I am a volunteer — both school and community, and have been for many years, and I will continue to do so after this election, even after I become a Trustee. Running for school board is (a) a natural progression of what I am committed to: public education; and (b) a way to be in a position to effect change after being in the trenches as a public school parent and volunteer.
I have elected to take the skills that I gained throughout my 20 year career – in research, technology, project and program management, communication, facilitation and teaching, and put my time and energy into a new goal: to effect positive change for the benefit of every child in the public school system.
When I vetted the two candidates that were in the race in early February, I couldn’t get over the fact that neither candidate has children in public schools. How can they understand what the students, teachers, staff, school administration and custodial staff go through on a daily basis when they’ve never lived it? They can say they’ve visited all of these campuses, but that is not the same as being there every day. I kept asking that question to fellow parents and friends, including my husband. They agreed with how I felt, and then they’d suggest that I step to the plate.
I teach my children that when they have a complaint, they have two options — either stop complaining or do something about it. I decided to do something about it.
2. How do you see your experiences up to this point helping you as a trustee?
I am active on our school’s PTA Board, on our elementary school’s Site Based Decision Making committee, and I serve on the board of the Emanuel Community Center. I’ve done it all from being the class parent, to facilitating a meeting of school administrators and stakeholders, to leading the charge to fund improvements to our facilities.
Life as a public school parent isn’t easy. No matter how highly-rated your school is, there is always a deep level of engagement that’s required. And because so many parents can’t, it’s critical for people like myself to engage for them.
That is why I’m here. Our school board needs a fresh voice. Someone who is in the trenches that sees what works and doesn’t work. We don’t need a school board member who is a part of the establishment, yet doesn’t endorse the system. My kids go to DISD public schools. We need a Trustee who has skin in the game.
3. Do you see any difficulties in working with the other board members? If so, how do you plan to overcome them?
I have been to multiple board meetings and board briefings and have witnessed discourse, as well as, discussion. It’s imperative to be professional at all times. We will not always agree, that is certain. However, as I don’t have any legacy relationship with any board member, I go into serving on the board with no preconceived generalizations and judgements.
As a trained facilitator, I have often been in settings where there is adamant disagreement. The goal is to keep the conversation on task and productive, without going off topic and without getting personal.
I was affirmed after the Dallas Millennials Forum on Monday, 3/21, when a current Trustee shook my hand immediately after the event and said, “You are the bridge that this board needs. I saw it. I heard it. I know it.”
4. Can you think of a teacher that made a difference in your life?
I can think of many including Ms. Barnes my 9th grade Language Arts teacher, Mr. Potts, my 10th and 11th grade Chemistry and Physics teacher, and Dr. Horner, my advisor in college. But one that I’ll highlight is Mr. McCarron, my 4th grade teacher. Mr. McCarron was in his first year of teaching at Boulder Hill Elementary (in the Oswego, IL school district), and he was the first teacher I ever had that made me believe in myself. He recognized that I had an aptitude for math, reading and writing and he spent the whole year nurturing those attributes. I felt that he was teaching only me and that no one else in the class mattered. But I came to realize that is how he made every student in his class feel. Mr. McCarron has a gift for teaching. I went back to see him after I graduated from college. He recognized me immediately when I walked into his classroom, and I told him how he positively affected my life. I’ve gone back and spoken to Ms. Barnes, Mr. Potts, Dr. Horner and a host of other educators who’ve positively affected my life. I would encourage every adult to do the same.
5. Why do students struggle? When you were a student, did you? Why or why not?
Students struggle for a variety of reasons, from not having a good foundation before starting their formal education, to not being encouraged, to having teachers that aren’t effective.
I also believe that a vast number of students in DISD have responsibilities, burdens and concerns outside of school that prevent them for making school a primary focus. While they know going to school and getting a diploma will create opportunity, it’s difficult. My kids don’t worry about going to bed hungry, they’re have parents who are engaged in their education, who can help them with their homework because English is our primary language at home. But for many of the students in our school district, they have a burdens outside of school, whether it’s hunger, lack of help at home or not being prepared to learn. Many of our kids are distracted with negative events at home or in their communities including safety and security concerns. We need to continue to cultivate private/public partnerships with organizations and community schools to educate our families and provide them resources to lesson the burden.
I didn’t struggle academically, but did socially. I was short, smart and an immigrant in a white, middle-class small town. I don’t recall confront any maliciousness due to a difference in race, but I felt different. I was insecure and shy. When I was a sophomore in high school, I started gaining confidence. Being smart was a good thing. College is when I really came into my own.
6. How did you get past those difficult times during your academic career?
Academics is not where I had difficulty. But there are many students who do. I tutor, and I encourage my children to do what they can to help. My 13 year old son has tutored students to help them prepare for the STAAR, and my 10 year old daughter is in the middle of developing a service project where she offers free piano lessons to young children so that they love the piano as much as she does. She says, “Studies show playing a musical instrument helps kids with math”.
7. What is DISD doing well now and where can we improve?
I think DISD is going in the right direction with choice schools, of which I am an advocate. I’m excited about the new Solar Preparatory School for Girls opening in District 2. Lee, Lipscomb and Preston Hollow are offering IB. Lee, Lipscomb and Mata Montessori is helping alleviate some of the over-crowding at Stonewall and Lakewood.
DISD is going in the right direction with school nutrition and, as a parent, I appreciate the communication I get from the District on upcoming events or District information that I should know.
Unfortunately, the list of what needs to be improved is lengthy. Facilities, access to pre-K and early education, eliminating the "3rd grade fade”, teacher and principal recruitment and retention, improving college, career and life-readiness for our graduates… the list is long and there’s a lot to be done.
We need to stop the negative discourse on the school board and move our schools forward.
8. If you were the Superintendent today, what, if anything, would you do differently and why?
The board hires the Superintendent and gives him direction with the policies that are developed and instituted. The Superintendent must carry those policies forward and across all of the schools in the district.
I’d like to see the Superintendent do more school visits and have his staff go to all our campuses to understand how each one is unique — different neighborhoods and different levels of parental involvement. And depending on what is gleaned, teaching styles will vary to ensure we can get to our students. We should give our effective teachers room to be creative. Our recent policies and our administration seem to throw a huge net over the entire District instead of understaning what works and doesn’t work.
9. What do you see as the role and responsibility of a trustee?
As a Trustee, my responsibilities are:
- Govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the District
- Monitor progress toward the District’s comprehensive goals
- Establish performance goals for the District concerning the academic and fiscal performance
- Set and create policies that are the benefit for all the students within DISD
- Hire the superintendent, but allow him to manage the system. Ensure that the superintendent implements the policies set forth, and monitor his plans, procedures and progress. In other words, allow the superintendent and his staff to perform the management function of the school and hold him accountable.
- Listen to and respect differing views and opinions. Key word: respect
- Advocate for the high achievement of all district students
- Create and support connections with community organizations to provide communitywide support for the high achievement of all district students
- Provide educational leadership for the district, including leadership in developing the district vision statement and long-range educational plan
- Establish districtwide policies and annual goals that are tied directly to the District’s vision statement and long-range educational plan
- Support the professional development of principals, teachers, and other staff.
I believe as a Trustee, my responsibilities are to the students of DISD, their parents, the teachers and the administrators. I would do everything within my power to strengthen that system to achieve the best educational outcomes for our children.
10. What role do you think charter schools play in Dallas education? What role should they play?
Yes, charter schools are here, continue to expand and are part of the public education system, but we need to make sure we are making an equitable
comparison between charter schools and our traditional public schools.
Firstly, a charter school asks parents to take an active interest in their child’s education. This is a great step in the right direction. Secondly, while a charter school must meet TEA requirements, it has a greater flexibility in who it hires, length of school day and how material is taught. And they can cap enrollment. Interestingly, even with all of these advantages, a number of charter schools aren’t performing and need to close to give the public funds back to our public schools.
I see choice schools as an alternative to charter schools. Mata Montessori, IDEA at Fanin, Dan D. Rogers as a personalized learning center, and Preston Hollow Elementary, Lipscomb and Lee with their soon-to-be accredited IB programs are great examples. These use solid, yet creative approaches to education.
I would prefer to see public school funds go directly to public school programs, versus to charter schools, especially as many of charter schools are failing. In fact, I’d put the choice schools against charter school in the district any day.
11. Identify an issue your constituents are passionate about. What would your ideal solution be to that issue?
District 2 has a variety of needs and, depending on the area, the passion of the voters vary. For example, in East Dallas, the schools are exemplary, but the facilities are anything but. I’ve personally watched a teacher vacuum up maggots in her classroom that had fallen through the ceiling. How can we possibly expect our students to learn and our educators to teach in that environment? How can students go to the cafeteria to eat when there are waves of mud spilling in from the heavy rains? Why do our students have to have classes in rooms fit to be a closet? But we send our kids and our teachers teach despite those conditions.
In other parts of District 2, we have schools that are doing well and are heading in the right direction. My constituents want to make sure they get the support and resources from the District so that they may continue on that right path.
Everyone in District 2 wants our great teachers to stay and they want an effective principal at the helm.
12. Why should voters on Election Day choose you?
As a product of public schools and as a parent who has chosen the public education for my children, I am an advocate for the public school student, public school parent and the public school teacher.
There are many parents who send their children to public schools. However, there are a few that have the experience that I have had working behind the scenes and in the trenches to improve education. I will work across the system -- with the students, teachers, admin and community to bring the resources necessary to bear to improve our public schools.
I am the only candidate who sends her children to a DISD school. I have skin in the game.
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