To inform readers about the candidates seeking their votes on the November ballot, the San Antonio Report asked all candidates to answer the following questions. We edited answers for clarity, not substance or grammar, and we did not fact-check responses. We restricted responses to 200 words for each question.
Read other candidates’ answers here.
North East ISD, District 6
Link to campaign website:
What is your educational background? Where did you go to school growing up and what is the highest level of education you completed?
HS – Tom Moore, Ingram, TX; College – UT, Austin, TX; Law School – St. Mary’s, San Antonio, TX – J.D. is the highest level of education completed
If you have completed higher education, what degrees or certifications have you earned and from where? In what years did you complete these degrees or certifications?
BA – 2004 from UT-Austin; JD – 2016 from St. Mary’s School of Law
What is your current occupation, employer, and job title?
List any previous elected offices that you held and the term you held that office. List any elected offices you sought and the years you sought those offices.
Why do you feel you are the best candidate for the office you are seeking?
I am the only candidate running for District 6 who has taught in the public education system. Voters have three choices in this race – an investment banker, a pilot, and me, a certified teacher turned attorney. Perhaps, in another year, voters would have to consider whether working as banker or pilot best prepares someone to make decisions about education. But in this race, voters can vote for a former education consultant, former NEISD teacher, and current NEISD parent who truly understands the ramifications of board decisions.
We are about to face the financial aftermath of COVID-19. I worked in NEISD during the economic downturn that marked the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and stand ready to help guide the district forward. I applaud my opponents for their professional successes and if the mission of the Board were investing money or flying planes I’d defer to their expertise. However, I am not going to defer when the Board’s mission revolves around educating children in one of the largest districts in Texas. I understand what it takes to educate and look forward to helping fellow board members understand how decisions in the boardroom play out in the classroom.
What three issues do you feel are most important to your constituents?
First, I believe my constituents want NEISD to do a better job of messaging when navigating crises that occur in an educational environment. A lack of timely updates leaves district and campus stakeholders in the dark and desperately searching for information. I’ve seen glimmers of hope with messaging when NEISD’s e-learning platform has gone down this fall, I hope to help the district expand that same sense of urgency to other issues as well.
Second, I believe my constituents want to know the board listens to both sides of issues. The current board almost always reaches unanimous decisions, often with little explanation for why. I’ll support board decisions but I’m not going to vote with the majority if my opinion is different.
Finally, I believe my constituents want policies that are equitable throughout the district. If not, I believe they want to know the reason why. Quiz grades are sometimes a major grading category for students and every year I see parents in my area who are shocked to find out there is no consistent district policy on secondary quiz retakes. I cannot fix everything alone, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out for similar gaps in district policies.
If you are elected, what will be your top priorities once you take office?
NEISD has lost numerous students to private and charter schools in recent years and I think a big reason why is the perception those schools are providing a higher level of service. With that in mind, my number one priority when I take office is to make sure district leadership understands how important it is to let NEISD families know their voices are heard. That doesn’t mean we make everybody happy, but it does mean we better serve constituents with honesty and transparency.
A second priority is making sure the district steps up with communication. Social media has supplanted email, letters, and phone calls as the primary means of communication in many households. I want campus and district leaders to break stories on social media, not get caught running behind. As both a teacher and parent, I’ve watched fear take over when rumors of imminent danger are spreading on social media while the district remains conspicuously silent.
Finally, I want to make sure that from day one I’m prioritizing our teachers. When NEISD shutdown due to COVID our community realized teachers are heroes. I want to make sure we never forget.
For incumbents: What accomplishments are you most proud of during your time in office? Is there any vote or decision you would change now looking back?
For non-incumbents: Would you do anything differently from the current representative holding the office you’re seeking?
First, I would be transparent about how I feel about issues voted on by the board. The current version of the board has voted together on virtually every issue, oftentimes referencing discussions held in closed session. I have a hard time believing my constituents want a representative who rubberstamps every decision. If there’s any one issue voters should be concerned with it’s this one – how can you evaluate the current representative when you don’t know which votes actually represent his beliefs about what’s best for NEISD?
Second, I would prioritize NEISD teachers. The current representative recently helped pass a new budget that failed to give teachers even the smallest raise. I understand COVID has caused some financial difficulties but a board that works with a budget of more half a billion dollars could find a way to reward teachers if they really tried. In August 2019, NEISD reported it had 4,338 dedicated teachers – a $250 raise for each of those teachers would have cost just over $1 million.
How do you assess your community college district or school district’s performance during the pandemic and the way it served students?
We are still in the midst of the pandemic so I’ve yet to make a definitive judgment concerning the NEISD response. However, the two major issues I’ve noticed so far are ones I’m confident I could have helped with if I’d been in office.
First, as an NEISD parent, I know communication has been a huge issue throughout the pandemic – even more than it was before. I have children in the district and piecing together what the plan is on their respective campuses has been a challenge. I might not have made different decisions if I was in office but I’m confident the decisions I did make would’ve been more openly shared.
Second, my conversations with teachers who still work in the district have me very worried about the amount of PPE available in classrooms. One of my longtime worries about this pandemic is the safety of teachers during in-person school. NEISD seems to have planned better than some districts but I’m still not sure leadership has done enough for teacher safety in the pandemic era classroom.
How will you approach budgeting for your district given the economic uncertainties? What are your budget priorities you would want to keep intact?
I suspect the economic fallout from COVID will be felt for a long time. With that in mind, I believe NEISD should expand vocational programs and increase enrollment in classes that give students an opportunity to earn college credit. I also believe in doing everything in my power to fully fund extracurriculars while expanding the aforementioned opportunities to save money for NEISD families after high school.
I was with my son and the Reagan band in New York City last Thanksgiving, it was incredible. Yet I understand that trip may be an anomaly if future cuts need to be made. If they do, I believe every student and activity is important and cuts need to be equitable across the board. One of the strengths of NEISD is the diversity of offerings to students – something we can’t abandon as a district. A child who finds their place on the UIL spelling team is just as important as the star quarterback, if we can fund one activity, we can fund the other. I also believe if we are transparent about budgeting it will go a long way in helping those impacted come to grips with any cuts.
How do you plan to work to overcome academic gaps that may have developed or widened during the pandemic?
Initially, I plan to openly acknowledge the gaps that may have developed or widened during the pandemic. I would be shocked if there are not some huge academic gaps post-pandemic amongst NEISD students, especially those from the district’s most vulnerable families. The district, and the board, are going to have to admit their best efforts during the pandemic were not enough – contrition not often seen in NEISD.
I anticipate the need for a districtwide program aimed at helping students get back on grade level as soon as possible. At the high school level, the program will likely look a lot like current credit recovery programs. However, at the elementary and middle school level, the pedagogical focus will need to be just as concerned with reteaching children how to be students as it is with reteaching content. I look forward to working with teachers, administrators, and other board members to come up with a program designed to overcome academic deficiencies and help our students get back on track.