Nathan Adams is running for the Frisco ISD board of trustees Place 1 seat. He is running against Gopal Ponangi.
Bryan Dodson, who has held the seat since 2013, said he will not be running for re-election.
Community Impact Newspaper sent Adams a set of questions about his candidacy. His answers have been edited for publication style.
Why did you decide to run for the Frisco ISD board of trustees?
My top priorities are education, security, and fiscal conservatism.
Education is the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous society. As our world changes, our education techniques must as well. FISD does an excellent job ensuring students are introduced and knowledgeable about post-secondary career options; however, we must produce citizens who are not only skilled but are independent thinkers, empathetic, disciplined and agile. We cannot forget the importance a strong foundation in history and science contributes to these traits. Students should be prepared to be successful not just in the workforce but in society as well.
My immediate priority for this next term is security. Fear and violence should never distract our students from pursuing their social and educational goals, and we are not done yet ensuring our students are the safest they can be.
Lastly, we can provide students with a superior and safe education without demanding a blank check from residents. FISD will spend over $2 billion over the next three years. Without transparency and oversight, this budget is susceptible to waste and eventually abuse. I will ensure every dollar is going toward enhancing our students’ performance and safety; furthermore, I will create metrics to show the direct impact these taxpayer dollars are having, empowering residents to make better decisions about our budget in upcoming years.
What experience do you think prepares you for serving on the board?
I was raised in the Texas school system, an International Baccalaureate student, and now I have a special needs child attending FISD. I’ve lived the full spectrum our school system has to offer and can empathize with nearly every student’s situation. My post-secondary education includes: an associate degree in electronic systems, a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an executive MBA from Baylor University. I am a service-disabled U.S. Air Force veteran and veteran of the Iraq War. After the military I worked in everything from small businesses to multibillion-dollar corporations before starting my own business.
With this broad experience I can make better recommendations on which programs and curriculum will help students reach their post-FISD goals. My financial experience allows me to analyze our budget and create strategic financial plans. This will result in more accurate budgets moving forward resulting in less waste. My business background will help in the review and negotiation of contracts with suppliers. We can derive more value out of our existing budget causing us to ask for less money from taxpayers in future years.
The biggest immediate impact I can have is in district security. I have assessed and designed security programs for not just schools, but data centers, top-secret military assets, and I now work exclusively with nuclear power plants. I will review our security program in order to ensure every dollar spent on safety and security goes to reduce the risk and impact of violence. This includes working closely with our counselors, IT and facilities as well as local police and fire departments.
What would you support out of the state Legislature this session in regard to school finance reform?
I fully agree with our state Legislature’s attempt to reform our antiquated system without simply throwing money at the issue, i.e. raising taxes. Their attempt to increase student performance by strategically providing incentives based on data-driven analytics is what any good businessperson would do and what any responsible public official should be doing. When money is not unlimited we cannot simply say, ‘better education for all!’ We need to target areas that we know will have the biggest impact.
One such incentive strategy proposed is tying teacher pay to performance. This has proven to have a positive overall effect on student performance in many other states. My only caveat is that we (FISD) are able to develop our own teacher-evaluation metrics and not be subjected to state-mandated measurements. We need to incentivize performance metrics that benefit FISD students, and those may be very different than the metrics for an Austin ISD, for example. That being said we cannot provide performance incentives if we do not have quality teachers in our district in the first place. We must pay teachers a competitive salary to attract them and cost-of-living and retention-based pay increases to retain them.
I also support incentivizing school districts to improve students’ reading levels in early grades. This is another example of directing our limited funds to areas we know will have a big impact. Students’ reading ability in third grade can be directly linked to their performance in college and beyond.
Aspects of the proposal I would want more information about are:
- The goal of having 60 percent of high school seniors graduating with a technical certificate, military inscription, or college enrollment. I am not a fan of goals without defined tactics identified to ensure they are achieved. Without them we are really just ‘hoping’ to achieve the goal. The 60 percent metric was derived arbitrarily as well based on a loosely related goal elsewhere having to do with college graduation rates. I need more data here to fully endorse.
- The $150 million incentive for school districts to offer dual-language programs to instruct students in both English and Spanish. I would want to see that students are only participating in these temporarily, and there is a clear path for each student to participate beneficially in classrooms that only speak English.
How do you think FISD should retain and attract quality teachers?
Pay, pay, pay and continuing education. We must pay teachers a competitive salary to attract them and provide cost-of-living and retention-based pay increases to retain them. We must also invest in our teachers’ continuing education to help them stay on top of the latest educational trends.
What else do you want voters to know about you?
My decision to run for this office is based off strong convictions and earnest intent. I am looking out for the well-being and development of our kids who will soon be adults with a world of responsibility on their shoulders. I will always be open to individual conversations and remain accountable to not only our students and their parents, but any resident of the district.