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RISD school board candidates answer 7 important questions about issues

ROCKWALL – Want to know what the three Rockwall ISD school board candidates vying for the open seat in the May 12 Board of Trustees Election think about current educational issues?

TheRockwallNews.com asked all three to answer the same seven questions about issues which are likely on the minds of voters.

Subjects are:

  1. STAAR/TAKS tests
  2. School Choice
  3. School Competition
  4. Bullying of homosexual students
  5. Parental Notification regarding abortions
  6. RISD voting record
  7. Political party affiliation

Following are their responses verbatim:

DANIEL FUQUA (left photo):

1) STAAR/TAKS testing – Yes or No, and why?

Standardized testing in and of itself is a good thing. It provides the opportunity to see how students are doing in relation to a specific competency level, which provides feedback on areas that need improvement both for the individual student, and for different groups of students, by classroom, by grade level, by school and by district.

While the testing itself can provide great feedback for improvement, the issue comes with everything that is tied to the results of these exams.

The District accountability ratings are based off the scores from these tests, and the overall rating can be determined by a small percentage of students that do poorly in one category in one demographic group.

Per the RISD website, out of the 25 accountability measures for the district we achieved the following:

  • 19 Exemplary (90 – 100% of students met standard)
  • 5 Recognized   (80-89% of students met standard)
  • 1 Academically Acceptable (70-79% of students met standard)
  • 0 Academically Unacceptable

For instance Rockwall ISD’s Accountability rating for 2011 is “Academically Acceptable” (down from Recognized the two previous years), but our only Academically Acceptable rating was in science for a specific demographic group. 

It seems that the accountability ratings unfairly penalize the entire district for the poor performance of a few students.  To fully understand the impact of these ratings, understand that people looking to move to the area look at these ratings when deciding where to buy a home. If people do not drill down and look at the underlying results achieved in the district, they could form an inaccurate opinion of the quality of our schools, when we are actually accomplishing great things.

2) School Choice – Should parents be able to send their children to the school of their choice within a district?

There is already a mechanism in place to request a transfer to a different school within the District, and I personally have known people who have requested and received permission to attend a different school in the district.

From the school board’s perspective the focus should be on supporting and making sure that EACH school in the District is providing a quality education to the students and that there is parity between the schools within the District in regards to quality of facilities, technology available, and staffing ratios.

The positive thing about students attending the school nearest their home is that friendships can form with other students who live nearby, offering the opportunity to play and study together outside of school.

3) School Competition – Should parents who send their children to private or charter schools receive tax credits?

To start, Charter Schools are publically-funded and parents do not pay to send their children to these schools, so why would there be a tax credit for them?

For Private Schools (and Charter Schools) presumably what you are asking is: Should they receive a tax credit because they paid property taxes and did not use the public schools? But you have to stop and think about the fact that there are MANY tax payers in the District who do not use the public schools (because they do not have any children, or their children are already grown), but they still have to pay the property taxes and they get to deduct the property taxes on their income taxes.

Deciding to put children in private school is a personal decision for parents, and many sacrifice to be able to afford it, but it does not change the tax systems we have for property and income taxes.

4) LGBT issues – Should RISD allow students to hold a “Day of Silence” to protest the bullying and harassment of gay students?

Why are you singling out a sub-group? We should support programs that curb bullying and harassment of ANY student for ANY reason.

5) Parental Notification – Should schools assist students to obtain abortions without notifying parents?

This is outside the scope of the school’s control. There are counselors at each campus that can refer students to a variety of professionals and organizations that can assist the student when they are in crisis for any number of reasons.

6) Have you voted in the last three school board elections?

I voted in the 2011 School Board Election. In 2010 both candidates (Doug Hamilton and David Loftis) ran unopposed (no reason to vote), and I missed the 2009 school board election which did have two contested and one uncontested race.

7) Although this is not a partisan election, do you tend to vote more for Republicans or Democrats and why?

I vote on individual candidates, not straight ticket, but I am fiscally conservative, and so my vote tends to align with candidates who are fiscally conservative.

LINDA MITCHELL-DURAN

1) STAAR/TAKS testing – Yes or No, and why?

I am for some testing and accountability in our school system.  However, I have seen that the “testing culture” has simply overtaken our school system.

This semester, the high school levels are testing 45 out of 90 school days.  That is just ridiculous!  Now that’s not ALL the students each of those days, but someone in the school is doing TAKS or STARR or some type of state testing for all those days.  This actually disrupts the learning process!

And think how expensive that is!!!!!  Wow, how many teachers could we hire with that money?

A balance of some testing some years to make sure we are on track is good.  But as usual, we have gone too far and need to back off a bit.

2) School Choice – Should parents be able to send their children to the school of their choice within a district?

I rather like the idea of school choice--if there is room in the school and if it is handled in such a way to allow the administrators and teachers time to prepare for the influx of students.  Garland ISD has such a system and it has worked pretty well.  I taught there for a few years and liked it.  I do not, however, want parents to be switching students around every couple of months because they get mad at this teacher or that coach or that student.  There would have to be guidelines.

3) School Competition – Should parents who send their children to private or charter schools receive tax credits?

The voucher system for tax payer dollars going to private institutions is a “hot topic.”  My preference is to make the public system so great that no one would want to move their child, but that is not realistic in some environments.  We have to be very, very careful with tax payer dollars and make sure that these private institutions are teaching the core curriculum adequately. Accountability in this situation would be a must!

Right now, Charter Schools do get tax payer money and people can send their children.  Some are great and doing a wonderful job in educating our children.  Some are horrible and are ripping off your and my tax dollars and not helping our children at all.  I don’t want to inhibit their creativity with the educational process but I do want to make sure that our children actually learn in that process.

4) LGBT issues – Should RISD allow students to hold a “Day of Silence” to protest the bullying and harassment of gay students?

Bullying in schools should never be allowed no matter who the student is.  I’m not for a day of silence because that interferes with the educational process–and school is for learning.  I am for stopping bullying in ALL its forms against any child regardless of the reason. This is actually a matter of life and death for our children! If some training for teachers and students on how to spot and stop bullying is needed I’m for it.  But a day of silence just disrupts education so I say NO.

5) Parental Notification – Should schools assist students to obtain abortions without notifying parents?

Schools should NEVER, let me repeat NEVER assist a student in getting an abortion or any medical treatment-period. With or without parent involvement.  Of course if there is an accident and a student needs to go to the emergency room and there is no way to reach the parent,  the school would do that.  But any other medical issue and especially abortion–absolutely not.  That is not the role of the educational system. Our role is to teach children.  For any medical or health related issues, parents should be notified immediately!

6) Have you voted in the last three school board elections?

I did.  I always do. Not every one of the candidates did!  

7) Although this is not a partisan election, do you tend to vote more for Republicans or Democrats and why?

First I have voted democratic a few times.  I voted in the 2008 presidential primary to see how all that “two step” stuff worked.  It was very educational.  It was obvious that McCain would win the republican primary so I knew it wouldn’t really change anything.

And a friend of mine told me I voted in the democratic primary in 2002.  That was the last year that Ralph Hall ran as a democrat and he had a pretty stout challenger if I remember correctly.  My parents encouraged all of us to vote in the democratic primary that year to support Ralph(a life long friend) so we did.  In 2004, he became a republican and ran for the first time on the republican ticket.

I am not an ideologue and I look at individuals and issues independently.  I have voted republican many, many times.  I have voted republican for Governor and President many,many times. I have voted in republican primaries many times. I always vote for Ralph–no matter the party.   Many people have said not to for several different reasons and of course I don’t agree with him on everything, but not voting for Ralph would be like not voting for my father–impossible!

It’s quite interesting because I spoke with one woman who said if I was independent or republican it was okay but that, “If my mother or Jesus Christ himself were on the democratic ticket I would not vote for them.”  Another lady asked me if I ever voted republican.  Of course I said yes.  ”I could never vote for anyone who ever, even once voted republican.”

BRIAN YOUNG:

1) STAAR/TAKS testing – Yes or No, and why?

We have to benchmark our students learning to those that fund our district; however, we must allow our teachers to focus on teaching in the classroom and not our students learning how to master these type of tests.

2) School Choice – Should parents be able to send their children to the school of their choice within a district?

No, we have based our schools on a neighborhood type model in order to build community and that should continue to be our philosophy.

3) School Competition – Should parents who send their children to private or charter schools receive tax credits?

No, it would dilute our tax base that supports our district.

4) LGBT issues – Should RISD allow students to hold a “Day of Silence” to protest the bullying and harassment of gay students?

Bullying is horrible and it should be addressed on global perspective not to a specific group.

5) Parental Notification – Should schools assist students to obtain abortions without notifying parents?

NO!!!

6) Have you voted in the last three school board elections?

To my knowledge, I have voted in the past three elections.

7) Although this is not a partisan election, do you tend to vote more for Republicans or Democrats and why?

Republican.  I am a conservative in my views and actions.

By J.J. Smith, Publisher


 

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