Rafaty is running against Cody Weaver and Khalid Ishaq.
The seat is currently held by PISD board President Missy Bender, who is not seeking re-election.
Community Impact Newspaper sent Rafaty a set of questions about his candidacy. This article is part of ongoing May 4 election coverage and does not constitute an endorsement of the candidate. His answers have been edited for publication style.
Why did you decide to run for this position?
As a proud PISD product and dedicated public servant for different communities, it has been my hope to continue to serve in a large capacity where my skills and abilities will contribute greatly. The PISD school board needs to have fresh, young individuals who are passionate in serving all students in public education.
What experience—professionally or politically—do you have that would prepare you for this position?
As a former special education graduate at Plano West Senior High, class of 2009, the education route in college was never easy. This led me to self-publish my book on my personal education experiences that discussed the importance of having transitional guidance throughout my journey in education. However, I did receive my associate degree at Collin College, and this summer I’m set to receive a bachelor’s degree on industrial and organizational psychology.
My current entrepreneurship and work backgrounds include chief navigation officer at DylanListed, focused on transition, employment and entrepreneurship for people with disabilities, and director of community development and disability engagement at C-Hear Inc. My past work experiences include manager of disability engagement at iCode East Frisco and disability diversity trainer and consultant at NextCareer Consulting.
My current volunteerism background includes being a committee member of the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, PISD Special Education Advisory Board Committee, Care and Mercy Foundation and chairman for the social responsibility committee at the International Association for Ice Cream Distributors and Vendors.
Throughout my entrepreneurship journey in the last eight years, I have displayed many leadership qualities that will make me an incredible asset to serve on the PISD school board. These leadership qualities include: proven management; leadership; communication; relationship-building; community engagement and outreach; public relations; [and] the ability to have courage to stand up for what is morally and ethically right, including being an advocate on important legislative matters in Texas and United States.
Within the last two years, I have devoted my time locally to learn about the issues and concerns happening within the city of Plano and PISD. I still continuously meet [with] different community leaders, advocates and elected officials on ways we can collaborate and work inclusively on matters pertaining to people with disabilities, education, housing and transportation. I am also a proud graduate from the Plano Citizens Academy where I’ve learned the essential functions that occur within different city departments and interesting statistics about the Plano community. There’s still much more work to be done, but if elected I am committed and prepared to take on this responsibility.
If elected, what are some specific policies you would like to implement in PISD?
There are three initial areas of interest that I care about, including boosting transparency efforts in PISD; the need for strengthening special education efforts to boost community participation; and to focus on culture where it values everyone, including our educators.
If elected, my hope is to review and investigate the district't current nondiscrimination (or ERO) policy, potential school board term limits, the need for best practices on handling mental health and bullying in schools, assisting economically disadvantaged youth, increasing opportunities for pre-K expansion, healthy food options for our elementary youth and exploring into blended learning opportunities for all students.
Are there specific areas in the district’s budget that you would consider funding more or funding less?
Recently, Plano ISD had a work session where the school board covered specific preliminary budget projections for the upcoming 2019-20 school year. It is projected that Plano ISD could potentially make a recapture payment amount between $240 million to $260 million for the upcoming 2019-20 school year. During this meeting, it also highlighted some important discussion points on what the school board needs to do to prepare for in the future when dealing with Plano ISD budget concerns. At this moment, I cannot declare what specific areas of the district's budget to consider. However, I will continuously advocate and collaborate with our state Legislature to work on a long-term solution on school finance reform that benefits school districts like Plano ISD during this legislative session.
What else do you want constituents to know about you and your background?
My parents instilled in me the passion for education and entrepreneurship and are prime examples of what hard work can accomplish. My mother is a resourceful IP attorney, and my father is a successful businessman. They are also from diverse backgrounds (eastern European and Middle Eastern), which growing up gave me a window to the world and its rich cultures, an experience that allows me to see that people have more in common than they think. For more information, please visit my website at www.voterafaty.org.