Q&A: Meet the candidates running for Katy ISD board of trustees Position 6

Meet the six candidates running for Katy ISD board of trustees Position 6 ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)
Meet the six candidates running for Katy ISD board of trustees Position 6 ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)

Meet the six candidates running for Katy ISD board of trustees Position 6 ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)



HOUSTON



Katy ISD board of trustees Position 6










Susan Gesoff (incumbent)



Occupation: engineer in the oil and gas industry


Experience: I currently serve on the noard of trustees for Katy ISD, and I am the only board member who has actually been a public school teacher. While my 25-year engineering career has provided me with valuable business skills in contract management, financial and data analysis, and strategic leadership, my six years in a Katy ISD classroom gave me hands-on knowledge of curriculum development, assessment and accountability, instructional strategies and classroom management. I believe this combination of business acumen and education experience makes me an effective and well-qualified board member.






What is the biggest issue facing Katy ISD, and how would you address it?



SG: Adapting the entire educational delivery system for pre-K-12th grade as a result of the global pandemic has been, and continues to be, a monumental effort. It has taken extreme creativity, commitment and hard work by administrators and staff to figure out how to effectively deliver curriculum to all populations, including providing broad extracurricular opportunities, in this restrictive and constantly changing environment.


I will provide board-level leadership, guidance and funding so that Katy ISD can continue to provide instructional options for families and plan for and efficiently execute the expansion of in-person instruction as soon as it is safe and practical.



The winter storm in February left many Katy ISD campuses and facilities damaged and without power. How will you ensure that the district is better prepared to handle similar events in the future?



SG: While the district did experience minor damage in many buildings, it was quickly remediated such that all buildings were ready for the return of students. I do not believe it makes good financial sense to spend significant funds to "winterize" district facilities in response to the recent, once-in-a-century deep freeze. I suspect that most private citizens are unlikely to spend thousands on upgraded home insulation, generators or personal water purifiers. I feel that Katy’s hard-earned tax dollars are better spent on teachers and staff, equipment and supplies for students, facilities maintenance and new schools to accommodate the expanding student population.



How should Katy ISD plan and prepare for the district's continued growth in order to best utilize existing and future campuses and facilities?



SG: Enrollment is 85,000 and expected to exceed 110,000 when Katy is fully built out by 2030. Demographic data helps us understand where enrollment will increase or decrease so we can optimize the utilization of existing facilities through boundary modification (rezoning), portable buildings or building repurposing. However, growth continues to exceed capacity, so bonds are needed to finance additional schools and upgrade aging facilities. Tremendous growth in the northeast quadrant is stressing Katy and Paetow feeder patterns. Please vote "YES" for the May 1 bond, which, due to careful financial governance, will NOT increase taxes but will meet the needs of our growing district.









Bonnie Anderson



Occupation: SQM analyst, PCI SSC (Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council)


Experience: With more than 20 years in corporate finance and 10 years as a public policy analyst, I bring a history of deeply analytical experience and the necessary skills to monitor the effects public policy may/will have on our district and its constituents. As a KEYS mentor and a crisis hotline volunteer, I am tuned in to the ever-changing state of our mental health as a community. My experience as a leader and a champion for community projects help round out my character and keep me in contact with our community. As a Katy ISD board member, I will bring my focused analytics, my openness, directness and transparency, and my unlimited compassion to serve as my moral compass while serving my district and my community. Finally, as a mother of three amazing Katy ISD children, I bring a mother’s gentle touch to the diplomacy needed on the Katy ISD board.






What is the biggest issue facing Katy ISD, and how would you address it?



BA: Currently, the biggest issue facing Katy ISD is the lack of dialogue about a post-COVID return to normal on our campuses. It is time to start having a conversation about returning our campuses and curriculum back to normal in a safe way for the 2021-22 school year. As COVID-19 cases continue to decline and vaccinations increase, along with the empirical evidence that students thrive when schools are maintained open for in-person learning, we must start having an open dialogue. I have been watching the mental health decline on our community, and we need to make a plan to get kids back to school, full-time. There must be a balance for our children’s physical and mental health. As a district, we cannot sacrifice one of these for another.



The winter storm in February left many Katy ISD campuses and facilities damaged and without power. How will you ensure that the district is better prepared to handle similar events in the future?



BA: This goes back to the responsibility of board members to reach out and maintain open dialogue with county and state officials. Board members must be in constant contact with elected officials to ensure they are fulfilling their duties in the best interest of our district. Currently, as a private citizen, I do exactly this, and as a board member, I will continue to be engaged with community outside of the boardroom. In this particular disaster, we allowed our state’s power structure to be diminished with resources that don’t work well in cold weather. Board members must understand there is a trickle-down effect on our district from state and county policies. Regardless of the nature of the disaster, accountability stops with our board members and what they do to ensure the elected officials entrusted and empowered with the ability to make certain we have safe and uninterrupted learning for our children. Our district must be a voice in the community and the state in which we live.



How should Katy ISD plan and prepare for the district's continued growth in order to best utilize existing and future campuses and facilities?



BA: Katy ISD has historically done a great job in planning for the district’s growth through the bond program. We have grown by more than 30,000 students since 2018, putting us in the top spot for student gains out of all Texas school districts. As the fifth-largest producer of homes in the Houston area, addressing the current and future growth for KISD is essential. As KISD’s CFO, Christopher Smith, presented at the Feb. 8 board meeting, we are already looking at addressing future growth with another bond in 2025. The KISD board is also tasked with annually reviewing attendance boundaries (ABMs) to ensure the district is adequately addressing student and staff capacity on campuses. Balancing school enrollment across campuses is essential to ensuring that each of our students have access to safe and engaging learning environments. As district enrollment increases, it becomes necessary to adjust boundaries and open new schools. However, ABMs do come at a cost. Adjusting attendance boundaries affect families in those modification areas by potentially moving their child(ren) to a different school. Board members must carefully review and approve boundary modifications to ensure minimal impacts to families in these areas.









Rebecca Fox



Occupation: motivational speaker


Experience: PTA president, Cinco High Volunteer of the Year, KISD Education Foundation founding member, KEYS mentor, Promise-to-Read, bond committee, strategic design committee, Katy ISD trustee, TASB master trustee, TASB Energy Co-op chairman, Katy Chamber Citizen of the Year, Top 100 Women of Katy, Backbone of Katy, National Charity League VP






What is the biggest issue facing Katy ISD, and how would you address it?



RF: We must always put students first when making decisions and setting priorities. The immediate issue is making sure every student is on track with learning. Teachers have made tremendous efforts to redesign curriculum delivery, and they should be applauded. The achievement gap has likely widened during remote learning, and a plan is needed to make sure every student is caught up. Reopening campuses and restoring all programs as soon as possible is important because students have missed out on rich opportunities and experiences with the restrictions. As a boots-on-the-ground leader, I seek to understand issues to make informed decisions and implement needed changes.



The winter storm in February left many Katy ISD campuses and facilities damaged and without power. How will you ensure that the district is better prepared to handle similar events in the future?



RF: The storm in February was unprecedented with the lowest recorded temperature, longest stretch of freezing temperatures and the failure of the power grid. As a trustee, I will ensure our facilities have updated emergency measures in place, technology to alert when problems occur, winterized campuses and a trained staff ready to respond to issues.



How should Katy ISD plan and prepare for the district's continued growth in order to best utilize existing and future campuses and facilities?



RF: Our family moved to Katy for the excellent schools when there were only four high schools. Now, there are nine, and people are continuing to choose Katy ISD. To best utilize schools, new and existing, it will be wise to hire experts who know where growth is expected. It is also important to not overbuild. The district should keep watch for aging neighborhoods with decreasing student populations and continually update the long-range plan. In a district with Katy’s size and excellent reputation, trustees should always be considering ideas to keep Katy on the cutting edge of innovation and be prepared to deliver an extraordinary education.









Joseph Wojcik



Occupation: senior investigator at Pappas Restaurants, adjunct professor of criminal justice at Lonestar College and the University of Houston-Downtown


Experience: My experience has been in the areas public and private policing, holding various leadership positions over the last 41 years. I have managed with budgets, hired employees and developed programs to ensure an effective and efficient organizations and departments. I have also been a college professor in post-secondary education over the last eighteen years, educating and coaching students and advising them in the selection of a career path.






What is the biggest issue facing Katy ISD, and how would you address it?



JW: The biggest issue is returning our children to a safe and effective learning environment. Children should feel safe, parents should feel their children are safe, and teachers should feel they are safe. I would accomplish this by encouraging teachers to get vaccinations and [providing] them with appropriate sanitation and cleaning supplies and masks.



The winter storm in February left many Katy ISD campuses and facilities damaged and without power. How will you ensure that the district is better prepared to handle similar events in the future?



JW: Add a section of the Katy ISD Campus Emergency Response Guide that addresses a procedure whenever similar weather disasters occur. The section would include monthly inspections of all utility infrastructure. Repair and maintain as needed. [Conduct] inspections of all utility infrastructure within 48 hours of such an event. This plan should ensure a part of the school budget is applied to the proposed expense to fulfill execution of the new section in the district ERG.



How should Katy ISD plan and prepare for the district's continued growth in order to best utilize existing and future campuses and facilities?



JW: By keeping the eye on the ball, insofar as: Continue to prioritize a high level of teaching excellence in the district, in spite of tremendous growth. Quality should not be compromised due to quantity. This can be accomplished by hiring quality teachers [and] promoting qualified internal candidates into leadership roles in the administrative staffs. There should also be appropriate budgetary and emotional resources for teachers and administrators to continue a world-class level of service to students and parents.









William X. Branch II



Occupation: Candidate did not respond


Experience: Candidate did not respond


Contact: Candidate did not respond




What is the biggest issue facing Katy ISD, and how would you address it?



WB: Candidate did not respond



The winter storm in February left many Katy ISD campuses and facilities damaged and without power. How will you ensure that the district is better prepared to handle similar events in the future?



WB: Candidate did not respond



How should Katy ISD plan and prepare for the district's continued growth in order to best utilize existing and future campuses and facilities?



WB: Candidate did not respond









Garima DasGupta



Occupation: teacher


Experience: I worked as a faculty member for more than eight years and have been involved in school and community volunteering service. I also served as a policy analyst in the veteran affairs department.






What is the biggest issue facing Katy ISD, and how would you address it?



GD: The Katy ISD board lacks diversified representation. A diverse, well-represented board will bring forth perspectives from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, leading to effective implementation of quality governance and strategic oversight. A blended board would better anticipate and be more cognizant of the concerns of our diverse district. Being a current educator, I strongly believe in comprehensive curriculum with more collaborative projects connecting students.



The winter storm in February left many Katy ISD campuses and facilities damaged and without power. How will you ensure that the district is better prepared to handle similar events in the future?



GD: The recent experiences with natural disasters demonstrate the immediate need for a natural disaster emergency task force so that our schools are better prepared to handle similar events in the future. We have emergency policies, but there is a fundamental difference between day-to-day emergencies and natural disasters. As a district serving thousands of students, we must be ready and prepared for both. I would highly recommend a committee to structure planning, preparedness, response and recovery.



How should Katy ISD plan and prepare for the district's continued growth in order to best utilize existing and future campuses and facilities?



GD: In today's world, we have the power of data and various sophisticated technologies to gain insights and make better-informed decisions. I suggest using scientifically proven techniques [and] mathematical and data-analytic tools to analyze and interpret data related to the district’s curriculum and infrastructure so that effective utilization of resources can happen. For example, we can perform a multiattribute Voronoi analysis and consider attributes/variables like population density, household income, facilities etc. to build a more efficient and coherent district.


By Morgan Theophil
Morgan joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2021 as the reporter for the Katy edition. She graduated from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism in 2018.


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