Two organizations have formed, each professing a similar end goal — the betterment of the school district and community — but having different ways of attaining it.
On one side, Tyler Proud, an organization formed two months ago, supports the passage of a TISD bond election this school year.
Leaders say a bond is good for not only Tyler's students, but the community as a whole.
“We really need to have an investment in our community and that can be with a group like us,” Tyler Proud President Mark Randall said by phone. “We're not promoting just facilities. We're promoting TISD and the achievements and (what) TISD can do in its entirety.”
On the other side is the No More Excuses, Tyler ISD! Coalition, a group whose leaders formally announced its existence and position on Monday.
The organization opposes a bond package until TISD addresses what it says are poor academic achievement, discipline issues and a lack of teacher support.
The No More Excuses group says new buildings will not help if old problems continue to plague the district.
“The time has come for this community to unite around strong academics and disciplined, safe schools district wide,” JoAnn Fleming, executive director of Grassroots America - We the People and a coalition leader, said Monday. “It's not enough to see academic success in just a few schools. We need to find out what is going wrong and fix it, not Band-Aid it, not gloss over it and not say we'll get there someday. But we need to do it now.”
Calling a bond
Since then, trustees and district administrators have been working to determine what package they want to propose.
TISD could fund a $160 million bond package without raising the tax rate, which is $1.375 per $100 valuation.
This is because the district would pay off more than or equal to the amount of debt it is taking on.
The last bond proposal — an $89.85 million package — failed narrowly at the polls in November 2010.
Mrs. Fleming, Cedrick Granberry, Dr. Nile Smith and Sheryl Chester spoke as coalition leaders.
They expressed concerns about students' academic achievement. Mrs. Fleming said they want to see data that shows the district is making improvements in reading and college readiness.
That means measuring the percentage of TISD graduates who have to take remedial classes in college and providing reading performance data for students.
Members said TISD must improve student discipline and teacher support. Mrs. Fleming said students assault teachers on campuses and that is unacceptable.
Granberry cited the state comptroller's Financial Allocation Study for Texas, which placed TISD in the bottom half of 41 school districts when measuring the relationship between district spending and student achievement. Texas has more than 1,100 school districts and charter schools.
Granberry said he doesn't mind paying taxes, but he wants to know his money is being used in the best way possible.
Smith said he is glad to see the group come together and work toward “making Tyler ISD a better place not just for children, but for teachers to.”
Mrs. Fleming said the coalition will request TISD have a public, town-hall style meeting to address their concerns.
TISD spokeswoman Dawn Parnell said TISD welcomes any concerns or comments from the community and takes those very seriously. She said the information released by the coalition will be forwarded to board members for their consideration and the board will determine how to proceed.
Although passing a bond package this school year is a priority, the organization is looking beyond that and plans to continue even after a bond election.
The group also wants to see academic results improve and discipline problems decrease on campuses.
“Facilities (are) not the end all be all to all of our issues,” Tyler Proud President Mark Randall said. “But, it's a piece that fits in.”
With more than 900 people on the group's email listserve, the group is nearing its goal of 1,000 people by January.
Randall said Monday that the organization will not rubber stamp any bond proposal the district comes up with. There are certain priorities and projects it would like to see included in a proposal.
Randall said passing a bond package is going to take people looking beyond themselves and their personal benefit and considering the community as a whole.
“In the reality, good public schools, great public schools affect the values of our homes,” he said. “It affects our community directly on who wants to live here, who wants to move here.”