Apr 30, 2018 by

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash

To:  Open Letter to Texas Legislators

Re:  Case in Point:  Waco ISD – failing but high salary and perks to superintendent

From:  Donna Garner

Date: 4.30.18


To Zachary Miller’s article (posted below), I have added excerpts further on down the page from a 5.1.17 article in the Waco Tribune-Herald that lay out the extra perks contained in Waco ISD Superintendent Marcus Nelson’s contract.  It is not just the high salary Nelson is receiving but also the extra perks that should alarm the taxpayers.


Normally TASA [Texas Association of School Administrators] helps superintendents negotiate their contracts, and most contain perks that include dues to TASA. TASA then pays lobbyists to go to Austin to lobby for more state funding for schools with the end result being higher taxes for taxpayers. Hence, taxpayers are actually paying to lobby themselves! 


Furthermore, classroom teachers certainly do not have their dues to professional organizations paid for by the taxpayers. Why should the taxpayers pay for school administrators’ dues?  I personally believe that if school administrators had to pay for their dues out of their own pockets, TASA would soon collapse financially under its own weight. – Donna Garner]




4.27.18 – Empower Texans




“Waco Public Schools Are Failing”


by Zachary Miller


Waco public schools are failing, and they show almost no signs of improving any time soon.


In fact,  five Waco ISD schools are performing so poorly that the State is recommending they be shut down. These five schools – Brook Avenue Elementary, JH Hines Elementary, Alta Vista Elementary, GW Carver Middle School, and Indian Spring Middle School – have a two-year window in which to improve, or else their doors will be closed permanently. This temporary extension was granted to Waco ISD due to their partnership with Prosper Waco, a non-profit which will assist the district in improving these at-risk schools.


Poor performance is not limited to just these schools, though.


All of Waco ISD performs horribly relative to other districts in Texas and the United States at-large. Waco ISD’s graduation rate stands at 77.5%, far below the state average of 89.1% and still well below the national average of 84%. And even those Waco ISD students who do manage to graduate are unlikely to attend college, as the average SAT score for the district is a 1237 (out of 2400), while the national average was 1484 for that same time period.


These failures largely fall on the shoulders of former Superintendent Bonny Cain, but current Superintendent Marcus Nelson’s plans for improvement may not produce any tangible results.


Under the direction of the former, nearly all measures by which schools and school districts are judged worsened for Waco ISD. The high-school dropout rate, in particular, increased significantly under Cain’s tenure.


Under the direction of the latter, parents and students may suffer more of the same.


Despite this, both were/are compensated generously. Cain drew a salary of $218,741, whereas Nelson draws an even higher salary of $272,000. For context, the average superintendent salary for the 2016-2017 school year was $142,154, according to a survey conducted by the Texas Association of School Boards and the Texas Association of School Administrators.


One of the main proposals Nelson has for improving Waco ISD is to put tablets or laptops in the hands of every Waco ISD student, a part of his “blended learning model.” However, this proposal would cost millions of dollars, and may not have any real impact on educational performance.


According to an article in the Boston Globe on an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report regarding the usefulness of technology in education, “…greater availability and use of technology at school doesn’t necessarily lead to better educational outcomes.” It further states that the report “found that while students who use computers moderately at school have somewhat better outcomes than those who don’t use them at all, those who use them very frequently tend to do significantly worse, even after accounting for students’ and schools’ socioeconomic status.”


If Nelson has his way, Waco ISD’s primary initiative to improve educational performance will entail spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a program which not only may have no measurable effect on performance, but may in fact decrease performance significantly. All while drawing a salary more than eight times higher than the median household income of the city he serves.


Zachary Miller is a lifelong Texan and a student at Baylor University. A part of the University Scholars honors program, he is triple majoring in History, Political Science, and Philosophy. Zachary is also the founder and president of Baylor’s Turning Point USA chapter, a contributor at Lone Conservative, and is currently a Fellow at Empower Texans.




5.1.17 – Waco Tribune-Herald





“New Waco ISD superintendent to be paid $272,000 annual salary”

By SHELLY CONLON sconlon@wacotrib.com

Excerpts from this article:


Waco Independent School District’s new superintendent will make $82,000 more than retiring Superintendent Bonny Cain did when she started six years ago, according to his contract, released publicly Monday afternoon.


Laredo ISD’s Superintendent Marcus Nelson is expected to replace Cain the first week of June, following graduation. He’ll have an annual base salary of $272,000, with several benefits, according to his contract

Waco ISD trustees signed Nelson’s five-year contract last Thursday after officially approving his hire during a school board meeting.


Nelson’s additional benefits include:

  • a Texas Retirement System contribution on behalf of the district
  • life insurance in the amount of $500,000
  • an automobile allowance of $500 per month en lieu of mileage expense reimbursement, gasoline, insurance or other charges associated with district travel
  • an annual tax-deferred annuity in addition to the salary of $20,000
  • reimbursement for out of town travel expenses, including lodging and meals
  • reimbursement for membership to professional associations and community and civic affairs
  • payment or reimbursement for annual or monthly internet expenses throughout the superintendent’s home
  • payment of wireless connectivity expenses, and a laptop computer, which Nelson can replace every two years under his contract, and a cellphone allowance of $50 a month
  • A discretionary fund of at least $20,000 to participate in community and civic affairs and organizations.
  • The district will also pay for the Nelson’s moving expenses in accordance to the best value determined by Nelson and will provide Nelson a maximum of 60 days of suitable lodging while he finds a place to live.
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