The seven candidates battling for two school board seats can all agree that the one issue that is the biggest challenge for the Northwest school district is—growth.
Place 5 and Place 6 contenders came together last week for a candidate forum at Northwest district’s Pike Middle School, 2200 Texan Dr.
Participating in the forum were candidates Tammy Eck, Steve Sprowls and Jennifer Zazula in the Place 5 race, and Place 6 candidates Carissa Barrett and Lillian Rauch.
Two Place 5 candidates that were not in attendance were Mathew Hooper, who submitted written statements via his wife Bethany Hooper, while candidate Taylor Harrington emailed his responses. All candidates received predetermined questions from the group hosting the event, The Northwest ISD Council of PTAs.
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In addition to the growth issue, budgetary restraints will be another hurdle for the district, said Carissa Barrett, Place 6 candidate. If the bond proposition passes in the May 6 election, she said that will be sufficient to address many of those district growth concerns.
Barrett said she would like to see the district improve its academic performance in the coming years, even if it is already at a high level.
Tammy Eck, a place 5 candidate, said that district growth could mean more opportunities for students, a broader selection of courses and programs that a smaller district could not offer.
“One of the challenges is growth, and we need to be aware and prepare for being a large district with diversity,” Eck said.
Through a statement read by his wife Bethany Hooper, Place 5 candidate Matthew Hooper said the district needs to move from operating at a deficit to a balanced budget. He said that every decision impacts the bottom line.
The challenge with growth and inadequate funding is that high stakes testing and increasing expectations at the state level become more difficult to meet, said Place 6 candidate Lillian Rauch.
Rauch said that Northwest also has the distinct challenge of being one of the largest districts in the state in geographic size (more than 230 square miles), so that presents more prospects of working with businesses .
Place 5 candidate Steve Sprowls said that if the bond is approved, that would meet growth needs for the next four to five years. He said that the district’s academies and expanded programs would benefit from more students.
Jennifer Zazula, Place 5, said one of the district’s biggest concerns is identifying growth of special populations and serving all students.
“We need to be creative with what we have and be realistic with our dollars,” Zazula said.
In his email, Harrington said growth, financial solvency and improving academic performance are major concerns for Northwest. Harrington said that balancing the budget should be a priority while continuing to focus on excellence.
One audience member asked the candidates how effective they thought the district officials handle crisis situations.
The five candidates present noted the Jan. 30 bomb threat made at Byron Nelson High School. They all agreed that officials handled the situation fairly well and should use that incident to evaluate and gain more knowledge on where response improvements could be made.
The Northwest ISD Council PTA posted the video of the forum on its public Facebook group.
Early voting runs April 24 to May 2 and election day is May 6.