November 2020 election: Meet the candidates for Round Rock ISD board of trustees Place 6

Get to know the four candidates who are running for Round Rock ISD board of trustees Place 6. (Community Impact staff)
Get to know the four candidates who are running for Round Rock ISD board of trustees Place 6. (Community Impact staff)

Get to know the four candidates who are running for Round Rock ISD board of trustees Place 6. (Community Impact staff)



ROUND ROCK



Round Rock ISD board of trustees Place 6










Russell Winston Collins



Occupation: technical sales, CHRYSO Inc.


Experience: B.S. in chemistry, Texas A&M 1979; graduate school UTSA toward MBA, no degree; working in Portland cement and concrete industry for 41 years


Website: N/A




What would be your top priorities if you are elected?



RC: Fiscal responsibility and transparency, ending kowtowing to political correctness, [and] graduating literate and thinking alumni. RRISD is wasting money on "equity and diversity" while not directly addressing the priority of educating young, thinking future citizens. We need to be confident that there is no such thing as integral or systemic racism in our society, and get on with educating pupils. One of our mistakes is in forgetting that before STAAR and its [forebears], RRISD was graduating [...]



What uniquely qualifies you for this position?



RC: My wife and I have raised four children in the RRISD and seen the good and the bad. My wife is a professional educator. I believe that I can provide fresh eyes on some of the old problems, and the new ones as well. Sometimes, you simply have to cut the Gordian Knot. With measurable deliverables, we can evaluate the success or failure of expenditures such as the new RRISD Police Dept. Otherwise, the danger [...]



What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the school district, and how will you improve it?



RC: While the easy answer, of course, is the challenge of the Chinese COVID virus, the more insidious danger is the infiltration of a false narrative into our policies and practices. Follow the science, and the history, and re-emphasize American and Texan excellence, as well as western civilization. De-emphasize socialism and political correctness. Black Lives Matters is a Marxist, anti-family organization, and no vestige of it belongs in any RRISD school.









Christina Gandara



Occupation: account/compliance director


Experience: education: B.A. in business and leadership; professional: risk and contract management, five years; regulatory compliance and banking, 15 years






What would be your top priorities if you are elected?



CG: 1. Equitable excellence for ALL students: ensuring that all students of all demographics receive the individual resources they need to succeed while ensuring top performing students are continuously being challenged. 2. Accountability and transparency: ensuring metrics are attained, ensuring that we are being fiscally responsible and ensuring transparency for parents/guardians to make informed decisions on what is the best interest of their student.



What uniquely qualifies you for this position?



CG: I have a background in compliance and contracts management. I have six children, five of which are in or have graduated RRISD. My oldest has autism; I have two with ADHD. I have a multicultural family dynamic. I understand the difficulties that children/parents face when a child is faced with learning disability. My husband is also a teacher and athletics coach and brings a teacher’s perspective to the table.



What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the school district, and how will you improve it?



CG: Greatest challenge is equity. RRISD TEA rating dropped to a B. We currently have 14 schools where many students of all backgrounds cannot pass the state minimum exam for reading and math. I will fight to ensure resources are allocated to the right places for the students and schools that need them the most while fighting for resources for our top-performing students to continue to achieve their very best.








Tiffanie Nichole Harrison



Occupation: CTE marketing educator, Round Rock High School


Experience: Baylor University BSED and MBA with finance and marketing concentrations; classroom educator; RRISD Equity Task Force leader; entrepreneur






What would be your top priorities if you are elected?



TH: Equity: Equity guarantees that all students in RRISD have what they need to succeed regardless of circumstances or abilities. It is vital that we extend access to high-quality learning and excellent outcomes to all students. Transparency: Trustees' decisions should be clear, transparent and evidence-based. Community: Stakeholders—students, families, educators and community members—should be afforded two-way communication about decisions that impact them. Community engagement is essential for educational equity.



What uniquely qualifies you for this position?



TH: I am a product of RRISD schools and a two-time teacher of the year. I am active in both the district equity and safety and security task forces. I understand the relationship between education and preparing our students for meaningful careers. I recognize the role of a trustee as governance and accountability and have a background in policy. I have improved campus and district parent and community involvement and am here to serve all students.



What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the school district, and how will you improve it?



TH: Transparency. Decisions are often clear to those with power and unclear to those without. As a trustee, aggregated and disaggregated data about student performance, [special education], campus climate and safety will be made clear and accessible. We have an excellent school district, and we need to be sure that success extends to all students. Budgets are moral documents, I will be sure that our responsible spending remains in line with our stated priorities of student success.









David G. Schmidt



Occupation: professor emeritus, Mt. San Antonio College


Experience: professor electronics and computer technology; electronic and technical services manager; 30-plus years in education; U.S. military, retired






What would be your top priorities if you are elected?



DS: My top priorities if elected are 1. provide safe schools for our students and staff; 2. increase the percentage of students that are college-, career- or military-ready; 3. promote equity by improving outcomes at lower-performing schools; 4. prioritize spending on student outcomes with the focus on efficiency to avoid tax rate increases; 5. reform the district’s contract bid process to reduce costs; 6. implement single-member districts for improved community representation.



What uniquely qualifies you for this position?



DS: I have two children currently in district schools and actively volunteer. I have attended most school board meetings for nearly four years, participated in the Strategic Plan Refresh and held a leadership role on the 2018 Citizen Bond Committee. I have over 30 years classroom teaching experience and managerial experience in multiple school districts. As a veteran of the Army (1970-78) and the Air Force Reserve (1979-93), I understand effective leadership.



What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the school district, and how will you improve it?



DS: The coronavirus pandemic will have long-term impacts on student achievement, how education is delivered and district revenue. Special education and low-income students face difficult challenges. I will apply common sense to prioritize spending to deliver the most cost-effective approach. For an example, I question the benefit to students by the 30% growth in director level and above positions, from 50 to 65, in central administration over the past three years.

Editor's note: [...] indicates an answer was edited for length. Candidates were given specific word limits for each question.

By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.