The four candidates vying for two seats on the Round Rock ISD board of trustees discussed the board's role in school testing and college/career readiness as well as the financial outlook of the district among other issues at a Sept. 25 forum.
Place 2 incumbent Charles "Chad" Chadwell, who also serves as the current board president, said in his four years of board experience he has learned a lot about how to manage the district and the board of trustees. He said the district is running well right now, and new residents are recognizing its success.
“There are a lot of people who the first thing they look at when they're moving is what are the schools like. They are very pleased with the direction of the district, the schools,” he said.
Voters will elect two trustees in the Nov. 6 general election. Board members serve four-year terms.
The forum, hosted jointly by the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Round Rock West Neighborhood Association, focused on issues existing board members have been dealing with, including using money from the district's fund balance to finance capital projects such as $25 million to build the district's alternative high school, Success High School.
Chadwell and Place 7 candidate Eric Pav said they would continue supporting the board in using surplus fund balances for capital projects.
“You guys are electing us, entrusting us and giving us the confidence to make those decisions,” Pav said. “This is not something specific to Round Rock. This is statewide, so it is well within the right to use those balances.”
However, Place 7 candidate Pauline Law and Place 2 candidate Tere McCann disagreed with this view. Law said the district should focus on putting the students first before investing in buildings, and McCann said it is important to make sure the board chooses options that are based on what the community values.
“To spend $25 million out of the general fund instead of financing that through a bond package, I find not consistent with the community values,” McCann said.
Candidates also discussed what role the board should have in ensuring students are prepared for college or a career when they graduate.
“As a community, it's our responsibility to provide our children with a solid educational foundation, whether they choose vocational or they choose to be a doctor,” Law said. “In my opinion, we need to throw every resource we have as a district at our children to give them every possibility so they are successful in life.”
Pav said every student deserves an environment to meet his or her potential and that the district is privileged to offer academies, which are smaller learning environments that offer career-related courses in high school. He also supports Success High School in providing another avenue for students to succeed.
On the issue of whether districts are testing students too much and the use of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test for 15 percent of a student's final course grade, candidates were mostly on the same page.
“There is far too much emphasis on the test and test results. It should be used as a measuring tool. You should never teach to the test,” Law said.
Pav said too much testing is restrictive to both students and teachers but that there is a place for it for benchmarking.
“We really need to start working with our legislative group to make sure that the requirements that are coming down from [the Texas Education Agency] are fair and equitable across the board,” he said. “I'm not a big fan of the 15 percent rule.”
In closing statements, McCann said he believes Round Rock represents conservative values, and he is concerned that the district is going in a direction that could prove to be fiscally challenging.
“If you don't have the confidence of the taxpayer, I think that's very challenging. I'm here to sharpen the pencils and make sure the data comes across accurately and effectively,” he said.
Chadwell said there is great collaboration between the school district and community, and the schools, colleges and health care will continue to attract residents to the district.
“So much of what the district does is unique,” he said. “It sets its own model, it sets standards that other districts follow. I'm very proud of what Round Rock ISD has done, and I look forward to more years of great growth.”
The Round Rock Council of PTAs is hosting two upcoming forums and inviting the community to hear the candidates speak on several issues. The first forum is Oct. 1 from 7–9 p.m. at Westwood High School, and the second is Oct. 17 from 7–9 p.m. at Stony Point High School. Forums will be in the schools' cafeterias.