Election Q&A: Dripping Springs ISD board of trustees

Meet the candidates running for the Dripping Springs board of trustees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Meet the candidates running for the Dripping Springs board of trustees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Meet the candidates running for the Dripping Springs board of trustees. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)



AUSTIN



Dripping Springs ISD board of trustees










Jeffrey Aylstock



Occupation: global technical solutions consultant, Pure Storage


Experience: extensive project management experience, analytical mindset, broad leadership skills, soccer and baseball coach, Eagle Scout and current Cub Scout leader






Why have you decided to run for school board?



JA: I see a need for someone that can tackle the larger technical problems we are facing today and build upon the leadership model that will help drive the success of our district into the future. We are at a precipice between our explosive growth and the new roles our public schools will play post-COVID.



If elected, what goals would you have for your term in office?



JA: My platform is built on transparency, leadership and accountability. I want to ensure that we are focused on problem solving and understanding the full consequences to those solutions. I feel our data management is very lax, and public data and data analysis is hard to obtain at our district level.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



JA: I personally feel that COVID will be a short-term issue. That being said I do disagree with many of the policies enacted by the board. Concerns stem from the lack of transparency around sources of their adopted policies and the failure of re-evaluating, updating, and aligning those policies to successful examples from other districts.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



JA: The larger disconnect stems from the city and Hays County planning commission's inability to adapt and balance their strategic growth goals. We have to work with our county leaders to ensure that population/housing growth can be balanced with school growth to successfully stay ahead of those planning models.








Thaddeus Fortenberry



Occupation: My current position is with Apple in the special projects Group. I specialize in machine learning and scaled data. Previously, I was at Tesla on the Autopilot team and helped build the local engineering team in the Austin area.


Experience: For many years, I’ve supported many programs ranging from the arts to science programs. My goal is to become more directly involved and have a greater impact.






Why have you decided to run for school board?



TF: I'm certain that I'm not a typical candidate for the school board. However, I think I'll be helpful in building a successful district that creates a strong academic start for our children.



If elected, what goals would you have for your term in office?



TF: I believe in creating student opportunities in science and energy. In the Austin area, the engineering community is growing dramatically. My goal is to assist in the development of complementary and appealing education programs in Dripping Springs.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



TF: The pandemic has been exceedingly difficult on school systems. Dripping Springs has maintained comparatively low numbers and seem successful with complex contact tracing. It is imperative to not reduce our diligence in the next months.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



TF: In these days of distance and online learning, I hope to have the opportunity to offer innovative ideas to give our school system first-rate capabilities. Additionally, I look forward to planning effective boundaries reflecting rapid population changes.









Lynn Henson



Occupation: vice president of recruiting, employee development and residence life for American Campus Communities


Experience: in my almost 17-year collegiate student housing career: student/professional development, leadership coaching and training, project management, housing operations (staffing, budgeting, capital projects, facilities maintenance), marketing and sales






Why have you decided to run for school board?



LH:​Since day 1 at DSE our experience has been nothing short of welcoming and supportive. My questions always receive a prompt, direct, informative response. I assumed this would be synonymous with the board. Instead, I’m met with generic

answers and streamed one-way meetings.


If elected, what goals would you have for your term in office?



LH: Restore a trusted connection between the school board; the community it serves; and administration, teachers and employees through increased access and transparent communication. Initiate results-driven conversations focused on problem-solving action items and definitive timelines. Advocate for public-facing, measurable goals and accountability metrics to increase transparency and collaboration.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



LH: Their job was unenviable and hard, but it was the vague/intermittent and last-minute communication that initially eroded our confidence. There’s a lack of urgency, transparency and confidence to have public-facing discussions. I don’t expect to agree with everything, but I do expect to be part of the conversation.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



LH: Own the brutal facts. Decisions of the past have put large segments of our district families in no-win situations, and our administrators are losing critical strategic planning time. This redraw is just the beginning. The board must immediately engage the community to find real and fiscally sound solutions.









Mary Jane Hetrick



Occupation: president, Foundation Logic LLC


Experience: DSISD trustee six years, TASB board since 2018; over 400 hrs TASB and MITx continuing education; organizational performance consultant






Why have you decided to run for school board?



MJH: Serving as a trustee is time consuming, but also rewarding to be part of a team of eight responsible for making the district the best it can be for every student, teacher and staff member. I would be honored to utilize my experience and passion for the future of education.



If elected, what goals would you have for your term in office?



MJH: If re-elected, I would help a new superintendent lead us to continue reordering our education system, allowing personal learning of college-bound and industry-bound students. I want to continue our work for alternative assessments to STAAR that captures a holistic picture of a student, including mental well-being.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



MJH: Leadership is making choices among competing positions. We have done this. Many people did not want schools open. Many people wanted no masks. We have charted a course allowing students to learn, parents to choose, extracurriculars to happen, all without having to close for infection spread.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



MJH: We have developed a comprehensive process including outside demographers, a long-range planning committee of community leaders and modeling to constantly reassess the district’s needs. As people continue to come here for these excellent schools, everyone should understand the constant need to reassess where lines are drawn.









Stephanie Holtzendorf



Occupation: retired from Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts as manager, previous position systems analyst


Experience: CPA with 24 years in Dripping Springs having served on many boards for several organizations






Why have you decided to run for school board?



SH: I believe educating our children should be top priority and not overshadowed by social issues. Our community needs a school board that is financially responsible. Taxpayers of our school district should not have such a large burden placed on them because of elaborate spending. I believe a school board should be transparent as it is very important that decisions made for the district should be communicated to the community.



If elected, what goals would you have for your term in office?



SH: Equal education for all students and educating the children of our district is top priority. Reduce spending on school and administrative facilities and lowering taxpayers' burden. Involve parents of the students in decisions made for the school district by seeking the parents' input on those decisions that directly impact the students education.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



SH: The district did not respond quickly enough to the pandemic. Students should have been allowed to go to in-class learning much sooner than allowed, with teachers teaching those students in the classrooms. I believe it is important for students to have the interaction with the teacher and classmates.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



SH: While there is rapid growth in the district, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in parents deciding to withdraw children from the school system to enroll in other educational institutions or have decided to home school. Because of the uncertainties that the pandemic has caused, all new construction should be put on hold until it is determined what, if any, new construction is needed. Redrawing elementary school boundaries should also be put on hold. An assessment needs to be made of the impact the pandemic will have on future attendance and district needs.









Kay Kizziar



Occupation: CPA (self-employed), retired school district CFO; former interim CFO Dripping Springs ISD


Experience: CPA, RTSBA (TASBO certification) and over 17 years experience as a school finance administrator






Why have you decided to run for school board?



KK: I was approached by friends to address the limited financial transparency issue at DSISD because of my extensive school finance experience.



If elected, what goals would you have for your term in office?



KK: I would address the district’s debt practices to save taxpayers money and free interest payments for student use.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



KK: The students’ and campus staffs’ welfare is the primary concern, and district personnel are trying. In order to address the learning challenges, I would ask that the parents and district staff work together to tailor the curriculum delivery in a matter that meets the students’ learning requirements. It takes team effort to make the system work.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



KK: Rapid-growth districts have to look at projections and try to estimate facility needs. This is best done with open communication with neighborhoods, developers, Realtors and district personnel. Community agreement is paramount to making campus boundaries work. Dripping Springs ISD is part of the Dripping Springs community, and boundaries should be a team effort.









Shannon O’Connor



Occupation: accountant, partner in local CPA firm


Experience: 21+ years accounting experience, six years DSISD trustee, copious service with community organizations at all levels






Why have you decided to run for school board?



SO: I am seeking re-election to provide stability and leadership while navigating emerging from the pandemic, hiring a new superintendent and developing a new strategic plan. I want to ensure the district continues to strive to meet the needs of students, focus on students' social/emotional needs and practices fiscal responsibility.



If elected, what goals would you have for your term in office?



SO: My goals are to hire a new superintendent; participate in his/her successful onboarding; collaborate on the new strategic plan; continue to identify and support the efforts of administration to close the gaps for our students, especially our most vulnerable populations; and strive to improve district communications as well as continue to navigate the challenges of a fast-growth district.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



SO: I believe the district has successfully navigated the pandemic with little support from our state’s leaders. The lack of a large outbreak speaks to the success of the district’s protocols and the effort of district staff. DSISD did have a return to in-person learning while many other districts did not.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



SO: I would continue to keep informed and rely on the growth data with an eye to the future impact to our students and staff while contemplating solutions. I would weigh the recommendations by administration and seek staff and community input. These decisions are difficult and require input by all stakeholders.









Tricia Quintero



Occupation: project manager at T-Mobile


Experience: mother of five, former chair of Hays CISD Facilities and Bond Oversight Committee, Former Hays CISD SHAC member







Why have you decided to run for school board?


TQ: I’m a mom who’s worried about the direction of my district. And I want to help it succeed.

If elected, I'll help DSISD better manage its finances, lower the tax rate and improve student outcomes. We'll also do a better job of selecting a quality superintendent for the long haul.



If elected, what goals would you have for your term in office?



TQ: Three immediate goals: 1) Change board policy to facilitate a more open dialogue between the public and those they elect. 2) Adopt the no-new-revenue tax rate. 3) Focus any future bond proposal on needs, not wants. One long-term goal: 1) Improve student achievement in the classroom.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



TQ: The district handled some aspects well, but was lackluster in others. For example, the board did a poor job communicating early on about when schools would open and how they'd work. Families like mine need our local leaders to do a better job providing parents with clearer, more timely direction.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



TQ: The bond advisory committee’s mission should be expanded to monitor the progress of the 2018 bond and also team up with district staff to make recommendations to the board on all future bond projects. Smarter, more strategic planning will mitigate things like redrawing elementary school boundaries.









Stefani Reinold



Occupation: board certified psychiatrist and owner of Stefani Reinold MD, PLLC


Experience: nonprofit board member and secretary of Reinold Ministries






Why have you decided to run for school board?



SR: I'm running for DSISD school board to uphold educational excellence amidst unprecedented times, to prioritize health and safety within the schools (including emotional and developmental health) through the transition to a post-COVID[-19] environment while limiting unnecessary rules and restrictions, and to ensure fiscal accountability in a rapidly expanding school district.



How would you grade the district’s COVID-19 response so far, and what, if anything, would you have done differently if on the board?



SR: I'm proud of our district's commitment to prioritize on-campus, in-person learning. If I was on the board, I would have surveyed students and staff for feedback consistently, provided metrics for monitoring efficacy of safety protocols, worked toward loosening unnecessary restrictions, and communicated clearly to concerned parents and citizens.



How would you approach challenges associated with DSISD’s rapid growth in the coming years, including the ongoing process to redraw elementary school boundaries?



SR: Exponential growth in a community requires strong leadership to articulate a vision for the district’s future and inclusion of all voices—parents, students, teachers, staff and community members—to ensure excellence in education and commitment to community values. All decisions should ultimately be in favor of helping children thrive.



By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


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