Two Clear Creek ISD community members are looking forward to a new chapter of service on the board of trustees after winning the seats in the May election.
Jeffrey Larson, a consultant with experience in the aerospace industry, won the District 4 seat against incumbent Page Rander. Jonathan Cottrell, an area realtor and single father to three daughters, won the open At-Large seat. Both were sworn in at the May 24 board meeting.
Larson was overwhelmed by how much support the community gave him during his campaign and was happy to see how invested people were in the race, he said in a May interview with Community Impact Newspaper.
“I’m going to be paying close attention to the community as far as what they want,” he added.
Larson looks forward to preserving CCISD students’ quality of education, but wants to do so in a more financially conservative way, he said. Michelle Davis, who won the District 2 seat against then-incumbent Win Weber in November, also ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism.
Recovering from the pandemic as a district will involve balancing parent expectations with the wisest course of action, Larson said. He said he believes the district has handled the pandemic well in comparison to area ISDs, but there is still work to be done to ensure optimal working and learning environments.
While the district’s plans to provide virtual learning for 2021-22 are still in flux, Larson supports the idea of having options and hopes the district will preserve as much flexibility in class offerings as possible.
“A lot of us have come to the conclusion that virtual learning is here to stay, and I’m a big proponent of school choice,” Larson said.
Like Larson, Cottrell looks forward to preserving the district’s quality of education, particularly as it relates to science, technology, engineering and math learning.
The district must invest in its technology and coding-related educational experiences for students, he said. There are new robotics and coding programs planned for elementary campuses in 2022-23.
“We need to continue to invest in those kinds of programs,” he said in a May interview. “Coding is huge right now, and we need to educate the kids on how to do it.”
In terms of revised safety protocols amid COVID-19, he said it will be up to district leadership and relevant committees to provide for community members at various comfort levels, ensuring all feel safe working and learning.
One of Cottrell’s priorities as trustee will be getting the word out about CCISD’s numerous resources, many of which he learned about while serving on the board of the Clear Creek Education Foundation. As he went through the election process, he realized many in the community may not be aware of just how many programs and opportunities are available at CCISD, he said.
“The awareness factor is huge for me,” he said.
He also intends to dispel any negative stereotypes about public schooling as a whole and wants to put some of the more contentious talking points from the May election cycle to rest—including discussions around critical race theory.
Given both community wishes and current board policy, the theory “does not have a leg of a chance” of being incorporated into district practices, he said.
“As a parent, I don’t want it,” he said. “[And we trustees] would like to put it to rest.”
Incumbents say goodbye
The board also re-elected its officers and paid tribute to its outgoing trustees at the May 24 meeting.
CCISD Superintendent Eric Williams thanked Jennifer Broddle, outgoing at-large trustee, and Rander for their consistent efforts to listen to a variety of community perspectives and do their due diligence when making decisions.
“They have modeled what we would hope [would be characteristics] shown by other leaders,” he said. “You each are leaving this district better off than the district was when your service started.”
Broddle served for three years in the at-large position, including during times of flooding, the pandemic, the search for Williams and through the death of former school board member Chris Reed, she said. She chose not to run for re-election, but said May 24 she has “loved every minute of” her experience.
“I did not come to one meeting without praying about every decision that we made,” Broddle said. “I love this district, and I will keep fighting for the students and the parents and the teachers in this district, even if I’m not sitting here.”
Rander was first appointed to fill a vacancy in 2010, serving through the passage of both the district’s 2013 and 2017 bonds. Board members echoed Williams’ sentiment that she constantly listened to and advocated for the community while serving as a trustee. A donation was made to CCISD Cares in Rander’s honor to “pay it forward for the children.”
Board officers generally serve for one year, after which time members reselect the president, vice president and secretary. Jay Cunningham, who won the District 5 race to keep his seat in May after an official recount, will serve as president after trustee Arturo Sanchez nominated him during the meeting.
Sanchez will now serve as vice president, and former president Laura DuPont will serve as secretary. Cunningham thanked DuPont for her methodical approach to the superintendent selection process, which brought Williams to CCISD in January.
“I am very grateful to have watched and have learned from you,” he said at the meeting.