Community Crossroads: Input needed on how to best use federal education dollars

VICTORIA, Texas – The Victoria I.S.D. is requesting community input on how to best use federal education dollars. Quintin Shepherd, Victoria I.S.D. Superintendent, joined us for this week’s episode of Community Crossroads to discuss how critical this survey is to students and teachers.

The following is a transcript:

Carolina Astrain: Welcome back now. We’re joined by Dr. Quinten Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D. to tell us what they’re are working on this summer. Dr. Shepherd. Thank you for joining us.

Quintin Shepherd: Thank you for having me.

Astrain: And so there’s this survey out and I believe it’s pronounced “ESSER.”

Shepherd: That’s correct.

Astrain: Can you tell us about this survey and why it’s so critical for our parents and our community to be part of this?

Shepherd: Sure. I’d be happy to. And this is actually the third round of ESSER funding. There was a first round that happened shortly after the pandemic hit. And the second round that came through, we don’t have time to get into it this morning, but we do have an article coming out and I encourage the community to go to the website to learn more about ESSER I and ESSER II. I know there’s still some confusion about those funds and where they’ve gone and how they’ve been received. But the survey that came out was specific to ESSER III. Now ESSER III was the biggest chunk of money that’s come so far and it comes from the federal government and we were allocated approximately $28 million for that funding and it’s designed for student learning loss.

Astrain: Okay, so you couldn’t use it for like facilities?

Shepherd: Actually we can, and that’s part of the reason why we did our survey. So what the, what the plan requires, what the federal government requires as part of this plan, the submission is that we go to our community and ask our community, well, what do you think we should spend these funds on one of the things that we can spend those funds on our air quality issues, for instance. And so we conducted the survey over a couple of weeks. We had 491. People respond to that survey, which gave us great feedback. We then convened a task force made up of parents and community members and teachers that was 36 people who sat and looked at all of the survey responses that we got from folks. And those that, that task force is then in the final throes of putting together a plan that will ultimately be presented to the Board of Education on July 22nd. Our plan has to be submitted by July 27th in order to receive some of the funding. Now, the nice part is we have multiple years to use all of this funding and we don’t anticipate we’re going to spend it all at once. So we’re looking at, you know, sort of the long game on this. Realistically, if I’m, if I’m, you know, generalizing what the community has said to us about this funding, there are three ways that our community thinks we should invest these funds.

  1. The first is in learning recovery for our students. So looking at things like after school and before school and summer school programming and on and on and on and on.
  2. The second way that our, our community has responded is we know that we have not been able to compensate our teachers that allows us to be competitive with others in the area. And so some of our community have said, ‘We need to look at this as a way to sustain teacher salaries over time so that we can become market competitive, and that will have a positive impact on student learning and student achievement.’ And that makes sense to me as well.
  3. And then a different segment of our population has said, ‘No, we should use this for HVAC.’

Astrain: You mentioned air quality, so that’s where my mind went.

Shepherd: Exactly, exactly. And a lot of folks in our community did the same thing and coming off of the failed bond that we had. And we know that the needs are still there. We know that our, you know, a lot of our, a lot of our critical infrastructure is, is really on life support. At this point, we could invest a significant amount of the ESSER funding that would at least remediate some of the HVAC systems for instance, so that we could potentially, look at roofs or, or other, projects.

Astrain: So HVAC does include roofs?

Shepherd: Well, air quality could potentially include roofs because, you know, for instance, some of our, some of our roofs are in poor enough condition that they actually let in outside air. So we’re taking a broad view on, how, these funds could be spent.

Astrain: I know I always think of Stroman Middle School, during the bond campaign, just imagining the water leaking and how critical of an issue that is.

Shepherd: Yeah. And it’s not just Stroman, it’s multiple campuses that have that, that exact same problem. Thankfully, we do have a task force that’s meeting right now, looking at it at a different bond. And this is a different group of people. We had some folks from the first round, but we had some new folks join the task force as well. And if there’s one thing that the task force has come to the conclusion of these needs do exist. So we anticipate bringing something to the community fairly soon.

Astrain: Well we’ll have an article posted with all the information and those links. Thank you so much for joining us on today’s show Dr. Shepherd and thank you for all you do for the Victoria I.S.D.. Thank you. All right. Well, coming up on Community Crossroads, we’ll hear from Joel Novosad. Don’t go anywhere.