Smith focused on LHISD policy accountability

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Terry Smith doesn’t mince words when he talks about what he believes are policies that don’t match practice in Liberty Hill ISD, and that is the focus for his run for Place 7 on the School Board.

“I see a lot of lapses in rules and regulations that need to be enforced and they’re not being enforced,” he said. “There are rules that have been written and schools are not following them and they need to be held accountable to that. Rules are just guidelines and I don’t like that.”

With a history of conflict with the district and his child’s school – Bill Burden Elementary – which led to a lengthy grievance process and him being kept off campus on a criminal trespass order, Smith said his campaign is about more than his issues over that incident.

How the dress code is enforced is one place he sees a conflict between policy and enforcement.

“They write rules for the parents and children to follow,” he said. “Then schools are going to go out and do their own thing and not really enforce the rules. I emailed a vice principal about the dress code and they said at that age they tend to overlook the dress code, even though their dress code mirrors the district’s dress code.”

Rules should not have so much discretion in terms of enforcement, Smith said.

“What rules am I supposed to follow?” he said. “As a parent, if I send my kids to school, what rules are going to be enforced today?”

The campaign is not void of issues related to his grievance process, though. Smith also believes there is a conflict of interest in how the grievance process is managed.

“I don’t think that the person hearing the Level II complaint should be the same person who hears a second complaint for timeliness (in response),” he said. “There’s a big conflict there because that means the person who hears the complaint for timeliness, who is supposed to hear the Level II complaint, if he doesn’t want to hear it, then he will just dismiss it based on timeliness.”

The size of the bond package passed last November, and the need for new campuses could be mitigated by expansion on other campuses, according to Smith.

“Twenty four million dollars was earmarked for this brand new shiny toy over in Santa Rita,” he said. “Everybody wants shiny toys, the only problem with that is I think that bond money could have been better spent on improving the schools we have now instead of building a nice new shiny toy.”

Though the district has outlined plans to hire and equip the beginnings of a new police department, Smith disagrees with the conclusions of the research and planning.

“The new current plan is a joke,” he said. “It is an absolute disaster. I’ve done a little bit of research myself, and you want to stand up a police department with $250,000 and cover a 10-mile radius where your schools are and you want to start a director of security right now because he’s not a police chief yet. You don’t even have vehicles, you don’t have uniforms, and where are you going to get these people from? You aren’t going to get them to leave their jobs at Liberty Hill PD, Round Rock PD or Austin PD. They are not going to leave these departments for a lower-paying job.”

The proposed staffing levels are also not adequate, according to Smith.

“You only want four officers to cover a 10-mile radius when I think you will have to have two permanently stationed at the high school,” he said. “You have to have one to two there all the time, which leaves you one on patrol and leaves one at a desk somewhere to run dispatch.”

The budget needed for an adequate department, in Smith’s opinion, is a minimum of $500,000.

“This is really their only option at this point and I think it is a good idea,” he said. “I just think they are going about it all the wrong ways.”

Smith was not sure of all the details on the current drug testing policy, but supported the idea assuming it was fair for all students.

“If there’s a drug problem in the schools, which I’ve heard in talking to parents, then I’m fully in favor of it,” he said. “Although on the flip side of that they need to have probable cause. You can’t just go in and say (pee) in a cup. I don’t know what kind of system they have in place.”

He did say it seemed like the district was singling students out who participate in extracurricular activities.

“If you are going to have a drug testing program, it needs to be for all students,” Smith said.

Raising teacher salaries to be more competitive is something Smith wants to see on the budget side.

“We’re the lowest paying school district out of Round Rock, Georgetown, Leander and Killeen,” he said. “If you take a teacher, fresh out of college, with no experience, they are going to make $500 less than a teacher with no experience in Leander or Georgetown. How can you attract the best and the brightest if you can’t pay the best and the brightest?”

Smith believes a lack of textbooks for each student is an issue academically for the district.

“You have to be able to provide resources to students to be able to maintain that level of academic integrity,” he said. “Those resources need to be available for students.

“I don’t know if this is happening or not, but if you’re supposed to be moving toward technology and books on tablets and all that, I’m all for it. But where are they at? Kids need access to this stuff, and if they need online access what if a kid can’t pay for internet at home?”

Students who want to transfer to Liberty Hill ISD deserve an appeals process, said Smith, and students already in the district should be allowed to remain even if the policy is reversed.

“If a child is already an out of district transfer then I think that child should be grandfathered and should automatically be able to continue his or her education in the Liberty Hill ISD school system,” Smith said. “On new transfers coming into the district, you have to look at the dollars. You have to look at numbers.”

The campaign can be summed up by the issue of accountability.

“I’m all about giving a voice to people who feel they don’t have a voice,” he said. “I’m all about holding people accountable for their actions. I’m being held accountable for my actions now, and that’s fine, but let’s hold others accountable as well.

“Rules are not a convenience, rules are there to be enforced, otherwise you need to change them.”

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