Transparency, listening to community among issues in Kennedale school board race

Posted Monday, May. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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More transparency in decision-making and an environment in which community input is more welcome are among the key issues in the race for three seats on the Kennedale school board.

Place 4 incumbent Janet Adams is running for a fourth three-year term. She faces Elisha Woodson, a college student who expects to graduate in June with a degree in science secondary education.

Board President Mike Walker, who holds the Place 5 seat, is not seeking re-election. Maria Douglas, an official with the federal women’s prison hospital in Fort Worth, and Stewart Richardson, a commercial construction project manager, are vying for the position.

A special election to fill the final year of the unexpired term for Place 7 has drawn John Hunt, who resigned from the board in January so that the district could hire his wife as an intermediate school counselor, and Stephanie Vigil, an Arlington school district employee. Eddie Patterson, who was appointed to fill Hunt’s spot, is not running to keep the seat.

Transparency and community input were discussed at a candidate forum last month where all six hopefuls weighed in on those issues and others.

Douglas, Vigil and Woodson insisted that communication and openness between district officials and the public need improvement. Adams and Hunt took the opposing view.

“Unfortunately, I think the community has lost their voice,” said Douglas, who wants documents, reports and check registers put online for public scrutiny. “If you’re a parent, teacher, taxpayer, we don’t really have a culture that welcomes open discussion. We don’t really welcome questions or diversity of thought.”

She also said that the district should formulate strategic goals that are “much more futuristic” and that decisions should be made with them in mind.

“Three years, five years, 10 years out, where do we see ourselves going, what are our priorities, what is our focus?” she said.

Woodson said that when questions are put to district staffers, sometimes they give conflicting answers, and that a communication plan would help put them on the same page.

She and Woodson echoed Douglas’ stance that suggestions from parents and other non-district employees are not always given proper consideration.

“When we give our input, it should be listened to, and we should be able to see that in action somewhere down the line,” Woodson said.

Richardson told the Star-Telegram that building “a stronger relationship between our teachers, administrators and the school board” is among his priorities.

“I want to know that we are keeping our teachers involved in the decision-making with administrators, as they are the ones in the classrooms,” he said.

Hunt, first elected in 2009, and Adams, on the other hand, pointed out that trustees often make themselves accessible after meetings and when in public to answer questions.

“Unfortunately a lot of the issues that I think people aren’t satisfied with the transparency on are employee issues,” Hunt said. “Under federal law those can’t be transparent ... they can’t be shared in maybe some fashion some people prefer.”

Said Adams: “We’re very open to share what we can with our community members, and that was one of my goals — was to continue to open communication with our community. And we’ve come a long way from the last nine years I’ve been on the board, I will tell you. We’ve been able to communicate a lot better in different ways with the community.”

Patrick M. Walker, 682-232-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1

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