Taler Jefferson is running for the Richardson ISD board of trustees District 4 seat.
Community Impact Newspaper sent Jefferson a set of questions about her candidacy. This article is part of ongoing Nov. 5 election coverage and does not constitute an endorsement of the candidate. Her answers have been edited for publication style.
Why did you decide to run for this position?
I decided to run for the RISD District 4 board of trustees position, honestly, because of my love for the district. I am a proud product of Richardson schools and a graduate from Richardson High School, class of 2007. I grew up in the community of Hamilton Park, and upon moving back after college, I dedicated myself to the improvement of Hamilton Park and the North Dallas community. I have the community’s ear, so running for the school board is something I believe is important, vital, and something I truly want to do. When I heard about what Mr. David Tyson was doing to create an opportunity zone for others, such as myself, to potentially hold a seat on the board, I was elated. Currently, the board members are great; I’ve had the opportunity to visit with them, and I am impressed. If elected, I would have extremely big shoes to fill as Katie Patterson truly set the bar as an exemplary trustee.
What experience—professional or otherwise—do you have that would prepare you for this position?
I am the founder and director of the nonprofit organization The Salome Foundation. I founded The Salome Foundation based on the principles of rebuilding, educating and serving underserved communities. While focusing primarily on North Dallas—specifically Hamilton Park, Forest Lane/Audelia [Road] and Skillman [Street]—in 2019, a vast majority of the people we service attend Richardson schools. In 2009, I had the opportunity to travel to Seoul, South Korea to teach an English-based vacation bible school course. During my travel, my colleagues and I worked with the United Methodist Women and other Non-Government Organizations to serve less fortunate communities in South Korea. I always worked at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, as a campus administrator while being an assistant to the dean of women. This position taught me a lot about how campus policies are established and how they are enforced. I worked closely with the dean of women and other administrators to ensure the safety of the students and continue to keep our students and campus on the upward ladder of success. Currently, I am a biology and environmental systems teacher at Hillcrest High School in Dallas. Everything surrounding my life, from my professional career to my nonprofit organization, revolves around education and creating a lasting impact on the world.
If elected, what are some specific policies you would advocate in RISD?
If elected, the policies I would advocate the most [are]equity and inclusion as well as be[ing]the voice of the educator. There are things I may not know, but my passion and drive fuel me. I believe the respect I have enables me to get the board, teachers, principals and students to at least [engage in]dialogue and agree on one to two priorities. As a board, we would not be able to do everything, but let’s go step-by-step towards a solution.
Are there any specific areas in the district’s budget that you would consider funding more or funding less?
I bring the millennial view to the table. The culture today pits teacher against student amid a shrinking budget. I will move both sides to the middle. Traditionally, I have been at the end of the spectrum, so I feel the students’ pain and the community’s pain; however, now, in my role as an educator, I feel the educator’s pain as well. Let’s be honest: teachers are underpaid. As a board member, I would like to explore the ideas of increasing their pay and/or incentives.
What else do you want constituents to know about you and your background?
I would like constituents to know that it is going to be tough choosing a candidate, but it is important to choose the right candidate. I would like for constituents to not let my age deter them from electing me as the newest board trustee, but in turn [to]look at it as an opportunity to get direct feedback from someone that is in the thick of it all. My family tells me all the time to expand my horizons and to seek to understand those that do not look like me, vote like me, act like me or live next to me. That is what I believe is important for the success of the RISD board. Our district would be represented well by my opponents, so I am not about talking down on any other candidates. At the end of the day, there are many ways for our RISD board to be successful.