Candidates for two seats on the Keller school board all see fiscal challenges for the district but differ on what aspect should be the top priority.
Six of the seven candidates for Place 4 and Place 5 participated in a forum sponsored by the Keller ISD Council of PTAs and moderated by Edith Jones, treasurer for the Tarrant County League of Women Voters.
The event took place April 21 at the Education Center. Terry King, 46, a North Richland Hills resident on the ballot for Place 5, was unable to attend due to a family emergency.
Michael Goolsby, 45, of Fort Worth, a challenger in Place 4, said he wants the district to go back to the basics and focus on teachers and books.
“I think there’s confusion about wants and needs,” Goolsby said. “They may want fancy buildings and a career and technical center, but they need books and teachers.”
To keep good teachers and other quality staff, the district should offer great salaries and more, Goolsby said. Officials should be responsive, listen to and address problems, and employees reporting problems should have no fear of retaliation.
Ed Allen, 46, of Keller, on the ballot for Place 4, said that the biggest issues facing Keller schools are competition and lacking communication. He sees many families leaving for charter and private schools, and the district needs to deal with what prompts them to seek other options.
“We need to communicate more clearly what we need,” Ed Allen said. “It’s not about fluff, and we should stop the culture of placing blame.”
He noted that the district’s failed attempt to get voters to support a tax increase in 2011 was followed by drastic cuts and then officials “found” more money and ended up adding to savings that year.
Incumbent Craig Allen, 49, of Fort Worth. said that Keller has been rated one of the most efficient districts in the state, one of the few rated by the Texas Comptroller as a five star district three years in a row based on fiscal efficiency and academic effectiveness. Keller still faces the challenge of rapid changes in education.
“If we continue to educate as we did in the past, the kids won’t be ready,” Craig Allen said.
If districts get more money from the state following the resolution of the education finance lawsuit, Craig Allen would like to see Keller focus on reducing class sizes and investing in instruction and classroom supplies.
Both Craig Allen and Ed Allen would support a career and technical education center and renovations to older campuses while Goolsby would keep the focus on classroom instruction.
Three of four candidates to replace former Place 5 Trustee Lara Lee Hogg, who moved out of the district last year, attended the forum.
Jim Joros, 70, of Fort Worth, said that the Keller district’s primary goals should be “keeping kids safe, training teachers and fiscal responsibility.”
Since 82 percent of the budget goes toward payroll, officials should focus on hiring and training the best personnel possible, Joros said.
He supports a career and technical education center for a potential school bond because it would serve a lot of students who are not college bound. He would also like to see a bond contain upgrades to older buildings, technology and security.
Jo Lynn Haussmann, 62, of Fort Worth, said that district officials need to work well with state legislators to ensure that Keller receives the funds it needs.
“We need teamwork for the school board and the superintendent,” Haussmann said. “I believe we will see more assistance from Austin, and we need to be working together as a team.
She said she also would like to see teachers and other staff members receive the salaries and support they deserve. Haussmann wants to work with teachers to learn what they need.
Haussmann indicated she was in favor of a career training center.
Shane Hardin of Fort Worth and who turns 39 on election day, sees three major challenges for the district: putting forth a responsible bond proposal, managing school finances in light of inequitable funding and changing demographics.
In recent years Keller has gone from less than 10 percent economically disadvantaged students to more than 20 percent. More resources may need to be allocated for those students so they will be successful, he said.
“We’re not the district we were five years ago,” Hardin said.
Hardin said a career technical education facility is “absolutely critical to stay competitive.”
Early voting is April 28 through May 6, and election day is May 10.