Education

Three-way race for Fort Worth school board could end in a runoff. Meet the candidates

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Railroad commissioner? County Court-at-Law judge? County tax assessor-collector? When you head to the polls, know what the responsibilities are of the positions on your ballot. Here's a brief explainer on some of the key elected positions in Texas
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Railroad commissioner? County Court-at-Law judge? County tax assessor-collector? When you head to the polls, know what the responsibilities are of the positions on your ballot. Here's a brief explainer on some of the key elected positions in Texas

School safety, government accountability and trustee civility are among issues emerging in the campaigns of three candidates in the race to fill District 6 on the Fort Worth school board.

The candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the total votes wins. However, if none of the candidates reach that mark, the top two candidates head to a runoff election on June 8.

The three-way contest includes Anne Darr, an educator consultant who has taught deaf students in Aledo and Birdville schools; Lisa Saucedo, an analyst with Texas Health Resources who as served as president of the Council of PTAs and Sandra Shelton, a consultant and educator who has taught English, journalism, speech and theater.

The Fort Worth school district has an enrollment of more than 82,000 students. The board has nine unpaid members who serve four-year terms.

The candidates want to represent a diverse portion of the school district that moves from the TCU area in the north along Simondale Drive to to Bellaire Drive where it bypasses Tanglewood Elementary. It is bounded loosely by Hulen to the west and moves south to the border of the Crowley school district near Columbus Trail.

The district, which includes South Hills and Southwest high schools, has been represented by trustee Ann Sutherland since 2010. Sutherland, who is not seeking re-election, has described herself as a watchdog against spending waste who keeps an eye on budgets.

“I came in saying that test scores and budgets are the number one issues and now, as I leave, the test scores are not back up and the local budget is worse than ever,” Sutherland said.

The first day of early voting is April 22. Here is a look at the candidates:

Anne Darr

Darr said she is a lifelong educator who wants to bring her professional perspective to the board. The 51-year-old said her campaign began with a simple question: “Why aren’t there more educators on school boards?”

Darr, who works as an educational consultant for the Region 11 Education Service Center, said her experience will help address tough questions about student outcomes and the academic programs teachers are expected to practice in Fort Worth classrooms.

She said she also is focused on making sure educators are freed from teaching to the STAAR, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests. She wants to make sure the district is recruiting and retaining strong teachers. She said she wants to make sure someone on the board is listening to them.

“It’s not just about pay,” Darr said. “It’s feeling heard. It’s about being part of the conversation.”

School safety is also an issue among families raising children in an era in which campus lock downs can dominate social media posts and stoke fears, she said. This has been an issue at McLean Middle School, which is in District 6.

Lisa Saucedo

Saucedo, 39, is said she wants to instill civility on the school board. She said board members are not working together to focus on students.

“I am focusing on trying to get the board back to doing what our board is supposed to do — letting our superintendent that we hired do what he needs to do,” Saucedo said. “This political infighting, this personal gain — it needs to stop.”

The school board has received criticism on the heals of several controversies, including one over an ethics policy and the recent censure of Trustee Ashley Paz.

Saucedo said she believes school board members should be focused on responsibilities outlined for trustees; including focus on policy, adoption of the budget and hiring of the superintendent.

Saucedo said she will be an independent elected official who promises to thoroughly review all vendors, contracts and bids. She said she is not taking campaign contributions from vendors. Saucedo said she is also talking to parents about the importance of families becoming more involved with their school communities.

Sandra Shelton

Shelton, 72, said if elected she would focus on the district’s efforts to get more third-grade students to read on grade level. She said 66 percent of third-graders are not reading — which can lead to discipline problems.

“I have been watching FWISD go downhill and rather than complain I decided to run,” Shelton said.

Shelton said it appears to her that the district is going astray and she wants to do something about it. She questioned whether the district is throwing away money by relying on programs that don’t allow teachers to focus on teaching. She said she the district should use phonetics to help children read.

“Phonics worked for many people,” Shelton said.

Shelton said she wants to add accountability by keeping an eye on how the district spends.

“Consultants are making a killing on us,” Shelton said, adding: “The right questions are not being asked.”

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Diane Smith, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 1997. Smith, who has covered municipal government, immigration and education, has won multiple awards for reporting, most recently as part of a Star-Telegram team recognized by the Headliners Foundation of Texas for coverage of child abuse and Fort Worth’s Las Vegas Trail area.

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