Q&A: Meet the candidates running for Comal ISD board of trustees

Learn more about the candidates for districts 1 and 2 for the Comal ISD board of trustees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Learn more about the candidates for districts 1 and 2 for the Comal ISD board of trustees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Learn more about the candidates for districts 1 and 2 for the Comal ISD board of trustees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

*indicates incumbent


Comal ISD board of trustees District 1

Tim Hennessee*

Occupation: Retired from medical device industry; part-time administrator with Guadalupe ENT, a physician’s office; and as pilot and maintenance technician with Williams Aviation

Experience: Current board member

Contact: 210-865-8089, [email protected]

What would be your top priorities if you are elected?

TH: I have a vested interest in the performance of Comal ISD and the educational services provided to the community. As a current sitting board trustee, I’d like to continue with the progress that we have made throughout the district. This includes implementation of safety and security measures in the district, a strong strategic plan with clear goals for academic achievement and targeting college, career and military readiness. If re-elected, my goals would include managing our growth, maintaining fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers and ensuring that the strategic goals are continuing to be met and exceeded.

How should Comal ISD handle its ongoing growth?

TH: Growth, growth and growth! Comal County is the third-fastest-growing county in the nation. We are adding over 1,000 kids to our school system per year. As a district we are facing unique challenges in planning for the future as we maintain a strong academic focus and commit to closing any learning gaps created by this pandemic. Our teachers have given so much this year, and I believe it is time to prioritize teacher and staff compensation. Maintaining fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers has always been a top priority to ensure that our dollars are spent wisely, with a focus on the return of our investment. Three years ago when I first won the school board trustee position, I ran on transparency, and I have done exactly that. If you pay attention to the school board meetings you will notice that on a regular basis I will publicly call out amendments to the budget or tax savings our district has incurred. I care how our tax dollars are collected, managed, and spent. Our students and taxpayers deserve nothing less.

Brittany Soto

Occupation: I am a current student at St. Phillips College. I plan to transfer to a four-year university after my basics and then go to law school. I also work full-time as a manager at a fast-food restaurant.

Experience: I was a Comal ISD student for 14 years. I am a product of the school system that is currently set in place. I have helped organize with some nonprofit organizations to help register and boost voter turnout.

Contact: 830-312-2083, [email protected]

What would be your top priorities if you are elected?

BS: The candidate did not respond to this question.

How should Comal ISD handle its ongoing growth?

BS: The candidate did not respond to this question.

Jerry Sauceda

Occupation: Insurance agency owner

Experience: 3-year term, city of New Braunfels Community development advisory committee; founder of The NEW Group nonprofit organization that cultivates small-business referral partnerships. The NEW Group was founded 7 years ago. PTA member/volunteer 2010-2017, Goodwin Frazier Elementary School and Clear Spring Elementary School.

Contact: 830-822-7211, [email protected]

What would be your top priorities if you are elected?

JS: Communication and engagement with families, students and staff will foster multiple priorities: Celebrating diversity through proper representation on the school board. Currently, COMAL ISD comprises over 40% minorities in our student body; yet, representation on the school board does not reflect this. A top priority would be implementation of programs, platforms and participation of families, students and staff that will allow a safe environment for inclusion in our schools. Progressive education which focuses on teacher retention and efficiency. In addition, opening conversations on educational tools and career paths in today's modern day, constantly evolving workforce. Helping students realize their fullest potential and opportunities beyond the classroom. Healthy growth through unique partnerships possibly through privatized funding, city/business grants and long-term infrastructure development.

How should Comal ISD handle its ongoing growth?

JS: Growth in our district can be prepared through land acquisition, proper long-term infrastructure planning, partnerships in privatized funding and willingness to consider use of modern-day technologies.

Comal ISD board of trustees District 2

David Drastata*

Occupation: General manager at Walmart

Experience: 12 years on the CISD board of trustees, Canyon Athletic Booster Club president, past president of the Comal County Junior Livestock Association and Canyon FFA Booster Club

Contact: [email protected], 830-708-8650

What would be your top priorities if you are elected?

DD: 1. Continued academic performance/student participation. I am proud of the decisions we made this school year to offer both in person and online instruction. We worked hard throughout the year to remain open and expand opportunities in the classroom and with extracurricular activities in keeping with the restrictions that have been in place. Our teachers and staff deserve so much credit and recognition for their efforts to remediate the loss of learning and maintain balance in the classroom, and because of that the gap that existed at the beginning of the year has closed substantially. It is my expectation and priority that we have a full return to normal going into the 2021/22 school year. On-campus-only instruction and the easing of restrictions. Full and active participation in and out of the classroom and parents once again encouraged to be a part of activities wherever and whenever they occur. As conditions continue to improve, it is time for the full realm of experiences and opportunities to be allowed to return. 2. Conservative fiscal management. As Comal ISD has continued to grow, we have excelled in maintaining our ongoing commitment to keep taxes low. During the past 15 years, the district’s tax rate has fallen from $1.83 in 2004, to $1.39 in 2015, to the current tax rate of $1.27. Comal ISD residents also receive an additional 20% homestead exemption on top of the normal $25,000 homestead exemption granted by the state. This optional 20% exemption, which is not common across the state, brings the effective tax rate down to $1.02, which is by far the lowest in the surrounding area. While this is an excellent deal for homeowners, this equates to a loss of revenue for the district in the amount of $30 million dollars. However, in spite of not having this to work with, we continue to deliver a first-class learning environment with supplemental programs and opportunities. Our fiscal performance continues to be gold standard and will remain so. Districts such as ours that perform at such high levels both academically and financially—coupled with exponential growth—continue to be the ones most harmed by current school finance law.

How should Comal ISD handle its ongoing growth?

JD: I am excited about what the future holds for Comal ISD. As you look across our sprawling district you see that growth has continued in spite of the virus with the housing market in CISD growing faster than it did the year prior to the pandemic. In 2013, we projected that in 10 years our district enrollment would reach the 30,000-student mark. Our most recent demographic forecast shows that we will surpass that number by the 2024-25 school year. To that end, our plans to accommodate the continued growth remain with planned additional schools, land acquisitions, current infrastructure upgrades, expansion and maintenance, and finally partnerships with other local entities where it is beneficial to CISD. The bond package which had been called and would have gone before the voters in May of 2020 will be the centerpiece of discussions this spring and summer for a potential ballot proposal in November. With the growth that has continued unabated there is a need to adjust components of what that package proposed to ensure that it still meets the needs that are part of the larger strategic plan we have in place for managing the continued upward trend in growth.

Courtney Biasatti

Occupation: Youth development director at Ignite Volleyball Club

Experience: 14 years with Ignite Volleyball Club

Contact: [email protected], 830-660-5888

What would be your top priorities if you are elected?

CB: Kids - student success/excellence; Community - Safe, secure schools and maintain programs offered at all CISD schools; Future - Proactive planning, passing the bond to ensure staff along with current and future students have what they need while at CISD.

How should Comal ISD handle its ongoing growth?

CB: It is very important to pass the bond in November to ensure the district receives the funding to support the growth. CISD should start planning to prepare for future builds, updated technology, transportation and updates to the current facilities.

By Lauren Canterberry

Reporter, New Braunfels

Lauren joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in October 2019. After graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, Lauren was a freelance journalist and worked as a college English teacher in China. At CI, Lauren covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in New Braunfels.