Keller school board candidates focus on change

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 08, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Keller school board candidate forum

6:30 p.m. April 21

Rock Gym, Education Center, 350 Keller Pkwy.

Hosted by the Keller ISD Council of PTAs and moderated by the Tarrant County League of Women Voters

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Change is a recurring theme in the Keller school board race; changes in funding, growth and educational methods all pose challenges to Keller schools, candidates said in recent interviews.

Seven residents are vying for two seats in the May 10 election. Early voting is set for April 28 through May 6.

Place 4

Three people are running for Place 4, including incumbent Craig Allen, who said that schools must be innovative to keep up with change.

“We’re educating kids for a world unlike what it was when we graduated,” Craig Allen said. “Change is often difficult, but I also think you have the opportunity to be really special.”

Schools in Texas have to deal with uncertainties in funding until the lawsuit against the state education funding formula is settled, he said. Keller has to adapt to slowing growth in enrollment as the area approaches build out and with changing demographics.

Craig Allen said that a career and technical education center, expected to be part of a November bond package, is an important addition for helping students succeed when they graduate and comply with the provisions of Texas House Bill 5.

“If we don’t do it now, we’ll be playing catch up,” he said.

Craig Allen, 49, has been a trustee for six years and a district resident for almost eight years. He is director of student housing at Texas Christian University and has children attending Timber Creek High School and Bette Perot Elementary School. Ed Allen, 46, one of the challengers in Place 4, said that wise allocation of resources, improving school security and a responsible approach to growth would be his primary goals if elected.

A certified public accountant who owns his own business in Keller, Ed Allen said his experience in finance would help him to focus on effective use of funds and encourage not only financial transparency but educating the public about school spending.

“With all the competition from charter and private schools, as well as surrounding districts, we need to be careful about resource allocation and do the best with what we have,” he said.

If Keller does receive more money once the school finance lawsuit is settled, officials need to look at reinstating some of the items that were cut several years ago when the state took $5.4 billion from public education, Ed Allen said. Budget cuts prompted administrators to get rid of drug dog services and reduce police presence in the district. He would like to see more focus on security with additional funds.

A Keller resident since 1998, Ed Allen has four children, one a 2012 graduate of Keller High and three who are currently students at Keller High.

Michael Goolsby, 45, said he decided to run for the board because he sees a few issues that need attention.

“I would like to do what I can to get education in Keller ISD back on the basics,” he said. “I think we have kind of gotten away from the basics.”

Goolsby sees wide-scale regional curriculum programs like Common Core and CSCOPE as lowering educational standards. As a board member, he would want to keep them out of Keller schools.

Another big challenge facing the district is the area’s rapid growth. He wants to make sure schools add teachers and space in a responsible fashion so that students still get individual attention.

Goolsby works in transportation and has experience in restaurant management and the Marine Corps reserves. A district resident since 2005, he has two children at Timber Creek High School and one at Independence Elementary School.

Place 5

Place 5 has been vacant since Lara Lee Hogg stepped down from the board in July due to a move out of the district. Four candidates will be on the ballot.

Shane Hardin, who turns 39 on election day, said that trustees need to be ready to adapt to major shifts, such as changes prompted by the school finance lawsuit. He noted that Keller receives $1,000 less per student than the Northwest school district.

“There are some real inequalities in the way schools are funded,” he said. “What comes next, who knows?”

Hardin also sees changing dynamics in demographics, with the fastest growing group in the district being students from low income families.

“With the rising economically disadvantaged population, it may take more resources to educate kids,” he said. “Getting kids a good quality education is the first step in breaking out of poverty.”

Hardin, a home builder who has lived in the district for close to nine years, has children at Bette Perot Elementary and Timberview Middle School. He currently serves on the district’s bond advisory committee and has been through the KISD Community Ambassadors program.

Jo Lynn Haussmann, who turns 62 later this month, would like the school board to be more transparent and accessible. She noted that board meetings are not posted online in a timely fashion, making it difficult for residents to keep up with board action and that she would like to see more town hall forums.

“Teachers, parents and residents should feel free to voice their opinions,” she said.

Haussmann said that the biggest challenge facing Keller schools is growth. She wants to work with local legislators to insure that the district receives adequate funding from the state and said most decisions should be made at the district level.

“I believe in local control. I don’t believe the federal government or the state should be running the schools,” she said.

Haussmann served as a Watauga City Council Member for four months before moving to Fort Worth and enjoyed her time in city government, wanting to continue her involvement in civic affairs. She is semi-retired and self-employed.

Like other candidates, Jim Joros sees the district’s budget as one of its greatest challenges but has a slightly different take as a retired educator.

“We need to make sure we stay financially solvent. About 82 percent of the budget is in payroll,” he said. “We need to make sure we hire the best person and train them while they’re here and make sure they enjoy what they’re doing. Then kids will enjoy learning.”

Some of the biggest challenges facing Keller schools, Joros said, are dealing with state testing, keeping up with advances in technology and maintaining safe schools. He would like to see the district build a career training center.

“I’ve always been an advocate for a vocational and technical school. That’s a group of kids we’re missing,” he said.

Joros, 70, retired in 2011 after nine years as principal at Hillwood Middle School. He spent his entire 43 year career in education, starting as a teacher and coach in Indiana.

Terry King, 46, sees funding issues, primarily from state cuts and inequities, as big challenges for Keller school district officials.

If Keller gets $1,000 less per student than some neighboring districts, that adds up to a lot of money for a 30-student classroom and a 34,000 student district, King said.

“That much of a difference in funds doesn’t make sense. There’s too much of a spread there,” he said.

Other key issues include attracting “the right growth” as the district nears build out and educating students for success in a rapidly changing world. He wants to see schools focusing on math, science, technology and other areas with a lot of job opportunities.

King, a vice president in banking, lives in the North Richland Hills portion of the Keller school district. He has children attending Liberty Elementary and Keller High School.

Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland

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