For the past 13 years Joey Patek has led the Aransas County Independent School District (ACISD) as its superintendent. A review of just a few of the challenges that faced the district while under his tenure will include the response to Hurricane Harvey, the negative effects of the state’s school financial system, and most recently COVID-19. Add these few, but significant, issues to the daily responsibility of leading a school district with personnel issues, coordinating with a school board, and dealing with community concerns and you have a job that not everyone has the expertise nor the courage to do.
Harvey not only resulted in tremendous damage to district facilities, it also displaced students across the region and state. The effects of both created a financial hardship for the district. March of 2020 brought on COVID-19, which has presented tremendous challenges never dealt with before for every district and school superintendent in the state.
My description of Joey Patek is that he is a “jack-of-all-trades” superintendent, just the kind that smaller school districts require. He is well-rounded in his understanding of teaching and learning, but also knows the intricate details of the budget and how to manage with a fair tax rate and limited resources, how to promote and pass bond issues, and making sure the grounds are maintained and the buses run on time.
Mr. Patek has rolled up his sleeves and taken on every challenge before him and the district. No leader has ever had 100% support for every decision he or she has made, but true leaders step up to make the hard decisions knowing there will be detractors. In my opinion and observations, Mr. Patek has made the hard decisions with careful consideration for the good of school children, staff and taxpayers. He has been successful, with school board approval, in elevating teacher and staff pay while forgoing a salary increase for himself.
Space and reader time are limited here, so I close with this thought. The superintendency is a very demanding profession. I have worked with many superintendents and consider Mr. Patek to be among the best, although he will credit his success to the team around him. My hope is that each of us will take the opportunity the next time we see Mr. Patek to thank this good man for his dedication to the ACISD and our respective communities.
Pat Pringle, Ph.D
On Aug. 13 the Commissioners’ Court voted in favor of holding a bond election Nov. 3. It should be noted this election is relative to County Propositions, one of which, the new courthouse, is included in the downtown Anchor Project (DAP). Other elements of the DAP are being funded by the City of Rockport and are not a subject of the county election. The election will include three propositions. Prop A, funding the new county courthouse; Prop B, road & drainage improvements; and Prop C, matching a grant for a micro-hospital. Each of the propositions is stand-alone. That is, any of them can fail, but the remaining can be approved and move forward. This process is not without some risk as funding from several sources, dedicated to the various propositions, may carry time limits which must be met or the monies granted in support of a failed project may be withheld and may not accrue to benefit of the county. To execute a project, which fails to be approved later, the funding lost will have to be made up in some other way which could include tax increases to fill in the financial gaps. For these three Propositions borrowing costs have reached the lowest in years, current debt can be refunded with lower cost money, delaying some principal payments as current debt is paid off.
Separate and apart from this bond issue, but to be included in the DAP is Celebration Plaza, which includes a 4,700-sq.-ft. building, an open Plaza and 295 parking spaces. All funding for this will be provided by a Texas General Land Office (GLO) grant.
Financing for a proposition at a later date would be subject to increased building costs and the cost of land, interest rates are likely to increase, and other projects and needs elsewhere could preempt our current agreements for grants. Businesses that might be planning to join our community based on the planned improvements in our infrastructure through these propositions might find more attractive locations than our county. Finally, our retail businesses may not be able to reopen or reestablish themselves due to lack of customers from our main attraction – our economy.
There will be no debt tax increase needed to make approval of all three propositions a success. As an added incentive, the County intends to lower the debt tax rate by about ½ cent, from 5.2 cents to 4.7 cents for tax year 2020 (fiscal year ending 2021). Passing the bond is not anticipated to have any effect on that.
So, here we have an opportunity to make the right decision for the right reasons. I support funding all three propositions and urge you to do so as well. The most important is that the future of our generation and the future of our descendants may well rest on what this election decides.