Jeri Chambers is running for re-election for her Place 6 seat on the Plano ISD board of trustees.
Chambers is running against Greyson M. Dunn.
Community Impact Newspaper sent Chambers a set of questions about her candidacy. This article is part of ongoing May 4 election coverage and does not constitute an endorsement of the candidate. Her answers have been edited for publication style.
1. Why did you decide to run for this position?
Appointed by the current board of trustees in January 2018, I would like the opportunity to continue serving the PISD students, parents, teachers and community. As a former PISD teacher, I bring a unique perspective to the board. A thriving public school district contributes to a thriving community. My children benefited greatly from the excellent education they received in Plano, and I want to work for all families of PISD children to ensure they have the same quality education. I am passionate about public education and have a deep commitment to the greater Plano community.
2. What experience—professionally or politically—do you have that would prepare you for this position?
As a public education teacher for over 12 years, eight of which were in Plano ISD, I taught seventh grade math at Wilson Middle school and fifth grade math and language arts at Wells Elementary school. I served as a Title I teacher at Otto Middle school and served as a homebound teacher for students too ill to attend their home campus. I loved my time in the classroom and know the power of an equipped, supported and cohesive instructional team. I also know firsthand the challenges our teachers, students and staff face on our campuses.
I am an experienced nonprofit leader, having served with several different nonprofit organizations in our community. I am a past president of Plano Youth Leadership and am currently serving on the Junior League of Collin County board of directors as community strategic director. I also serve on the Plano Education Foundation board, Collin County Homeless Coalition and served as an active adult leader in our church youth program. I am a graduate of Leadership Plano and Leadership North Texas. I am currently employed as a donor relations officer in the Collin County office of Communities Foundation of Texas. I know our community, its threats and its opportunities. I use these insights to make me a more informed trustee.
I have a master’s in educational leadership and supervision from the University of Nebraska Omaha and a bachelor’s in secondary education from The University of Texas at Austin.
3. If elected, what are some specific policies you would like to implement in PISD?
We must recognize that not all students have the same lifelong learning paths. School district policy should ensure and support measures that all students are learning every day.
As the district transitions from a one GPA system to a system where there is both a cumulative GPA and a ranked GPA, consistent policies must be in place as to which classes receive graded weights and how much weight is given to ensure the rigor for same-weighted classes is similar.
Teacher retention is a real issue, particularly with special education teachers. I will support and help implement any policies that foster a professional environment for teachers and a positive culture encouraging long-term employment with PISD.
4. Are there specific areas in the district’s budget that you would consider funding more or funding less?
The needs, and with it costs, to properly serve special education students continue to increase. Federal support through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has many unfunded mandates and is only paying 12 percent when funding 40 percent of costs is outlined in the legislation. The district must seek creative ways to meet the needs of these students. It is critical that federal and state mandates be streamlined, taking the financial burden off of the local school district.
For 2019, over $210 million will go back to the state in the form of recapture, also referred to as Robin Hood. Given that this amount is over one-third of the PISD operating budget, I would like to see less of our hard-earned money going to pay this state tax. Unfortunately, school finance is controlled by the state Legislature, leaving school board trustees in the position of reacting and not being proactive with what money stays in Plano ISD. The 2018-19 budget was created with a $7 million deficit.
Identifying, hiring and retaining high quality, talented, student-centered teachers is key to the successful student outcomes we expect in PISD. When fiscally possible, I would consider increasing teacher salaries, providing higher quality health care and offering additional professional development opportunities that ignite lifelong learning.
5. What else do you want constituents to know about you and your background?
I am a seasoned community volunteer, I am a parent of PISD graduates, I understand the challenges in the classroom, I am a homeowner and taxpayer and have a vested interest in the Plano community. My strengths include connecting the district with community resources, serving as an advocate for the district and having an expanding capacity to understand from all stakeholder viewpoints the complex issues that come before the board. I am willing to dedicate the time this job requires. I will continue to do my homework, listen to the PISD staff as other trustees as well as the community and focus on the Plano community at large.