Four candidates are vying for the Place 4 seat on the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees in the May 10 election.
1. Why do you think you are the best qualified candidate for the board seat?
Lan Carter: I am a mother to school-aged children, a wife to a soldier and a former teacher. I am the only candidate who has taught in a public classroom in the last five years in Texas. I am invested in the education in Killeen as I’ve attended school at every level. I understand and experienced the unique education needs of military students and families as an “Army brat,” parent and as an educator. Educating our children is a work in progress. I’ve advocated for my students, my children, and plan to ensure all students get the best possible education.
Aya Eneli: My vision for this district, education, global experience, and accomplishments in advancing education and advocating for youth make me the best candidate for the board. I am an attorney and business owner experienced at policy writing and managing budgets. I have participated on search committees for executive positions. I am a successful grant writer and have created programs to ensure academic success at the K-12 levels, and worked on recruiting and graduating students and teachers at the post-secondary level. I am a great communicator and collaborator and have served or chaired various boards including Communities in Schools and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Vermilion County.
Brockley Moore: I am the best candidate because I am a team player, an excellent listener and have moral ethics. I have a proven track record of moral ethics across the district. Employees, children, parents and community leaders perform to their highest ability when moral ethics are the standards. The children and teachers would be my first priority every day. I will use the common-sense approach to educating children and knowledge of the entire spectrum of the community. We are several cities, but one district.
Marvin Rainwater: My experience of 43 years has given me an understanding of how schools work and what is needed to make our students successful. As a high school principal, an elementary school principal and executive director, I have seen the school district from many views. I know the issues of KISD, I know how schools should look, I know what makes our students successful. Hopefully I can draw on these experiences to contribute to our schools from the chair of trustee.
2. What do you see as the single biggest issue facing the Killeen school district?
Carter: Ordinarily I would say it’s the budget; fortunately, we aren’t in the predicament CCISD is in. I believe morale hit an all-time low after the board voted on health insurance. The staff feels that their opinions aren’t valued and are reminded monthly via their wallets. Our district is so large that staff morale differs from campus to campus depending on administrator leadership, abilities and temperament. I would like to see staff morale increased by empowering and valuing our staff. We need to eliminate some of the noneducational duties from educators so they can get back to focus of teaching.
Eneli: Raising the academic achievement levels of our students is the biggest issue facing our district. The district’s mission is: To teach so that students learn to their maximum potential. Few of us will argue that we are currently achieving that mission for the majority of our students. Our focus must be on raising the quality of education and ensuring the preparedness of our students to compete with the best and the brightest in whatever fields or careers they choose to pursue. We must and can do so within the confines of our budget, which means we must continue to fight for more federal (Impact Aid) and state funding.
Moore: Educating children in a safe environment is the priority.
Rainwater: The single biggest issue facing KISD is change. We, in our world, in our community, in our schools, in our homes are constantly changing. These changes impact our district in many ways, and each change has specific outcomes that impact our schools. Each change brings new challenges. To be successful in so many areas is a daunting task. Trustees, city councils, stakeholders of parents, business leaders, higher education must work together for the benefit of each of us.
3. If elected, what qualities will you look for in a new superintendent?
Carter: The qualities I would look for in a candidate are empathy, fairness and integrity. Basically, I’d want answers to the following questions: How effective were you in the classroom, what activities did you sponsor, and what does “lead by example” mean to you? One extremely important question is how many years have you spent as a teacher before moving into administration? How have you encouraged parental involvement in the past? I would also ask how he/she would improve staff morale and empower the staff. I would also ask what he/she thinks their former employees would say about them if called.
Eneli: A leader with a clear vision to move the district from good to great and one who has demonstrated the ability to set goals and ensure their achievement. A great fiscal manager. An instructional leader who is knowledgeable of best practices and committed to maximizing student achievement and is supportive of teachers. Great communication and managerial skills and the ability to work with a diverse population. Knowledge of issues specific to military-affiliated students. Ability to take lead boldly and make a commitment. A leader with the flexibility and collaborative skills to manage the politics of the job while not sacrificing the district’s success.
Moore: Superintendents are the leader of the pack. I would like someone who has passion, concern and the ability to work with the entire KISD community. He or she should be a visionary and thinker. Leaders most maintain moral ethics across the board to provide an effective learning environment. Children and teachers learn and develop when the leader can operate and think on their feet.
Rainwater: I think the role of school superintendent in the 26th largest district in the state requires a person who is skilled in many areas. The range of expertise is from the role of the classroom teacher, curriculum, educational law, civil law, citations of federal mandates, to the expertise of an community leader, the expertise of budget forecasting, and to the expertise of the district’s organization and staffing. Each of these skills magnify the need of our superintendent to be an excellent communicator and strong in interpersonal skills. We must have someone who is passionate about our work and our community.
4. If forced to make budget cuts, where would you prioritize spending?
Carter: My first priority in budget spending would be to focus on staff allocations. We need to ensure we set aside the appropriate funds to ensure we retain our experienced staff to educate our students. The staff allocations should include providing for longevity pay to not only show appreciation to our staff for their hard work and dedication, but also loyalty to the district. The goal is also to ensure the student to staff ratio will provide optimal learning for our students.
Eneli: Our priority should always be on ensuring that we are preparing our students for success after high school. All decisions should always be made in the best interest of the students, and that means we must protect the dollars to hire and retain the best teachers and continue to provide for student instruction and for the supportive services that allow our students to thrive while ensuring that all KISD employees make at least a livable wage and are above the poverty line.
Moore: Education has two tracks: professional and vocational tracks. I would make sure reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, music and appropriate physical fitness is in place to educate the children. Elementary and secondary education are top-fed by federal and state policies and laws. All other courses would be looked at to see how they enhance core subjects. Realignment of staff and campuses would be looked at as well. An excellent leader would keep vocational tracks while making these priorities.
Rainwater: I would try to keep the cuts away from the classroom teacher and the student. They would be my priority.
5. What changes would you make to the district’s employee insurance plan?
Carter: I believe the staff deserves the opportunity to decide which insurance plan the district opts for as they will live with the day-to-day consequences of the decision. I believe all the information should be provided so all interested parties may make informed decisions. I would also like to have the staff vote on the insurance plans and the board accepts the majority vote. However, before voting, I would suggest that staff take the opportunity to publicly speak to the board members at a board meeting to share their concerns or questions for a formal vote occurs.
Eneli: It is premature for me to comment on the employee insurance plan. I believe that the district should begin now to leverage its considerable buying power to ensure that we have more comprehensive and affordable options to consider in the future. Ideally, we want our district employees to have access to the best health care, to be able to choose where they want to receive care and to be able to afford their insurance premiums. If it is within our budget capabilities, we may need to consider increasing the district’s health insurance contribution rate for employees.
Moore: A healthy employee is an excellent worker. I would vote for an insurance that would meet the teachers’ and paraprofessionals’ needs, not wants. There will never be a perfect insurance package that fits everyone. The ideal package would have benefits and affordability. The district budget could keep deductibles down.
Rainwater: Insurance is a very personal decision. Each employee must chose coverage based on their needs and the needs of their family. Individual preferences for doctors, hospitals and clinics are important for individual decision making. Premiums, maximum out of pocket expenses, copays are some of the considerations employees must make based on their needs and their family needs. These requirements speak to me in terms of multiple competitive bids, multiple coverage scenarios, concise published information, and reputation of providers. If the district determines insurance coverage will be determined by employee vote, the district must honor that decision.