DeSoto ISD School Board Candidate Place 2 Chasiti McKissic Q&A

Chasiti McKissic headshot

Focus Daily News sent the following questions to ALL candidates running for DeSoto ISD School Board. We do not edit the answers in any way and publish them exactly as they were submitted to us.

DeSoto ISD School Board Candidate Place 2 Chasiti McKissic

Please provide a high-level overview of your past engagement/experiences, and those of your children, with regards to the school district for which you are running for school board trustee.

I began in the district as a Project-Based Learning Coordinator supporting 3rd – 5th grade math teachers at Frank Moates Elementary and rose through the ranks to Executive Director of Core Curriculum, Professional Development and Grants within 5 years. During my time as an employee of DeSoto ISD, I effectively contributed to the improvement of math achievement scores which allowed the district to obtain an increased academic rating on the TEA A-F accountability system. I also successfully closed out the I3-iSTEAM grant during its final 9 months of execution. I co-implemented Parent Academies with the
A2E2 grant team to empower parents with resources and strategies in assisting with their child’s education.

I learned a great deal professionally and owe a debt of gratitude to the district for helping me develop into the professional I am today. It is this gratitude that leads me to want to give back in service to the district as a school board trustee. While employed there I was also an active parent in every area of my son’s education and extracurricular activities. I have volunteered and served on many district committees such as Male Leadership Symposium, Female Leadership Forum, DeSoto ISD Hall of Fame Committee, DeSoto Education Foundation and much more. I am 100% invested in the education of all
students and the growth of DeSoto ISD.

What is your vision for education in our district/community? More financial investment, expanding academic programs like JROTC & CTE, be specific.

My vision for DeSoto ISD is to have excellence in academics. This vision will be carried out with focus on the systems that the current board has put in place through their participation and continued performance improvement in Lonestar Governance. DeSoto ISD received a C (79) on the 2019 TEA A-F Accountability Rating System. Obtaining a C was an improvement from the D (67) rating on the 2018 accountability system however; DeSoto ISD is capable of being an A rated district. DeSoto ISD currently has a board goal that the percentage of students at the Meets (on-grade) level on the 3rd grade STAAR
reading exam increases from 25% in May 2019 to 65% by May 2025 and it is my belief that with commitment and accountability, we can and will get there.

As a Trustee, I would work alongside my fellow trustees and the superintendent to continue creating and supporting goals with progress monitoring measures that focus on Reading. I would place emphasis on creating clear progress monitoring measures that work towards building a solid foundation in reading fluency and comprehension, which can affect a student’s success in all other subject areas. I would also support decisions that would provide support to district administrators by approving any directly aligned
purchases, within the budget constraints, that would support closing the achievement gap for students.

What does advocacy mean to you and how will you advocate for the students & teachers?

Advocacy to me means fighting for what you believe in. In my case, I am a strong advocate for student voice and achievement through teacher support. As a trustee, I will advocate for teachers to ensure they are receiving the quality professional development and support they need to not only positively improve student achievement, but also ensure that teachers are equipped with the mental and physical capacity through pedagogy to build personal connections and address student needs. I will advocate for students
to have an educational environment that is conducive for learning and inclusive of their input regarding their educational journey so that it is more meaningful and impactful to their individual lives.

In such a competitive marketplace, how will you tackle teacher and staff recruitment and retention? Have you spoken with teachers in the district about their concerns/challenges and do you feel like they are being heard?

To address teacher and staff recruitment and retention and attract high quality teachers and staff, DeSoto ISD must re-evaluate the existing compensation plan. To be in a position to compete with higher base compensation rates among surrounding districts this review of the current compensation plan is a must. In addition to competitive wages, DeSoto ISD must ensure that teachers are also equipped with the resources and tools to be successful in the classroom.

I have personally spoken with teachers regarding their concerns and the ultimate desire is to feel effective as a result of COVID-19 and other mitigating factors that have affected student’s education. Though the education of their students is their primary focus, at the same time, they want to receive a fair wage for doing so. Our attention to this matter is what will draw and retain qualified and effective staff to our district.

When dealing with school finances, approving a budget and set tax rates, how do you honor the taxpayer as you consider district’s fund balance.

In dealing with school finances, approving a budget and setting tax rates the best way to honor taxpayers is to manage the funds well by making sound and strategic expenditures. These expenditures should focus on those that will benefit students and keep their well-being as the focal point. It is the responsible fiduciary practices that most honor taxpayers.

What is your stance on Equity in Education? In addition to the role of the DEI, what additional steps should be taken to meet the needs of EVERY Student in this District?

I believe Equity in Education ensures that every student has an opportunity to achieve on an equal playing field. Equity in education does not mean that every student receives the same thing because they do not have the same needs. However, equity in education does allow students to receive differentiated instruction, along with varying resources and supports to ensure that students have an opportunity to achieve the same success level. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are great first steps but are not the end result. To truly reach a level of equity in education, we must take a different approach to scheduling, grouping, and debunking the traditional approach to education. The additional steps to be taken in order to meet the needs of EVERY student in DeSoto ISD is to move toward a more personalized learning approach, to ensure every student in the district is met exactly where they are and that they receive a personalized learning plan to meet their individual needs.

Do you agree with how the District responded to the Covid-19 Pandemic and if not, what would you have done differently?

I feel that the district responded well to the Covid-19 Pandemic. They made good use of federal pandemic aid funds using them to be responsive to the needs of the district as a whole and the students specifically. In July 2021, DeSoto ISD administrators presented a plan reflecting how they would utilize the emergency funds. DeSoto ISD not only implemented the plan to use the funds to hire additional instructional staff and support staff, but each campus also received additional funding to support targeted intervention and technology. . I would not do anything differently but would instead continue
the focus on student outcomes and how it influences every budget allocation.

What do you plan to do to address training at the campus levels to make sure IEP and or 504s are implemented?

To ensure compliance to IEPs & 504 plans, I plan to address training at the campus level by ensuring that funds for quality professional development training options are approved and made available to the campuses and district as a whole. . As a trustee, I will support budgetary allocations for the necessary initial and follow up training of all special education staff as well as campus administrators, teachers, and staff who work with the students receiving the services.

What are your views on banning certain books from classrooms and libraries? What in your opinion, makes a book “okay” to ban?

It is my opinion that books that present a direct conflict to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) or present derogatory information should be banned for classroom and school libraries. As long as the books are grade-level and age appropriate, free from profanity and derogatory information, they should be allowed to expose students to current and new interests, talents, and skills that engage and heighten their awareness on various topics through reading.

How do you rank social emotional learning in the school board priorities, especially considering struggles due to covid?

Social emotional learning should be a top priority of a school board.. COVID-19 has easterbated the need to address the social emotional skills for students. I believe that districts should allocate funds to provide direct services to students and teachers, but also to ensure components are seamlessly embedded within the curriculum to teach students coping and emotional processing skills so that they will know how to recognize and respond to issues of stress or conflict as they arise.

Our country has recently seen a movement to introduce politics into every facet of society, including public education and school board campaigns and operations, which have traditionally been non-partisan. What role, if any, do you believe politics plays in
the role of a school board trustee?

As far as partisan politics, I don’t believe there is a role to be played in the role of school board trustee. I do however believe that as a school board trustee there is a space for involvement in the political process through advocacy. As a school board trustee, advocating for what’s in the best interest of the students and the community that it serves is important. School board trustees should be advocating to ensure the core values and identity of the community is reflected in the decisions that are made for students.

School board trustees are elected to be leaders and to handle what can be difficult decisions at times. Please describe your leadership style-provide an example.

My style of leadership is inclusive. I believe that all stakeholders including students, staff, and the community should not simply have a seat at the table but they should also have a voice. I am a leader that takes the thoughts and concerns of these groups into account and reflects on these thoughts before making any decision.

An example of this would be me creating a focus group to assist in developing the
extracurricular offerings that would consist of parents, students, community members, business partners, administrators and teachers. I would gather this data and take it back to the board of trustees so that we would all be making a decision based on the input of the end users and impacted students.

You can learn more about Chasiti McKissic on her campaign website.

Early voting is April 25, and election day is May 7, 2022.