SMCISD Election Interview: Sophia Downing

Sophia Downing Sits Down With Corridor News
By, Brittany Baig
Campaign Finance Report: Not Submitted
Q 1: There is no denying that our current school board is fractured ideologically. If elected, what will you do to build consensus, community support, and help lead our school district forward?
Sophia:  I’m a team player. I think having that personality on the school board, one that is not rigid and that can relate to people is different. As far as community involvement, I think the board members need to be more visible. I think they need to be visiting schools more, and more accessible so that parents can ask questions instead of just the board meetings where they (the school board) is doing most of the talking. Once elected, I want to talk to the other board members to show them the importance of that and hopefully we can come up with an agreement. I think that would create a better board for the district.
Q 2: What is the ideal relationship between the board and the superintendent?
Sophia: I think it is a partnership. Everything that we do when it comes to children is a relationship. I think that the board should be running. I know that not everything in this world is all warm and fuzzy, but not everything needs to be head butting either. Everyone should have the chance to speak their mind, but there are times and situations that require us to but our differences aside and come together for the kids.
Q 3: Do you agree that the superintendent should sit at the head of the dais and help lead the meeting or should meetings be similar in structure and format to that of our city council?
Sophia: I do believe that the superintendent, and the way the meetings are ran now is the ideal way to have the meetings. I like that style.
Q 4: Although there were funds allocated in the May 2013 Bond Election our school board recently spent an additional $850,000 purchasing a score board for our district’s new Multi-Purpose Athletic Stadium using funds from our district’s reserve accounts. Do you agree or support this purchase?
Sophia:  I don’t agree with that decision. If money was allocated to the district to be used for something then that is what the money should be used for. Working an early child care we don’t get money like that. Everything is tuition based, and we get our money in we have a budget that allocates what we are going to be spending that money on. When receiving bonds or funds when need to spend that money on what it was intended for.  I do feel though that sometimes we have this desire to be state-of-the-art, but sometimes it is not necessary. There are some things that we can have that are just as functional, but more affordable. That is what we have to do in early childcare. We have to be smart and savvy with our spending, and we are still able to meet our end result. However, what I have been learning as part of being on the board that no one person makes the decisions. I do know that everything is done by a vote, so those on the school board at the time may have had a good reason for approving it at the time. I do understand that being on the school board that I can’t make any decisions by myself. If I had been there to vote for that I would have voted against it.
 Q 5: In what instances do you deem it appropriate to utilize out districts’ fund balance?
Sophia:  Everything is based on take by take basis. If it is necessary then yes, but if we can utilize another resource then I would say no.
Q 6: Do you support the way our current board is elected? If given the opportunity would you keep our five single member district and two at-large trustee system of representation the same?
Sophia: Because the district is growing so much I would recommend another seat or maybe another at-large seat. From what I understand right now, I do believe that the way our school board is set up is ok. I would have the terms more defined. I know of some board members that have been on the board for 13 years, and because there are people who want to be equally involved in the community I would change the terms and how many times a person can be on the school board.  
Q 7: During the 2009 and 2012 school board elections the televising of school board meetings was brought up during the campaigns of numerous candidates. Here we are several years later and our district has just recently begun to discuss this issue. Do you think televising school board meetings is important? If elected, how long do you think it will take until our school district begins televising meetings?
Sophia: Yes, I do believe televising board meetings is important because there are people who cannot make it to the meetings. These people want to come out and want to know what is going on, but they can’t make it for a multitude of reasons.
Q 8: The Texas Education Agency’s 2013-2014 Texas Academic Performance Report for the San Marcos CISD tells us that only 44% of San Marcos High School graduates are deemed college ready for both math and English language arts. Is this acceptable?


Sophia: That is not acceptable. I believe that the schools should do more of the early college start. I don’t think it should be optional. By the time they are in their junior or senior year that they are taking classes that are equivalent to college credit hours. Everybody is not made for college or is planning on going to college but is important to have those options when they graduate if they do decide later in life to go to school or further their education in other ways. They will at least have that foundation.  As the school board we need to make sure that those steps are there so that the students are prepared for the next phase of their education. When there are gaps that are where we lose students. Once we realize what those gaps are and then seal those gaps by creating programs that help these students transition from one program to the next or one grade level to the next then we would have that increase that readiness for college. 

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