Campus Updates for 2020-21

Theme for 2020-21

Two years ago, we were Growing Together, and last year, we took time to Discover. As we face the challenges and possibilities of the 2020-21 year, the Academy will claim the promise in 1 John 5:5: “Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Trusting fully in Him, we are adopting Overcome as our theme for the upcoming school year. We look forward to sharing our logo with you soon as we embark on this journey of faith. 

return to school Plans

San Marcos Academy will start classes on Aug. 10, 2020, at Stage 2 of the Communicable Disease Action Plan, which is posted on our the Return to School/COVID-19 Information page on our website. A more detailed Return to School Plan is also included on this page, and additional information will be added as needed in the days ahead.

As a private school, we will follow the guidance of our accrediting agencies, primarily ACTABS (the Accreditation Commission of the Association of Baptist Schools), which aligns closely with the TEA guidelines for returning to school.

Stage 2 of the Communicable Disease Action Plan (CDAP) calls for all staff to report to work and allows parents the choice to send children to school or keep them home without penalty. Health and safety procedures will be in place throughout our campus to support student and teacher safety. Social distancing measures will include adaptations such as one-way travel flow in hallways, adjusted passing periods to reduce crowding, grouping students into “cohorts” when possible to limit their exposure, and utilizing outdoor venues for gathering whenever possible. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting will be utilized in all learning spaces at least once each day. Changes will be implemented in the dining hall, to include “grab and go” meals and staggered meal times. Temperature checks and/or screenings will be conducted as students and staff arrive in the mornings. More detail on all these plans are posted on our website. 

Residential Life – Dormitory Realignment

In order to improve sanitation and enhance social distancing for our male boarding students, whose current residence hall features communal bathrooms only, we will be relocating our male students into a dormitory building with suite-style bathrooms. This two-story building, which houses two hallways, has previously been utilized as a female-only dormitory. For 2020-2021, this building will be known as the Residence Hall. 

SMA Dormitory Room
Dormitory room at the Residence Hall

We will be designating Robinson hallway as the female residence area and Kokernot hallway as the male residence area. Each hallway will have a separate entrance as well as separate laundry facilities. New locks have been added to the dorms to ensure a complete separation of male and female students. Co-ed lobby hours will be offered with supervision. Cameras and a new alarm system are being added as well to increase the safety of the students. Additionally, we are adding a new boarding software program that will further increase safety and communication between staff and the parents or guardians. As always, the dorm will be staffed with amazing men and women to keep our resident students safe and cared for during the school year while adhering to the strong foundation and beliefs upon which our school was founded. 

By relocating our male students, we will be freeing up dormitory space in Crook Hall and Byrom Hall that can be utilized as a quarantine or isolation facility, should that be required by a student or a resident staff member who shows symptoms of any communicable disease. The relocation will also enable the Academy to reduce utility costs and offer more focused supervision of our boarding population. 

Personnel Changes

Every new school year is marked by retirements, reassignments, and new hires, and this year is no exception. Following is a list of staff members in key positions around campus. 

The top tier of leadership at the Academy is the Administrative Council, led by President Brian Guenther. When Mr. Snuffy Smith, who had served on the AC as Vice President for Administration, retired from the Academy at the end of May, his duties were reassigned among the remaining AC members. 

Bob Wiegand, now the Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer (CAO), has moved into the Admissions wing of Carroll Hall, taking the office vacated by Mr. Smith. Mr. Wiegand will supervise not only Academics, but also the Residential Life and Student Life departments. 

Ms. Amy Bawcom, Vice President for Development and Chief Development Officer (CDO) has been relocated to the administrative suite in Carroll Hall, near the President’s Office.

Mrs. Rhonda McNeil, Vice President for Business and Finance and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will continue to work from the Business Office. 

The Administrative Council (AC) at the Academy consists of directors, deans, and other staff from the various departments on campus. This group includes the following:

  • Mr. Steven McCray will serve this year as School Principal for all grades. Mr. McCray will maintain an office in the Lower School.
  • Mrs. Tamra Howe is leaving the classroom to serve as Assistant Principal, working from the Upper School Office.
  • Mr. Les Davis will serve as Campus Coordinator, with responsibilities in athletics, academic staffing, TAPPS compliance, and discipline. 
  • Mr. Toby Wade is the Academy Athletic Director, who will handle athletic scheduling, field maintenance, and other athletic issues.
  • Mrs. Christy Guenther remains Dean of Residential Life, supervising all aspects of the boarding program. She will maintain an office in the Admissions area to assist with student interviews and tours.
  • Mr. Corey Boyer continues his work as Director of Admissions.
  • Mrs. Shelley Henry will continue to serve as Director of Communication.
  • Mrs. Madeline De Long is the primary point of contact for all graduates and former students of the Academy as the Director of Alumni Relations.
  • Mr. Eric Casillas, now Dean of Student Life, will be responsible for the Rec Center, all student activities, and student government. 
  • Mrs. Alyssa Clutter, well known to students who frequent the Sabre Bookstore and Bear Outfitters, is the Retail Services Manager. 
  • Mrs. Susan Ledbetter, RN, will continue to work with students as Director of Health Services. 
  • Mr. Matt McNeil, Director of Campus Support, is in charge of maintenance operations and all IT needs across campus. 
  • Dep. Daniel Weber will be returning as our Hays County SRO.
  • Mrs. Monica Followell and Mr. Clint Followell, our Campus Ministers, will continue to direct Christian Ministry opportunities for students and staff.

New to the Academy this year is Mrs. Heather Alba, Business Office Administrative Assistant, who will assist parents with student account questions. Also, Mrs. Tiffany Portis will be the Executive Assistant to Admissions and the CAO, in the Admissions Office suite.

Changes and reassignments on the Academy faculty will be announced later as final teaching assignments are made.

Corps of Cadets

For more than 100 years, San Marcos Academy has provided a leadership training program rooted in the values and traditions of the U.S. military. Most recently, this program has taken the form of a U.S. Army Junior ROTC unit, designated as an Honor Unit with Distinction in the Fall of 2019. 

Maintaining a JROTC unit can be a challenge for a small private school such as ours. Accepting federal money with unfunded Department of Defense mandates has posed a financial burden on our budget for several years. Ultimately, our Board of Trustees recommended that we change the nature of our program from a JROTC unit to a school-sponsored military leadership format. This change will go into effect for the 2020-21 school year.

Much of what we will offer students through our SMA Corps of Cadets program will be identical to what we offered through JROTC. Upper School Cadets will continue to enroll in credit-bearing Military Leadership classes that will follow the same curriculum offered in JROTC. The courses will be taught by LTC David Jaillite, U.S. Army, Ret., who has previously served as Director of the U.S. Army’s Logistics University. Students in the program will still receive Junior ROTC credit on their transcripts and the courses will apply toward the Public Service Endorsement on their diploma.  Additionally, we are still able to recommend student in the program for an appointment to military academies.

Male students who are U.S. citizens will be enrolled in Military Leadership for at least one semester at the Academy to meet graduation requirements; however, all Upper School students, male and female, will be encouraged to participate in the program throughout their Upper School years. Every effort will be made to maintain the cherished traditions of the past while opening the door to new opportunities and traditions that a school-sponsored program will allow. 

Varsity Football 

When the football season ended in 2019, Coach Les Davis faced what he characterized as one of the most difficult decisions in his career: whether to maintain the 11-man football program at the Academy or move to a 6-man varsity program. After consulting with players and their parents and evaluating the pool of players slated to return for the 2020 season, Davis and his staff decided that the 6-man option was the best fit for SMA.

The last appearance for the 2019-20 Bears was the state playoff game Nov. 15 against Woodlands Christian.

TAPPS re-aligns schools every two years, and many of these schools change divisions, up or down, every year, so SMA is not alone in experiencing this kind of program change. Davis said he made his final decision after ensuring that the Academy would be placed within a district and could develop a competitive schedule, which includes several opponents that SMA teams have met in other sports.

Last year’s Bear squad included 19 seniors–more than half of the team. The attrition was particularly devastating to the offensive line. Coach Davis said he was worried that even one or two injuries would leave an 11-man Bear squad unable to finish out the season. “The rising juniors and seniors on this year’s team started out playing six-man football in middle school, so they have had some experience,” Davis said. “Six-man is a wide-open game; every player gets a chance to run out and catch a pass. This will be my 40th year to coach, and while it will be an adjustment, I am actually looking forward to the opportunity to try something I’ve never done before.”

Schedule Updates: TAPPS officials revised their “Return to Play” guidelines for member schools on July 23. Our coaching staff is in the process of finalizing football, volleyball, and cross country schedules in light of these guidelines. Schedules on the Academy website will be updated as soon as confirmation with other schools has been completed. 

Teaching for Transformation

In fulfilling our mission to educate young men and women within a nurturing community based upon Christian values, the Academy staff and faculty are also mindful of our vision statement: producing leaders whose lives are built on integrity, a strong moral compass, a total commitment to life-long learning, and who exemplify Christ’s devotion to service and his compassionate concern for others.”

In order to more fully realize that vision, the Academy will join about 50 other schools worldwide who follow the “Teaching for Transformation” (TfT) curricular model. The TfT program provides a framework in which students can not only learn about God’s story, but discover their place within that story. Through authentic and transformational Christian learning experiences, students at all grade levels will be exposed to discipleship concepts such as worship, truth, justice, service, and community. The TfT program will be adapted incrementally as teachers and staff complete training modules that were first introduced last year during the ACTABS conference that we hosted. To learn more about TfT, visit the Teaching for Transformation website

Health Services 

As a school for resident students as well as day students, the Academy has always maintained a Student Health Center, staffed by trained nurses and operating under the orders of a local physician. Last year, SMA was also able to provide a mental health counselor/LPC as part of our staff.

The student health center reception desk welcomes students in.

For several years, Dr. Sue Ann Harrison served as our Medical Director, but she will be stepping down from that role. Dr. Lane Lee, who serves on our Board of Trustees and is an Academy parent, will be available to advise the nursing staff. He is also serving on our School Reopening Task Force. Continuing as Director of Health Services will be Mrs. Susan Ledbetter, RN, and returning as afternoon/evening nurse is Michelle Sanders, LVN. 

The Health Center has established a new policy for over-the-counter medications. All parents must sign a form giving our nurses permission to dispense over-the-counter products (such as Advil or Tylenol) to their students. Parents will need to provide and leave these products (in the original containers) at the Health Center during their student’s registration.

Ms. Shelley Roberts, LPC, will not be returning to campus as our Mental Health Counselor. However, Ms. Roberts and a number of other local mental health professionals are included on a counselor/therapist referral list, maintained at the Health Center. Parents are welcome to request this referral list from the Health Center staff and may contact the providers directly. Students who may require counseling for routine adjustment issues during the school day will be directed to our Health Center staff or to Mrs. Teri Nash in the Guidance Counselor Office. 

Dual-Credit Courses

For several years, the Academy has enjoyed a partnership with Hardin-Simmons University for our dual credit courses, which include English 1301 and 1302, several hours of mathematics, U.S. History 1301 and 1302, Political Science 1302, and Psychology 1301. These classes are taught on our campus by our own faculty, who are considered adjunct professors at the partner university.

Currently, President Guenther is working with the administration of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to become our dual-credit course provider for the 2020-21 school year. The goal is to seamlessly transition from HSU. No students will lose any credits, and the process of instruction will virtually be the same.

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