as they may use it for parking or vehicle maintenance,” he said and further described the business as having their trucks and equipment off-site for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

Shuffler countered by asking if the city wants that part of 1128 to be industrial/heavy commercial as it would be the first thing people see as they enter the city from the north. He said that once a business is allowed it will be grandfathered and would not be easily changed. “I don’t see that as being good for the future of the city; it’s not going to be becoming or attractive,” he said.

Mayor Martin feels the business “would not be a detriment to that area.” She reminded council that any business wanting to locate in that area would be required to apply for a Specific Use Permit and that each application would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Jim Sullivan, the city’s contracted permit official, told council that no water or sewer will serve the area for the near future which makes additional development of heavy commercial facilities unlikely. Gaspar expanded on that point saying “we are kind of over doing it by not allowing him to have a business because we think in 10 to 20 years we will flourish in that area (1128).”

Member Hanson suggested the city place a mandatory review period on the permit so that it could be re-assessed at some time in the future. City Manager Kyle Jung told council that the owner may decide against the business if he faces the possibility of losing his permit in the future.

Member John Cox lives near the site and said he is “not 100% for it either” as he expressed concern about the heavy trucks and equipment that sometimes inhibit travel along the road. He raised a point to consider regarding a “bad little curve” producing a blind spot at the intersection with DelBello Road that could be a serious hazard on foggy mornings.

Maureen DelBello questioned the 8-foot cyclone fence anticipated for the site, saying she understood the reason for it but “wouldn’t want it if I lived in the area.” The fence would surround the entire property and does meet the ordinance as it is not specifically disallowed.

Concerns about the specifics of the Permit were raised as well with DelBello asking “how can we pass an ordinance that we are just guessing about” because we don’t have plans to go by. Sullivan explained that earning the Specific Use Permit would then allow the business to apply for a building permit. Specifics about building facades, landscaping, out buildings, and other like concerns would be addressed at that time.

Ultimately council agreed to table the matter with the intention of bringing the owner in to answer questions and provide some detail about his development plans. It is expected the matter will be on the agenda for the next council meeting scheduled for January 28.

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City Council approves raise for City Manager

January 23, 2013

 

Manvel City Council met in Executive Session at its previous meeting to discuss compensation and terms of employment for the City Manager, Kyle Jung. Subsequent to the Session, council voted to approve an amendment to his Employment Agreement providing a monthly raise of $2,000. Jung assumed office in January last year and his contract with the city calls for an annual employment review. His Employment Agreement provides salary and various benefits, including insurance, dues payments, and a car allowance.

Council Members did not offer comments with the vote, which favored the raise 6-1. Member John Cox voted against the raise. Asked to comment, Cox claims to support Jung and says he is doing a good job, but he feels the city cannot afford the increased compensation package. “There is a limit to what we can pay,” Cox believes. He says most people are lucky to get a 3-5% raise while Jung was voted 14%. He went on to say that he has “no problem giving the man a raise, but I just don’t think this was the time to do it.”

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City Council considers recycling program

January 30, 2013

 

Manvel City Council received a presentation from Progressive Waste Solutions, formerly IESI, on implementing a recycling program for the city. The key to effective recycling today is the ability to pick it up efficiently. Previously a truck would stop at a house and have to compartmentalize the various forms of recyclable material before moving on to the next house. It would take five times as long to pick up recycling as it did garbage and the cost was extremely high.

Unlike some parts of the country, Texas for years was a challenging recycling market as it was costly to collect and the actual value earned would not come close to what was paid to pick it up. For years, recycling in Texas was done on a feel-good basis only. Now the facilities are available to more efficiently process the material, allowing for a streamlined collection process and a reduction in costs.

The separation process is now done at the plant so that all recyclable materials can be thrown into one receptacle for pick up requiring neither the user nor the collector on the street to have to sort or clean as was required previously.

Three months ago, Alvin elected to go with the same recycling program proposed for Manvel. Much like Manvel, their participation rate in recycling efforts was low. Before implementation of the program, trash was collected twice each week with the recycling material picked up every other week. The program instituted an alternating once-a-week pick-up for recycling material and once-a-week pick-up for garbage. There has been very little push back from the community since its implementation.

Studies indicate that approximately 65% of household waste consists of recyclable materials, thus requiring less garbage capacity. Two big rolling containers are provided the homeowner: a green one for garbage, and a blue one for recycling. Taken together the containers provide ample room for both weekly garbage and recycling so that pick-up once-a-week is more than sufficient for most property holders.

The cost of the new program would be no more than is presently paid as the pick-up process and frequency remains the same. The current rate charged a Manvel homeowner is $58 per quarter.

Sedona Lakes has been using the program for six months and reports great success. Council was unanimous in their feeling that they would like to implement the program city-wide and directed the City Manager and City Attorney to present a proposal for consideration at the next council meeting scheduled for February 11.

In other council news, the change in the zoning ordinance to accommodate a Specific Use Permit for 5.2 acres on FM 1128 for Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction was approved by council on a 6-1 vote. Lew Shuffler was the lone dissenting vote as he stood by his vision for the city that would call for more modern development along FM 1128, including new homes, strip malls, stores, restaurants, and other modern facilities. Shuffler feels the establishment of Heavy Commercial enterprises along the corridor will detract from future businesses wanting to locate there.

Approval was granted of a proposal from Daniel Scott Engineering, LLC to prepare and file the required permitting application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the renewal of the city’s Wastewater Permit. City Manager Kyle Jung explained to council that the process is required two years earlier than expected due to a change in TCEQ procedures that serve to standardize all permitting processes. Normally the permit runs for five years.

Approval was also granted to allocate not more than $25,000 to Olson & Olson, LLP for services to update the city’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan.

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AISD adopts "balanced" calendar

January 30, 2013

 

The Board of Trustees for the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) voted to accept the Academic Calendar for the 2013-2014 school year at its January meeting. The adopted calendar was submitted for Board approval from three options, from which the staff at each campus was given an opportunity to vote. Superintendent Dr. Fred Brent told the Board that the district does not enjoy the autonomy of calendar creation as it once did due to state requirements for class start dates and such.

State law mandates 180 instructional days leading Trustee Mike Lansford to inquire why the calendar does not provide that number. Brent responded that the calendar includes 175 instructional days and was designed to best optimize instructional days balanced with professional learning opportunities for teachers and staff.

While 180 instructional days is mandated, three days are allowed as a qualified “waiver” by state regulators so that essentially 177 instructional days are necessary. To implement more staff development, specifically in math, science and social studies, an additional two-day waiver was approved by the Board last October, explaining the 175 days. Mandatory testing days are taken away from that number and holiday/break days total 23 for the school year.

Teacher contracts require the District provide at least ten development days. To meet that requirement and provide sufficient instructional days, contracts would have to be re-done with additional pay due teachers and staff, or reductions in traditional holiday periods such as Christmas, spring break, and such would have to be made. The Board was told that one would be hard pressed to find a district in Texas that meets the 180 instructional day mandate without exercising one of the allowed waivers.

Scheduling professional development workshops on non-instructional days will minimize the number of substitute teachers required in classrooms, Dr. Brent explained. The use of substitutes, he posits, compromises learning in the classroom and costs the district additional money. The district provides multiple opportunities through workshops and conferences throughout the year to help teachers enhance their skills. Brent says “we want to make sure we continue our teacher’s learning as well.”

Trustee Tiffany Wennerstrom told fellow Board members that teachers in the District tell her the staff development and continual training they receive is a real benefit and one that a lot of districts don’t offer. They also tell her that they hate being pulled out of the classroom. Wennerstrom expressed her feeling that “if you are going to pull them from the classroom and put a sub in, you might as well just give them (students) the day off; there’s not much learning taking place.”

Trustee Lansford asked how many subs the district utilizes each day and if “those are wasted days?” Brent did not know the number of subs used, but responded affirmatively to the “wasted days” inquiry, saying “we do lose quality of instruction when the teacher is not in the classroom” and went on to say that the District tries to minimize the use of subs as a “certified teacher in the classroom is the best learning option for kids.”

Brent emphasized his belief in the importance of the professional development opportunities given teachers, saying it is “extremely critical to the growth of our teachers.” He continued, “if we don’t model learning as teachers and as educators then our students will not make it to where they need to be.”

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