Gopal Ponangi is running for the Frisco ISD board of trustees Place 1 seat. He is running against Nathan Adams.
Bryan Dodson, who has held the seat since 2013, said he will not be running for re-election.
Community Impact Newspaper sent Ponangi a set of questions about his candidacy. His answers have been edited for publication style.
This article is part of ongoing May 4 election coverage and does not constitute an endorsement of the candidate.
Why did you decide to run for the Frisco ISD board of trustees?
I have been fortunate enough to serve the community in a number of roles over the past several years. Education is my passion, and my service has been directed primarily toward serving the education community. I am running for the Frisco ISD board of trustees so I can direct my passion and experience toward ensuring that our high-performing district continues to serve its students, teachers, parents and the community well.
I have served FISD and the community by being a part of the programs and facilities evaluation committee, which made recommendations to the board on the recent bond and [tax ratification election]package, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters. I am currently a part of the long-range planning committee.
Through fundraising I have provided support to the Frisco Education Foundation to use for scholarships for Frisco ISD students. In November 2018, I raised $3,200 when I ran the New York Marathon, which will be provided as scholarships to seniors from our 10 district high schools. I am on the advisory board of the Frisco Education Foundation.
I would like to focus my energies and efforts toward education. Education is a great equalizer and a very important part of anyone’s life. A high quality of education is needed to ensure that students are well-rounded and develop the skills needed to succeed in a rapidly changing workforce and 21st-century global economy. We definitely need students who are future-ready and who can confidently enter college or real life once they are out of high school. Well-educated people are needed so that the country has access to a well-trained, skilled workforce for industries around the globe. Programming needs to be delivered with a keen eye on budgets to ensure that the taxpayer is not burdened unnecessarily. A decent balance is the key.
What experience do you think prepares you for serving on the board?
I have been in Frisco for more than 15 years, and my children are part of Frisco ISD. I have been serving FISD on committees that include the long-range planning committee, programs and facilities evaluation committee, and volunteering for programs like the Young Entrepreneurs Association (YEA!). I am involved in various programs in FISD. For my own foundation and other foundations, I volunteer many hours of my time for the community in order to support initiatives in education. As a professional managing projects and programs in the last 20 years, I had the responsibility to manage the project financials.
What would you support out of the state Legislature this session in regard to school finance reform?
I would support reform in our public school funding system that helps local school districts retain the taxes raised locally, disconnect the state’s funding with the locally raised money and hence provide funding based on students rather than amount raised locally. I would also support elimination of the current recapture system from local school districts based on property value.
[I would support providing] state funding to support campus-based, social and emotional health services for students.
[I would support] any laws that help increase the salaries of teachers and staff of the district supported by funding from the state. I would oppose any initiatives that reduce the funding for schools by allocating taxpayer dollars toward programs designed to support state vouchers, tax credits, taxpayer savings grants, tuition reimbursements or such programs.
How do you think FISD should retain and attract quality teachers?
Competitive pay scales are the key to retain and attract quality teachers. It will be very sad to see the brain drain happen due to inability to retain teachers with rich experience due to competitive salaries. This has an impact to the students in particular and our district at large. Also, any measures to support the teachers in their day-to-day activities so that they can spend more time with students will go a long way. This will reduce the burden on teachers.
Thanks to the passing of the recent TRE, the district is able to increase the pay scale of our teachers, provide a retention bonus and a supply stipend. These measures help to ensure that we are competitive in our ability to recruit and retain the top talent in the state. The TRE revenue also allowed the district to hire new teachers in order to reduce the burden on class sizes. Reduced class sizes will help teachers focus well on the students and align with the district’s mission of knowing a student by name and need.
Increased professional development opportunities and training programs should be available to help teachers understand the new trends in teaching and to learn new methods in curriculum development and delivery. Scholarships for training programs offered outside the district, opportunities for growth, and the ability for teachers to have a growth path that will help them to work on their aspirations are all important measures to retain our best and brightest.
What else do you want voters to know about you?
I think that education is a great equalizer and can change the trajectories of individuals and families. It is very important to build a strong country like ours.
One of my focus areas will be work on increasing the student opportunities to hone the entrepreneurial skills of the high schoolers. FISD is offering some good and innovative programs like Independent Study & Mentorship Program (ISM), Young Entrepreneurs Academy and IncubatorEdu. These are good programs that are catering to a large amount of our student body. These programs need mentors from the community, local entrepreneurs and the students. Using my strong relationships with the community and the industry, I would like [to]work on adding more mentors [to]be part of these programs so that more students are able to benefit from these unique programs.
Some of the other areas I would like to focus are:
Ensuring fiscal responsibility of the district finances toward effective usage to the community with no major impact to the taxpayers. My vast experience in financially managing projects and programs in my professional life helped me focus on financial discipline.
Optimum usage of technology for teaching and learning without additional costs to the district; the tools for teaching and learning have changed over time from blackboard and books to online videos and software packages and tools. An optimum usage of technology will ensure that the teachers and students get the best of the latest technologies [and]will go a long way in their educational and professional experience. I’d also like to focus on reducing class sizes even further in order to reduce the pressures on teachers.
Strengthening mental health programs is another area of focus to be available to ensure that student issues, especially those of students who are at risk, are addressed in a timely manner.
Provide support and additional resources to programs in special education that are designed to meet the needs of students now and in the future.
Focus on future-ready programs that will be of great use to students at all levels.