RRISD board expects to appoint new trustee Nov. 16 following candidate interviews, public feedback

Stuart Selvaggi (far right, top row) was appointed as Place 6 trustee and resigned within 15 days. He was sworn in the same night he was selected for the position.

Stuart Selvaggi (far right, top row) was appointed as Place 6 trustee and resigned within 15 days. He was sworn in the same night he was selected for the position.

Most job interviews don't entail potential colleagues questioning applicants in front of a public audience with a live stream broadcasting the interview online.

That was, however, what four trustee candidates experienced Thursday before the Round Rock ISD board of trustees as part of an appointment process for the board's vacant Place 6 position.

The four candidates are Kristine Parker, John Grey, Jen Henderson and Steve Math. After interviews Thursday, the candidates were told a final decision from the board could come within one week.

Board President Diane Cox said trustees decided to hold off on naming a final candidate Thursday because not all trustees were present for the interviews or an ensuing debate in closed session.

Trustee Edward Hanna was away on a business trip, and Trustee Suzi David arrived following the interview portion of the evening because of a delayed flight, according to Cox.

Superintendent Steve Flores was also absent from Thursday's proceedings because of an event at the Holdsworth Center, an educational leadership center RRISD started working with this year.

Cox said the delay would allow the public to contact trustees with their own feedback on each candidate's performance. Trustees' email addresses for public feedback can be found here.

She said the board should name a final candidate at its next regularly called meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 16, and be ready to swear in that candidate the same night.

Candidates answer trustee questions

During the interview period of the evening, trustees asked candidates the same nine questions, focusing on technical knowledge, personal experience within RRISD, feedback for the district's previous actions and personal traits.

Following a closed session, trustees then followed up with each candidate with one more question asking for an experience when candidates built consensus within RRISD.

The four candidates come from different backgrounds and have various levels of involvement within the community.

Parker was the first candidate to answer trustee questions. She previously worked as the deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul and works today in government relations for Texas Star Alliance and Association of Rural Communities in Texas. She said she would draw on her experience working with constituents in McCaul's office when being accountable to RRISD community members.

Parker said her strength on the board would involve her decision-making process, including sitting back, listening, researching issues and then assessing situations. When asked what RRISD could have improved upon in the last five years, Parker said recent changes to middle school attendance boundaries could have been communicated more effectively to parents and stakeholders.

Trustees also asked technical questions about financial aspects of the district.

Parker, like Henderson and Math, was uncertain about the difference between the district's maintenance and operations tax rate and the interest and sinking rate.

"Although I may not know the tiny, minute details of the workings of the board thus far, I am definitely willing to dig in, learn, research and make decisions that would only be best in promoting education in the district," Parker said in a closing statement during her interview.

The next candidate interviewed, John Grey, was part of the original group of seven candidates to interview for the vacancy left by Paul Tisch in May. Grey previously worked for the law firm Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Schulze & Aldridge, P.C., as counsel to school districts. He now is employed by the Texas State Teachers Association as a government relations specialist.

Grey exhibited his understanding of the public education system in his answers, detailing experience working with previous boards on bonds and budgets. He was the only candidate who could specifically answer the question related to the district's two tax rates. Grey also zeroed in on the district's recent efforts to update its strategic plan as a positive change in RRISD.

"[Strategic plan forums] are the types of things that should continue," he said. "If you want to be honest about it, we're going to need a bond in the near future — we have to go out and get consensus among the community for stakeholders, et cetera. If they have input, then they feel like they have skin in the game."

Henderson was the third candidate to be interviewed. She is employed by Hagood Engineering Associates Inc., as a civil engineering project manager. She also serves on Round Rock's Planning and Zoning Commission.

Henderson said she would bring strong communication skills to the board, having coached baseball teams for the past five years, and therefore having experience talking with parents and using a variety of communication styles.

When asked how RRISD should address its achievement gap, Henderson said she believed some parents might be unaware of which academic tracks their kids should be placed into, such as whether it be in a gifted program or a sports program.

She also said the district could have communicated more effectively about the failed 2017 bond election.

"It was a good idea, but the work behind it wasn't communicated well," she said.

At the conclusion of her interview, Henderson brought up recent construction delays at McNeil High School. She said she would like to investigate that issue further to find out what caused the delays.

The final candidate, Math, is an actuary at Texas Mutual Insurance Company and said he has been in the Round Rock ISD area for the past eight years. He has degrees from Brooklyn Tech and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Math said his strength lies in the listening skills he would bring to the board.

"I really enjoy interacting with people and hearing different perspectives," Math said. "I have watched all of you for many, many hours and feel like I know all of you. Yes, there will be disagreements, but I feel like we are all working with the same vision and set of values."

Math said he lives in RRISD's Westwood High School attendance area, and would like to see some geographic diversity represented on the board. He said diverse perspective could have played an important role in the discussion about class rank that sparked debate in the past month from parents of students enrolled at Westwood High School.

Watch the full interviews of the four candidates here.

Once sworn in, the new Place 6 trustee will serve a term that will end in November 2018.

All candidates interviewed Thursday submitted an updated application and underwent a background check, according to Cox.


MOST RECENT

The temporary waiver covering initial vehicle registration, vehicle registration renewal, vehicle titling, renewal of permanent disabled parking placards and 30-day temporary permits will end April 14. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
Officials: No grace period to follow end of statewide waiver for vehicle title, registration requirements

Officials with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles announced April 5 there will be no grace period following the end of the temporary waiver of certain vehicle title and registration requirements this month.

The new tool will give Texans one place to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine through multiple health departments, including the eight DSHS public health regions—which provides public health services to nearly 200 Texas counties—as well as more than a dozen local health entities statewide. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Department of State Health Services launches Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler

The new tool will give Texans one place to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine through multiple health departments, including the eight DSHS public health regions—which provides public health services to nearly 200 Texas counties—as well as more than a dozen local health entities statewide.

Residents wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin on March 13. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than 74,000 vaccine first doses coming to Austin-area providers in next week

The total allocation is fewer than the area received last week from the state.

The Centers for Disease Control released new guidance on in-person instruction for K-12 grade schools on March 19. (Courtesy Pexels)
CDC loosens guidelines on social distancing in schools

The updated guidance recommends students maintain 3 feet of social distancing in classrooms while wearing masks.

Rice Stadium Vaccine Site
Texas vaccine rollout: After 90 days, over 2.9 million fully inoculated

That figure represents about 13% of Texans over age 16—roughly one of every seven.

Three weeks after the the state's power grid failed leaving millions of Texans without power amid freezing temperatures, the Public Utility Commission of Texas named Adrianne Brandt as the agency's new director of ERCOT accountability in a news release March 11. (Courtesy Public Utility Commission of Texas)
Public Utility Commission of Texas names new director of ERCOT accountability

Three weeks after the the state's power grid failed leaving millions of Texans without power amid freezing temperatures, the Public Utility Commission of Texas named Adrianne Brandt as the agency's new director of ERCOT accountability in a news release March 11.

Lawmakers have returned to the Capitol for the 87th Texas Legislature. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Proposed curriculum, funding changes: 14 public education bills filed in the 87th Texas Legislature

Hundreds of bills related to public education have been filed in the 87th Texas Legislature, from curriculum requirement additions to funding formula changes.

According to a March 4 news release, the updated guidance includes a face covering requirement for employees and encourages guests to wear a face covering when they are not seated at their table. The updated guidance also maintains key safety protocols like regular cleaning and disinfecting, hand-sanitizing stations, and employee and customer health screenings. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
SURVEY: More than 70% of Texas restaurants still requiring employees to wear masks despite statewide mandate lift

The majority of Texas restaurant owners will choose to continue requiring staff to wear face masks after March 10 when Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide mask mandate lifts, according to the results of an informal survey conducted by the Texas Restaurant Association in early March.

With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization of a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos. of Johnson & Johnson in late February, U.S. residents who want to get inoculated against the coronavirus now have three vaccines to choose from—each with varying degrees of efficacy. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
EXPLAINED: See how the 3 COVID-19 vaccines available in the US stack up

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna—both two-shot vaccines—have higher efficacy rates for preventing illness than the single-shot Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine; the vaccine efficacy rates stand at 95%, 94.1% and 66.3%, respectively.

Dr. Benjamin Neuman, a virologist with the Texas A&M University System, spoke about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas ahead of the March 10 rollback of mask and capacity rules. (Community Impact staff)
Q&A: Virologist discusses COVID-19 response and rollback of state restrictions

Dr. Benjamin Neuman, a virologist with the Texas A&M University System, spoke about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas ahead of the March 10 rollback of mask and capacity rules.

electric grid
ERCOT board developing new emergency response measures, managing financial fallout from winter storm

An emergency meeting of an ERCOT advisory committee made up of independent advisers was convened March 5 after the resignations of several board and of ERCOT CEO Bill Magness. 

Cars wait their turn for a vaccine dose at the Texas Motor Speedway on Feb. 2. The hub was hosted by Denton County Public Health. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Texas doctor discusses first 3 months of vaccine distribution process

Texas is in its 12th week of statewide vaccine distribution, and an expansion of eligibility for vaccination could come later this spring.