Men's Breakfast Report, May 2011

The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, May 14 with Joe Ripple, retiring school superintendent of BISD.  Joe is a native of Brazosport and graduated from Brazosport High School. He has several relatives in the area.  He said that coming back to Brazosport as Superintendent was a dream job. 

One of the main questions was how the state budget cuts would affect the schools.  The reduction in state support will have a significant effect.  The amount will depend on the exact amount that support is cut, which has not yet been decided. 

One way the local budget will be balanced is by reducing the number of teachers, since salaries make up a large portion of the budget.  This will mean larger class sizes.  Elementary class sizes will increase from 22 to 24 students.  This does not sound like much, but can be significant, especially where students need more individual attention.  In the high schools, subjects with small enrolments may be eliminated.  Vocational students such as auto-body repair will have to take their classes at the college as dual credit classes. 

One way to reduce expenses would be to close some schools.  Some schools have small enrolments because of population shifts and could be consolidated.  Closing schools would be politically difficult because communities often think of their school as being the center of their community.  Often students in these low enrolment schools have parents and grandparents who went through the school and still live in the same area.  These people fight to keep their school open. 

Joe said that there is a significant difference between the north and the south parts of the district in poverty and parental background.  Some schools in the south part of the district have over 90% of the students on free or reduced price lunch programs.  Poverty also exists in Lake Jackson with up to 30% of the students in some schools on free or reduced price lunch programs.  The difference between the north and south is another reason for keeping schools open in the south part of the district.  The smaller class size means that the most resources are placed where there is the most need. 

Joe was asked about how the TAKS test distorted teaching by teachers teaching to the test.  He believed that this was not a real problem since the TAKS test was designed to test over the curriculum standards and that the standards were appropriate to the courses. 

Another question was whether we seeing fewer high quality students because of the reduction of research at Dow.  Joe said that the problem is that the Rte. 288 freeway means that executives and professionals can now live in Pearland and vicinity.  These people compare the schools before deciding where to live.  This means that we have to compete with these schools for these students and their parents’ tax money.  This is one reason that it is necessary to have attractive schools and facilities.  Attractive facilities also improve the morale of teachers and students. 

As usual the men had an interesting discussion and a good meal.  The next meeting will be Saturday, June 11.