Natalie Hebert is running for the Frisco ISD board of trustees Place 2 seat. She is running against Steve Noskin.
Community Impact Newspaper sent Hebert a set of questions about her candidacy. Her answers have been edited for publication style.
Why did you decide to run for the Frisco ISD board of trustees?
I have 60,000-plus reasons why. I want to serve the students, parents, faculty and staff in such a way that FISD continues to be a district that draws people to our community and keeps them here. Being a former educator in FISD (Ashley Elementary and Vandeventer Middle School), I am uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between administration and our campuses. I greatly appreciate the work the board has done thus far, and am thankful for their dedication to ensuring our schools continue to be successful. My experience working in FISD provides first-hand knowledge of how board decisions impact our successes and the needs of our schools. In past elections, candidates claimed that they could be the voice for teachers; now is the time that there can be a voice for teachers, from a former Frisco teacher, one that can be heard directly on the board.
What experience do you think prepares you for serving on the board?
Public education is vital to the livelihood of our community. I believe in our schools, and I believe in servant leadership. My journey as an educator began in the fall of 2002 in a self-contained classroom for children with emotional and behavioral disturbances. The journey of working closely with a unique student group provided me with the opportunity to continue to learn, grow and professionally develop. I have taught in the special education classroom as well as the general education classroom. I have had the privilege to work in three outstanding school districts: Birdville ISD, McKinney ISD and Frisco ISD. My professional contributions while in McKinney ISD included presenting professional development and writing curriculum for first-grade English, language arts and reading. While in Frisco ISD, I have served as a sixth-grade team leader and eighth-grade cheer coach. I have been a part of an established school and I have experienced the intensity of opening up Ashley Elementary.
Following the failed [tax ratification election]in 2016, I was selected to serve on the Priorities Based Budget Committee. While on that committee, I was assigned to the compensation subcommittee. We spent hours looking at numbers and researching peer districts to attempt to understand the impact of being in the lower quartile of pay. In the wake of a potential $30 million shortfall, we were caught between continuing to be below-average on salaries, while still expecting the best of the best to join and stay in our district. We had to cut the 403(b) match that was only being utilized by a small percentage and evaluate the stipends. It was not an easy task because we knew that somewhere, someone was going to lose something. Working alongside the board, our subcommittee determined that any reduction in salary would cost the district both in human capital and morale. We initially considered teachers only, percentages based on classes; however we came to the conclusion that we are all in this together. We were at the bottom 25 percent in pay for new hires and 25 percent for experienced teachers. The committee recommended a pay increase to the board, and the board approved the increase.
While on the Vandeventer campus improvement team, I was the co-chair for family and community involvement. We brought families together through events including multicultural night and our science fair. Selected by fellow teachers, I had the privilege to serve on the district improvement team to propose the implementation of blended-learning classrooms. We also worked on more innovative solutions for campus communications and classroom information to our students and parents.
In addition to my work as an educator and campus leader, I have also served on the [home owners association]board for my neighborhood and initiated almost all of our annual social events, including: A Fall Festival, Winter Wonderland, End of School Bash and Back to School Bash. The events allow the families in our neighborhood to come together and strengthen our community. I currently serve as the hospitality chair on the PTA board at Lawler Middle School.
What would you support out of the state Legislature this session in regard to school finance reform?
1. Public dollars in public education
2. Increasing the funding for existing debt allotment for the assistance of fast-growth school districts
3. Increasing the funding for special education and school safety
4. Addressing the TRS—health care for retired teachers
5. Addressing unfunded mandates
How do you think FISD should retain and attract quality teachers?
It is pertinent to the health and well-being of all of our teachers that we are mindful of their time. With the expectations put on our teachers, we need to eliminate any meetings that do not directly benefit our students. Creating campus environments and classroom culture that allows our teachers the time to teach, evaluate and reteach is imperative to our district mission of knowing every student by name and need. Addressing student behavior issues in a timely and appropriate manner is also critical for the success of our entire community of learners. The district has really made great strides toward monetarily celebrating the successes of the teachers, and that should continue when appropriate.
Jeans passes [a sticker a teacher wears on his/her shirt to be able to wear jeans for the day for going above and beyond]are a great incentive, but only go so far when people need to feed their own children. In any other industry, a positive yearly evaluation is directly tied to a raise. Teachers simply get a pat on the back and are now required to evaluate themselves after the fact; teachers then write goals to improve. They are already tired and then must give themselves goals of to improve, yet there is no monetary reward at the end. If we want to keep the best ones, we need to pay them.
What else do you want voters to know about you?
I am a mom, a wife, a former teacher and someone who feels passionately about education. We moved here 15 years ago, and in that short amount of time, we have seen our beloved community flourish. Frisco has blossomed because people are moving here for what is most valuable to them: the educational success of their children.