Lake Travis school board candidates educate voters
Friday, April 26, 2013 |
Editor’s note: In preparation for the May 11 election, the Lake Travis View quizzed all four Lake Travis school board candidates for Place 5 on growth and security in the district. Incumbents Jason Buddin, board president, Place 4, and Alex Alexander, Place 3, were unopposed and will return to office.
Age and occupation: 38, client finance director. I have worked in the corporate finance field for more than 16 years.
Family: married to my husband, Robert, and we have two children, Branagan, 11, and Caleb, 8.
Years lived in Lake Travis ISD: I have lived in the district for eight years.
Age and occupation: 49, electrical engineer
Family: wife, Melissa, sons Matthew, 11th grade, and Luke, fourth grade
Years lived in Lake Travis ISD: 9
Age and occupation: 44, certified Texas school teacher; stay-at-home mom
Family: husband, Scott, CFO at RGM Advisors, and children Paige, Regan and Caleb
Years lived in Lake Travis ISD: 7 1/2 years
Age and occupation: 43 (but holding on to 39), education technology consultant for Apple Education
Family: married to Eric Spille, with two kind hearted boys Austin, fourth grade, and Cash, first grade
Years lived in Lake Travis ISD: Over 10 years, as part of the Bee Cave Elementary family and will attend the two new campuses opening next year.
What are your qualifications to serve as a Lake Travis school board member?
First and foremost, I am a taxpayer and parent located in the Lake Travis ISD. Second, I have experience as a recipient of a public education. Finally, I am very well informed of the district’s finances, bond programs, salaries and policies.
I’m a lifetime Texas certified public school teacher for grades sixth-12th. My classroom experience as a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher adds an understanding of how decisions made in a board room will impact the classroom. I’m a homeowner in the district and a stay-at-home mom of three children attending Lake Travis Elementary, which allows me to be very involved at our school. I’ve served in leadership roles, including vacation Bible school director at Shoreline West Campus and as a LTE PTA board member. I currently volunteer as home room mom, grade level coordinator and Destination ImagiNation coach.
With over 18 years serving and supporting the education market for Apple, I have deep exposure to the challenges districts face, as well as supporting opportunities for innovation. Through my job, I participate in education conferences and TEA/legislative meetings, alongside other educators. I have a very unique opportunity, compared to the other candidates and existing board members, to observe other districts and see what instructional strategies are impacting student achievement. I bring a different perspective that no other candidate can offer in this capacity, and I am the only one living in the fastest growth area for the district.
As a client finance director, I understand the board’s role to oversee the use of the district’s tax dollars. I am the most qualified candidate to make prudent decisions regarding these funds. As a trustee, I will apply my skillset to make Lake Travis ISD the standard of excellence. Transparency is important, and as a trustee I will strive to create an environment of access. I have volunteered in many capacities to further benefit the Lake Travis community. Having attended the past board meetings and reviewed the previous three years’ meeting notes and financials, I can hit the ground running.
How would you ensure the quality of education at Lake Travis school district as it continues to grow?
By assuring we have the right leadership team in place to guide our district with a strong vision. Both district- and campus-level leadership are critical to the success of any district and are important catalysts to effect change as we grow. We have a smart team of professionals in place, and I am confident they are continually looking for efficiencies, without compromising quality, as we meet the demand of our district growth and work through the difficult funding challenges. In supporting goals established in the district improvement plan, I will be extremely proud to represent LTISD in our community.
LTISD has shown great improvement in recent years. This trend can only continue with planning, cooperation and monitoring of the entire district. I pledge to work with all constituents: staff, administration, students, parents and the tax paying public, to establish goals and make judicious decisions toward achieving the goals. One of the key challenges a trustee faces is allocation of funds. I will consistently work with all constituents to understand the issues at hand, and I commit myself to not only maintain but improve the quality education provided in LTISD schools.
I expect responsible growth plans for schools and spending. The district continues to leverage controversial borrowing schemes. As of 2011, each child in the district represents a debt of $24,097 per student. The current board members continue to finance the future of our children’s education with risky bonds and unnecessary non-educational spending such as a $500,000 Jumbotron. These actions must stop. The LTISD must learn to be fiscally responsible and live within their means.
LTISD must keep highly skilled and qualified educators and administrators on staff, while maintaining high standards in hiring. Our student-to-teacher ratios must be low enough that student performance will continue the path of excellence that awarded LTISD Exemplary status. We must commit classrooms and teachers to graduating technology-ready students. We should constantly be assessing if our students’ needs are being met in our gifted and special needs programs, while ensuring the continued success of all general education students. We must accurately anticipate our growth to allow new schools to be ready for students as needed.
What level of security is appropriate to protect Lake Travis school district students, staff, and facilities?
In addition to the current Raptor ID system and safety protocols in place, we need additional surveillance and security cameras located throughout the district to provide coverage in stairwells, hallways, restrooms, kitchen facilities, parking, buses and doorways. Staff should scan their ID card and be positively identified on camera by an employee inside the school before the door unlocks during school hours. A protocol should be established to clear visitors, volunteers and temporary workers before being admitted into campuses. We need qualified, experienced and trained school resource officers located on every campus, equipped to secure our campuses, children and staff.
The best security we can afford. The safety of our students and teachers are paramount, without question. LTISD is making numerous steps to improve campus security, and as a parent I am comforted by the recent swift and proactive attention in this area. [Deputy Superintendent Chris] Allen is giving much assurance that we are investing appropriately at every campus, and they are communicating to parents every step of the way. I applaud their efforts.
The security and safety of the students, faculty, and facilities is the utmost importance. Parents, staff and faculty place their trust in the district to establish and maintain a safe learning environment. Security must not just be discussed; it must be planned, practiced, updated and proactively monitored. I am passionate about providing a safe and secure learning environment for our children. As a trustee, I would seek continuous assessments and improvement of the security systems for each individual school as well as the district as a whole.
Unfortunately, you cannot guarantee anyone’s safety regardless of what actions you take. One hundred words is not enough to discuss such an important topic. After attending the one of the district’s safety meetings, I have some thoughts. Why is the district spending $500,000 on a Jumbotron instead of using that money for the safety of the students and teachers? The school board has their priorities in the wrong place.
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