Election Q&A: Candidates for Richardson ISD At-Large Place 7

Candidates for Richardson ISD At-Large Place 7 answered questions about their goals. (Community Impact staff)
Candidates for Richardson ISD At-Large Place 7 answered questions about their goals. (Community Impact staff)

Candidates for Richardson ISD At-Large Place 7 answered questions about their goals. (Community Impact staff)



RICHARDSON



Richardson ISD At-Large Place 7










Amanda Clair



Occupation: educational consultant; academic director


Contact: 979-324-6088; amandaclair4risd@gmail.com




Why did you decide to run for the Richardson ISD board of trustees?



AC: I decided to run for Richardson ISD noard of trustees because I believe in the power of education and the influence our school systems have on communities and students. I adore the Richardson community and school district. I am encouraged by RISD’s deep commitment to meet the needs of all students and families, and I hope to build on that commitment. I believe that my experience in education and background in leadership will allow me to partner with current trustees and RISD school and system leaders to continue the momentum started by former trustees.



How has your experience prepared you for board service?



AC: As a parent, teacher and district administrator, I bring a unique set of skills to the table. As a parent, I, like all of our families, understand how the decisions made by the district can impact us. I deeply understand the demands our teachers face within the classroom and understand how decisions from the central office can influence their instruction. As a district administrator, I have experienced working with the multiple factors that are required in determining initiatives and priorities for the entire district. If elected as a board member, I would be able to use multiple perspectives to both advocate and work towards a consensus that keeps all stakeholders in mind.



What is your stance on the two Richardson ISD bond measures on the ballot and why?



AC: The two bond measures that were approved to be added to the ballot address identified needs of the district. A significant chunk of the first bond (~40%) is currently allocated to support construction updates to campuses in need across the district. Many of these campuses are experiencing outdated infrastructures and space concerns. In addition to those, the bond would support identified updates in curriculum and instruction, extracurriculars and additional facilities management issues, such as safety and security. The second bond specifically addresses the identified technology updates and additions needed to continue the instructional support and success of the district. If approved, the bonds will not require a tax increase for residents. The decision ultimately is with the citizens of Richardson ISD to determine if we should move forward.



What do you think are the biggest issues facing Richardson ISD today, and how do you plan to address them if elected?



AC: We have made a promise to our students and their families that we will prepare them for college and a career. However, when we disaggregate data and look at how various demographics on how our students are performing, there are disparities that indicate this is not being met. We must continue to exemplify our practice to ensure we are fulfilling our promises to all students. As board members, our job is to set board goals that support the school district in meeting the instructional needs of all students. If elected, I would use my experience and knowledge to ensure that we are continuing to set policies that are addressing the needs of every child in Richardson ISD.



What else do you want voters to know about you?



AC: My husband and I chose to move into the Richardson Independent School District because we wanted to raise our sons in the strong and diverse community that RISD provides. We believe in the power of education and of what a strong school community can do for the trajectory of students' lives. I know what it means to place the future of my children in the hands of RISD schools that are working to provide the best education possible for students in the community. As a former teacher, I know the sacrifices teachers make to support every student that passes through their classroom and long after they have matriculated to the next grade. I believe in the hard work and care that teachers provide for their students and want to ensure that teachers and schools have the resources to continue that work. I know the work and cooperation in strong communities can create educational opportunities that parents and teachers envision for each and every child. As your board trustee, I am committed to listening and learning from the entire RISD community and acting as a community voice on the RISD school board.









Nicole Foster



Occupation: teacher in Dallas ISD


Contact: 214-499-5200; nicoledf82@gmail.com




Why did you decide to run for the Richardson ISD board of trustees?



NF: I attended Richardson ISD schools from K-12, as did my siblings, and I believe in the excellent education that we received from RISD. I’m a World History and African American Studies teacher of over a decade within Dallas ISD and deeply care about the educational needs of students, along with supporting and equipping educators.



How has your experience prepared you for board service?



NF: I believe my teaching experience of over a decade in one of the largest school districts in the country has prepared me for board service, along with my experience in developing recruitment strategies and districtwide curriculum for Dallas ISD. I not only care about the education of students but the education of the district’s leadership. In pursuit of continuing education for myself, I am a doctoral candidate whose research involves pedagogy in both its modern context while exploring future possibilities.



What is your stance on the two Richardson ISD bond measures on the ballot and why?



NF: With enrollment expected to grow at 4% over the next 10 years, Proposition A covers almost everything the district needs, but with a hefty price tag. Proposition B is too small and short-sighted.



What do you think are the biggest issues facing Richardson ISD today, and how do you plan to address them if elected?



NF: I believe one of the biggest issues facing Richardson ISD is to be proactive in developing hiring practices and establishing curriculum that matches the diverse demographic which the district has the privilege of serving. I believe that another big issue facing Richardson ISD is to make sure that the district takes advantage of all the experiences that the pandemic has brought to it and thus seek out the latest technology for both the educational needs of students and the lesson execution of educators. Last but not least, I believe an issue the district currently faces is exactly what Dr. Stone has earnestly addressed, and that is the issue of racism, which has somehow seeped into some of its classrooms. I want to make sure to provide support to the superintendent in adjusting hiring practices where needed in order to find the right educators and provide competitive compensation that would attract the professionalism Richardson ISD deserves.



What else do you want voters to know about you?



NF: It is a privilege to have the opportunity to serve on the board, and I am excited about the future of Richardson ISD.









Gavin Haynes



Occupation: not provided


Contact: not provided




Why did you decide to run for the Richardson ISD board of trustees?



GH: (Candidate did not respond)



How has your experience prepared you for board service?



GH: (Candidate did not respond)



What is your stance on the two Richardson ISD bond measures on the ballot and why?



GH: (Candidate did not respond)



What do you think are the biggest issues facing Richardson ISD today, and how do you plan to address them if elected?



GH: (Candidate did not respond)



What else do you want voters to know about you?



GH: (Candidate did not respond)









Nicholas Frank LaGrassa



Occupation: not provided


Contact: not provided




Why did you decide to run for the Richardson ISD board of trustees?



NFL: (Candidate did not respond)



How has your experience prepared you for board service?



NFL: (Candidate did not respond)



What is your stance on the two Richardson ISD bond measures on the ballot and why?



NFL: (Candidate did not respond)



What do you think are the biggest issues facing Richardson ISD today, and how do you plan to address them if elected?



NFL: (Candidate did not respond)



What else do you want voters to know about you?



NFL: (Candidate did not respond)









Christopher J. Poteet



Occupation: civil engineer






Why did you decide to run for the Richardson ISD board of trustees?



CJP: Service is a tradition within my family and is in our DNA. I spent almost nine years in the army between Texas A&M and my last 14 years in civil engineering. I followed my father and both grandfathers into military service. Once I left the military, I felt a need to continue giving back. For the last 10 years, that has been in service to the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands, RISD committees and the City of Dallas Landmark Commission, among others. Concurrently, through my participation in the Leadership Dallas program in 2014, I realized that the importance of a good public education system is vastly larger than simply the education of my own kids. The vitality of neighborhoods, our cities, our region and their economic development all rely on a great system. But foremost, the successful future of every child, no matter their background, will be built upon the education that they receive. Combining this realized passion for education and my passion for serving pointed me towards this honorable opportunity to serve the district.



How has your experience prepared you for board service?



CJP: My years of service within the military taught me about teamwork. As a trustee, I know that teamwork is critical amongst the board members as we work towards common vision and goals. In my firm, strategic planning and continuous improvement provide the baseline to future success. RISD effectively utilizes these tools and the accountability that accompanies them. Familiar with both design and construction, I bring a level of critical thought and understanding of detail to the board. My service to the district with the Inside RISD program, Strategic Plan Committee, Program Planning Committee for LHHS and the current 2021 Bond Steering Committee have given me valuable experience to use in the role of trustee. As a civil engineer in a district with over 70 aging facilities, I understand the capital needs, life cycles and funding related to our five-year bond cycle.



What is your stance on the two Richardson ISD bond measures on the ballot and why?



CJP: I am in support of both 2021 bond propositions. The Texas public education funding system results in the need for a strategic, accountable and community-driven bond to address things like major construction, renovations, technology and other long-term, costly needs. The district is proactive and strategic in managing its finances to allow for these bond programs to fulfill needs without raising the tax rate on property owners. Each department did a good job producing a measured list of essential items. These needs were balanced across the district and all campuses. The public was brought in to participate in the process of review and recommendation of the packages. The strategic approach was comprehensive, including facility audits, demographic forecasts, financial analyses and equity across the district. Being a part of this process made it easy to be a bond supporter and advocate.



What do you think are the biggest issues facing Richardson ISD today, and how do you plan to address them if elected?



CJP: Post-COVID, I believe that the next couple of years will be some of the most challenging the district has seen. Evaluating students' achievement levels and developing plans, solutions and strategies to ensure all students are on level will be critical. As a trustee, I look forward to helping the staff determine paths forward from the governance level. Being a conduit to the community, my role will be critical to provide both the district and parents with feedback and guidance as it relates to a possible COVID achievement gap. The district will use its strategic plan, goals and vision as a framework in guiding us through this challenge and eventual successes. I believe RISD is challenged to continue to build and sustain a culture of success and improvement. I believe that culture exists now and has leadership in place at both the board and staff level to do this. But turnover is not organizational culture’s friend. Following COVID, morale of staff will be something to focus on. Taking care of the employees within the district and leadership will be necessary to continue to build on a culture that has so much potential.



What else do you want voters to know about you?



CJP: I am honored to be considered for a place on the RISD board of trustees. I have two children in RISD (seventh-grade daughter and fourth-grade son) and look forward to being a part of the successes that my two and the over 37,000 other students will enjoy.









Blake Sawyer



Occupation: technical training and support at Amped Software


Contact: 214-253-9719; blake4richardson@icloud.com




Why did you decide to run for the Richardson ISD board of trustees?



BS: Thanks so much for asking. Primarily, I decided to run because I love our community, the city of Richardson, and the school's faculty, staff and the students who are growing and learning in our city. Our kids, ages 11, 8 and 1, will be in all three levels of RISD schools in the next few years. As such, our family has been involved in our kids' school for years in various ways, and over the last seven years, we have been able to witness the hearts of staff and teachers as they grow the next generation. One example started a few years back when all kids in the district were issued one-to-one technology. As a former Apple engineer, I wanted to make sure the tools we gave our kids were safely managed, were used as tools and not become distractions and teachers were given help so they could teach and not become IT administrators. Working with our PTA, school administration and serving in a Technology Advisory Committee, I was able to help guide many of the improvements we have seen in the last two school years. Even in the pandemic, when devices were sent home, RISD has been working to ensure there are safety and guidance protocols.



How has your experience prepared you for board service?



BS: My mission and goal have always been to help others. The board is a place where my experience can merge with my heart to help every student, regardless of their neighborhood. Through work experiences, such as serving our community at Watermark Church and helping others as a digital forensic examiner for a nearby police department, my goal has always been, "How can I use my abilities and experience to give hope to everyone with whom I come into contact?" Also, having been a foster parent, my mission has always been to provide a safe place where children can thrive.



What is your stance on the two Richardson ISD bond measures on the ballot and why?



BS: As a taxpayer, I always want to make sure the money we put into the schools is used to educate students. In looking at both measures in the bonds, I see opportunities to equip Richardson ISD to manage the changing and growing student population who will be living in Richardson. Improving and expanding the facilities, some of which are nearly 60 years old, and updating devices students use as tools are examples of ways we invest in our future. Maintenance and upkeep are generally not attractive aspects to ownership, but as citizens, the district stewards the properties our schools utilize. By updating and expanding these, we are making efficient use of resources we have been beneficiaries of and leave things better for the next generation of students. At the same time, the bond motions combined are a large request from the taxpayers, and so transparency and accountability are paramount. As a board member, I would aim to make sure resources entrusted to us by the taxpayers are properly used.



What do you think are the biggest issues facing Richardson ISD today, and how do you plan to address them if elected?



BS: I think a strong comeback from the series of challenges 2020, and now, even 2021, have brought us are paramount in the coming years. While the administration has done a great job equipping schools for in-person learning since September, there is still room for growth in our schools in several areas, such as education, social and emotional development, overall safety and technical equity. I believe we need to ensure that the district's primary goal is teaching students so that when they grow up, they can excel in the challenges of life. As parents, we constantly help our kids succeed both in school and in life. As a board member, my role would extend my responsibility to all the kids in the community. I firmly believe Richardson ISD should be an environment where every student in every school can succeed.



What else do you want voters to know about you?



BS: In serving on the board, my goal is to help all students be equipped and cared for and to resource our teachers and staff with the tools they need to impact students' futures. Several fantastic teachers influenced me as a student, and I was raised by an educator who focused on children with special needs. I know that exceptional teachers can do so much when they are properly resourced, and the foundations for our future are sown in good public schools.









Eric Stengel



Occupation: medical staff administration analyst


Contact: 469-951-7562; ericrstengel@gmail.com




Why did you decide to run for the Richardson ISD board of trustees?



ES: The recent riots and protests within the halls of our nation’s Capitol is why I am running for school board. We stop civil unrest by having a group of educated citizens that are capable of dialogue in our great democratic republic. I’m also an RISD graduate, having attended Dartmouth, Apollo and Berkner. My daughter also attends Jess Harben.



How has your experience prepared you for board service?



ES: After discerning that a religious vocation was not the right calling, I became a schoolteacher for a few years. I am now in the medical industry. My experience in working in various political climates with bureaucratic processes and procedures has equipped me for a seat on the RISD BOT.



What is your stance on the two Richardson ISD bond measures on the ballot and why?



ES: While I favor the low interest rate that RISD will have to pay back to bond buyers, I question the ability for the district to sell all bonds in 40 years and not lose their credit rating. The recent facility audit analysis could have been done better in identifying needs versus wants. It is true that there are a lot of needs with old infrastructure buildings; however, the district needs to see what cuts can be made to the budget, as private sector companies have done so due to the pandemic and lost revenue.



What do you think are the biggest issues facing Richardson ISD today, and how do you plan to address them if elected?



ES: The biggest issues facing RISD is the 4% drop in enrollment due to COVID-19; community outreach to a once-thriving suburban district serving a large contingent of low socioeconomic urban populations; and the ability to really close the achievement gap.



What else do you want voters to know about you?



ES: I enjoy reading great historical, philosophical and business/medical books, journals and blogs. I possess a major in history from Texas Tech with minors in philosophy and pedagogy. I’m also an active licensed teacher and enjoy coin collecting, bowling and weight lifting/exercise.


By William C. Wadsack
William C. Wadsack is the senior reporter for the Plano and Richardson editions of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana before joining Community Impact Newspaper in 2019.


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