Q&A: Incumbent Sonja Ebel, Adrian Kaiser vie for Magnolia ISD board of trustees Position 2

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Incumbent Sonja Ebel and candidate Adrian Kaiser are running for Position 2 on the Magnolia ISD board of trustees in the May 4 election.

*Incumbent

Sonja Ebel*

Hometown: Apple Valley, Minnesota

sebel@magnoliaisd.org

Top priorities: I want our children to have the best opportunities for success that we can provide; I want to honor our teachers and empower them to succeed in the classroom; I want to ensure that Magnolia ISD continues to be a fiscally responsible school district.

Briefly describe your experience for the position for which you filed.
First and foremost, I am the proud mother of four Magnolia ISD students, which is a major motivator for my involvement in our schools. I originally got involved in the school district as a member of Nichols Sawmill Elementary [parent teacher organization] where I served from 2011-16. I was a member of the Magnolia ISD Parent Leadership Committee in 2012-13 and the Magnolia Facility Planning Committee in 2015. In 2016, I became a trustee (Position 2) of the Magnolia ISD board and have held that office since. Prior to my involvement in Magnolia’s schools, I worked for ExxonMobil for more than 20 years where I gained important business experience that has been valuable in managing financial matters at the school district.

Why are you running for re-election to the Magnolia ISD board of trustees?
As a mother of four Magnolia ISD students I am naturally passionate about education and vested in our community. Most parents and grandparents would agree that having children equips you with a God-given desire to seek out what is best for your kids. I want every Magnolia child to have the opportunity to succeed in life, and over the past seven years of involvement in Magnolia’s schools, I have learned that great schools do not happen by accident. It takes dedicated families, teachers, coaches and administrators working together to create positive learning opportunities for our kids. Parents should lead, not politicians.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges for Magnolia ISD in the coming years?
Declining state funding will continue to be a challenge for us. We have addressed this challenge in the past without resorting to tax increases or irresponsible spending cuts and will continue to do so in the future. Projected growth will be another challenge. More people are discovering our schools and that Magnolia is a great place to live and raise a family. It takes a team of highly experienced people to manage a large operation like our school district. I am confident the voters will choose to continue to have experienced, talented and dedicated leadership at Magnolia that can manage these challenges.

What do you believe is Magnolia ISD’s greatest strength?
Magnolia ISD’s greatest strength is the families that call Magnolia home. Magnolia is rich with small-town values, and our children are blessed to be raised in such an environment. There are so many people I have met over the years that care deeply about our community’s children and want the best for them, even if they do not currently have children in the schools. Magnolia’s schools are blessed with people that regularly volunteer in our schools, such as PTOs and in other organizations that serve children such as youth sports leagues, youth ministries, the Rotary Club and too many other organizations to list.

What do you believe is one area in which Magnolia ISD can improve, and how do you plan to help the district work toward improving in that area?
One of my passions is early childhood literacy. There is a mountain of evidence that links early childhood literacy to academic success later in life. As a young mother, I spent countless hours reading to my children when they were young and worked closely with them on their reading skills as they got older. I am convinced much of their academic success today stems from that time spent developing their love of reading as young children. Today, I enjoy reading with elementary school children in Magnolia ISD, where I can be found almost every week in the classroom. I would like to look into ways that Magnolia ISD can further emphasize early childhood literacy in the pre-K through elementary school years. One possible way to achieve this is to offer full-day pre-K. Currently Magnolia ISD elementary schools offer half-day pre-K, so this would involve an extension of that offering.

Magnolia ISD has seen a declining percentage of revenue from the state over the last several years. In light of this, how would you approach maintaining a balanced budget, and what would be your budget priorities for the district?
It is true that state funding has declined in recent years and a growing part of education funding falls on the shoulders of local taxpayers. As recently as 2011, the state of Texas funded half of our operating budget, but today that figure is only 35 percent. I am proud to say that Magnolia ISD has addressed this challenge through prudent fiscal management that has resulted in tax rates that are 23 percent lower than they were in 2005 and boasts one of the lowest tax rates in Montgomery County. We have had a balanced budget for the last 10 years and only borrow [through voter-approved bonds] for capital projects such as new schools and not for operating expenses like teachers’ salaries. Our debt per student is the lowest in Montgomery County, and our bond rating was upgraded last year and ranks in the top quartile of Texas school districts. The Texas Education Agency gave us the designation of “Superior Achievement” for financial accountability and transparency. It is nice to know that bond-rating agencies like Moody’s as well as the state of Texas view Magnolia ISD as a well-managed school district. If the people of Magnolia re-elect me, I plan to keep it that way.

Adrian Kaiser

Hometown: Tomball

832-473-1393
adriankaisertexas@gmail.com

Top priorities: transparency, taxation, focusing on debt

Briefly describe your experience for the position for which you filed.
As a recent graduate of [Klein Oak] high school, I believe that I can give the board more insight to the struggles that students go through on a daily basis and use this to benefit the students’ educational opportunity.

Why are you running for election to the Magnolia ISD board of trustees?
I want to be sure that kids get the best educational output of the district—as well as make sure that taxpayers are not being overburdened by the tax they are paying.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges for Magnolia ISD in the coming years?
The biggest challenges that Magnolia’s going to face in the future are the debt, budgeting and student population growth.

What do you believe is Magnolia ISD’s greatest strength?
Magnolia’s greatest strength is its sense of community—everybody comes together in its time of need and helps those who need help.

What do you believe is one area in which Magnolia ISD can improve, and how do you plan to help the district work toward improving in that area?
One way to improve educational outcome is to offer students more extracurricular that will help them later on in life. I plan on working with the school board and the administration as well as teachers to implement these programs to give the students a brighter future.

Magnolia ISD has seen a declining percentage of revenue from the state over the last several years. In light of this, how would you approach maintaining a balanced budget, and what would be your budget priorities for the district?
I think we should take a strong look at administration salaries as well as how much debt we are currently paying.

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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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