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School Board Elections: Northside ISD

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Note: Names are listed in order of appearance on the ballot according to the city clerks' office. Answers from candidates have not been edited or fact-checked.

For TPR's full Voter Guide, click here.


Corinne Saldaña: District No. 5

What is your current or most recent occupation?

NISD School Administrator, mother of NISD students

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

“A” because it followed the CDC protocols, was receptive to the ideas and resources that were made available, implemented strategies and options for reaching all students, provided meals for all students, and its teacher corps has performed well beyond any expectations.

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

I absolutely believe our district is doing a good job. NISD is an extremely large school district that is challenged by such a diverse population that it is difficult to serve all aspects in a first class manner; however, the district to date has made every effort to meet that challenge. In my view, it continues to seek ways to remain one of the best districts in the state. I wish they would work to improve the compensation package and demonstrate greater consistency in the application of school board policies throughout the district.

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

In my view, I believe there is a need for improvement in this area.

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

My only experience with budgets came from my years as a department head and as a high school campus administrator. As a board member, I would have to study the budget and weigh the counsel of those entrusted with that responsibility. At this time, it is my belief that NISD has received excellent budget ratings because of its fiscally competent leadership.

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

I believe there is a place for standardized testing as an evaluation tool, however I am opposed to the curriculum being driven by the test. It is my belief that the increased emphasis on testing has diminished creativity in the classroom and taken all the fun out of school.

What is your stance on charter schools?

I believe in charter schools as an option for communities that do not enjoy the benefit of an outstanding school district. For that reason I could not support the charter school option for NISD residents. If, however, we are to accept the establishment of charter schools, they should be subjected to the same standards, regulations, and expectations that apply to public schools.

Sharon Chumley: District No. 5

What is your current or most recent occupation?

NISD Teacher and Supervisor for 25 years, currently retired for 2 years.

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

I would give an A grade to Northside ISD for the district's response to the coronavirus pandemic because: (1) The safety of student, teachers, and all school personnel immediately became top priority. (2) The closing and reopening of schools was based on the data from the health community officials and was closely followed. (3) When schools were open, social distancing, masks, temperatures taken upon arrival, and all required protocols were in place at all times. (4) When necessary, hybrid schedules were used. (5) Needed equipment and training was secured by the district for teachers and students so that learning from home could be accomplished. (6) Sanitizing of all needed areas was accomplished diligently and after each use. (7) During school closures, food was served in take home bags from drive up areas for those students whose breakfast and lunch were dependent on being in school. (8) For younger students whose bonds are so strong for their teachers, car parades were done by teachers so students would still feel connected. This mentions just a few. So much was given by teachers, administrators, the superintendent, the school board, all school personnel to be sure that the needs of students and parents were met in these very difficult situations.

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

The Northside ISD is doing a very good job educating its students as is evidenced by the excellent curriculum used and by the expertise of the teachers. The graduation numbers, the test scores, the scholarships obtained, the numbers entering college, and the numbers that leave high school prepared for the work place without the need of college are some of the proof texts for NISD's excellent education of its students. The support programs for all the diversity within the district is another example of educating its students well; there is help for at-risk populations, special education students, poverty stricken groups, night school for students that must work during the school day, along with gifted and talented, athletically inclined, etc. What could it be doing better? More of the same with additional help from the community and state to be sure no student "falls through the cracks".

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

Northside ISD treats its teachers, principals, and support personnel very well. Many opportunities for additional learning, training, and personal growth are offered in various formats. Teachers are recognized for outstanding work in many different ways throughout a school year both at campus level, at district level and some at state level. There is an atmosphere of support throughout the district. There is also an understood climate of no tolerance when teachers do not follow the required no substance abuse, no harassment, and other understandable rules of conduct for teachers. This keeps the district supportive to teachers, principals and support personnel in all directions. Because of outstanding financial management by the district, raises are managed for everyone each year with very few no raise years maybe one no raise year in 20 years.

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

I have experience in managing large start-up budgets in the ordering and distribution of equipment and supplies for new school art rooms. I also have experience in budgeting monies for upgrades for older art rooms, and for district wide new equipment for art rooms. I've requested bids for equipment, textbooks, and art kits and followed protocol on selecting the vendors. To approve the budget recommended to me by district administration, I would see if the budget is adequate for the needs of the time period that the budget covers and if it is delegated for the correct items. If the budget is not enough, I would show documentation and request more. If more is not available, i would move schools to an every three years calendar based on immediacy of need. I would continue to work diligently until a satisfactory solution is reached.

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

STAAR Tests serve a purpose in measuring rote material being taught and sometimes retained and repeated by students. I do not believe these tests are capable of measuring the whole of what a students knows, understands, and is able to accomplish. A metaphor I would write to explain my stance on STAAR tests is: "A STAAR test is a tree whose roots are measured correctly and in depth; however, it doesn't measure the trunk, the limbs and branches, the blossoms, the leaves, and certainly not the swings attached to limbs, nor the moss or mistletoe growing on the limbs and certainly not the bird nests, eggs, and baby birds in the tree tops." I think too much pressure is put on teachers and students and too much budget is spent with these test in light of how little consummate knowledge they measure.

What is your stance on charter schools?

My stance on charter schools is that they cannot compare positively in any way to public schools. Charter schools cannot compare on quality of instruction, services for students and teachers, enhanced teacher training, student activities such as choir, band, athletics, student support, are not held accountable at the same high level of integrity as public schools and lack many more elements that create an outstanding school for our students. If charter schools accept money from the state, then they must be held accountable by the state. Perhaps, a better way to meets the needs that charter schools claim to meet are several public magnet schools within a public school district.

Jakub Kosiba: District No. 5

What is your current or most recent occupation?

Educator

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

B- the communication piece was very wild, there were a number of technology issues all year round. Students not even in the zoom classes at all.

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

I believe NISD is doing an decent job, I believe we can do better. Increasing workforce development in addition to developing intellectual minds. Increase the number of workforce development courses. We need to expand on vocational and civics classes into our high schools. Have an advisor help our students know what career paths they would like to pursue.

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

I believe the teacher's voice is not heard enough. The input of teachers is super important to any school system.

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

Northside ISD has a very massive budget. Yes, the main website for northside explains and shows how the budget is being used. However, is it being used effectively is the big question that parents and teachers have always. There's always a limit to spend and I feel we need effective spending, not more spending. Look inside the classroom and see how much is being spent compared to everything else. Very little. 58% of teachers if not more need to spend their own money for equipment and other supplies needed across the state. Teachers shouldn't have to pay. They're already paying so much for everything else including the increased premiums from their active care plans. I would even go further to applying all fully transparent expenditure lists online for all parents, teachers, and staff to see what the district is spending on. Goes back to my original idea involve our teachers and parents who are paying for the schools. It's the people's money. My experience comes from my past and current work. Former Vice-President and Director of Workforce Development of A&E Consulting, and digital director I have extensive experience working with persons from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, and managing an effective budget and cost effective at all times for my clients.

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

In my honest blunt opinion, I don't feel the STAAR has a lot of value. A standardized test that is set to see how the student is doing is school. So for example, if I am a straight-A student that is in the 7th grade and has a reading and math level at a 10th-grade reading level, fails the STAAR so that student must do summer school or repeat. No, it's one single test. The Ren STAAR is a bit better which the metic finds the reading or math level a student is on. Many districts rather based a better idea of where the student is at using this instead. You can give the exact areas that a student does well in or needs to improve. Using benchmarks is also a great way to tell where the student is.

What is your stance on charter schools?

Charter schools put the voice of parents and teachers when decisions are made for the district. Having teacher and parent involvement is a very powerful advantage for a school district. Some charter schools have very effective low budgets and have great results. When everyone feels empowered, that everyone feels proud of there district. I support what they do and feel ISD's can take some tips on some of the ideas they use. Parents simply want the best education for their children and I applaud those who do. When I have children I want them to be in the best school possible.

Irma Iris Duran de Rodriguez: District No. 5

What is your current or most recent occupation?

Senior Housing Policy Coordinator, City of San Antonio

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

B+

The District fared better than others in the county with the resources they had, however there was no permanent plan in place during the early stages of the pandemic which led to a confusion and uncertainty among students and parents. When I spoke with teachers and parents from various schools in the district, I learned that the check-in and attendance procedures varied widely from school to school despite some being just within miles of each other. This nonuniformity was due to lack of staff training and communication.

The district learned from its mistakes, created a plan for future pandemics, and had discussions on summer programs to reduce the education gap. However, educational programs should be implemented prior to the end of the year, especially in the K-3 grades, to assist children in catching up with curriculum and continue until the next grade. These key stages affect their education and growth throughout and must have their hands held immediately through intensive lessons to ensure they are caught up before the start of the following school year.

Ultimately, the district did what they could, given the limitations of time and the State.

My goal would be to create long term plans to reduce the learning gap, provide mental health support for students, assist ‘missing’ students and their families in getting back to school, and infrastructure improvements when renovating older buildings that assist healthier lifestyles, ventilation, sustainability and ADA.

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

The district has always been a top rated institution for education. It offers a variety of quality programs for child development and family support. A weakness is the disparity of programs due to the lack of communicating to schools the services available to children that can benefit from them.

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

The district does offer better benefits and pay to its teachers than other districts across the City. However, the schools tend to act as silos which leads to burnout and lack of communication. Creating a wider network for resources and collaboration will show the respect the district has for teachers. Support personnel do need more assistance as some schools are short staffed and are overlooked during budget season.

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

I not only hold several business degrees with a minor in finance, but I also oversaw budgets throughout my career, including participating in discussions during the City’s budget review and approval. I personally managed a budget which included several sources of local and federal funding, successfully complying and reporting a balanced budget each year.

I have sat on the finance committees of several boards, such as Providence Catholic School and the Fiesta San Antonio Commission, both during the pandemic in which we had to be creative and conservative to ensure we maintained a balanced budget and had no job losses while the structure of each organization relied on donations and dues.

Finally, my husband is a small business owner, and I ran his budget for several years as he grew and expanded through the recession, leading 17 successful years in business and counting.

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

This is NOT a year for STAAR. Children have gone through several stressful months of school and teachers recently started preparing them despite the fact many students are behind their recommended level or failing. To have children go in person despite them being virtual learners, to take a test they aren’t prepared for and won’t be counted at the school level seems a burdensome, unnecessary task that will not provide accurate results.

STAAR during non-pandemic years assists in finding the performance of the child, but it also takes away from learning comprehensively and not just memorizing facts.

I’d like to see it eventually be eliminated, but would like to see a well thought out metric to measure student success before talks about removing STAAR permanently are discussed.

What is your stance on charter schools?

In contrast to charter schools, public schools receive $1,100 less per student from the state, while complying to State regulations. Public schools require their teachers to be certified; many being tenured and paid a fair salary. Public schools cannot pick and choose their students like charter schools, nor expel students for failing in order to keep their positive rating. Public schools provide fair opportunities for all students, and fare no better or worse than charter schools regarding academics, but do follow the state approved curriculum. My stance is that charter schools compete with public schools but have an unfair advantage that hurt the children both entities are meant to serve.


Carol Harle: District No. 6

What is your current or most recent occupation?

UTSA Professor College of Education & Education Consultant & Leadership Coach for CAST Network Schools. (*https://castschools.com public high schools in various San Antonio school districts.

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

I would definitely give an A to Northside ISD's response as exemplified by the safe, wise & responsive methods and actions the districts' employees, students & families exhibited especially at the onset and have continued throughout this pandemic. Collectively, they (we) "pivoted" to ensure the safest protocols & actions were in place followed by the most effective ways to instruct students with the parameters provided by Metro Health, Texas Education Agency, state government, current budget but most importantly our intake and assessment of our students' & families' needs. The most basic health and wellness needs were prioritized ensuring students & families received food and school supplies (i.e. iPads, Chromebooks, hot spots, backpack supplies, clothing, etc.) followed by the establishment of quick and effective educator, student and family trainings with a learning management system (Schoology- https://www.schoology.com/) that warehoused lessons, grades, attendance, videos, and much more). A district along with campuses' playbooks were developed and used to guide overall decisions with daily district leaders' support provided as singleton issues arose. Teachers and administrators were faced with an unbelievable challenge of teaching in remote and in-person ways combined with asynchronous and synchronous formats. One teacher took a role that in the past might have been done by several teachers and also took on a role of comforter, counselor, advisor. The immense stress of working hard to prepare multiple learning formats that would hopefully reach students was daunting. Teachers missed their students and the students missed them and their friends. Daily & weekly communication was enhanced with multiple ways everyone involved could get updates and support. As a "veteran" educator, these initiatives typically take months and years and Northside educators and students (and families) responded within days. In the weeks and months to come, daily and weekly feedback from a variety of NISD community members (~our students, teachers & families), local, state and national experts helped informed leadership staff and trustees so the safest and smartest decisions were being made...always with the focus on "what's best for our students and staff." This continues to be the practice as we are still informing and forming multiple methods of instruction coupled with social and emotional supports.

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

Northside ISD educators and district leaders have a history of exhibiting high expectations and providing high quality instruction. However, that is not to say that Northside ISD is not focused on continuous improvement and the acknowledgment of needs and gaps. The district has been experiencing an increase in student mental health concerns, learning opportunities loss and "disappearing" students primarily at the high school (and PreK) levels. The pandemic's "toll" has exasperated issues that were a challenge prior to the pandemic and will continue to be prioritized by district leaders, staff, and our board. Ensuring that our schools have additional social emotional resources, additional programs & providers such as Communities in Schools, social workers & counselors, in-depth SEL educator training, increased SEL family support, coupled with student intervention/enrichment are already being implemented and expanded along with the development of new instructional models and methods to reach and keep students and their families who need to be back "in" classrooms. There is still a long road ahead but the district has formed detailed plans that began last year.

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

I have been a trustee for 8 years and NISD parent or teacher/administrator for over 30 years and in that time NISD has been a partner and a "colleague" focused on students' academic and "whole child" needs. As a trustee, I have had very few parent complaints in 8 years...more like parent questions and parent discussions. We have only had a few grievances as well. I believe the best way to answer this question is to always be active and involved in as many district events and activities as possible so I can assess how folks are being treated and garner feedback on ways to make things better. Our community has been honest and helpful in supporting and questioning various initiatives which helps everyone get better.

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

Prior to being on the board I was an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in two districts (SAISD & Harlandale ISDs) and an Executive Director for C&I and School Improvement in NEISD. I was charged (and challenged) with a very large budget that included local, state, federal and grant funds. My record reflects judicious and accurate expenditures of funds that were always aligned to improvement of student learning and teacher efficacy. As a trustee, I have attended numerous TASB trainings including designation of Master Trustee by Leadership TASB which includes "the how tos" of budget and fiscal responsibility and practice. Additionally, the district and board meet in monthly budget and finance committee meetings prior to each month's board meetings were in-depth questions can be asked and discussed. The meetings of late have included or ESSER finding which is a huge concern right now. I wrote an op-ed piece for the Express News, "As Schools work Harder, State Hoards Funds." https://www.expressnews.com/opinion/commentary/article/Commentary-As-schools-work-harder-state-hoards-16073612.php Additionally, we monitor state ratings of our finance department's "work" as exemplified by the "Superior" FIRST rating received every year I've been on the board. https://tea.texas.gov/finance-and-grants/financial-accountability/financial-integrity-rating-system-of-texas-first/financial-integrity-rating-system-of-texas

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

I believe the STAAR tests should be only a part of a larger focus on multiple measures of student achievements & performance that depict a more robust and accurate picture of student learning and achievement. This could Include portfolios, participation & performances in fine arts, clubs and organizations, competitions, grades, projects, etc. I also contend that there are more wonderful and empowering things that go on in our schools that are not "shown" in a letter grade rating or ranking based on one test/one day assessments...and simply relegating one letter to a school does it a disservice. Our students and schools deserve a system that honors all types of learning exhibition and growth along with incredible programs and practices.

What is your stance on charter schools?

Simply put: I want all schools to truly serve students with the most qualified educators and the highest quality learning experiences. I believe that it is up to our trustees and district leadership to ensure this and for the parents to expect it. With that said, it takes hard work, honesty and accountability. The same should pertain to charter schools. We should all "play by the same rules" because eventually all our students will be in the same playground.

Thomas Leger: District No. 6

What is your current or most recent occupation?

I am a college administrator (Enrollment Office) for Walden University.

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

Overall, I would give Northside ISD a B-grade for our COVID-19 response.

On one hand, our district did a very good job quickly switching to virtual learning as soon as the pandemic began. Our teachers showed great resilience in adjusting their curriculum to an online-compatible format, all on a very short notice. Our district stepped up and offered direct resources to parents struggling with tech needs, such as sending out Chromebooks and wireless hotspots for students needing reliable internet access and a computer that met curriculum requirements. I was also especially impressed by our district's maintenance of our hot lunch program throughout this switch to virtual learning, and the expanded food distribution systems we set up to make sure our students and their parents had food on the table during this time when so many folks were either on reduced hours or out of work completely.

On the other hand, I see a few key gaps that I believe should've been addressed in a different or at least more timely manner. For one, while we were quick to provide the tech resources to students for virtual classroom learning, I think we were slower to really offer in a virtual format the additional human resources to our students. For this I'm referring to expanding our tutoring program (Very important considering the greater need due to added difficulty in learning virtually rather than a classroom), moving our other resources like school counseling to virtual formats quicker, etc. Also, I've been saying that there's a flip side to the coin for all the good our district did sending resources to our students: A student receiving a hotspot or a Chromebook during the pandemic means that that's a student who had been at a disadvantage for years before that due to a lack of these resources. These are factors of the opportunity gap that frankly needed to be addressed pre-COVID, not just as a reactive response to the crisis.

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

In many ways I would say yes, our district does do a good job of educating our students. However, there are some important exceptions as well as some resources our district sorely lacks. Our district does great with students who are lucky enough to come from stable home environments, who have access to educational resources at home, and who work well with a standard curriculum. But what about those that don't have a safe home environment, or those whose parents can't provide them the support they need, or those that have learning or emotional difficulties? Our teachers are excellent at doing what they do, and our district needs to step up and give them the tools and assistance they need to reach our students in these categories.

Regarding what we can do as a district in that capacity, I'm pushing for a number of things. For one, I call for having on-campus licensed social workers at every school in the district. This way, we can set up a more robust social work program that can work to level the playing field for students who have a disadvantage in learning outside the classroom. I also call for career and college counselors at every high school, as well as adding a "Life Skills" course to the curriculum for high school students. This makes sure we are giving all our students firm preparation for their lives after graduation. Another way we can narrow these opportunity gaps is by funding extracurricular activities in a way that helps economically-disadvantaged households afford them. Overall, we do well with education inside the classroom; we have a lot of work to do in addressing the education that goes on outside of it.

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

I think the district treats its employees well, generally speaking, but with a few big caveats. For one, in my campaign I've heard firsthand from teachers in the district that wish they would have had more support implementing the needed transitions due to COVID-19. Teacher and administrator pay in our district is fairly comparable with similar districts of our size, but that doesn't show the full picture. Our district has lagged behind in other areas, such as effectively lowering the burden of TRS health care premiums for our employees, offering them tuition reimbursements and stipends for continuing education, and a few other areas.

Probably the biggest issue I have with our current treatment of employees regards our support personnel. The pay scales for support personnel in our district have a low bar, with the bottom rung of the pay scale being as little as $9.78 an hour. For comparison, local restaurant chain Bill Miller's Bar-B-Q (Which hires some of our high school students) recently announced they were raising their baseline wage to $12 an hour. I know discussions on minimum wage plans can be controversial in some circles, but as far as our district goes, I cannot imagine or envision a single job any of our support personnel perform that would merit an hourly rate as low as our current baseline number.

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

I have a graduate degree in business administration and have worked on planning and budgeting for a handful of volunteer initiatives over the years. As such, I'm no stranger to budgets, and I've reviewed the budget for Northside ISD extensively over the past few months.

On the board, we have many stakeholder interests we need to balance: students, parents, teachers, district employees, and of course ultimately all residents as taxpayers. Every budget choice is ultimately a cost-to-benefit decision. So at the end of the day, my vote to either approve or reject a proposed budget circles around this mentality. Is everything in the budget either necessary or a worthwhile investment for our district? Is there anything necessary that's underfunded or left out? Does this budget balance with our district revenue estimates, and if not, is the investment worth the additional debt?

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

I view standardized testing in our schools as a prime example of the phrase "good intentions with bad consequences." These kinds of tests originated decades ago as a well-meaning attempt to find quantitative and standardized ways to evaluate academic performance on a per-school and per-district level. Unfortunately, many problems come up with implementation that make them a bad tool. For one, these tests are not necessarily an accurate measure of academic performance, since many factors like student test-taking anxiety and question bias can skew the accuracy of the results. Furthermore, the high-stakes nature of these tests - with the state attaching district funding and student grade progression to the passing of these tests - tends to foster a "teach to the test" mentality where teachers are indirectly (or sometimes directly) pushed to prioritize STAAR material over the curriculum our districts have designed.

Regarding STAAR testing particularly this year, I firmly believe it was a bad move to continue this year's round of testing while we are still in the middle of the pandemic. In-person testing presents public health dangers and virtual testing has been riddled with tech problems. Add that to the stress our teachers and students have had this year with adjusting to new styles of learning, and I can't see any possible way this year's STAAR results will provide any useful feedback in terms of measuring academic performance.

What is your stance on charter schools?

I'm against state funding for charter schools, and for a few reasons. First, charter schools take our state's public funds and puts them into the hands of private, often out-of-state charter organizations that do not have to answer to our local elected school boards. Secondly, I believe that state funding for charter schools, along with attempts to secure state funding for school voucher programs, represent a long-game attempt to ultimately privatize our public school system. Finally, the whole argument in favor of charter schools - that they offer school choice and personalized education options for our students - has become a moot point over the years as our public schools have themselves expanded learning options for students in our districts. For example, here in Northside ISD, we are proud to have 6 different career-oriented magnet high schools - with enrollment open to everyone in our district - in addition to our traditional territory-based schools. School choice exists in our district, and we do it in a way that I believe is more transparent, more affordable, and more accessible.


Kevin Escobar: District No. 7

What is your current or most recent occupation?

Currently an Investment Banker at Frost Bank specializing in bond issuances for school districts and municipalities across Texas

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

votekevinfor7.com

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

One of my priorities is to encourage that foundational financial literacy courses are offered at every campus across the District

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

Endorsed by the Northside American Federation of Teachers, one of my priorities will be to advocate to advance policies that promote the retention of current employees and recruitment for new teachers

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

My educational background and professional experience has prepared me for this seat and makes me the most qualified candidate

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

@kevinfor7

What is your stance on charter schools?

As the only candidate who is a product of the District, paired with being the son of San Antonio public school educators, I will strictly advocate for Texas Public Schools

Blake Rawitt: District No. 7

What is your current or most recent occupation?

Software Engineer

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

B. I think overall the district has done very well with how they handled this unprecedented situation. My fear now is that they rush the return of student's next year. Texas and many other states have begun roling back restrictions without regard for science and statistics and I worry NISD may do the same.

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

I believe the district is doing a good job educating their students. I've been impressed with the efforts and decisions made by the board. I believe one of the aspects that could be improved upon is the adoption of technology. I think the pandemic has shown us that things like online learning, hybrid schedules, and technological tools to aid in education will only grow more important going forward.

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

I do think the district treats its faculty well. I think it goes without saying that teachers and faculty should be paid more as they are essential to our society but I believe the district does well with maintaining salaries at a competitive level. That being said I would love to look at the figures and budget and we if anything more can be done. I do not know a lot about the relationship between the district and its faculty but if I am lucky enough to be chosen for the position I plan to speak more with faculty and get their opinion on distrust support.

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

In my career I often have to handle difficult, complicated, and multifaceted problems. Although these problems are often related to coding and mathematics I've assisted in tasks of a more administrative nature. There have been occasions where I have to weigh in on budget alloted for a project, time requirements to complete the software correctly, personnel suggestions, and things of that nature. When it comes to approving budget decisions I would do what I do with any difficult task and look at the figures and documentation. I would search out and gather all the relevant information, documentation, and budgetary papers I could. I would then shift and ask the other board members, faculty, and anyone whom has more experience than myself to get their opinion and view of the issue. Only then would I make a decision.

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

I do not agree with standardized tests, and the STAAR is no exception. I believe the science shows that there are alternatives to standardized tests that can be used to assess student progress without causing so much stress and anxiety for faculty and students. In addition, forcing students learning remotely to go physically to their school to take the STAAR test during a pandemic is deplorable.

What is your stance on charter schools?

I am not in favor of tax payer funds going to charter schools. I would rather see those funds go to help improve our public schools.

Karen B. Freeman: District No. 7

What is your current or most recent occupation?

Medical Office Manager, Education Advocate BS Degree Medical Technology

What grade on an A-F scale would you give your district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

Northside ISD gets an "A" from me. At the very beginning, our district, like so many others pivoted to providing education virtually while ensuring that students and their families had food and were safe. As time went on, our teachers taught virtually is well as students in person. State assistance for devices, hot spots,. PPE and other related COVID expenses was unknown. Attendance was low therefore we were concerned that if “hold harmless” on attendance was reversed we could have serious financial difficulty and may have to lay off teachers. That did not happen as the state kept “ hold-harmless” in place but they did that month by month until around December and then in order to qualify for hold harmless our attendance must not drop further. Our teachers and other staff did not get additional compensation for working harder than they ever had before. Through all this, our focus of providing high quality education for students remained. We did not have a book of best practices during a pandemic to follow. We are writing the book as we go on. Hopefully we will not have to review it in the future.

Do you think your district is doing a good job educating its students? Why or why not? What could it be doing better?

Northside is doing a great job on educating its students. Since the beginning of this school year there were very few instances where parents who wanted their children to attend in person at school were turned away. We have expanded our options for students in middle school with two middle school magnet programs and we have added a magnet program to one of our high schools. NISD has a full list of CTE programs that students can obtain certification in and provide them with an opportunity to get a jump start on their career or an option to work at a job with increased compensation so that they can afford choices in higher education. Pre-K expansion is a goal and we have expanded the program as funding allows.Opportunities are available for our children to be successful no matter what zipcode in which they live. We know some of our children come to school not ready to learn because of a variety of situations at home. We continue to look for outside resources to help our children and their families. NISD focuses on ALL students. We look for opportunities to help all of our students to succeed and to achieve their best. All of our teachers look for opportunities to continually challenge the ability of all our students. We can always do better. We continue to seek ways in which to provide enrichment and choices for students while ensuring they are proficient in core academics. We know that extracurricular courses keep students interested in coming to school and we look for additional ways to ensure all children can participate in extracurricular activities if they choose as well as additional options.

Do you think your district treats its teachers, principals and support personnel well? Why or why not?

We do what we can to support our teachers, principals, and support personnel not only by compensation but by giving them the tools they need to do their job with the resources that we have. We know that providing resources for staff to do their job, that equates to them being able to support our students. Our salary structure is one of the highest in Bexar county. Our staff did not receive additional compensation last year, but neither did other Bexar County districts give pay raises. There was so much unknown at the beginning about resources available and the cost of resources. We were concerned about having to lay off employees. The good news is that we are beginning to look at compensation for the following year.

One of the school board’s primary responsibilities is to approve a budget. What experience do you have making financial decisions? How would you / do you decide whether or not to approve the budget recommended to you by district administration?

I have been on this board for 16 years and have over 600 TEA approved continuing education credits for studies to help me be more informed to make good decisions. When we review budget we use at minimum five year projections. NISD has been doing this for quite some time and staff have good data to help with decisions. The unknow is the outcome of each legislative sessions so we are relatively conservative with estimates. The needs of the district are balanced with the resources that we have. Our goal is to provide the same opportunities to all children no matter their zip code. We have long and short term goals that address these needs and resources are directed to ensure that these goals are achieved. Data informs decision making. Northside is financially sound, unlike other districts in Texas and that is due to good decision making.

What is your stance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests?

Standardized tests as STAAR should be used as a diagnostic tool to help inform staff of a students ability. If a student needs more help in a given area, that student then should receive the help they need to help them become proficient. What we have now are tests that have high stakes implications for schools and their students. Lower scores mean sanctions and a letter grade in which the staff and the students are not proud and the environment is such that our community, instead of wanting to help the school and its students become more successful, their is a tendency to want to leave. We also have tests in which the readability has been questioned as to whether it is grade level appropriate for students. If the readability is above grade level, that student may have a lower score than if it was written at grade level.

What is your stance on charter schools?

Charter schools are public schools and should be as transparent as public schools. Many charters have private management companies that not only charge the charter a percentage of its state revenue but also own buildings in which many of the charter schools rent. If a charter school closes for any reason, the management company owns the building that the taxpayers have been paying dollars for them to rent. Charter school expansion is not controlled. While school districts must seek taxpayer approval to build facilities, charter schools do not. School districts build facilities in an area where there is a need because of growth. Districts must seek voter approval to pass a bond and then they plan for the building of a facility. A charter school can more easily expand into that same area sometimes during the construction of the ISD school. The system becomes very inefficient and the taxpayer gets the bill. A charter school should have to show a need in the area in order to expand. Charters have not been proven to be any more successful than their ISD counter parts. We need to step back and review the reason charter school were initially approved in Texas and that was to encourage more innovation and flexibility. They are subject to fewer state laws than other public schools and hence the definition of the name: Charter School. They were built for us to learn about their best practices. Today it has become a business competing for the same tax dollar as ISDs creating inefficiencies and costing the taxpayer more money.

Kevin McEachirn: District No. 7

Did not respond.*


* denotes candidates who did not respond to survey requests sent via email and/or phone calls by time of publication.

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