Community Impact Newspaper hosted a candidate forum at the Klein ISD Multipurpose Center on Tuesday night for the five individuals seeking a three-year KISD board of trustees position in the Nov. 7 election.
Position 2 was previously occupied by Steven Smith, who resigned this year because of a planned move to Dallas.
The candidates for Position 2 are:
Here are excerpts from the candidates’ responses to several questions posed during the forum.
Why are you running for school board?
James: “I [have been a]PTO president, a member of many strategic planning committees; most recently we have been walking hand-in-hand with the [KISD strategic plan] Promise 2 Purpose initiative … we are extremely excited about those things. I have gained a lot from Klein and I want to give back to Klein.”
Dimas: “I am an alumni of Klein schools, I graduated [from]Klein Collins High School in 2014 and want to give back to the school that gave me my opportunity and really put that Promise 2 Purpose in action.”
Mallik: “We need a new direction right now for the community in general as well as the organization when it comes to Klein ISD. We have seen tough conditions after the hurricane and there should be a new perspective on education—there should be reinvention in education.”
Batiste: “I am here because I believe in the high standards that the district has and I want to help maintain those standards as a trustee. I believe in the innovativeness and the approach the district has taken and I want to be a part of that.”
Patel: “Our district is going through a tremendous rapid growth in student population that comes from a different degree of skills and a different background at home. It creates a big opportunity for the administration to develop a personalized plan that can close the achievement gap. The teacher—hiring, developing and motivating them—is important, and the [Promise 2 Purpose] vision … I want to help in a way to realize that vision.”
What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the board in the next three to five years?
Mallik: “The biggest challenge is how to sustain our institution, our organization, based on changing environmental issues and social issues. The challenges we are facing right now are to create a new perspective on education; and also to provide a new direction to the board as well as define what our long-term goal is right now.”
Batiste: “We are doing very well in terms of teacher pay after five years, but how do we attract new and innovative talent at the beginning? Another thing is growth; the district is growing very quickly, and how are we going to deal with that new growth? I think those are crucial issues that we have to … consider as a board and working together to make sure that Klein stays competitive and remains the district that folks want their children to attend.”
Patel: “All the challenges the district is facing, are growth-related … the growth has different elements of the at-risk, economically disadvantaged and English proficiency students. The second challenge is that this thing cannot happen by itself. We need great teachers. Attracting and retaining teachers is important. I think teachers love the administration, but they are overworked and we need to address that aspect as well.”
James: “The biggest challenge is the growth; we’re a District of Innovation, we’re a destination district. I’ve had an opportunity … to work with [KISD Superintendent Bret] Champion in putting in place many of the answers to the challenges that this district faces, and one is population growth and economic disadvantage. We need to make sure we are preparing students [and]teachers.”
Dimas: “School growth is going to be a huge issue in the next three to five years, with a lot of people moving into the district from out of state. The economic opportunities that are surrounding our community [are]going to call for re-prioritization of assets and resources and make sure it’s done equitably, and make sure we don’t leave anybody in the cracks.”
Please discuss the current status of state funding and your ideas for reform.
Patel: “I think, currently … 50 percent or so is coming from the local residents, a little is coming from the federal and the state. As we gain more in residential property value, the funding from the state is reduced. I think also funding in the state level comes with a lot of mandates, so, I believe that there is a strong push going on … that others can participate as a resident.”
James: “It’s a complicated picture from a standpoint of how that pie is divided … [there are]mandates from the state that we may be blindsided by, and we need to make sure funds set aside. In terms of reforming that, I don’t know, but certainly the Team of Eight, when we sit down at the table, we’ll come up with ideas on how to do that.”
Dimas: “I think as far as state funding goes, I won’t have a huge role in making decisions that the state legislature makes in state funding. I am interested in looking at innovative ways to find education funding through grants, through community involvement with funding sources.”
Mallik: “We should be able to generate revenue inside the community; we have a huge opportunity to invite businesses and the clean energy industry, they are ready to invest billions of dollars. We don’t need state funding … we should be able to generate millions of dollar in revenue for our kids.”
Batiste: “I am concerned about the status of state funding. We do need a better approach for how we look at funding locally. Not just community partnerships but also bridging through grants. I worked with community partnerships with Rice University, Texas A&M … and many businesses in the area, so that is no stranger to me.”