November 2020 election: Friendswood ISD board of trustees candidate Q&A

Local elections in the Friendswood area this November include the Friendswood ISD board of trustees Position 2 seat. (Community Impact staff)
Local elections in the Friendswood area this November include the Friendswood ISD board of trustees Position 2 seat. (Community Impact staff)

Local elections in the Friendswood area this November include the Friendswood ISD board of trustees Position 2 seat. (Community Impact staff)



HOUSTON



Friendswood ISD board of trustees, Position 2















René DeLaFuente



Occupation: retired teacher


Experience: retired educator; taxpayer; parent and grandparent


Contact: 832-465-2785




What is one of the biggest challenges facing FISD students today, and what would you prioritize to counter this challenge if elected?



RD: The teaching and learning of reading, writing and arithmetic is strong in FISD due to a well-developed curriculum and the excellence of our educators. There are challenges our students face, however, that lie outside the academic realm. Social anxiety, stress, depression and, at the secondary level, drugs and alcohol can greatly impact the educational experience of our kids. Counselors, mentors and others are essential in providing intervention for students who struggle with these issues. As a board member, I would champion these services.



How has COVID-19 changed the district's goals and priorities, and how would you respond to these changes as a board member?



RD: Good or bad, the pandemic has been transformational for students, parents and schools. Virtual learning technology replaced the classroom environment last spring, and all parties experienced a sharp learning curve out of necessity. Student assessment will be useful in determining the “holes” created by the pandemic and may initiate needs for additional personnel and/or services when moving forward. Expanding online learning by providing the technology, curriculum and the specific support services needed by our student population would be a goal I would support as a board member.



What can board members do to ensure FISD students and families from all backgrounds have equitable access to the resources they need for success?



RD: Board members are required to support state laws that ensure an equitable education for our students. Essential programs and services are established to meet the many needs of our students, and it is our duty to help each student continue to grow as they move through our school system. Student advocacy needs to be a goal for all of us. Determining needs, providing services and assessing growth are the steps necessary for helping students to achieve equity in the classroom. School boards provide the foundation for that equity.









Niki Martines Rhodes



Occupation: accounting/bookkeeper


Experience: 12 years working within FISD, including as director of education foundation, superintendent council member under Trish Hanks and member of the strategic planning and citizens advisory committees






What is one of the biggest challenges facing FISD students today, and what would you prioritize to counter this challenge if elected?



NR: I think the biggest challenge FISD students are facing in the classroom today is figuring out what their next steps will be and know they are supported in their decision. Learner outcome No. 5 of the strategic plan states, “All students will graduate ready for their college or career choice.” I appreciate the district recognizing that not every student will attend college. I would prioritize that the job of FISD is to continue to provide a wide variety of resources the students need to find their path and see them succeed.



How has COVID-19 changed the district's goals and priorities, and how would you respond to these changes as a board member?



NR: As a member of the strategic planning committee, I was able to experience firsthand the district's goals and priorities over the next five years. The plan revolves around the themes of safety, innovative learning and pathway to success for all students. While COVID-19 has caused major changes this year with how students are taught, I feel the district’s goals and priorities have not changed from the plan. As a board member, I would work alongside the board and district as a team to continue to move forward with the goals and priorities of FISD.



What can board members do to ensure FISD students and families from all backgrounds have equitable access to the resources they need for success?



NR: The district’s strategic plan belief No. 4 states, “Education has a responsibility to value and support all students’ dreams and aspirations." In the spring, when virtual learning was implemented, the school district checked out more than 1,000 Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hot spots to any student that needed one. Another example is that teachers have tutorial times available for any student needing additional support. The district and school board are continuously researching and implementing ways to help all students of all backgrounds find their success story. I would like to continue to be part of that process alongside the district.








Kurt Jones



Occupation: patent attorney


Experience: associate general counsel at Celanese Corporation, managing intellectual property practices






What is one of the biggest challenges facing FISD students today, and what would you prioritize to counter this challenge if elected?



KJ: My answer is classroom size. I believe smaller classrooms would benefit our students. We have great teachers; we just need to make it possible for them to spend more time with each student. The answer to this dilemma, however, resides with the Friendswood voter. Will they approve the bonds for capital expansion? I hope so. In my experience, communities either grow or die. And if Friendswood prospers, so will our children.



How has COVID-19 changed the district's goals and priorities, and how would you respond to these changes as a board member?



KJ: I believe FISD has already acted appropriately by giving parents a choice. My understanding is that about 1,000 students have chosen virtual education and about 5,000 have chosen to return to the classroom. A vaccine is just around the corner, so I see no need to react further at this point.



What can board members do to ensure FISD students and families from all backgrounds have equitable access to the resources they need for success?



KJ: I have firsthand experience to answer this question: My father was a disabled vet, [and] my mother cleaned houses. And the answer in the 1970s that allowed me to succeed is the same for students today: an active library. Nearly every Saturday morning, my mother and I would check out a book for the week. Let’s push reading again ... to teach communication skills and critical thinking.




By Colleen Ferguson

Reporter, Bay Area

A native central New Yorker, Colleen worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact Newspaper before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. She covers public education, higher education, business and development news in southeast Houston. Colleen graduated in 2019 from Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she worked for the university's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange. Her degrees are in journalism and Spanish language and culture. When not chasing a story, Colleen can be found petting cats and dogs, listening to podcasts, swimming or watching true crime documentaries.



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