The Killeen Independent School District school board will have at least one new face, and maybe two, after the votes are tallied in Saturday’s school board election.
In advance of Saturday’s election, the four school board candidates are wrapping up their final campaign push for votes.
Candidates Riakos “Rock” Adams and Cullen Mills are facing off for the retiring school board member Minerva Trujillo’s Place 6 seat. Incumbent board president JoAnn Purser is defending the Place 7 seat against challenger Lan Carter.
In talking with the Herald Thursday, three-term incumbent JoAnn Purser said she is getting ready to revamp some of her campaign signage in the last 24 hours of the campaign.
“My intent is Friday evening I’m going to be replacing and removing all my signage to remind people what office I’m running for,” Purser said Thursday. “I just want them to know this is the place or seat I’m seeking, I’m not running for city council, and I’m running for Place 7.”
Purser said she wants voters to know she’s not part of a “collective group.”
“I’m an independent person,” she said. “I have a strong voice. I advocate for lots of different facets of the district — athletics, for the students, the educators. I think it’s been very evident in my platform. I’m not afraid of issues. I may not support an issue, but I will embrace it.”
The incumbent said she stands by long board voting history.
“As a board member, I stand by my voting record,” she said. “I supported the JumboTron scoreboard, because I believe in those kinds of things. We just have so many different facets, and it’s not just an education piece. I know education is important, but our children are also competing nationally and regionally and I need to make sure our kids can compete.”
The board president said she’s concerned “there will be a sweep” come election day, but said she looks forward to watching the results roll in Saturday evening with her grandchildren.
Purser’s challenger Lan Carter said her campaign efforts were hampered by her battle with COVID in recent weeks.
“When I tested positive for COVID, I was unable to attend an online forum due to not feeling well,” Carter said. “I believe I would have had more of a presence had I not contracted COVID.”
Carter, a former school board candidate, said she would normally be waving at voters heading to the polls on Election Day, but said she will be staying home to tend to her daughter who recently also tested positive for COVID.
“I can’t responsibly talk to voters until she tests negative,” she said. “So, right now, I’m relying on social media and my supporters to get my candidacy noticed.”
Looking towards the big day, Carter said she feels confident her platform resonates the most with voters.
“People are still concerned about the disproportionate percentage of black and brown students sent to alternative school compared to their white counterparts; special education; virtual learning; and the lack of curriculum,” she said.
Although rain is in the forecast for the Killeen area Friday and Saturday, Place 6 candidate Riakos Adams told the Herald he plans to make the most of the last 24 hours before Election Day by block walking and phone banking.
“We saw many people take advantage of early voting, and now leading up to Election Day, we want to eagerly remind people to pack the polls,” Adams said. “I have been and will continue to block walk, make phone calls, and continue to tell others to spread the word about the importance of local elections for the city and school board.”
Adams said his campaign response has been largely “positive and supportive.”
“We thank every person who has been a part of the vision for change in the district and want to ensure they use their voice through their vote,” he said.
In talking with voters, Adams said a number of reoccurring topics of concern would come up including: academic achievement gaps, inconsistencies across the district, senior employee pay, teacher pay, hourly-employee rights, plans for in-person and virtual learning next year, school discipline, special education, and single-member districts.
The Place 6 board candidate said the pandemic “challenged us to be more creative in how we get out the vote.”
“We have had to be considerate of those who are either prone to be sick, have underlying conditions, or had concerns with having contact,” Adams said.
“We still had socially distanced conversations with people while block walking, but we did more virtual discussions than in-person.”
Adams said Saturday night “hopefully I go home as the winner.”
Adams’ opponent Cullen Mills, owner of Modern Appliances, said his campaign has received “a great response.”
“So many people I’ve talked to seem excited about someone on the board who is from here, is a parent and husband of those in the district, and has experience in the community,” Mills said.
The issues voters seemed most concerned about were “taking care of teachers and providing the best education possible for our students,” he said.
Mills told the Herald he is “proud to have been able to meet so many (voters) over the last few months.”
“We’ve tried to reach out to as many voters as possible, whether that was through block walking, text banking, or through pushing out our message on social media,” he said.
Mills said he is “proud of what we’ve been able to do.”