Two candidates are vying for Place 1 on the Killeen ISD Board of Trustees in the May 11 election.
Lan Carter and Shelley Hargus Wells answered five questions from the Herald about why they're running for office and what their priorities would be if elected.
1. Why are you running for office, and what makes you qualified to serve?
CARTER: I am running for office because I want to help improve the educational climate within the district for my child and yours. I also didn’t feel comfortable with the idea that the school board member who voted to eliminate longevity pay would have ran unopposed. We should strive for growth and acknowledge that there is room for improvement. I am an independent thinker which means, I will not blindly accept anything presented to me without asking questions. As an educator, I know the inner workings of the educational system. Most importantly, I know what an engaged child and teacher looks like. I’ve seen teamwork at its best as I’ve worked at an exemplary campus. On the other hand, I’ve also witnessed the school atmosphere when administrators do not value the opinions of the staff, parents, and students and this is why I wish to promote transparency and accountability.
WELLS: I am running for school board because I believe it is the place I can make the biggest difference in the lives of our children. I feel I am qualified for the following reasons: I have served on the board of trustees in Killeen ISD for the past six years; I am a former classroom teacher who taught middle school English in Killeen ISD; I am a parent who has spent hundreds of hours volunteering in our schools; I am a small-business owner and taxpayer; I am a civic leader who has spent over 30 years serving our community; I am fair, honest and principled.
2. What is the biggest challenge facing Killeen ISD, and how will you address it?
CARTER: Although staff salaries make up a large chunk of KISD expenditures, the biggest challenge facing KISD is how to alleviate the idea of reducing staff, particularly teaching and paraprofessional positions to meet the budget needs. I also fear that a pay freeze or elimination of stipends will be brought up again. I hope better options are explored rather than the Buy Out Program. I will address the issue as I would with other issues by asking questions and researching other options. I’d want to know how many administrative positions were created this year and how much money could be saved if we had less administrative positions? If we do have to cut positions, which positions would be cut and what is the rationale behind it? Educating our children should be the top priority, so ensuring we have the teachers to accomplish that is what I would keep reminding everyone.
WELLS: The biggest challenge facing Killeen ISD is funding uncertainty. I will continue to study issues and funding requests and try to leverage taxpayer dollars where they will directly impact student learning and benefit all students. I will always be fiscally conservative and support long range planning to meet the district’s future needs without raising taxes.
3. What would you make a budget priority in the coming year?
CARTER: The biggest challenge facing KISD is budget and while second challenge would be to improve the educational climate. I would address the issue by asking questions and research options. We need to look at what other districts are doing successfully to cut costs. I’d ask questions such as: “Do we need to spend X amount of dollars on a new high school, remodel a school, update software, or purchase hardware?” Just because it was allocated in the budget this year, doesn’t necessarily mean it should be spent. We need to ask, what is needed vs what is wanted? If we are outsourcing for services, how much money can we save if eliminated? Other districts have frozen pay increases of administrators to include the superintendent, reduced the number of duty days for anyone who works in excess of the required 187 days, and etc. How have we cut costs?
WELLS: Focusing on classroom learning and student success will always be my priority. The majority of Killeen ISD’s budget is expended for instruction, which is as it should be.
4. In what areas do you think the school district should improve?
CARTER: KISD needs to put the focus back on learning and not on testing. What are higher performing districts doing that we aren’t? According to KISD’s Improvement Plan, KISD falls below the state average regarding ACT, SAT, and AP scores, what can we do to change this? Why do we stop teaching content in order to teach test taking strategies before STAAR testing? KISD should improve upon the Special Education process. As it stands now, schools across the district do not operate on the same page regarding Special Education issues. The district needs to do a better job at ensuring all their staff is trained in IDEA and follow federal guidelines. The district spends too much money contracting with attorneys to represent them in ARDs, mediations, and due process hearings. The need for the attorney expenditures could and should be alleviated through better accountability and education.
WELLS: There is always room for improvement in any organization. To analyze our district, Dr. Muller and his staff have developed a “Balanced Scorecard” approach for the board. The scorecard measures some metrics based on goals Killeen ISD has set for itself. Other indicators show how well Killeen ISD is performing when compared to other districts and student populations in our state and the nation. Areas that need improvement are addressed and progress is reported periodically to the board.
5. Do you favor keeping longevity stipends for teachers? Why or why not?
CARTER: My stance on this issue remains the same, I’m for it. If you take away the stipend, we will lose many of our qualified teachers. I foresee an influx of new and inexperienced teachers being hired in place of the experienced teachers who either retire early or resign to work in other districts. I have nothing against inexperienced teachers, except for their lack of experience and classroom management. Although, inexperienced teachers are cheaper in the short term, for some, the lack of experience in the classroom will likely be problematic for students in the classroom. Learning tends to decrease when a teacher fails to be successful with classroom management. We need these experienced teachers to mentor inexperienced teachers and provide them the guidance to better assist our children in the learning process.
WELLS: I believe there will always be some form of longevity pay for teachers. Our pay scale differentiates rates of pay based on years of experience so that a teacher with more experience always receives more pay. I know that Dr. Muller and the board value our experienced, master teachers and will continue to compensate them and all of our 6500+ employees in a fair and equitable manner.