Q&A: Incumbent Michael Pratt faces opponent Bob Fontenot in race for Tomball ISD board of trustees Position 2


Meet the two candidates running for Tomball ISD board of trustees, Position 2, in the Nov. 6 election. Early voting begins Oct. 22.

Bob Fontenot

Occupation: retired Tomball ISD educator
Experience: Tomball Education Foundation founding board member; served 38 years as an educator in TISD, including as teacher, coach, high school assistant principal, intermediate and elementary assistant principal, Lakewood Elementary School principal, Decker Prairie Elementary School principal, Tomball Elementary School principal and athletic director; district resident for 45 years
Top priorities: financing the district and managing district growth; hiring and retaining the best people for the right jobs in the district; student safety


Why are you running for election to the Tomball ISD board of trustees?
I feel we all have a responsibility to help the next generation achieve their individual goals as well as make positive contributions to our society. Education is the one tool that every person can use to achieve these goals.

Because of my educational work experience, I believe I have a unique insight into the profession and process. My perspective—from a parent’s, teacher’s and educational administrator’s experience—would be an asset to Tomball ISD in achieving its vision and mission.

What are the biggest challenges for TISD in the coming years?
I think it’s going to be finances. I don’t think the state funds education properly, and they haven’t given an increase in student allocation in years and years, but the cost of education goes up every year. So therefore it falls on the district to fund those increases and find creative ways of doing that. It’s very difficult. Now the district in the past has done a really good job of kind of posturing itself to this kind of condition. They’ve done a really good job of managing their money, so we’re in decent shape for the shortfall. But I think in the future if nothing changes, eventually we will hit that wall where there’s not enough money to do what we do now. So you’ll either have to raise taxes or you’ll have to cut programs. Right now, I don’t think that’s an issue, but in the future it might be.

Even if we don’t grow anymore, the amount that it costs to maintain buildings … all that kind of stuff is going up, regardless of whether we get more kids or not. It increases every year regardless of whether we get new kids or not.

Another thing, too, is student safety. School safety, student safety and bullying are some big issues that any school district needs to face. I know the district now is spending like $600,000 to upgrade the entrances of every school to make it safer, which I think is a great idea. But I think that’s even going to be more and more money, and we need to come up with ways to make our schools safe for our kids.

And probably the last thing [is] academic accountability. I think that’s always important. I think state mandated tests are important; I think they’re used for the wrong reasons. I think they’re used more to compare one school with the other when every school is unique. You can’t compare one campus to the other like they’re all the same because they’re not. I think the more important thing to do is to focus on individual student progress from one year to the next instead of how many pass and how many fail. What’s the growth that a student makes in a year? That’s what’s important.

What makes you uniquely qualified to serve on the TISD board of trustees?
I worked in Tomball [ISD] for 38 years, and I think the experience I have as a bus driver, a parent, a teacher, a coach, a principal, [and] athletic director—I’ve actually worked in the business that the school board is elected to run. So I think I have a unique insight into how that all operates. At the present time, I don’t think they have any board members that have actually been involved in the education business, and I think that’s what kind of sets me apart from the others.

What do you believe is TISD’s greatest strength?
I think the people. We’re still fairly small; we’re growing. Financially we’re well-funded right now. But I think it’s the community. Because of our community, we attract good candidates for every position that we have available. I think that’s the biggest thing.

What do you believe is one area in which TISD can improve, and how do you plan to help the district work toward improving in that area?
That’s a good question, because they do a pretty good job in just about everything, really and truly. Again, I guess the biggest thing is making sure we continue to have the hometown appeal that we have, even during the growth spurt that we’re going through—that we don’t become just a large school district that [is] very impersonal. I think that’s the biggest challenge—stay Tomball as much as we can during the growth. I think that’s going to be a difficult thing to do.

Michael Pratt

Occupation: director, product management at Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Experience: veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, have served eight years on Tomball ISD board of trustees, former board president
Top priorities: continuous improvement in curriculum, instruction and assessment; greater use of technology by students and teachers; stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars and managing our high enrollment growth


Why are you running for election to the Tomball ISD board of trustees?
I want our students to be life-ready. I want to serve like I did in the U.S. Marine Corps. I am both a parent of TISD students and a taxpayer, and I have school board experience that has contributed to our “A” grade in academics and best-in-class financial stewardship of taxpayer’s dollars.

What are the biggest challenges for TISD in the coming years?
Tomball has become a destination. Managing the highest student enrollment growth in the Gulf Coast area is critical as well as decreasing local dependency on taxes for education. I have the experience that our community needs to strike this balance of growth and financial soundness.

What makes you uniquely qualified to serve on the TISD board of trustees?
I have children that are TISD students, and I have a genuine interest in continuing to move TISD from good to great. My experiences in the military, corporate world and on the TISD board position me for our district’s continuous improvement in programs and services for students and teachers.

What do you believe is TISD’s greatest strength?
I am proud of decreasing and maintaining a lower property tax rate, the strong finances, managing the highest student growth in [the] Gulf Coast area and [the] achievement of “A” grade in [the] Texas Education Agency’s 2018 accountability ratings.

What do you believe is one area in which TISD can improve, and how do you plan to help the district work toward improving in that area?
I agree with Gov. [Greg] Abbott that we need to reduce the burden of increasing local property taxes for education and advocate in Austin [with the Texas Legislature] for alternative state funding.   


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Anna Lotz
Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in the Tomball and Magnolia communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.
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