Fort Worth

Candidates vie for four Fort Worth school board seats

Candidates are vying for four-year terms in Districts 4, 7, 8 and 9 on the Fort Worth school board.
Candidates are vying for four-year terms in Districts 4, 7, 8 and 9 on the Fort Worth school board. Star-Telegram archives

Eight candidates are competing for four seats on the Fort Worth school district’s Board of Education in the May 6 election.

Candidates are vying for four-year terms in Districts 4, 7, 8 and 9. There is no election for the District 1 post because no one filed to run against the incumbent, board President Jacinto “Cinto” Ramos Jr.

Trustee Matthew Avila is not seeking re-election in District 8, which includes Paschal High School, South Hills Elementary and Rosemont Middle.

Early voting is April 24-May 2.

The Star-Telegram sent questionnaires to each of the candidates in the contest races. Here are their responses.

District 4

T.A. Sims (i)

Occupation: Retired pharmacist and investor

City of residence: Fort Worth

Campaign phone number and/or email address: 817-688-4866, TASimsCampaign@gmail.com

Campaign website: N/A

Briefly list your current and past civic involvement: I am the Trustee for the diverse communities within SE Fort Worth’s District 4.

Offices you have sought and/or held before: Incumbent in Dist. 4 FWISD

In 100 words or less, what are the three most critical problems facing the public office you are seeking and the solutions you propose to address them?

Fort Worth ISD must improve academic performance. This must be done by supporting Superintendent Scribner’s team and providing our teachers with the resources and support necessary to succeed.

Our School District must repair and renovate its aging facilities. A complete review of facilities to prioritize repairs and renovations is required. Decisions must be based upon need and insulated from other considerations.

The FWISD must continue to transform to address our rapid demographic changes. Culturally-competent leadership must be in place at schools across the FWISD.

What is your top priority if elected to office?

I intend to oversee the successful completion of our ambitious IM Terrell project. This will be an asset for District 4 that will last for many years to come. Educational performance is another significant aim of my next term. Getting our third-graders to read at level is critical. Expanding our STEM-related offerings with Gold Seal Programs of Choice on District 4 campuses will keep our children engaged. Ensuring that ALL of our students are college and career ready is our ultimate goal.

Why are you the best-qualified candidate for this office?

I bring to the table stable, responsible and steady experience for the FWISD. In this time of change at our district, it is important to retain access to our institutional knowledge in the FWISD board room. Significant projects remain under progress and it is not the time to experiment with an inexperienced hand when so much remains at stake.

Johnny Cook-Muhammad

Age: 51

Occupation: Fatherhood Program Manager/Youth Advocate/Pastor

City of residence: Fort Worth

Campaign phone number and/or email address: 817-655-5622, bro.johnny3@gmail.com

Campaign website: N/A

Education background, including all degrees: Graduate — Amon Carter Riverside High School/attended TCJC South Campus

Briefly list your current and past civic involvement: VP of United Riverside Association; PTA President — Versia Williams Elementary School; President — Men of UMOJA; Site Based Management — Various FWISD Schools; Ministers Against Crime; MLCC Board Member; Sisters With Pride Board Member; Unity in Community and Faith and Community Leadership Member; Brothers With Pride — Founder

Offices you have sought and/or held before: None

In 100 words or less, what are the three most critical problems facing the public office you are seeking and the solutions you propose to address them?

The three most critical challenges we are facing in the school district are educational gaps, parental involvement, and community participation. Resolving these challenges requires bringing all stakeholders together and proposing and passing policies that offer a high quality educational experience for all students in the district.

What is your top priority if elected to office?

The top priority is staying focused on student success and building trust so that every stakeholder will be a part of the vision and mission of the FWISD. For this reason, I will be visible and available within my district and citywide to help students achieve their dreams and goals.

Why are you the best-qualified candidate for this office?

Sometimes you have to be the change you want to see. The community has groomed me from being a student of the FWISD to working in schools within the district as an advocate to motivate disadvantaged students to complete their education. I’ve worked within the district as a cafeteria worker and custodian where I was able to touch the lives of our children. Because of my background and experience, I am the best candidate to reach families and provide leadership that is focused on STUDENTS.

District 7

Norman Robbins (i)

Age: 69

Occupation: Realtor, Williams Trew Real Estate

City of residence: Fort Worth

Campaign phone number and/or email address: 817-480-9555

Campaign website: RobbinsforSchools.com

Education background, including all degrees: Bachelor of Science and Master of Science Degrees in Business Administration

Briefly list your current and past civic involvement: I have been involved in the civic improvement of Fort Worth for over 40 years first at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and more recently at Lockheed Martin. During that time, it has been my privilege to serve on a wide variety of civic boards/committees including the Fort Worth ISD Board of Trustees (President), Communities in Schools (President), Big Brothers Big Sisters (President), Camp Fire’s Corporate Champions for Children (President), Tarrant Literacy Coalition, Tarrant County Workforce Development Board and TCU School of Education Advisory Committee.

Offices you have sought and/or held before: I was first elected to the Fort Worth ISD Board of Trustees District 7 in 2004.

In 100 words or less, what are the three most critical problems facing the public office you are seeking and the solutions you propose to address them?

First and foremost, we must put our children’s safety first. I believe we are doing that, but we must always strive to improve.

Second, we must continue to transform our FWISD culture into one of high expectations for all students. By empowering our teachers and directing our resources toward classroom learning, we will ensure high achievement.

Our tax-payers, who fund our schools, pay some of the highest taxes in DFW. With that in mind, we must ensure resources are never wasted. We owe our taxpayers the best return on their investment: a great education for their kids.

What is your top priority if elected to office?

As a former VP of the Chamber of Commerce, I recognized early on that good local schools were vital to achieving stronger economic development, better neighborhoods, and brighter futures for our children. I encouraged local businesses to adopt our schools and provide meaningful assistance. As head of community relations at Lockheed Martin, I directed millions toward improving our schools. Since I’ve been a trustee, I’m proud that our district schools are among the best performing in Fort Worth. My top priority is continuing to support our teachers and students every way I can, while being a strong taxpayer advocate.

Why are you the best-qualified candidate for this office?

For 40 years, I have been relentlessly driven by the pursuit for effective education policy. I’ve learned well what works and what doesn’t. And I have an undying passion for ensuring our community has the high-performing schools our kids need and our parents have paid for.

My strong business background informs my fiscally conservative approach to budgeting. I cut waste to protect the dollars our families entrusted to us and to give our students the best resources for learning. While I’m proud 90 percent of our district’s schools are among the highest performing in FWISD, I know we can do more.

Michael Ryan

Age: 65

Occupation: Blue & Gold Admissions Officer, United States Naval Academy, Retired educator with 36 years of service

City of residence: Fort Worth

Campaign phone number and/or email address: 361-550-2220, Dr.MichaelRyanforSchoolBoard@gmail.com

Campaign website: None yet

Education background, including all degrees: Attended Bluebonnet Elementary, McLean Jr. High and Paschal High Schools in FWISD, Bachelor of Music Education, TCU 1974, Bachelor of Science, TCU 1980, Masters in Education Administration, E.T.S.U 1982, Doctorate in Education (Curriculum & Instruction, Instructional Technology) Texas A&M, Commerce 1995. State Board Certified in All Level Music, General Elementary, All Level Special Education, Mid-Management Administration, Superintendent.

13 years experience as a classroom teacher directing Band, Choir, Elementary Music, World Geography and Astronomy

13 years experience as a high school assistant principal and principal

10 years experience as a central office administrator leading the fine arts programs in San Antonio and Fort Worth ISD along with Fine Arts and PE in Irving ISD.

Briefly list your current and past civic involvement:

▪ Past President Elect — Killeen Evening Rotary Club

▪ Rotary International — Paul Harris Fellow

▪ Past Advisory Board Member — Ballet Concerto

▪ Past Board Member —– Imagination Celebration

▪ Past Member — Kennedy Center of the Arts, Arts in Education Texas Team

▪ Past Board Member — Fort Worth After School Program

▪ Past Boy Scout district committee member, assistant scoutmaster and Woodbadge Scouter

▪ Fort Worth Rodeo and Stock Show — Guns and Roses Committee Member

▪ Serve in the Welcome Center and on the membership team at HighRidge Church

▪ Auxiliary Member — United States Naval Academy Alumni Association

▪ TCU College of Education — Graduate Advisory Council Vice President

Offices you have sought and/or held before: None

In 100 words or less, what are the three most critical problems facing the public office you are seeking and the solutions you propose to address them?

1. Discipline and lack thereof in the schools — The number one issue that teachers have brought to me is the lack of an enforced discipline policy at all grade levels. The board sets the discipline policy with input from district employees. If we set a policy then it is incumbent on the board to hold leadership possible for the enforcement of that policy.

2. A lack of communication between all stakeholders in the FWISD Community: Open lines of communication that includes all district stakeholders so every student can succeed and that every student, teacher, staff member, parent and community member is treated with dignity and respect.

3. Stable funding to provide critical resources and quality pay: I will work with the legislature to end “Robin Hood” and have the state implement a lasting equitable financial solution to quality school funding.

What is your top priority if elected to office?

The district suffers from a lack of planning and executing long-term solutions to critical issues. Too many times there is only focus on short-term goals to address the most current crisis. I will work to have the district work with our citizens to develop long-term (10-20 year) solutions to the problems that face our schools.

Why are you the best-qualified candidate for this office?

I have 36 years of experience working in education at every level from elementary teacher to high school principal to central office staff to university professor teaching doctoral cohorts. This is in addition to working in the business sector for many years. This experience allows me to quickly and accurately grasp the concerns, needs and opportunities that the district faces every day.

District 8

Jason Brown

Age: 40

Occupation: Financial Executive

City of residence: Fort Worth

Campaign phone number and/or email address: 817-239-9109, jasonbrowncampaign@gmail.com

Campaign website: brownforfwisd.com

Education background, including all degrees: MS/BS Information Systems & Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University

Briefly list your current and past civic involvement: Berkeley Place Association — President, Fort Worth Employees’ Retirement Fund — Trustee, FWISD 2013 Bond Citizens Oversight Committee — Member, Fort Worth South, Inc. Development Committee — Past Chair, Lily B Clayton PTA — Dad’s Club, Rotary Club — Member, SteerFW — Past Education Task Force Vice-Chair

Offices you have sought and/or held before: None

In 100 words or less, what are the three most critical problems facing the public office you are seeking and the solutions you propose to address them?

Historically dysfunctional Board. Political infighting among board members has weakened previous superintendents. Our children deserve experienced, professional leadership focused on education.

Student achievement. I support the efforts of Dr. Scribner to reallocate resources from the central office to the campus level. Eliminating duplicative and ineffective programs will free up resources that can be deployed to struggling campuses.

Bureaucratically stifled innovation. Dr. Scribner is changing a legacy of top down dictates, reactive policy, and lack of long range planning. He will require a strong board member in District 8 to help him take on entrenched interests that will fight to preserve the status quo.

What is your top priority if elected to office?

Closing the achievement gap between our students and between our schools, ensuring that every student succeeds in FWISD. We are starting with the neediest schools, but our work cannot stop there. This is a district wide transformation and I am prepared to help lead the effort.

Why are you the best-qualified candidate for this office?

The district is in the midst of a major transition led by Dr. Scribner that will require steady leadership from the Board. With Mayor Price and the City Council’s renewed focus, the FW Chamber’s involvement, and the increased attention from the non-profit community, the district is poised for success. District 8 needs a representative with a deep understanding of the issues facing FWISD, experience with the district, and a track record of civic involvement. I believe my experience at the board, school, and neighborhood level have prepared me for this role.

Anael Luebanos

Age: 32

Occupation: Accountant, Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth

City of residence: Fort Worth

Campaign phone number and/or email address: 682-597-6261, AnaelLuebanos@gmail.com

Campaign website: www.AnaelLuebanos.com

Education background, including all degrees: Graduate, Paschal High School, Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Texas Wesleyan University, Master’s in Business Administration, Texas Wesleyan University

Briefly list your current and past civic involvement:

I use my leadership skills and financial expertise to serve our community. I have been honored to share my “up from the bootstraps” life story with civic groups, neighborhood associations, and the PTA of my alma mater, Paschal High School.

I’ve had the privilege of serving as President of one of the largest nonprofits in Fort Worth, and have raised a lot of scholarship money for FWISD students as an officer in two other nonprofits. I was also appointed to the FWISD Audit Advisory Committee, and currently serve on an Advisory Board for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

Offices you have sought and/or held before:

While I have never run for office before, I have served as a volunteer and officer in many local civic, educational and charitable organizations.

In 100 words or less, what are the three most critical problems facing the public office you are seeking and the solutions you propose to address them?

The biggest problem in FWISD District 8 is lagging academic achievement and college/career readiness.

We must address our student discipline problems so classroom distractions are minimized and our students can get back to learning. Too many institutional incentives exist to minimize and ignore discipline problems in the classroom. Schools must be quiet and well-behaved centers of learning.

We also must address lagging academic achievement by sparking parental engagement in our campuses. 60 percent of District 8 elementary students are English Language Learners (ELL’s). We need a trustee who can communicate successfully with all parents to build highly-engaged PTA’s on every campus.

What is your top priority if elected to office?

I will utilize my business and accounting expertise to scrutinize the budget and maximize efficiencies for taxpayers. Proper oversight is needed to ensure every dollar is invested in classrooms and not into duplicative administration. Superintendent Scribner has started off well in this regard, but we can do more.

I will focus on student safety and discipline to protect the educational environment at each school. I’m proudly endorsed by FW Teachers-UEA.

Finally, we must spark parental engagement in our classrooms. Many schools lack PTA’s and parents are not active on campus. I have a comprehensive plan to address this problem.

Why are you the best-qualified candidate for this office?

My business acumen, accounting expertise, and strong community relationships would benefit FWISD.

I’m uniquely qualified to accomplish our most important need: renewed parental engagement. It takes strong, consistent communication between parents, teachers, and students to truly improve performance. I can facilitate cultural differences to remove barriers to this engagement.

Above all, I am driven to deliver the high performing schools we need. My wife, a TCU Alum, teaches at McLean Middle School so I take to heart teachers’ concerns. I am committed to removing roadblocks for our teachers and giving them the tools they need to educate our kids.

District 9

Ashley Paz (i)

Age: 34

Occupation: Marketing Consultant

City of residence: Fort Worth

Campaign phone number and/or email address: 817-965-1253, ashleygpaz@gmail.com

Campaign website: www.ashleypaz.com

Education background, including all degrees: I just finished the Executive MBA program from TCU. Graduation date is on May 13.

Briefly list your current and past civic involvement: One term on the FWISD Board of Education

FWISD Committees:

Board Policy Review Committee Chair, Co-Chair My Brother’s Keeper Task Force (past), Board Representative to Council of the Great City Schools Board of Directors (current), Racial Equity Committee Member (current), Audit Committee (current), Oil and Gas Committee (past)

City of Fort Worth Liaison to The White House My Brother’s Keeper Task Force

Council of the Great City Schools Executive Committee Member (20 months), Board Member (3 years), and Co-Chair of the Task Force for the 21st Century English Language Learners (6 months)

Southside TIF Board Member

Fort Worth South Board Member

Historic Southside Board Member

DeZavala ES (1 year, 2013), MH Moore ES (1 year, 2014), and Daggett Montessori PTA Member (3 years, 2014-present)

Past Director of Membership and Home Tour Director for Fairmount Historic District Neighborhood Association

Offices you have sought and/or held before:

Precinct Chair 2012-2013 (elected)

Current Board Trustee seat

In 100 words or less, what are the three most critical problems facing the public office you are seeking and the solutions you propose to address them?

Strategic Leadership

Micromanagement

Instability

The FWISD is on an upward trajectory, but we still have much work to do. Until FWISD becomes a data informed results focused organization, nothing will change. That change starts at the top with the board. We have a capable and competent superintendent to develop a long term strategy for FWISD. We must provide stability, stay in our lane, and remain focused on holding him accountable for student achievement outcomes.

What is your top priority if elected to office?

Improving student achievement by focusing on students and teachers at the classroom level. We are a district with some great schools and some schools that need help. I want Fort Worth to become a district made up entirely of great schools. It shouldn’t matter what neighborhood you happen to live in, you should be confident that whichever school your child attends they will receive a top quality education. Until we reach that level, our job is not complete and we must try harder.

Why are you the best-qualified candidate for this office?

I have invested the past four years in learning the details of every aspect of this office. I have proven my leadership at the local, state, and national levels of education policy and governance. I am personally invested in this position as a consumer with two kids in public schools. I have also personally invested in my own education and leadership development and business expertise having recently finished the TCU Executive MBA program that focuses specifically on strategic organizational leadership. Additionally, I have real life professional experience managing people and making business decisions that impact the lives of my employees.

Pilar Candia

Age: 32

Occupation: District Director, Fort Worth City Council District 2

City of residence: Fort Worth

Campaign phone number and/or email address: 682-239-1366 and Pilar@CandiaJuarez.com

Campaign website: pilarforourschools.com

Education background, including all degrees: Bachelor’s Degree from Monterrey Tech in International Relations and Political Science, Maastricht Center of Transatlantic Studies in the Netherlands and Fudan University in Shanghai, China

Briefly list your current and past civic involvement:

District Director for the Fort Worth City Council — District 2

Springdale Elementary School PTA — Co-Founder and Member

Carter Riverside Neighborhood Association — Past President

FWISD Parents Advisory Committee Appointed by Superintendent Scribner

Advisory Board — World Languages Institute in FWISD

North Texas Young Latino Leaders — Board of Directors

Board Member — S.A.V.E.S

Mentor — Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA) in FWISD

TCU Vicente Fox Presidential Dinner Series Steering Committee

Speaker at over 50 Career Day events in our schools

Fort Worth City Council District 2 Student Internship Program Creator

Recipient, AARP Community Champion Award

Endorsed by Greater Fort Worth Association of REALTORS

Offices you have sought and/or held before:

District Director for the Fort Worth City Council — District 2

Candidate — Tarrant County Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1

In 100 words or less, what are the three most critical problems facing the public office you are seeking and the solutions you propose to address them?

Improve Academic Performance for All Students

Four of the twenty-two FWISD schools which fail to meet state standards are here in District 9 — up 300 percent under my opponent. Only 30 percent of third-graders read at grade level. The Superintendent’s plan to assist struggling schools should be available districtwide to our schools.

Support Our Neighborhood Schools with More Community Resources

Let’s have more engagement from neighborhood/community groups, nonprofits, and individuals. We must have PTAs at every school.

Safeguard Taxpayer Dollars. Spend them in the Classroom.

Cut back on excessive administration. Base spending upon critical needs assessments.

What is your top priority if elected to office?

Improving academic performance in ALL schools for ALL children is the top priority. There are too many schools not meeting basic state standards and the goal should be exceeding them! Our schools should be exemplary. I favor more Gold Seal Programs and Schools of Choice. We need more dual credit classes where our kids can earn both high school & college credit. STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics courses should be available to any student. Lately, due to inattentiveness, our schools are not getting the best principals, teachers, and school staff for our children.

Why are you the best qualified candidate for this office?

After years of service as a community volunteer and servant leader, I decided to run for School Board to offer voters a new choice. My years of learning around the world (studying in five languages), and my experience in Fort Worth, provide me a unique perspective to policy problem solving. I want our children to receive an education that allows them to compete not just locally, but globally. My community service work in churches, non-profits, and at Fort Worth City Hall, have allowed me to build bridges of cooperation and partnerships that will benefit our students.

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