Election Q&A: Katy ISD board of trustees candidates present views on school finance, managing growth

1

Three candidates are running for Position 1 on the Katy ISD board of trustees this May. Community Impact Newspaper asked candidates for their thoughts on school finance, managing growth and serving the district’s diverse students. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order, and their responses have been edited for length and clarity.

*indicates incumbent candidate

sean dolan Katy isd

Sean M. Dolan

Phone number: 281-767-8458
Email address: heysean@dolanforkaty.com
Website: www.dolanforkaty.com
Occupation: CEO, PushFire
Top priorities: being a board member who is open and honest with the public
Years in Katy ISD: 22

What can Katy ISD do to manage its ever-growing student population?
Katy ISD can manage the rapid growth of the student population the same way that a business manages rapid growth in the private sector. The first step is to accurately forecast the demand increase, or student population, and then refocus efforts on resources that are critical to delivering the same level of quality, or classroom resources. Much like how growth in the private sector comes with improved revenue, new students are accompanied by new tax dollars and new state and federal funding. However, this revenue will not offset the demand for one-off capital expenditures such as new schools. As a result, the district must eliminate all discretionary spending.

What can Katy ISD do to ensure it serves its diverse student body?
I want every student in Katy ISD to realize their full potential. I will represent the citizens in Katy ISD and not speak for them. Serving the diversity of our student body starts by ensuring that everyone has a voice and is heard when they speak up the chain of command. School board deliberations should be public instead of private so that the community can offer corrective feedback. I will encourage and support parent groups to form to support specific minority groups, including bilingual, African American, Asian American and special education.

What are the most important financial and budgetary issues KISD needs to address?
Blaming the state and demanding more funding is not a sustainable way to manage the growth of our district. We need to focus on eliminating financial waste and implementing smart financial decisions that accommodate the growth without forgetting about our current population. By working together as a board and as a community, we can identify and eliminate spending that does not directly benefit the students of Katy ISD. We suffered over $1 million in severance and penalties due to poor vetting and contract negotiations of our former superintendent. We need to admit our mistakes, take ownership, and course correct.

What do you believe is the district’s greatest need, and what will you do to address it?
After bullying concerns raised by several members of the community were ignored by the Katy ISD administration, the former superintendent missed a prime opportunity to turn his past transgressions into a teachable moment and affect the number of bullying incidents on Katy ISD campuses in a positive way. When the community observed the magnitude of this lost opportunity, “A Better Legacy” movement started to rapidly gain momentum, ultimately bringing visibility to several opportunities for improvement.

In conversations with KISD parents and voters, what issue has been brought up the most?
Student safety. Over the past year I’ve received hundreds of messages from teachers, parents, bus drivers, maintenance workers, administrators, and school police officers, sharing with me their safety concerns. I believe the greatest impact on school safety starts with top-down leadership. Simply put, when problems are ignored, they get worse, not better. Much of what has gone wrong in our district over the last year can be attributed to leadership either ignoring the problem or trying to cover it up.

rebecca fox Katy isd

Rebecca Fox*

Phone number: 281-684-9966
Email address: rebeccafox4katy@gmail.com
Website: www.rebeccafox4katy.com
Occupation: motivational speaker
Top priorities: students
Years in Katy ISD: 21

What can Katy ISD do to manage its ever-growing student population?
We can continue to manage growth using a professional demographer to help us know where new families are moving. We can use long-range facility planning so that student learning is paramount to the designs and functions. We can ask our community for input in projected new facilities and staffing needs. We must also include renovations and maintain our older campuses to provide the highest academic and extracurricular standards to maintain equity throughout the district.

What can Katy ISD do to ensure it serves its diverse student body?
Student success must be our first priority. There are over 91 languages spoken in Katy ISD, but diversity shows up in many areas, for example socio-economics, technology access and special education. Serving all kinds of students means strong academics and extracurricular offerings. It also includes adjusting student-teacher ratios to ensure students have a strong foundation for learning. I strongly believe family engagement is vital to student success. We can use our parent centers to assist non-English speakers and the new Legacy Parent Academy to help all parents with a variety of issues with school-aged children.

What are the most important financial and budgetary issues KISD needs to address?
Our primary spending must always be directed to the classroom. Teachers are our most valuable asset, and it is important to stay competitive in our salaries to attract the best. I am pleased every year when we give our employees an annual raise. An important part of rapid growth is managing debt and working to retire it early and effectively. Another concern is to not overbuild schools as we near the end of our growth. We need to look at our existing buildings and maximize every facility.

What do you believe is the district’s greatest need, and what will you do to address it?
The greatest need is preparing students for their future. We need to continue our strong programs for college-bound children. We also have a variety of certification programs. However, one area remains untapped. We can offer hands-on certifications to meet the demands of industries such as electrical and construction. To address this idea, we have a building that can be repurposed for these trades: We can leverage the former agriculture building for these programs. This is an opportunity to give students valuable skills for a marketable career immediately following high school.

In conversations with KISD parents and voters, what issue has been brought up the most?
What I have learned through the years is issues change constantly. Recently our community has been inundated with negativity. I want to get back to our purpose and keep our focus on students. I want to assure the community our district is strong. We have extraordinary teachers and staff who are making a difference every day. They care about your children. Because issues change often, I always encourage people to vote for the person who most closely matches you and your values, and you will have the person making decisions that most reflect you.

Duke Keller Katy ISD

Donald T. “Duke” Keller Jr.

Phone number: 713-443-2432
Email address: duke@kellerforkaty.com
Website: www.kellerforkaty.com
Occupation: attorney (real estate, land development, business law)
Top priorities: ensure a quality education and experience for our students and the working environment and resources that our teachers need to effectively and efficiently do their job; strong leadership; transparency; and communication as a board trustee, ensuring that all areas and all students of the district have representation on the board and that they see the results of that representation.
Years in Katy ISD: 17

What can Katy ISD do to manage its ever-growing student population?
Katy ISD does a good job managing the growth, especially for such a fast-growth district. Even with the growth we have experienced, our schools and students are rated highly in polls, test scores and results. I will bring my leadership and business experience to help continue to manage that growth in a proactive, logical and fiscal manner.

What can Katy ISD do to ensure it serves its diverse student body?
It can continue to offer opportunities to all students on an equal playing field. I will work to ensure that all areas and all students of the district have representation on the board, and that they know that representation is there.

What are the most important financial and budgetary issues KISD needs to address?
The cost of growth and the reduction in state funding.

What do you believe is the district’s greatest need, and what will you do to address it?
The district needs a board that is open and honest with community relations and communication, and a board that can work together. I will use my leadership skills and business experience, my ability to manage and resolve conflict and problems, and my ability to listen to help promote transparency and communication between the board of trustees and our teachers, staff, parents and taxpayers; to assist in the resolution of problems and issues encountered by the district; and to efficiently and effectively manage the business of the district.

In conversations with KISD parents and voters, what issue has been brought up the most?
Concerns have been brought up over the board’s transparency and communication, fiscal and financial responsibility, boundary modifications, and equal representation of all areas and all students of the district.

Share this story
1 comment
COMMENT

Leave A Reply

Jen Para
Jen joined Community Impact Newspaper in fall 2018 as the editor of the Katy edition. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Jen has written about business, politics and education since 2013. Prior to CI, Jen was the web producer at Houston Business Journal.
Back to top