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.

Position sought:

North East ISD, District 6

Incumbent?

No.

Link to campaign website:

https://www.stevefortrustee.com/

Age:

46

What is your educational background? Where did you go to school growing up and what is the highest level of education you completed?

I grew up in San Antonio, attending NEISD schools. My years at Roosevelt led, upon graduation, to multiple service academy and four-year ROTC scholarship offers. I chose to accept the offer from the US Air Force Academy, and graduated from there with a B.S. in Biology. I served in the US Air Force for 20 years as an Officer, Pilot, Squadron Commander, and more. During my Air Force career, I earned a Master’s Degree, received advanced professional military education and obtained an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification. 

(The ATP is the highest level professional pilot rating, required to fly commercial airlines and large cargo aircraft, which is what I did during my 20-year Air Force career.) 

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?

Education                   
2012        Air War College (Correspondence) 
2011        Joint Forces Staff College 
2009        Army Command and General Staff College (Correspondence) 
2008        Washington University – Olin Business School – Olin Partners’ Program Executive Seminar Series 
2008        Strategic Policy (Joint Mobility) Intern Program
2006        Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Master of Aeronautical Science, Aviation Management 
2006        Air Command and Staff College (Correspondence) 
2002        Squadron Officer School 
1996        United States Air Force Academy, Bachelor of Science, Biology 

ABBREVIATED TRAINING LIST  
US Air Force Chief of Safety Course  
B737-700 Captain Qualification Course 
C-17 Instructor Aircraft Commander Course 
US Air Force Advanced Instrument School 
C-141 Initial Qualification Course 

What is your current occupation, employer, and job title?

Pilot, First Officer 

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.

N/A

Why do you feel you are the best candidate for the office you are seeking?

Throughout my military career, I gained extensive leadership experience and honed excellent attention-to-detail and strategic planning skills. As Pilot-in-Command of a various aircrafts, I executed high visibility missions and discrete special missions, which had to be done with professionalism and perfection. In sometimes high-stress environments, I gained experience in planning, emergency decision-making, adhering to policies, and creating a positive work culture.  

I was prepared when selected as Squadron Commander of one of the largest flying squadrons in the US Air Force, in part, from observing many senior officers and their leadership styles, as well as intense studying. Command positions require budgeting, personnel management, strategic planning, policy compliance, and executive decision-making.  I got comfortable asking the “hard questions,” so that I could make the most informed and well-reasoned decisions possible.  

These skills would convey to the Trustee role. The Board needs to grow in the areas of asking the hard questions and deliberation. 

I am a person of principles. Despite being told by a current Trustee that Trustees have to leave personal beliefs at the door, I will not relinquish all the life and professional experience I have gained. Rather, I will utilize them in service of my community, if elected.  

What three issues do you feel are most important to your constituents?

– Parents and Teachers aren’t being heard. This is unwise because parents are the clients; teachers are the providers. The board places public comments at the end of meetings. Then, after a person has waited hours to speak, nothing changes.  

The grievance process needs revision. Currently, grievance policies are easily twisted and there is insufficient accountability of district administration’s adherence to policies and laws. 

– Respect for Taxpayers. Monthly financial reports should be online. Over $50K expenditures need to be online…before the board meeting. How much is spent at meetings without question? 
Now, there’s talk of a Bond election. Recently, the incumbents approved $5-6M to begin a surprise project that can’t be completed without raising millions of dollars and increasing the M&O budget. Incumbents have campaigned on having lowered tax rates, but are hamstringing the next Board into raising taxes or wasting this $5-6M already committed.  

– Transparency. How much business happens behind closed doors rather than in the public view? Why don’t agendas have information attached? The first time parents saw the Phase-In plan was 4 days before school started. There was no chance for parents / teachers to provide any substantial input or suggestions for changes. 

If you are elected, what will be your top priorities once you take office?

The Trustee’s role is limited, and only with a willing majority could I help make many of the needed improvements to the District. 

My priorities are described on my website www.SteveForTrustee.com and I encourage readers to go there and learn more. My message has been consistent since I filed to run in February. My focus is on doing the right thing by children, parents, teachers and taxpayers. 

I would work on fixing the lack of transparency currently existing between the Board and the people of North East. I’d like to see a quarterly Board newsletter, more discussion in Open Session, increased financial transparency, etc. I think residents should be able to see (as many as possible) materials a board will consider prior to the meeting.  

The Board policies and procedures need to be reviewed to ensure they are not creating problems for the District, or that they are too confusing. The Board should also verify adherence to these policies and take action when they are not being followed. 

The District is a public institution, and should remember that in its strategic communications, board policies and procedures, spending and mission. 

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?

N/A

For non-incumbents: Would you do anything differently from the current representative holding the office you’re seeking?

Yes, I would deliberate with fellow Trustees in Open Session and I would ask the hard questions of district staff to increase the likelihood that all Trustees will have the detail needed to make informed decisions. I would try to see things through the eyes of those who are not receiving back-channel information, because when things are done primarily behind-the-scenes, the people cannot know what their elected officials are doing and why. I would be best able to achieve that if I am able to connect with constituents on a regular basis.  

Furthermore, I would make motions to add items to the agenda if I thought they were important. I would vote in a way that preserves Board power and authority (that is the people’s power) versus sign it away to unelected staff, as has occurred multiple times this year. Additionally, I will visit each campus in District 6 and speak directly with teachers so as to get a better sense of how their students are doing and what the Board could do to improve academic performance, citizenship behaviors, military and career readiness, and some of the other areas in which the District has weakened. 

How do you assess your community college district or school district’s performance during the pandemic and the way it served students?

It was a unique situation. In the Spring (Mar – May 20), I was underwhelmed, but not surprised by the performance of District under the direction of central office. 

What was surprising was lack of communication with the plan for re-opening the District this August. Parents and teachers, in general, had no real voice in the plan. A draft of the plan was not released prior to Board meeting, which was held 4 days before classes were scheduled to begin.  The consistent opinion of those I have spoken with is that the phase-in plan has been sub-optimal for children, parents/families, and teachers.   

The key, in my opinion, is the Board completely deferred to the Superintendent and District staff, forgetting whom they represent (families and community members of their Districts from which they were elected).  If one were to watch the 13 August Board meeting, one would observe that questions Trustees asked were for clarification purposes, but did not challenge the various parts of the plan, to include feasibility of execution, burdens placed on teachers and parents, or specific health metrics.  

To sum it up, the Trustee’s performance was a poor representation of the people’s voice.  

How will you approach budgeting for your district given the economic uncertainties? What are your budget priorities you would want to keep intact?

I have worked under government budgets.  

In reality, at the school district, it is the professional finance staff doing the heavy lifting. They prepare the budget and review it with the Trustees who, as far as I know, have always approved a plan that was presented to them. I have personally not seen significant challenges or input from Trustees. 

In a Trustee role, we have to know where the money is being spent and why. Is it a want or is it a need? Trustees must be willing to push back on proposals or spending that doesn’t make sense. Spending on extraneous programs or initiatives may have to be looked at. 

I would like to see an increase in monthly financial transparency and spending as well as increased scrutiny of all contracts.  

How do you plan to work to overcome academic gaps that may have developed or widened during the pandemic?

This is where Board has to engage the Superintendent and his staff by thoroughly vetting and challenging the various programs, plans and tools they intend to utilize. The first step will be to identify the extent of the problem, and be transparent with the parents about it. Then, find the best solutions to work towards overcoming the academic gaps, which should only be done in collaboration with parents, who know their kids best, and teachers, who know their jobs best. 

Any strategic plan proposed by the staff must have sufficient flexibility to be carried out and must be achievable within time and financial constraints.  

San Antonio Report Staff

San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.