Pearland ISD Position 3 and 4 Candidates

Pearland ISD Position 3

*Virgil F. Gant

Occupation: Financial advisor and certified financial planner

Website: N/A

Years in Pearland area: 26

If re-elected, what would your top priorities be as a member of the PISD board?

My top priorities have remained the same over my five terms as a member of the Pearland ISD board. These are and will remain works in progress.

  1. That each student in Pearland ISD has access to the best elementary and secondary education in Texas and the USA

  2. [That] the district is fiscally responsible to the tax payers, and that the education services provided are the most effective and efficient possible

  3. That growth is managed in a manner that does not adversely affect the education of current or future students


What makes you a qualified candidate for PISD school board?

My 15 years of experience on the board, including a term as president and two terms as vice president. During my service Pearland ISD has tripled in enrollment and gone from inadequate financial reserves and barely-adequate academics to where it is now recognized as one of the best districts in the area and the state in academics, athletics and financial management. I have worked hard on these and a myriad of other issues. I know the workings of this district, and what it takes to continuously improve it. I am a certified financial planner and a retired naval officer. I hold a Bachelor's of Science degree in Marine Transportation from Texas A&M and a Master of Business Administration from Oklahoma City University. In 2014 I earned the designation of Master Trustee by the Texas Association of School Boards. This designation is awarded to approximately 35 school board members from over 7,000 board members across the state annually.

What are some of the major issues facing the school district, and how do you plan to address these issues if re-elected?

The most pressing are funding and enrollment growth. Pearland receives approximately $1,000 per student less than the state average and $700 less per student than surrounding districts. This is making it difficult to have an attractive salary schedule to attract and retain the best teachers and staff needed, particularly in a growing district. It also makes the addition of new courses and programs much harder. I have and will continue to work with our legislators and the Texas Education Agency directly to address this issue. I will continue to make the most of the funds we get. For instance, in 2013 I suggested the district revamp its energy procurement policy. We did, and we are now saving over $600,000 annually. This year I will move to both increase those savings and then lock them in for the next five years. As growth is the subject of the next question, I'll answer it there.

How would you help plan for future growth in the district if re-elected?

The district has adequate space for a few more years, however, some schools are at or near capacity now. The district needs a new comprehensive demographic and land use study. Our previous study was of limited scope and was not updated due to budget constraints. The new study should better project the land use changes in the numerous smaller tracts in the district. I would then use the information to evaluate what new facilities and programs might be needed and how we could best pay for them.

Mark Lewis

Occupation: Senior biopharmaceutical representative

Website: N/A

Years in Pearland area: 15

If elected, what would your top priorities be as a member of the PISD board?

Partnering with the superintendent, community relations, budget sensitivity, bullying programs and adding more bilingual programs

What makes you a qualified candidate for PISD school board?

I am a U.S. veteran who wants to serve the community by being a role model through my family, lifestyle and using common sense toward complex situations. I have been in corporate America for close to 20 years. I understand budgeting, bottom line and understanding the needs and desires of people. I have been serving on several boards over the last 10 years: vice chair of Pearland Zoning Board of Adjustments, board member for Empowerment Federal Credit Union, CEO of Hospital Ministry for Windsor Village United Methodist Church, president of the Grambling State University Alumni for the Greater Houston area and member of Big Brothers Big Sisters. I have been serving the community all my life—from visiting nursing homes when I was a child to being a mentor to children today. I am here to serve.

What are some of the major issues facing the school district, and how do you plan to address these issues if elected?

I feel the PISD school board is doing a good job but there could be a better connection between the Pearland community and the board. Hence, [I would encourage] the community to come to meetings more and [have] the school board go out into the community for town hall talks. Also I would like the school board to focus more on the future by planning now. I would like to partner with the superintendent by making sure his goals and decisions being made now have a favorable impact on students/teachers and citizens of Pearland for the future. [I would make] sure we are looking at our population changes and U.S. market growth to adjust the appropriate programs and budgeting to assure we are maximizing talents.

How would you help plan for future growth in the district if elected?

  1. Being more budget sensitive to ensure our schools stay up to date and safe for our children and be a pleasant work environment

  2. Establish the appropriate measures and programs for bullying situations to make our children aware that this tactic should not be tolerated or encouraged

  3. Create more bilingual programs so that our children are better able to keep up with the rest of the world

  4. Encourage a more community presence to ensure this community maintains a closeness.


Kelvin L. Williams

Occupation: Lead electrical power systems integration engineer

Website: N/A

Years in Pearland area: 7.5

If elected, what would your top priorities be as a member of the PISD board?

  1. Be a good steward for our schools

  2. Vow to keep Pearland ISD academically competitive

  3. Work to help ensure that our school system recruits, attracts and retains the highest quality educators as our children deserve the best

  4. Work with a purpose to ensure that all children are provided the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that prepares them to compete globally

  5. Work to support a systematic effort to ensure that all PISD facilities are safe for our children's educational endeavors


What makes you a qualified candidate for PISD school board?

As a dedicated and involved parent of two students currently attending PISD, I have a vested interest in the school district as an entity that is gravely important regarding the future success for your children and all children attending. Furthermore, as a concerned community member of 7.5 years, the future growth of the Pearland community as a whole is directly affected by the work of students being served. If elected I will work to support current efforts to have PISD graduates prepared to compete globally. As a formally-trained engineer with 10-plus years of experience supporting two of our nation's largest space programs, I believe that I will bring to the current board a knowledge base of science, mathematics and engineering concepts that will do nothing less than propel our students forward.

What are some of the major issues facing the school district, and how do you plan to address these issues if elected?

We are very well aware that the PISD outpaces other school systems in the state of Texas and is a force to watch nationally. Its standing is the result of close attention to the art of instruction and assessments aligned with the curriculum. For me the major issue will always be instruction and what is needed to [give] all PISD faculty and staff members the best opportunity to maximize their time with students. In no way do I intend for this to come across overly-simplified or a narrow focus. Budget management and ways to enhance the current budget would be an area of focus to ensure that our students have access to the best learning tools available. As the landscape of our nation and state continues to change, our school district is continuously faced with student concerns resulting from external factors such as drugs, crime, mental health issues, challenging family structures, etc. My belief is that board members must remain keenly aware of community, state and national trends to be ready to provide support to efforts necessary to address any and all issues that negatively affect students. One such effort underway is the United For Kids partnership. United For Kids is a wonderful example of a variety of community agencies pulling together to meet the needs of children. If elected I would work to support and expand such partnerships.

How would you help plan for future growth in the district if elected?

Anticipating continuation of the current student performance data, growth of the school district and community is highly [expected]. If elected I plan to remain current and knowledgeable regarding data provided to the board members by the superintendent and his staff members, as well as community data published by other elected community officials. I believe that the best board members work to honor the constituents represented by being focused, attentive, engaged and proactive. In addition, as an engineer I will also focus my efforts to strengthen our schools infrastructure including facilities, transportation, technology and communications.

Pearland ISD Position 4

Sean P. Murphy

Occupation: Vice president, HomeTown Bank of Pearland

Website: N/A

Years in Pearland area: 25

If elected, what would your top priorities be as a member of the PISD board?

If elected my priorities would include making sure there is a path for success for all students, ensuring that early literacy is a priority at the elementary level and making certain that we hire and retain the most qualified staff. In regards to making sure that there is a path for success for all students, it is important to me that we ensure a balance in the district for all students, whether it is special education, higher academics, athletics, fine arts, vocational training or college-bound students. I believe we need focus on the success of our high school students, preparing them for post-graduation, whether they are college-ready or ready to go into the workforce. Another priority for me is literacy. Reading is the single-most important skill that we learn and use in learning. We need to focus on our students at an early age, with children having the skills to read after elementary. Finally, to have the best district you must have the best employees. I plan to make it a priority that we are competitive in our pay with the surrounding districts. We must hire and retain the most qualified staff.

What makes you a qualified candidate for PISD school board?

I believe I am qualified based on my experience as a local business person, director and community volunteer. I am vice president of Hometown Bank of Pearland, I currently serve as president of the Pearland Neighborhood Center and treasurer of the Pearland Chamber of Commerce. I volunteer my time for both the Northern Brazoria Education Alliance and the PISD Education Foundation as a board member. In my current and past roles I have been responsible for the execution of writing budgets, financing and strategic planning. With a business management background I understand how large organizations handle human resources, training and organizational planning. I am also a parent and have volunteered to coach, teach financial classes and raise money to support the schools in the district.

What are some of the major issues facing the school district, and how do you plan to address these issues if elected?

I believe that some of the major issues facing the district are school funding. We need to continue to work with state officials to ensure that we secure the necessary funding for Pearland ISD. There are current inequities in the way the districts receive funding. With school funding I believe [to] face the issue of hiring and retaining the best teachers we must be competitive in our pay. We still face the issue of high growth and aging facilities. I think we need to do a review of all our current facilities so we can stay ahead of major problems with our buildings, which could become costly to the district.

How would you help plan for future growth in the district if elected?

I believe we are going to continue to see growth in Pearland. I believe we need to work with local leaders with the city so that we can stay ahead of any new changes, or plans to annex additional property. We need to closely monitor new housing developments and city permits. One new development could trigger the need for additional schools sooner than expected. We should also revise our demographics more often to keep up with the city growth.

*Andrew Solomon

Occupation: Law professor

Website: Andrew4PISD.org

Years in Pearland area: 15

If re-elected, what would your top priorities be as a member of the PISD board?

Academics must always be the top priority for a school district. When I was first elected six years ago, the district was not placing a great enough priority on high-level academics for all students. We were not setting high enough expectations for our children and we were not achieving high enough results . Over the last six years, I championed our current vision for "World Class Schools" which places high-level academic expectations and results as the top priority. This plan has led to unprecedented results for Pearland ISD. We were recently rated as the second best district in the Houston area and 17th best in Texas. Our SAT, ACT and AP results have seen dramatic improvement as a result of my vision and plan. Even my opponent has recognized that "the current board has done a great job at elevating the standards of our district " and wants to "continue the trajectory of excellence in Pearland ISD. " I am the candidate who made academic excellence the top priority and devised the plan that has elevated our academic standards and led to our trajectory of excellence. We have achieved these excellent academic results while being fiscally responsible. The district has received the state's highest rating for fiscal responsibility (5 star FAST rating for high academic growth with low spending). To read more about my priorities, vision, and PISD's accomplishments during my six years on the school board, please visit my website at www.Andrew4PISD.org.

What makes you a qualified candidate for PISD school board?

My life's work has been devoted to education. For the last 20-plus years as a law professor I have dedicated my professional life to providing a great education for my students. For the last 5-plus years, I have dedicated countless hours to the improvement of our Pearland schools for our children. As detailed above, our "World Class School" plan has resulted in significant improvement for Pearland ISD's schools. This election pits a professional educator against a banker. I am the professional educator who designed the plan that has made our schools significantly better. Because of my qualifications and ability to turn ideas into results I humbly ask for your vote for my re-election.

What are some of the major issues facing the school district, and how do you plan to address these issues if re-elected?

The major issue facing every school is how to get a great teacher into every classroom. Great teachers set high expectations, motivate kids and get results. Great teachers teach our children to sift and weigh facts and evidence, to discern truth from false and ultimately to think intensively and critically. Great teachers will make our children competitive in today's global world. If re-elected I will continue our current focus on ways to ensure that every classroom has a great teacher and also a great administrative support team for these teachers. Ultimately, great schools have great teachers and our children deserve great schools. It's that simple but also that incredibly hard.

How would you help plan for future growth in the district if re-elected?

Over the last few years, the current board has been carefully and diligently monitoring reports on our enrollment trends and projections for future growth. These demographic reports have varied widely with respect to the number of students who will be enrolled in PISD over the next 10 years. Because of the variations in these reports, the board is ready to act if needed but has also prudently avoided overreacting to a single report or one year trend. As a district we're fortunate because many schools at all levels still have significant classroom space and the district has previously and wisely purchased land for future schools if needed. These steps leave us well-positioned for any future growth that occurs. Thanks for reading these answers. For more information about my candidacy please visit my website at www.Andrew4PISD.org. Please become educated about the candidates and vote for the most qualified candidate. I appreciate and ask for your vote.
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