‘We have to evolve’

Richie Mendoza, chair of Vote Yes Beeville ISD, speaks to teachers about the importance of the proposed $37.9 million bond to build a new elementary which will replace the two existing schools.

BEEVILLE – Richie Mendoza’s son is five years away from elementary school, but his father wants to ensure Noah has a modern school to attend when the time comes.

To ensure this, he is one of many encouraging voters to pass the $37.9 bond that will build a new school and replace two of the aging structures in Beeville ISD.

“I am starting a family here, and I want my kid to grow up in Beeville,” he said. “I want to do everything I can to provide the most opportunities I can.”

From 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, he and the other members of Vote Yes Beeville ISD will hold a town hall meeting at Nifty 50s at 301 S. Quinn St.

“We are going to do a rolling presentation,” he said. “What we want to do is have a conversation with the community.”

As an engineer, from a family of educators, he sees the need for the new building.

“I understand how education has changed, and the way children are educated has changed,” Mendoza said. “One thing we are really quick to say is, ‘Kids these days are different than when we were growing up,’ but we are still trying to educate them the same.

“We have to evolve.”

The decision to seek money for the new school was made by trustees earlier this year. 

“After an exhaustive review of facility data, a citizens’ committee determined that a new elementary school is an essential priority,” said Dr. Marc Puig, superintendent at BISD. “Providing our children with the safest and most optimal learning environment was certainly a key driver for the committee, as well as the overall cost-effectiveness of building one campus versus renovating and maintaining two.”

Beeville trustees have not finalized the look of this new, consolidated campus, but there are some design elements that are expected.

“One of my biggest things is natural lighting and good air circulation,” he said. 

Security, too, is an issue.

The  open design of the old buildings makes it difficult to ensure that only those permitted on the campus are on the campus.

“We have to worry now about things we didn’t worry about in the past,” Mendoza said. 

Melding new technology, which requires more electricity, WiFi and different room designs, can become cumbersome, costly and inefficient.

“These classrooms that were built in ’50s were not built for the children of today,” Mendoza said.

“Our teachers are teaching with one hand tied behind their back. 

“Kids these days are used to nonstop stimulation. 

“All we have is a setup to give lecture style of education.

“We don’t have any areas of enclosed space for different styles of learning.

“Having other options is going to help teachers and students excel even more.”

Puig adds, “BISD is at an important period in its history. 

“We can continue to seize the opportunity to invest wisely or push the decision to the next generation. 

“I am inspired by the strong sense of urgency from our parents, taxpayers and community leaders to bring about positive change in our Beeville schools.  

“A strong, vibrant education will always be the economic backbone of Beeville.”

Taxes will rise

Mendoza said that the tax rate, if the bond is approved, will go up nine cents the first year and then, depending on property values, no more than 10 cents the following year.

“Our school district has one of the lowest tax rates in all the region,” Mendoza said. “We have a lower tax rate today than we did in 1999.”

This year, the school district maintained the same tax rate, per $100 property valuation, it has for the past five years.

If the bond passes, the tax rate would be no more than the tax rate currently in Skidmore-Tynan ISD.

“The school district has done a very good job at keeping taxes low,” Mendoza said.

Reaching an end of life

The life of a school building, because of changing needs, is about 50 years.

“The teachers and custodians have done an excellent job of doing the best they can with what they have,” Mendoza said. “It is just old. 

“It is not dirt or unmaintained. 

“You are not going to beat age with maintenance.”

He reminds that some buildings, like courthouses, are kept because of their historical value.

Even with the amount of money spent to restore and modernize these buildings, they come with limitations — such as courtrooms with acoustics that make listening a challenge in the audience and even security concerns for those working inside.

Mendoza said that often a comparison is made to homes which last longer than these public buildings.

“The home is not much different from 60 years ago,” he said. “Bedrooms don’t change. Living rooms don’t change. 

“I don’t think those comparisons are fair. 

“A teaching environment definitely has changed. 

“You are not going to hold an 8- to 9-year-old child’s attention lecturing them on a white board.”

“Certainly BISD teachers provide an outstanding service to our students and deliver a quality educational experience within the context of our current facilities,” Puig said. “However, we must relentlessly pursue optimal learning conditions, thereby equipping BISD teachers and students to thrive now and in the future. 

“And in reality, given the ever-increasing educational demands, today’s districts must either adapt successfully or face a future of mediocrity and stagnation, particularly in the face of growing educational choices that offer real facility advantages — and, logically, this impacts our ability to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, to say nothing of parental choice.”  

Final design

The final look of the new school will be heavily influenced by the teachers, those at R.A. Hall and FMC elementaries — the staff that will be teaching at the new elementary when those schools close.

“We need input from teachers,” Mendoza said. “The design is not set in stone yet. 

“It is going to be up to our teachers and staff to design the ins and outs of this building.”

“I am incredibly optimistic for the future of Beeville as evidenced by the great things already underway,” Puig said. “BISD remains uber-efficient and fiscally productive.  

“In fact, the Texas Education Agency gave BISD the highest school financial rating in the area. 

“The only request I have is for all Beeville voters to carefully analyze this bond referendum because it truly is a major issue for our school district and broader community.”