Q&A: Candidates running for Houston ISD District V talk top challenges, priorities

Three candidates are running for District V on the Houston ISD board of trustees this November, which covers parts of the Bellaire, Meyerland and West University areas. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Three candidates are running for District V on the Houston ISD board of trustees this November, which covers parts of the Bellaire, Meyerland and West University areas. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Three candidates are running for District V on the Houston ISD board of trustees this November, which covers parts of the Bellaire, Meyerland and West University areas. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

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Maria Benzon
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Sue Deigaard
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Caroline Walter
Three candidates are running for District V on the Houston ISD board of trustees this November, which covers parts of the Bellaire, Meyerland and West University areas. Each candidate spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about what they believe are the top challenges facing the district as well as what their priorities would be to solve them.









Maria Benzon



Occupation: educator and administrator


Experience: HISD math teacher, school administrator, University of Houston professor, researcher in student-teacher motivation, community leader, HISD parent


Campaign Website: www.benzon4hisd.com
Contact: 832-384-5119




Why are you running for the HISD board of trustees?



MB: I want to be the HISD Trustee in District V because I have the necessary knowledge and skills. With 21-plus years of teaching and leading in urban schools and [the University of Houston], I am dedicated to improving education for diverse learners. I earned a Ph. D. in educational psychology researching equity, self-regulated learning, and student-teacher motivation. As a community leader and parent of an HISD student, I want to ensure all students are academically prepared for graduation.



What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the district today, and how would you tackle it?



MB: The biggest challenge facing HISD today is addressing the COVID[-19] academic gap:more students failing on their report cards, lower test scores, and increased absenteeism. Unfinished learning widened historical inequities, and many parents were concerned about students’ mental health and behaviors. I would provide more wraparound services and counselors, train teachers and staff on trauma and social-emotional learning, and ensure every child has access to a laptop or tablet at home with internet access.



What would some of your top priorities be if elected?



MB: Address teacher shortage. First, we should increase teacher pay and improve benefits to be competitive with other districts. Second, we can recruit qualified teachers who need the flexibility of teaching part-time. Third, we must improve teacher efficacy by investing in their content knowledge and pedagogy for diverse learners. Lessen emphasis on standardized tests. Kids want to learn, but not just to pass a test. Students can demonstrate their learning through performance tasks and alternative assessments.











Sue Deigaard



Occupation: leadership development


Experience: I have served as District V trustee since 2018 and brought stability to the district.


Campaign Website: www.sueforhisd.com
Contact:




Why are you running for the HISD board of trustees?



SD: There is nothing more important to the future of our community, economy and democracy than ensuring all students receive a high-quality public education. During my tenure on the board I have demonstrated success in leading our large education system to a better place even during difficult times. I decided to run for re-election to build on that foundation and to support our new superintendent in creating stronger schools and better educational outcomes for our children.



What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the district today, and how would you tackle it?



SD: Learning disruption from COVID[-19] is the single greatest challenge facing our students today. Preliminary data suggests, both in HISD and nationally, that our students have fallen behind in key areas such as literacy and math, and fallen behind in their path to college and career. I will ensure our one-time federal [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund] dollars are invested in evidence-based practices to accelerate learning, increase social and emotional supports, and create opportunities for innovations in teaching and learning.



What would some of your top priorities be if elected?



SD: Achieve the ambitious five-year goals established in 2020 for literacy, math, college/career readiness and special education; continue to strengthen the board governance foundation and improve on district stability that I worked hard to achieve over the past two years; recruit, attract, support and retain high-quality teachers, including increasing teacher pay; ensure that tax dollars are appropriated for the maximum benefit of our students; prioritize investment of resources at the school level; expand high-quality pre-K











Caroline Walter



Occupation: wife of 1; mom of 3


Experience: involved mom with common sense


Campaign Website: www.carolinewalter.net
Contact: 917-362-4369, [email protected]




Why are you running for the HISD board of trustees?



CW: Over the past several years I have watched drama, politics and poor decision making plague HISD at our childrens’ expense. I have reached a point where I feel the responsibility as a parent and a citizen of our community to step up and stand up for our kids and our futures. We need each and every one of these children to succeed. In order for that to happen, we need a change.



What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the district today, and how would you tackle it?



CW: The single biggest challenge facing our district today is the large number of failing students and schools. I believe this is a direct reflection of the board of trustees and their failure/inability to work as a cohesive unit and work with, rather than against, one another for the benefit of our children. Success takes partnership, communication and transparency. If the leaders of our district cannot achieve this, how can we expect our students to?



What would some of your top priorities be if elected?



CW: When I am elected I will immediately begin a budget review. I will fight for salary increases for teachers. They deserve a significantly higher baseline salary as well as [an] incentive based bonus option. Perhaps my top priority, however, is to return the power to the parents. You elected me. You trusted me. That trust will be honored, and your voices will be heard again.





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