The State of Our District: A Community Response

By Sarah Sorensen


We are a community that values education, a community with a legacy of fighting for educational justice.


I am a member of the Our Schools Coalition. We are a community-led movement for educational justice in San Antonio ISD made up of a diverse group of parents and caregivers, community members, students, teachers and staff.


This morning while SAISD families were dropping their children off at school and our teachers and school staff had already begun their work day, our superintendent Pedro Martinez gave a State of the District address to a select group of people who spent $40 a piece to hear him speak. Our superintendent is aware that $40 per person is unaffordable for most of the families in our district and that 8:00 in the morning is not a time when working families and district employees can attend an event yet he chose to deliver his address in this

manner anyway.

Is this crowd representative of our district? If not, who does it represent?

While Mr. Martinez gives polished presentations to curated audiences of business and community leaders, parents, students and community members are left in the dark about district plans with a growing sense that our superintendent is out of touch with our community and uninterested in hearing our concerns. In the past year alone, we have watched as Stewart Elementary was turned over to Democracy Prep without any community input, we saw families at Rodriguez Elementary greeted at their back to school night by the news that their school would be closing next year after being reassured by the superintendent that they would be able to stay open and community members in the Lanier area are still shaking their heads at the dismissive and defensive way Mr. Martinez handled their questions and concerns about their school leadership at a community forum last spring.



The San Antonio ISD community is becoming increasingly concerned as we watch administrative costs creep up while spending on classrooms goes down. We have heard our superintendent bemoan the high levels of poverty within our community and even evoke his own compelling childhood story to demonstrate his concern for our students yet we feel inequity persist and deepen within our district.


Our community has begun to talk about our school district as two separate districts. We are a district where new, well-funded, specialized schools are created and marketed to attract out-of-district students while neighborhood schools do not receive adequate funding to provide basic services – where schools at risk for being closed for low test scores do not have reading coaches - where students wait until January for the textbooks their teachers ordered in the summer – where roofs leak and HVAC systems do not adequately work in the heat of August and September.


Across the country communities like ours are pushing back against the implementation of top-down education reform efforts in favor of creating schools that are community-driven. Like us, they have seen these top-down efforts fail to improve education for our children while treating families, students, teachers and staff as data points and dollar amounts to be measured and manipulated and not as equal partners in creating a quality education system.

We are a district where a few schools have tablets for every student while other schools do not have a full time librarian. We are a district where a few schools provide 30 minutes of recess each day while most schools provide 15 minutes- and students at some schools are lucky to even get 10 minutes a day. We are a district where a few schools are home to in-district charters that offer innovative project-based or experiential learning while other schools have charters run by out-of-state charter management companies that operate under a no-excuses model of instruction that is at best developmentally inappropriate and at worst creates a prison-like atmosphere.


Related: Teachers at Ogden Academy Speak Out About Dehumanization of Students

Some schools in our district have implemented flexible seating options for students while the no-excuses schools have suspended elementary-aged children for being unable to keep both feet on the floor and their hands crossed while they sit at their desks. Some of these inequities existed before Mr. Martinez’s tenure but many have grown under his leadership and stand in direct contrast to the image Mr. Martinez attempts to portray of our district as a national leader in equity and economic integration.


We understand the challenges facing our school district. The state of Texas does not adequately fund public education, leaving our low-income district constantly struggling to stay fiscally solvent. At the same time, the state requires districts to close schools it has classified as failing or be subject to a state takeover of their school board. Without enough funding and the fear of a takeover hanging over their heads, our school board has stood behind Mr. Martinez because he has brought to our community a vision to address these challenges. Unfortunately, it is a vision that does not serve all our students well.



It is a vision that operates from a top-down model where our school district is redesigned with no input from community. Consequently, it is a vision that is unable to live up to its promise. Across the country communities like ours are pushing back against the implementation of top-down education reform efforts in favor of creating schools that are community-driven. Like us, they have seen these top-down efforts fail to improve education for our children while treating families, students, teachers and staff as data points and dollar amounts to be measured and manipulated and not as equal partners in creating a quality education system.


Related: Los Padres De SAISD Tienen Altos Estándares Para Nuestros EstudiantesY Nuestros Líderes

The Our Schools Coalition is working to develop a new vision of education for our community. It is a vision rooted in the belief that public schools are democratic institutions, that our community members have valuable knowledge and expertise that should shape our school district decision-making, that all students have the right to equitable access to opportunities and resources, that all students and their families should be valued and respected for who they are, that the wellbeing of our schools and our neighborhoods are interconnected, and that teachers and school staff should receive adequate support and resources to do their jobs well. Our district is more than our school buildings, it is more than our superintendent and administrative staff, it is more than our school board, and it is even more than our current teachers and students. Our district is our community both now and

in the future. It is up to us as the community of SAISD to create a school system that truly serves all our young people.


We are a community that values education, a community with a legacy of fighting for educational justice.


I know we are up to the task.

F O R   P U B L I C   E D U C A T I O N 

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