BY ROBERT MORALES
CCAISD trustees on Monday approved up to $100,000 in equipment for the new Eagle Field House and $160,000 to fully renovate Karen D. Young Auditorium.
Superintendent Marc Puig had originally requested $70,000 for field house equipment, but trustees approved an additional $30,000 for contingencies. Mr. Puig said that about $59,000 can be used from the maintenance tax notes that were approved for the financing of specific items at Eagle Field.
The money will be used to pay for lockers (between $49,552 and $74,000); track equipment ($35,000); training room ($12,000); weight room and cushion flooring ($128,582)
A month ago, Mr. Puig asked the board to appropriate $100,000 to totally revamp the auditorium. He said that aside from a few cosmetic repairs, the auditorium had not had a facelift in about 40 years since it was built. Mr. Puigâ€™s original estimate was $100,000; however, he said that after doing research on actual costs, it would bring the total closer to $160,000.
Renovations will include a media (projection) system, new curtains, a lighting system, a sound system and cabinets that will built in the back of the auditorium for the lighting and sound crews. It will require the removal of at least two rows of middle row seating for the cabinet. Mr. Puig said it would take between eight to 10 weeks for the completion of the project. Bidding for the project will have a deadline of Nov. 5.
Trustees also approved a service agreement with DelCom Inc. in an amount over $10,000 for infrastructure improvements for a “state-of-the-artâ€ camera security system at Eagle Field. DelCom will install underground fiber optic cable that will connect to the districtâ€™s network and to the security cameras.
Mr. Puig explained that the initial plan called for using a wireless system, but after looking at the specifications, the district did not have the requisite bandwidth for wireless. The district will lease the fiber optic line from DelCom for $350 a month and after one year, the district can decide whether it wants to purchase the line. The new security system is IP-based which allows for real-time monitoring via smart phones, tablets and laptop computers.
Following this discussion, board president Paul Uranga brought up the topic of superintendent housing under agenda item III B (Action Items). Mr. Uranga detailed how the district has fallen behind on the maintenance of teacher housing units, including the property where Mr. Puig lived.
He said that about two months ago, Mr. Puigâ€™s district-owned house flooded following an explosion of the water heater, which created a significant amount of damage to the house and to Mr. Puigâ€™s belongings. Mr. Puig had been out of town when the incident occurred. He was forced to move to another housing unit in the meantime because his house was deemed not suitable for occupancy.
“As a board, weâ€™ve dropped the ball and weâ€™ve put people [in our housing],â€ said Mr. Uranga. “As a board, we need to look at these places where our staff and others are living. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed.â€ After completing his thoughts, Mr. Uranga asked the board for comments.
“I donâ€™t think any of us should be embarrassed because weâ€™re not forcing him [Mr. Puig] to live here,â€ said Trustee Lisa Cottrell. “He can choose any house he wants in this community. Anybody who lives in teacher housing, itâ€™s their choice. Itâ€™s minimal housing. Iâ€™m sure theyâ€™re all extremely outdated, but weâ€™re not charging a lot for the housing.â€
“My opinion is we need to get out of the real estate business as much as possible,â€ she said. “I would like to know how many “[of our housing units] are vacant, how many employees are housed in our units. I say we need to sell off some of the teacher houses. The whole idea behind teacher housing is to attract and retain. When we have people living in these houses who are not district employees, I donâ€™t see the purpose.â€
She added that the teacher housing has created a burden on the districtâ€™s personnel. “I just donâ€™t know itâ€™s a headache we need.â€
After listening intently, Mr. Puig responded.
“Weâ€™re not in the real estate business, but we are in the revenue business,â€ he said. “It is a revenue stream that brings in $70,000 a year.â€ He said that housing units that are currently vacant requiring renovation could generate an additional $70,000 a year. Those units, he said, are “not rentable.â€
“I am embarrassed,â€ he continued, “because as superintendent, Iâ€™m responsible for those units. Number two, the superintendent house that was provided was a draw, a recruitment tool. Donâ€™t separate the two. One more thing, I didnâ€™t ask for the house. I want to make that very, very clear. There are other priorities in our district; however, the housing needs to be addressed. Weâ€™re missing out on another $70,000 in revenue.â€
“At some point, the tide will change, making CCAISD the district of choice,â€ he said. “People need housing. Theyâ€™ll pay for it, but [these houses] must be renovated. We have to make our facilities something weâ€™re proud of so that we can be that district of choice.
Other board members said that they tended to agree with Mr. Puig regarding renovations for the district housing, but that first priority should always go to teachers. Later, Ms. Cottrell added that although she agrees that some of the district properties should be renovated, she again repeated that CCAISD should “not be in the real estate business.â€
“Letâ€™s get our priorities right,â€ she said. “Income of $140,000 is probably not worth the headache that those houses are to us.â€
Mr. Puig later explained that renovations to district housing have already been earmarked for those units needing major repairs. The district owns 21 housing units.
During his superintendent report, Mr. Puig said that CCAISD had been cited by Texas Education Agency (TEA) for failing Index 3 at the secondary school, a state requirement for standardized testing (STAAR). Index 3 (Closing Performance Gaps) requires that “economically disadvantagedâ€ students must be provided a learning environment that aids in passing the state-mandated STAAR exam.
As Mr. Puig explained to the Advocate, the new system of accountability is rated on four indices: Index 1: Student Achievement; Index 2: Student Progress; Index 3: Closing Performance Gaps; and Index 4: Postsecondary Readiness.
He said that every district must meet a certain threshold of each index. According to TEA, the gap between scoring for economically disadvantaged students and all other students is too large, and TEA will require that the district address it to identify areas of improvement.