Six candidates to face-off for three LISD school board positions

Incumbent Pam Waggoner is competing to keep her seat on the Leander ISD board.

Incumbent Pam Waggoner is competing to keep her seat on the Leander ISD board.

 Chris Remy is challenging Waggoner for her place on the school board.

Chris Remy is challenging Waggoner for her place on the school board.

Place 3 candidates featured in Q&A

News Editor

Three Leander ISD Board of Trustees’ spots are being challenged and Nov. 8, residents will elect representatives for Places 3, 4 and 5.

Place 3 is a showdown between incumbent Pam Waggoner and Chris Remy — both of Four Points.

Place 4 is between incumbent Grace Barber-Jordan and challenger Scott Rowe. Place 5 will be a battle between incumbent Russell Bundy and James “Jim” MacKay.

The Hill Country News asked the following questions to each school board candidate. This week, the Place 3 candidates are featured. Next week, the Place 4 candidate’s answers will be included and the Place 5 responses will appear in the Oct. 19 edition. Each response is in the candidate’s own words.

Place 3 candidates —
Pam Waggoner, incumbent

1. Explain how your background and experience make you a good candidate for school board.

My experience and background is exactly what makes me a good candidate for Leander ISD school board trustee. Before I ran for school board, I volunteered in my local school. I was PTA president at Steiner Ranch Elementary for 2 years and took it upon myself to attend every school board meeting and report back to my school population the news in the district. Even after winning my election as LISD Board of Trustee, I continued with volunteering in my schools and held an office in the PTA at Laura Welch Bush and was elected Athletic Booster Club President at Canyon Ridge Middle School.

As a Trustee with LISD, I organized the district’s first “Coffee with Board,” and became a voice for many parents who never were involved before at the district level. One of my earliest goals was to give parents a voice with executive administration. I became an advocate for public education at the State level speaking at the legislature on a regular bases for Leander ISD students as well as Texas. I am a Master Trustee as designated by TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) and I pushed for Leander ISD to establish a Leadership class which has been very successful. I also founded and served as President for two years the Vandegrift High School Football Booster Club,

I have lived in my community for 18 years and currently, I am VP of Leander ISD Board of Trustees: I have not served consecutively but 2 terms each time. I serve on the LEEF Board (Leander Excellence in Education): I serve on the West Austin Chamber of Commerce: and I founded Four Points Traffic Committee dedicated to securing a second entrance into FPMS and VHS. My past board affiliations include Four Points Pop Warner. I served as Director of Communications.

2. Do you/did you have students in the district? How many, ages and schools they attend(ed).
I am fortunate all 3 of my children went through Leander ISD K-12. They attended Steiner Ranch Elementary, Laura Bush Elementary, Canyon Ridge Middle School, Cedar Park High School, and Vandegrift High School.

3. What are the three biggest challenges facing the district today and in the near future? How would you like to see those challenges addressed?

The number one issue in Leander ISD has always been growth. WE LOVE GROWTH, but it does come with its challenges. Eighty thousand new students enroll in Texas public schools each year, but every 4 out of 5 new students reside in just 75 school districts. These districts are called Destination districts and Leander ISD is one of these distinguished districts.

With additional enrollment due to growth, several issues have to be considered – debt, new campuses, and managing the tax rate. Since 2007, Leander ISD has not had a bond election. With voter approval, we have managed the 2007 bond prudently and efficiently to serve our students. One of the problems with having 200 square miles is growth is not even across the district. We have some areas that are considered built-out and not expecting a large number of new students, but we have other areas that willreceive the lion’s share of the next 34,000 students. The high growth areas will experience more movement in the way of boundary changes, over-crowded schools and will need relief in the coming years.

Other areas will remain stable with manageable growth. What is important to remember is that we are ONE Leander ISD. We want adequate resources across the entire district and for all students to receive the same education at all locations inside LISD.

Budget and Debt
Budget and Debt conversations take place year-round. This is one of the most important roles a trustee is responsible for. The Leander ISD budget is healthy and we have placed ourselves in a good position for incoming new students.

A misconception the public has about property taxes and school finance is the belief each district keeps the taxes it collects and the taxes go back to the schools. School Districts are paid per enrollment, not by how much property taxes we collect.

The budget is based on two separate funds – Maintenance and Operations and Interest and Sinking. M&O pays for teachers, staff, administration, all programs, most of technology, and frankly, everything else we can fit into it. About 85% of it is people cost. The budget only allows 15% to be used for new programs or additions such as UIL academics, sports, clubs, etc… This budget will support an additional 1,084 students moving into the district.
The Interest and Sinking side of the budget pays our bond obligation. Bonds are used to build our schools and a few other major purchases. There are 2 kinds of bonds LISD has used to finance construction.

We are committed to a bond portfolio of 75% Current Interest Bonds within the next 10 years. This will be done by refunding Capital Appreciation Bonds into CIBs, which we have already begun doing, and over levying our I@S tax rate to pay down debt faster. We have hired an outstanding financial advisor, and our CFO and the Board work closely together making sure we are doing what our taxpayers have asked us to do.
Re-evaluate Curriculum needs/High Stake testing
With the perfect storm a few years ago introducing new TEKS, a new State test (STAAR), and a new math curriculum in the district, many problems came to the surface. I am committed to a curriculum audit (including gifted and talented curriculum) being done in LISD. The G/T audit is complete but results are not back and the curriculum audit will begin this fall. We must make sure we are offering a viable, engaging curriculum appropriate for the student’s age and capabilities. I believe we must go through this to highlight our deficiencies in order to improve. Our scores are above State averages and we have much to be proud of, but we cannot rest on past success. Education models are changing, how students learn has/is changing including the use of technology in the classrooms and we must stay current. Issues such as digital security, vendors capturing student information, virtual classrooms, and a host of other topics never dealt with in public education are part of the daily conversation now and we must be on the forefront of all of them.

4. What is your day job or what do you do in real life?
We recently sold our business and the transaction will be completed in 2017. I plan on pursuing a career advocating for public education.
5. Why should someone consider voting for you over anyone else?
I have always been community service oriented. This can be seen in the Boards I participate on and my work as a Leander ISD Board of Trustee. It is a passion and a vocation. I gravitate towards organizations not only good for kids, but for the entire community. With over 5 million Texas children depending on us, it is our responsibility to advocate for them and be theirvoice. I have always said and still believe public education is our last great hope to educate society and eradicate poverty.

I have a history in the district of doing the hard work when needed and not shying away from uncomfortable conversations and fighting for change. Now, more than ever, experience matters. We have a new superintendent that the current 7 board members hired, we have many new executive administration in key positions, and new principals and staff across the district. The district needs stability to absorb these changes and allow time for the superintendent to learn the district, develop trust with his staff, and implement his vision. He needs an experienced Board around him that can speak to the culture, the history, and the needs of the district.

I also work in my own community for a better quality of life – and that means finding solutions for traffic issues. As stated, I am the Founder of Four Points Traffic Committee and our sole mission is to build the road behind VHS and FPMS. It is a process and we knew it was a 5 year plan. We are currently awaiting Fish and Wildlife to open public comments. At that time, I will organize the community to speak on the need for a second entrance and exit into our schools. Serving on the LISD Board has allowed me the opportunity to organize the community and lead this fight and I must remain a trustee to continue the effort.

Chris Remy, challenger
1. Explain how your background and experience make you a good candidate for school board.
First, my personal background as the father of three children in the district means that I am close to what is happening in the classrooms and hallways of our schools. There is no substitute for seeing firsthand the consequences of district policy and hearing about it around the kitchen table. Second, in my professional life, I have 20 years experience in working with organizations of all sizes to quickly analyze their financial results, identify poor business processes and breakdowns in communication and propose a better way. Third, over the past few years I have gone from being a concerned parent to an education activist — organizing parents, working with the Legislature and State Board of Education Members on issues like over-testing, academic standards and local control.

2. Do you/did you have students in the district? How many, ages and schools they attend(ed).

I have three children in LISD schools: a 2nd grader and a 4th grader in Bush Elementary and a 6th grader in Canyon Ridge Middle School.

3. What are the three biggest challenges facing the district today and in the near future? How would you like to see those challenges addressed?

The three biggest challenges facing Leander ISD are the state of the Board’s relationships with the larger community, the need for better Board oversight and governance and the constant threat of politicians and bureaucrats who want to take away our local control. I am committed to:

-Better Community Relationships – Your school board should bring a service-oriented attitude to the community.

-Good Governance – Your school board should be committed to accountability, oversight, and making responsible financial decisions. We need to be sure that we can continue todeliver quality education for a long time to come.

-Leading the Fight For Local Control – Politicians and bureaucrats aren’t the ones best-suited to make decisions about how we educate our children – we are. Your school board should be leading the fight to take control back.

4. What is your day job or what do you do in real life?
I work in sales strategy for a large software company, designing and managing programs thathelp our sales force bring our products to market.

5. Why should someone consider voting for you over anyone else?
As the father of three children in the district, I have a vested interest in the success of our schools. With my youngest in the Class of 2027, I am focused on LISD’s ability to offer exceptional educational experiences now and in the future. I believe people want a school board member that won’t ask the community to accept any policy that they aren’t willing to accept for their ownchildren. My experience with education issues such as STAAR, academic standards and local control — both in the district and at the state level — give me the knowledge and experience with today’s important topics in education and school board governance.