Weatherford ISD elections nearing, get to know who’s running

Posted Tuesday, May. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Weatherford ISD Board of Trustees

Place 3

Name: Ashley Duncan Conlon, Incumbent

Occupation/Business: Regional Sales Manager, CENTURY 21 Judge Fite Company

Family: My husband, Bryan, and I have two daughters who attend WISD, Clara (10) and Taylor (8). My parents are Jim and Susan Duncan. Jim is a graduate of Weatherford ISD and Susan taught under Bill Wright for many years.

• What made you decide to run for your position?

Education has always been a key ingredient in my life. Because of this, I am committed to investing in all of our children and the future of our community. I am honored to serve the citizens who have given so much to my family and me.

• What challenges do you foresee if elected?

The three issues that I believe are most important are funding, safety and security and strategic planning.

Funding. Times are going to continue to be challenging for the funding of school systems. However, the training and experience that I have gained as trustee for the last 2 years, along with the classes that I have taken through the Texas Association of School Boards, have provided me a good base of information from which I can draw to do my best to protect public education and more specifically, the teachers, staff and students of Weatherford ISD in the future.

Safety and Security. The safety and security of our children, teachers, and staff is vitally important. It is something that must be constantly reviewed and addressed.

Strategic Planning. Our district has grown and changed a tremendous amount during the decade. We are now located in a area that has become an Emerging Retail center. This is a huge indicator of growth. We must keep a vigilant eye planning for future growth as well as continuing to evaluate and ensure that the product of the education provided is of high quality. To me this doesn’t mean that the product is all of the same. Each child in our district has skills, experiences, interests, and aptitudes that they bring with them. These will lead them to a myriad of career paths. It is my hope, that each student will have the education necessary to be successful in whatever career field they choose. It is my belief that it takes strategic planning to make sure that we have the educational processes, material, and programs in place to help each student achieve their success.

• What strengths do you bring to your board if elected?

I am an effective and impassioned leader as evidenced by the success of the CENTURY 21 Judge Fite Company offices I manage. I have strong communication skills and listening skills. I constantly search for and find win-wins for those with whom I work. I am proud to have successfully managed and, in fact, have continued to grow the Parker County regional office of CENTURY 21 Judge Fite Company during the recent economic downturn.

Name: Randy Hynes

Occupation/Business: Owner of Randy Hynes Homes, Inc. & Randy Hynes General Contractors, Inc.

Family: Wife of 31 years, Julie. Two Sons, Colt (27) & Spencer (15)

• What made you decide to run for your position?

I’m a pretty simple guy with a common-sense approach. WISD is facing some real challenges, such as overcrowding and upgraded security needs and these are just naming a few. I feel WISD needs representation by people like myself. I also believe that I bring a different perspective to the board on issues that WISD is facing.

In economic times like this, I don’t believe we need to tear out and rebuild fields that already exist. Why not enhance what we already have? I feel like our bigger focus should be on solving the overcrowding issues, security deficiencies and upgrading technology in the classrooms.

Lastly, I played football in a very successful high school program. No, I was not a star, just a bench guy. That program yielded three 4A championships in four years. Having moved here in 1985, I have seen good teams and bad; most recently bad. I would love to see Weatherford build a stronger athletic program that is successful in all sports.

• What challenges do you foresee if elected?

Weatherford faces numerous challenges. First and foremost, to me, is our overcrowding issue. Whether the bond passes or not, we have got to resolve this and resolve it quickly.

• What strengths do you bring to your board if elected?

I believe my 30 years of experience in the business world and construction business will bring experience and resources that are needed in the near future for WISD.

I also believe that my practical approach to solving problems is an asset to this board. Sometimes, people tend to over analyze and over plan to solve issues. It’s not about our egos, it’s about our kids.

Name: Philip Newkirk

Occupation/Business: Land surveyor, Carter Surveying

Family: Wife, Jessica.

The candidate profile for Mr. Newkirk was not returned to the Weatherford Star-Telegram as of press time.

Place 4

Name: Gail W. Wirtanen, Incumbent

Occupation/Business: Distributor for Branded Corporate Services.

Family: Two daughters, Sandy (Class of 2007) and Susie (Class of 2012).

• What made you decide to run for your position?

I want to improve the educational experience for the students of Weatherford and give back to my community. That sounds like a cliché but my record over the past 20 years proves that this is a true commitment and not a "get involved" moment. Since 1994, there has not been a year that I have not volunteered, in some capacity, in the Weatherford schools. I have been PTA President, Booster Club President and Project Graduation Chair. I have served on the Strategic Planning Committee, Gifted and Talented Committee, Health Advisory Committee, campus and district improvement teams and had the honor of serving on the Board of Trustees for four years.

I believe in the public school system. I believe in the students of Weatherford. I believe in the dedicated educators in Weatherford. I want to work to do what is right for WISD and I am not afraid to commit my time and energy to do so.

• What challenges do you foresee if elected?

The biggest challenge facing our district, and districts statewide, is the inequity in the way the state funds schools. There is a huge disconnect at the state level when it comes to funding, mandates, testing requirements and local control. We are working with our state legislators to convey the urgent problems facing local districts.

Teacher compensation is always at the top of my list. We have a wonderful staff of dedicated, caring, well trained professionals and it is vital we do whatever is possible to compensate them. State funding is a major problem in this area. There is a state-imposed cap on our maintenance and operations budget that limits the raises we can give our staff. Last year, for example, we wanted to compensate the district employees but given the current funding environment, did not feel raises would be sustainable, so we gave the employees a one-time payment at Christmas. I will work to make improvements in teacher compensation.

We are also facing challenges at the local level. We have overcrowding in the elementary schools, safety concerns with kids traveling Main Street to get to classes, buildings in need of renovations and rapid changes in technology. I don’t view these challenges as negative. It is all part of a dynamic, growing, changing community. We need to embrace the growth, the changes and adjust appropriately.

• What strengths do you bring to your board if elected?

I have a Bachelors of Science degree from The Ohio State University in Business Administration. I worked in the banking and investment field for eight years before having the special opportunity to be an at-home mom. In my capacity as a mom, I involved myself in the schools and worked with teachers and administrators to gain an understanding of the classroom and district needs. I have served on the Board for four years and I have exceeded the required continuing education hours each year. As a part of the Board, I have been a guest speaker at TASB training sessions on how to become a high achieving board. As a distributor for Branded Corporate Services, I have the opportunity to be out in the community and listen to my constituent’s comments and concerns.

I have experience at many levels in the WISD. I do not come to the board with a specific agenda but work for the benefit of all students and employees. I am a member is good standing with the district and keep abreast of factors that may impact our district, students and staff. WISD and the community have given so much to my children and family, I am honored to serve and ask for your support in the upcoming election.

Name: Jeromy Puckett

Occupation/Business: Pro Tech HVAC

Family: Wife, Chastity, First Grade Interventionist at Raymond E. Curtis Elementary. Sons Dylan (16), sophomore at WHS, and Jordan (12), sixth grader at Austin Elementary.

• What made you decide to run for your position?

I was born, raised and reside in Weatherford. My passion for the well-being of this community runs over 30 years deep. The future of the youth in a community that I love is extremely important to me. I have spent over 19 years working with the youth, in WISD, coaching football and I have always had a passion to encourage children be as successful as possible on and off the field. Being on the school board would allow me to further support children and help them be successful in academics and electives, and help students foster skills to support them during their time in WISD and after they have graduated.

• What challenges do you foresee if elected?

The biggest challenge I see would be to get the community more involved in our schools. As a graduate of WHS, I remember the days when the community had a strong Kangaroo pride. Businesses would all wear blue on game days and you could feel the excitement everywhere. I was proud to be a Roo, and I want my children and other children to feel that same passion. Strong pride equals a strong community. When students are proud of their school they become proud of themselves, and pride equals success. I want every student in WISD to be proud to say they are a student at WISD!

• What strengths do you bring to your board if elected?

My passion for the City of Weatherford and Weatherford ISD. It sounds simple, but in order to really make a difference you have to have the passion for it.

• According to Weatherford ISD public records, there is a balance due of $4,700 from spring 2012 from you to the district. What are your plans to pay what is owed and will the outstanding balance be cleared prior to you sitting on the board if elected?

The last thing I would want people to think is that I would try and deceive anyone. Before the Weatherford Bullets (a semi-pro football team) season began, the owner just couldn't do it anymore. He was a builder and things were tough in that industry at the time. He asked me to take over, and it was so close to the start of the season and I'm so passionate about the Bullets, that I agreed to take it over with two other guys.

When the season ended and the bill came in from the school [for use of Kangaroo Stadium], the other two guys who didn't live here, said “I don't have this kind of money,” so it was pretty much up to me. I guaranteed [Grant Priess, WISD Executive Director of Operations] I would make it right and the bill started out at almost $9,000. I've paid most of this out of my own personal pocket down to $4,700.

Place 5

Name: Charlie Martinez, Incumbent

Occupation/Business: I have been a small business owner in Weatherford for over 20 years. Tailor/Clothier/Certified Professional Dry Cleaner

Family: My wife, Cathy, and I have 5 children and 10 grandchildren. My daughter-in-law is a teacher in the WISD and two granddaughters are students in WISD.

• What made you decide to run for your position?

I feel that my 12 years of dedicated service and accumulation of over 378 hours of continuing education, awarded by Texas Association of School Boards, in addition to prior service on Campus Improvement Teams, District Leadership Team and Strategic Planning Team and Education Foundation Board qualifies me as a valuable, contributing member of this Board. Being bilingual has afforded me the opportunity to share information with families of our Spanish-speaking students and community members.

As a strong supporter of "Making Education a Priority," serving on this board has been a most rewarding way of giving back to our community.

• What challenges do you foresee if elected?

School Finance. Monitoring Legislature in Austin to protect school finance and advocating implementation of new programs that would benefit our students and teachers. Protecting beneficial programs from being eliminated.

Security. If the bond is passed by our community, we will need to be vigilant ensuring security measures during construction staying within our mission to provide a safe and nurturing environment.

Teachers. Making every effort to provide competitive salaries for teachers and support staff. Being proactive in providing necessary tools for our teachers and students to be successful in the classroom.

• What strengths do you bring to your board if elected?

Twelve years of Board experience has given me the opportunity to understand the function of a School Board in the state of Texas. Serving as President, past Vice President and Secretary has allowed me to demonstrate my ability as a strong, effective leader.

Serving as Vice President of our Board when awarded the Texas Association of School Boards 2009 State of Texas Outstanding School Board shows my ability to work as a team member meeting specific criteria set forth by a prominent educational organization.

Name: Dr. Joshua Tarbay

Occupation/Business: Kinesiology Department Chair, Tenured Associate Professor, TCCD NW campus

Family: Wife, Susan, Second grade teacher; daughters, Morgan (6) & Brenna (7) who both attend Mary Martin.

• What made you decide to run for your position?

I’ve always been struck by the lack of educators (teachers) represented on some school boards, and although Weatherford’s Board of Trustees has always had the best interests of the community at heart, there are currently no WISD board members with an underlying license or accreditation in education. I believe school boards need to be a cross section of the community, compiled of business men and woman, parents, community leaders, volunteers, financial stake holders and informed citizens…including teachers. We need someone with a thorough understanding of the educational process that can recognize issues that affect teachers, staff, administration and the community.

As the chair of my department, I have the opportunity to understand the educational experience on many different levels. I oversee and manage our budget, supervise full-time faculty members and adjunct instructors, not to mention the courses I currently teach. Education is my life.

• What challenges do you foresee if elected?

If the bond passes, servicing all the debt and dealing with thousands of suddenly displaced students, faculty and staff. Each school in the WISD will be reshuffled, reorganized, under construction and re-made. The picture being painted is pro-children/pro-education, but the problems that most certainly will arise will be epic.

If the bond fails, as a board member, I envision the district coming back to the trustees (like Brock ISD did) and possibly re-visiting a smaller, more conservative, choice-driven, Weatherford-sized bond to address its needs. I was graciously given a tour of the district by Grant Priess and he knows each building inside and out. I was made aware of many needs the district has.

• What strengths do you bring to your board if elected?

Some individuals build things, others cook, others can sing and dance, others yet are entrepreneurs, lawyers or bankers…my thing is education. With a master’s degree in special education, I have taught students with special needs. This gives me an educational understanding of special programs. My bachelor’s degree in K-12 Kinesiology and seven years spent in the FWISD, gives me an educational understanding of low-socioeconomic, overcrowded, ESL education. My Doctoral Degree in Teacher Leadership and Administration gives me knowledge of educational law, finance, regulation and state governance. As a college lecturer, I’ve learned to question and research and to find answers, rather than simply trusting what others tell me. With me as a member of your WISD Board of Trustees, you will get a member who can not only ask the right questions, but provide the real answers as well. Education is what I do.

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