Klein ISD board candidates talk safety, funding, other challenges

Candidates for the upcoming Klein ISD board of trustees election Nov. 3 agree on many of the challenges facing KISD, but the four opponents for Position 3 have very different opinions on the state of school safety.

“The safety of our children is an important issue, however, many in the news are looking for something flashy,” incumbent Bill Pilkington said. “I think [KISD has] done a good job with school safety.”

Pilkington praised the district’s ability to protect its students and teachers during a candidate forum Oct. 6 at the KISD Multipurpose center, but his three opponents each said the district could do more.

Candidate Jamie Fuselier said he would support teachers having firearms on campus as long as they were trained and certified, while Lannie Milon, Jr. emphasized the need for the board to implement policy that protects both teachers and students. Chester Arthur Hicks said he believes the district needs to ensure its security technology is updated on an annual basis.

“We should bring in experts periodically once a year and let them update us on what is new in technology, what is new in the field for security,” Hicks said. “I’ve always believed you should be ahead of the curve.”

State funding was also a popular topic of conversation among candidates at the forum. Pilkington said state funding and the number of unfunded mandates forced upon the district by the state Legislature was among the greatest challenges facing KISD, while Hicks and Milon also stressed the challenges of unfunded state mandates.

“The state has policies that we inherently have to follow, and many of those policies come with a great cost—a cost that supersedes our funds that we provide here locally,” Milon said. “I think it’s horrendous and it needs to be drastically improved.”

Although Pilkington and Fuselier said the current level of state funding to the district is adequate, both said KISD has to be prepared for possible challenges in the economy or potential drops in state funding.

“We have to look at certain budget items and make sure they make sense for us and make sure they still make sense in a slowing economy,” Fuselier said.

While candidates criticized state funding to the district, they also praised KISD’s conservative balancing of its budget in recent years and raises provided to staff. Hicks, Milon and Fuselier all mentioned changing demographics across the district as a potential challenge to KISD.

“One of the greatest challenges we face are the changing demographics the district is undergoing, but more so than that, how to train our teachers to deal with the unique socioeconomic problems they bring to school every day,” Fuselier said.

Pilkington said he views growth as the greatest challenge to the district in the immediate future.

“We passed 50,000 students this year and we’re not slowing down,” he said. “We have houses being built as fast as they can. We’ve got new schools being planned and a new high school coming. However, now we’ve got oil in the $40 [per barrel range], so what are we going to do if this stops?”

Candidates also addressed state-mandated tests. Pilkington said he would like the state to remain consistent with its standardized tests, while Fuselier and Hicks said they see the tests as obstacles for teachers.

“We’ve actually handcuffed our teachers to the point where they’re teaching to the test rather than teaching in their own environment in a way they feel they’re comfortable with,” Hicks said.

Milon, meanwhile, said he questions how often the tests are given but agrees with the intent of the state to hold school districts accountable.

“Unfortunately we have an inherent problem where our education system has underserved a number of students for generations,” Milon said. “The state has met that challenge by having an accountability measure in place to monitor what takes place inside classrooms to ensure that every student is afforded the opportunity to be adequately educated.”

For more information on the candidates and the election, visit the KISD candidate Q&A.
By Matt Stephens
Matt Stephens joined Community Impact Newspaper in December 2012. A Tomball native and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Matt joined as a reporter for The Woodlands team before being promoted to help launch the Spring | Klein edition in spring of 2014 and later to North Houston managing editor in late 2015. He has served as managing editor to the Phoenix and Nashville papers since August 2020.