Election Q&A: McFarland, Ortego contend for Georgetown ISD Place 2 board seat


A version of this candidate Q&A appears on Page 17 in the April 2019 issue of Community Impact Newspaper’s Georgetown edition.

Candidates’ responses are their own and have only been edited for length or minor style changes.

Early voting for Georgetown ISD election races runs April 22-30. Election day is May 4.

The candidates

Elizabeth McFarland

Experience: Attorney, Army officer, community volunteer, mother
Priorities: Safety of children in school by addressing mental health needs of students; find better ways to measure student and educator achievement and expand innovative learning programs

Brian Ortego

Experience: Restaurant general manager, construction project manager, GISD District Performance Council, GISD 2015 citizens bond advisory committee
Priorities: Ensure that every student, parent, and community member has the information, opportunity and a voice to weigh in on the future growth of Georgetown ISD

What is the biggest challenge facing Georgetown ISD, and how would you address it?

McFarland: Explosive growth. Our student population has been steadily increasing for years, and our school buildings are regularly meeting and then exceeding capacity. Our educators are stretched thin with some classrooms crammed too full of students. The district must be proactive in addressing this growth by planning far in advance to accommodate the hundreds of new students that we know will enroll each year.

Ortego: The biggest challenge we in Georgetown ISD face today is to improve the academic success of all students by prioritizing and focusing on the improvement of knowledge and skills to enable students to achieve the mastery of reading, writing and mathematics at all grade levels and to provide the resources necessary to support the diverse needs of special education students along with the instructional requirements of other students that have learning disabilities.

How should Georgetown ISD handle future growth?

McFarland: Proactively and intentionally. We know more students will enroll in the district next year, and even more the year after that, and there is no end in sight. Therefore, the district must plan accordingly and be ready to accept these students and provide them with every opportunity to excel.

Ortego: Georgetown ISD must improve academic performance, customized educational opportunities and student conduct in all schools and at a greater pace than is currently happening in order to prevent the further loss of student enrollment to area charter schools. We must also ensure that site selections of future schools enable attendance zones that do not necessarily result in having to close and/or repurpose neighborhood schools.

How do your experiences qualify you for this position?

McFarland: The top qualities I will bring to the school board are my collaborative teamwork, strong leadership skills, and my analytical mind and attention to detail. Being an attorney and Army officer has given me a distinctive opportunity to combine experiences in building strong, effective teams, and then leading those teams through difficult tasks while also enabling me to hone my ability to quickly filter through voluminous information and spot the important issues and details.

Ortego: I have been involved in our community and schools over the past 17 years by participating in civic and school activities, and I have enjoyed serving in different capacities in both GISD and the city of Georgetown. The experience and knowledge that I have gained by attending school board, city council and various advisory board meetings over the past 17 years have prepared me with the knowledge and information to be an effective trustee.

What is your vision for education in the Georgetown community?

McFarland: That every student no matter his or her background or unique circumstances has the best possible opportunity to excel in school and in life. No two students have the same needs, so we must empower our educators to adapt and innovate in order to meet our students’ needs.

Ortego: My vision is that GISD provides every student the knowledge and skills essential for their success when they leave our school district; that includes the many positive attributes and skills contained in the GISD Learner Profile such as the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with creative and critical thinking skills. This will allow our graduates to adapt to and persevere through the challenges of life.

Why are you running for this position?

McFarland: I have been active in the Georgetown school community for years, participating in GISD Citizens Advisory Committees, GISD District of Innovation Committee and GISD Strategic Plan Review Committee, among other positions. I also have four children in GISD, spread across three campuses. I have learned much about the great work our district is already doing, and I’d like to serve in a greater capacity in the hopes that I can effectuate meaningful progress.

Ortego: I wish to continue volunteering and serving in our community. Being a trustee is a volunteer position and just like the thousands of parents and community members who volunteer when and where needed every day in Georgetown ISD, I pledge to dedicate myself to the duties of a trustee in GISD to ensure that every student has the educational opportunities and resources to be successful academically and to graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary.

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