Q&A: 4 candidates for Fort Bend ISD Position 2 talk district challenges, opportunites

Voters in Fort Bend ISD can cast ballots for the May 1 election from April 19-27 and on election day. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Voters in Fort Bend ISD can cast ballots for the May 1 election from April 19-27 and on election day. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Voters in Fort Bend ISD can cast ballots for the May 1 election from April 19-27 and on election day. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)



HOUSTON



Fort Bend ISD board of trustees Position 2










Rehan Ahmed



Occupation: information technology educator


Top priority: To reopen schools safely in a COVID-19 environment, utilizing the right balance of in-classroom instruction and online learning






Why are you running for Fort Bend ISD board of trustees?



RA: My 22+ years of work experience as an information technology educator and instructor has prepared me well to understand our need to deliver a world-class, globally competitive education to our kids. Helping veterans transition into IT careers has proven to me that we must improve the basic foundation of our education delivery systems in Fort Bend ISD. Being a parent of two kids attending Fort Bend ISD, I must play my part in ensuring a quality education for our kids. As a small-business owner of an internet-based business, I realize the urgent need for Fort Bend ISD to deliver a globally competitive education to our kids to provide them with globally competitive skills.



What is the biggest challenge facing Fort Bend ISD, and how would you address it?



RA: How to reopen schools safely in a COVID-19 environment with the right balance between in-classroom instruction and online learning. We also need to urgently focus on teacher training on all aspects of online learning tools available to them to provide an emotionally stress-free education environment for both teachers and students.



What could Fort Bend ISD have done better during February's extreme winter storm? If elected, what would you do to help prepare the district for similar events?



RA: Fort Bend ISD should have been more proactive rather than reactive to the extreme winter storm. The first and foremost priority for Fort Bend ISD should be the safety and security of its staff and students. As a FBISD trustee, I will institute a series of consultative sessions with all the stakeholders in the FBISD community, including teachers, students, staff, parents, vendors, etc. to better understand the challenges posed by extreme weather conditions and how to best cope with them in the future.



How should Fort Bend ISD plan for growth while best utilizing existing campuses?



RA: By actively listening to the community, parents, teachers and students [we can] facilitate a dialogue between all stakeholders of FBISD to understand all aspects of the phenomenal growth being experienced by FBISD communities.



Do you see the need for Fort Bend ISD to call a bond in the next year?



RA: Financially overburdening the communities is not the answer. We must make FBISD operations fiscally competitive.



What is your vision for the future of Fort Bend ISD?



RA: Fort Bend ISD should be represented by educators and not career politicians looking for political career projection. Our education delivery systems and learning goals should be competitive nationally as well as globally. Fort Bend ISD must improve its communication channels with the parents of the student populations.









Ashish Agrawal



Occupation: business professional


Top priority: hire the best superintendent, drive engagement and transparency for all stakeholders, strive for equity and excellence for all students






Why are you running for Fort Bend ISD board of trustees?



AA: I am passionate about empowering students to success, closing the achievement gaps across FBISD (with a special focus on disadvantaged groups), keeping tax rates low and serving the community. My business experiences, coupled with years of community service, give me a unique opportunity to serve the FBISD community with dedication and empathy. My objective is to make FBISD a model place where we recruit more educators like the late Jeff Boyd and Dr. Albert Lemons who have inspired so many kids.



What is the biggest challenge facing Fort Bend ISD, and how would you address it?



AA: This is aligned with the three priorities I mentioned above. FBISD has a unique opportunity to hire the best superintendent, and I have the experience to help guide the process. Additionally, a number of challenges at FBISD are due to the lack of transparency and engagement across the stakeholders. I intend to collaborate with my fellow board members and the administration to focus on improving transparency and engagement.



What could Fort Bend ISD have done better during February's extreme winter storm? If elected, what would you do to help prepare the district for similar events?



AA: First, let me thank all the district employees who worked tirelessly to reopen the schools despite their own personal hardships. FBISD should have been clear in its messaging and engagement. For example, the communications sent out by the district often did not provide enough information regarding the rationale for the decisions that caused frustration among the recipients of those messages.



How should Fort Bend ISD plan for growth while best utilizing existing campuses?



AA: This is a critical and often most contentious topic. My vision is to work with the community to develop a fact-based long-term plan with indicators based on trends that call out the decisions that will result depending upon certain milestones. The objective is to provide transparency and avoid surprises.



Do you see the need for Fort Bend ISD to call a bond in the next year?



AA: The most recent bond was in 2018 for $993 million. This followed the $400 million+ bonds each during 2014 and 2007. Based on this recent bond and other publicly available information that I have seen, at this point I do not see the need for a bond in the next year.



What is your vision for the future of Fort Bend ISD?



AA: My vision is simple yet powerful: empower students to success. This applies to all students along with fostering engagement with the community where there is trust and respect among the stakeholders. We have wonderful teachers, and they do a fantastic job. We need more educators like the late Jeff Boyd who inspired students to excel in math, and like Dr. Albert Lemons who transformed [the] lives of so many students. You have my commitment that with your support I will do everything in my power to make it happen.









Judy Dae



Occupation: real estate agent


Top priority: work with the community to build confidence and trust, bring students back to campus safely, search for an exceptional superintendent






Why are you running for Fort Bend ISD board of trustees?



JD: I’m paying it forward. Having benefited from public education, it is my duty and honor to support the valuable service public education provides, not only for our children but for the future of society. Years of volunteer experience allow me to bring the campus perspective to the board. I want to bring direct feedback from students, parents and teachers to ensure we are developing policies and programs that equip our students with the knowledge and skills not only to succeed but to thrive. I am running to ensure we listen to those directly affected to better serve all those involved.



What is the biggest challenge facing Fort Bend ISD, and how would you address it?



JD: [We need to] build a trusting relationship with the community and work as a whole. It has been a significantly challenging year, and we need to evaluate where we are academically and financially. We must assess and address learning gaps ensuring no one is left behind while addressing the needs of those who seek to be challenged so all students are provided a path to success. To ensure achievement of these goals, we must strive to retain our excellent teachers and staff. The search for an exceptional superintendent will be essential to providing the leadership essential to guiding our district toward continued improvement.



What could Fort Bend ISD have done better during February's extreme winter storm? If elected, what would you do to help prepare the district for similar events?



JD: Clear, precise communication is key to avoiding misunderstandings. The lack of detailed communication in advance led to unnecessary confusion. With clear messaging, through effectively communicated standard emergency procedures for severe weather events, the community will be aware of what to expect. A risk assessment of our existing facilities is required to identify where winterization is needed, and a plan should be formulated to address these needs. Communications should be revamped to ensure advance notice to the community of the standard emergency procedures.



How should Fort Bend ISD plan for growth while best utilizing existing campuses?



JD: We should survey other districts to identify those who have done well with addressing growth. Utilization is only one factor in determining what’s best for student development and only one factor in managing growth. It is my understanding that the district is mostly built out. However, we could utilize practices that have worked well in other districts to do better. I believe working with developers to help coordinate and understand growth and utilizing the PASA data in combination with student needs assessments will help us better manage productive growth and utilization.



Do you see the need for Fort Bend ISD to call a bond in the next year?



JD: First, we need to bring all the students back in person, evaluate where things stand and the status of the former bond. Then, we can assess the data to determine the necessity of another bond. A lot depends on state funding and our enrollment figures after COVID-19. While the district may need additional funding, I realize the community has been hard hit by the pandemic, so I would be very hesitant to put an extra burden on the community within the next year.



What is your vision for the future of Fort Bend ISD?



JD: I envision a district partnership with the community where we work together in unity for the greater good of our children and their future. I’d like to see parent/community advisory panels working with the district to bring different perspectives to accomplish our ultimate goal, which is to provide the best education possible for our kids. I see a future with more opportunities and choices for our students, more pathways and programs, ensuring that the district and our students can excel.









Nadeem Naik



Occupation: Realtor and insurance agent


Top priority: equality and quality education for all students; support for our teachers, the foundation of society; community outreach programs; fiscally responsible budgets; enhancing community liaison; teachers and parents to improve our gifted and talented student programs; COVID-19 school era






Why are you running for Fort Bend ISD board of trustees?



NN: See priorities above



What is the biggest challenge facing Fort Bend ISD, and how would you address it?



NN: Overcrowding. There two ways to look at an issue: 1. Examine an issue with all the statistics and ground realities, then come to a deductive analysis. 2. Involve people [in] what matters to them. Listen to them and share. Develop a consensus and create synergy. Best results for any issue on hand.



What could Fort Bend ISD have done better during February's extreme winter storm? If elected, what would you do to help prepare the district for similar events?



NN: Preparation is the key in managing any subject. People should be informed well in advance several times of an impending crisis. An emergency system [should be] developed for [the] release [and] timely dissemination of information. When one person is affected we all are affected. Caring for one another is the true meaning of life.



How should Fort Bend ISD plan for growth while best utilizing existing campuses?



NN: [The] future brings new technologies and should be incorporated for best utilization of existing campuses. Campuses should be bustling with activities and become a revenue source. Underutilization does not benefit the students and the surrounding communities. Parents' input and involvement will produce better results. Our children are our future. Investing in them brings happiness and prosperity locally and nationally.



Do you see the need for Fort Bend ISD to call a bond in the next year?



NN: It will be hard to ascertain without all data to financially scrutinize. With my financial expertise and experiences, needs and numbers are to be matched.



What is your vision for the future of Fort Bend ISD?



NN: [The] future is always better than ever before. And the future is built on the present. We must take care of the present with the eye on the future by building a society of equals. Our people are the greatest assets. We want our students to study here, work here and call it home. We must train them with AI and robotics sensibilities and most importantly how to be happy and stay happy. We want FBISD to become the model for the nation to emulate.


By Claire Shoop
Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.


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