One year later, Puig focuses on priorities for CCAISD

By Robert Morales —

One year ago when Marc Puig took the helm as superintendent at
CCAISD, things looked grim. He knew that he was walking into a lion's
den – problems such as a deficit, an “Unacceptable” rating from the
Texas Education Agency (TEA), a bloated payroll, a high school campus
with ever-increasing maintenance costs and other issues that would have
to be immediately addressed.

One year after his arrival in Van Horn, Mr. Puig instituted a series
of changes for the district. As is usually the case when changes are
made, some of those changes were somewhat controversial, especially the
Reduction in Force (RIF) that included mandated layoffs for several
contract employees and staff.

Since he's been here, Mr. Puig has said that his only goal as
superintendent is to provide the best education for the students and to
have a financially sound budget whereby the district lives within its
means.

Mr. Puig has worked closely with the trustees in an effort to form
consensus and unity. And although the public doesn't know what goes on
behind closed doors in executive sessions, the current board of trustees
appears to be solidly behind Mr. Puig. This is in sharp contrast to
former superintendents who had a rocky relationship with the board,
perhaps the most notable being Guillermo Mancha.

On Monday night during a special board meeting, Mr. Puig gave a
presentation about the district's finances. In June 2012, salaries for
CCAISD were at $4.6 million with a tax base of $3.2 million, leaving the
district with an $811,000 deficit. One year later, the salaries have
been reduced to $3.1 million with a tax base of $3.7 million.

For the first time in decades, when students return to school on Aug.
26, there will be only two campuses – Eagle Elementary and a combined
junior high and high school at the junior high campus. It signifies the
beginning of a new era in the history of our schools, but one that Mr.
Puig

says was completely necessary in light of reduced enrollment and out-of-control maintenance costs at the old high school campus.

Following his presentation about finances, Mr. Puig said that the
district has moved from the former “Unacceptable” rating to “Met
Standard,” a new category was formerly named “Acceptable.”

“This is a start,” Mr. Puig told the Advocate. “We must strive to get
to designated ratings, but this is a good start.” Student achievement
is now based upon the new STAAR exam, a much more rigorous standardized
test than the former TAKS, and the district's overall performance on the
STAAR propelled the district into a “Met Standard” rating, a much
better ranking than “Unacceptable.”

In other action, trustees heard from John Blackburn, a broker agent
from Government Capital Securities, a firm that specializes in
government bond issuances. Mr. Blackburn said that trustees will first
have to decide whether to have a bond election to make necessary
improvements in facilities. One potential date would be for the November
election; however, trustees would have to decide by Aug. 26 whether to
hold an election this year.

CCAISD can also hold a bond election next May. That would give
trustees plenty of time to make their case to the public as to why a
bond election is essential or necessary for the district's progress.

In action items on the agenda, trustees:

* Approved The Brokerage Store as the agent for student athletic insurance;

* Approved the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) contract between CCAISD and the Upper Rio Grande Workforce Development Baord;

* Approved August 26, 2013 as the date for public meeting on budget and proposed tax rate;

* Approved the Culberson County Appraisal District delinquent tax roll and annual report for 2012;

* Approved board operating procedures;

* Approved adoption of vision, mission, values goals;

* Approved resolution for Texas CO-OP program;

* Approved purchase of attendance credits to reduce property/pupil wealth.