Education Focus 2018: Katy ISD trustee Dawn Champagne discusses education background, district challenges

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Dawn Champagne was elected to her first term as a school district trustee in May. She said via email that she pursued the position after getting to know teachers, staff and students in the district while volunteering with the in multiple positions over the last 16 years. As her interest in the district developed, she felt her next step was to run for the board of trustees and serve in that capacity. Responses below have been edited for clarity and to fit available space.

What is your background in education?

I have no formal degree in education, although I do have about 20 hours of education classes within my degrees. I have always had and still do have an interest in teaching and I found every way possible to teach: [I was a] Sunday School teacher [for 15 years], [a]Girl Scout leader [for]12 years], [a]Religious Scout Class teacher [for 10 years], [a]Junior Achievement teacher [for]11 years], [a]Cub Scout leader [for 5 years], and [a]Vacation Bible School teacher [for 13 years].

What do you hope to accomplish during your term on the board?

[P]roviding excellent education for our students is very important, but even more important to me is making sure that our teachers, staff and students are safe. … I do not want any child going to school feeling afraid. That is why I listed safety and security as my first priority during my campaign. … Many new features and practices have already been put into place: the installation of 6-foot fences, the requirement that all students wear their ID badges, and the new security features at the entrances of our buildings. But also in this category of safety and security is the protection from bullying, too. Plans were laid out in [Katy ISD Superintendent Lance Hindt’s] Strategic Design … for the support of the emotional well-being of all learners…

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the district today?

Katy ISD is known to be a top-rated school district in the state of Texas. The challenge is to remain at the top, especially with our fast growth. But, we can and should do better. Specifically, we need to continue to work on closing the education gap.

What strategies are you proposing to help see the district through that challenge?

We need to provide teachers with every tool they need at their disposal to address individual student needs, meeting students where they are. … I will work hard to ensure that it is upheld: “Katy Independent School District, the leader in educational excellence, together with family and community, provides unparalleled learning experiences designed to prepare and inspire each student to live an honorable, fulfilling life … they create the future.”

What additional steps do you support to help prevent bullying on KISD campuses?

[Community Impact Newspaper] had a great article [in the August issue]in which the bullying issue was addressed. The article speaks of how Katy ISD responds to [active shooter threats]  and also speaks of addressing mental health. The latter of these deals with the hopeful prevention of the former. I would like to continue with the efforts already begun, the hiring of the bullying prevention specialist, the Bullying Tip Line, [and]the Legacy Parent Academy, but also, we need to make sure that the students that are in need of mental health services, receive mental health services. I would like to invest more in making sure that we have the adequate number of counselors so that students who exhibit signs of mental health concerns, can be evaluated. We cannot escape the fact that mental health is a major contributor to the bullying epidemic and to the active-shooter incidents.

What is KISD’s biggest strength in your opinion and how can the district leverage it to best benefit students?

The biggest strength is our teachers. We need to support our teachers in every way possible. We need to make sure they have all the resources they need to [e]nsure that they can continue to provide the best possible education for our students. Advocating for teachers is so important. [While] I am on the school board, I will make sure I will do all that I can to work for them.

A history of involvement

Dawn Champagne has been involved in Katy ISD for the last 16 years and said she wants to leverage her experience to help KISD remain one of the top districts in the state:

17-year resident of KISD
20 credit hours of educational coursework in her degree plan
16 years of volunteer experience at KISD schools
President, Taylor High School Parent Teacher Organization: 2016-18
McMeans Junior High School Parent Teacher Association board: 2012-16
Exley Elementary School PTA board member: 2008-13
Katy ISD Bond Committee: 2017
Katy ISD Council of PTAs secretary: 2016-2017

For more local education news, please see all of the (local stories from our Education Focus edition).

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