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 Terrence Gore
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.
Gore is a retired educator with experience cultivated in Dallas ISD, Cedar Hill ISD and DeSoto ISD from 2004 – 2020. His experience is from the entire spectrum of K-12, as he has worked on all levels- elementary, middle, and high school. Gore also served 10 years on Texas State Senator Royce West’s Dallas Community Youth Development Program, Project 75216 to help reduce juvenile delinquency and improves the lives of children and adolescents by providing youth with the necessary skills to become adults. He also served in various committee and leadership roles for the South Dallas Cultural Center Assn. SDCCA serves as an advisory and fundraising committee in promoting a more equitable, cooperative, and empathetic community by engaging the public with art and cultural experiences influenced by the African Diaspora through the South Dallas Cultural Center. Roles of leadership included vice president and president.
What is your vision for education in our district/community? More financial investment, expanding academic programs like JROTC & CTE, be specific.
It must start in the beginning, PreK. A robust, competent education resource reading. Establish a plan where educators can assess, teach, assess, reteach (if necessary) & test for proficiency. No more teaching to the test. Have established intervention so that early childhood learners don’t fall behind; but instead receive immediate & additional instruction to address deficiencies in skills be it blending, decoding, etc.
More UIL academic programs need to offer students who are not solely about athletics opportunities to display their intellect and participate in intellectual competition. Specific programs like advanced academics at KJTMA and STEM at Ruby Young should become more robust & molded into an academic powerhouse. From there, as academic success is demonstrated, then immolated on other campuses.
Reading for the sake of reading or because you must; is no fun for students unless they enjoy reading. So, give those students an opportunity to hone those reading skills to show the community what they can achieve just like student athletes. The only difference is reading can start at an incredibly early age.
What does advocacy mean to you and how will you advocate for the students & teachers?
Advocacy is helping those who cannot help themselves and doing the right thing even when it isn’t easy. When you speak out against injustices and inequities with conviction and integrity, and not going along with the status quo because it’s just convenient and popular. As a board trustee you must balance the equities of advocacy for students first and far most, educators, and support staff, and finally the community. Gore will advocate with fidelity and integrity.
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?
Gore will advocate for stronger, rigorous, and refined curriculums, safer and cohesive campus environments to educate and learn, and finally competitive salaries, COLAs and performance incentives for educators and support staff. Gore has been visible in the community speaking with parents, community leaders, students and especially teachers. With the district facing an existential crisis it important to him to know what the concerns and challenges are firsthand.
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?
Gore plans to be a fiscal budget hawk on the school board when elected. He has operational experience of managing and fiscal oversight of the state initiative of the Dallas Community Youth Development, Project 75216, the legislative brainchild of state Senator Royce West. Retired, he has time to devote to pour over documents and contracts to be the communities voice of concern or support of any programs, and for top heavy administrative salaries that does not fit into the current academic schema for DeSoto ISD. Gore believes that many upper administrative positions could be consolidated and eliminating some overlapping responsibilities.
The state has passed legislation that governs how tax rates are set, this is not arbitrary on the district part. With budget shortfalls, overspending, waste, and fraud it is hard for a public school district such as DeSoto ISD to give taxpayers a rollback on property taxes, which make up over half of the revenue budget.
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?
Unfortunately, the district has squandered a rare opportunity to create sustainable and robust programs through generous funding by the U.S. Department of Education and others financial grants and donation in an estimated $29 million over the course of 5 years to do exactly what is need in the district. The failure of those in positions authority in the overseeing, implementation, and continuity of I3D, A2E2, Advanced Academics and Magnet programs has caused the children in DeSoto and Glenn Heights to as 2020 be without those programs.
DeSoto ISD only district on in the Southern sector of Dallas County that does not have a sustainable, comprehensive STEM/STEAM, advanced academic, and magnet program. The Board of Trustees voted in March to end the last vestige of such programs by terminating its federal program relationship, along with about $4 million in remaining funding. Gore stance is that every student should be given the equitable opportunities rigorous and substantial education as compared to districts such a Plano, Highland Park, Frisco, The Colony, Southlake/Carroll.
DeSoto ISD has one the highest school tax rates in north Texas but rank near the bottom in academic performance. It’s poor and incompetent decision making, planning, execution, and fiscal oversight that is responsible for the ending of those specialized programs that were to be designed and mandated by the U.S Dept. of Education to bolster Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion of all students living with the boundaries of the district. Gore’s opponent seems to relish in these failures of federal programs in the district as some type of accolade of achievement. Ask those parents who must homeschool their children or drive into another county to charter schools, or yet languish in the awful truth that this the best their child(ren) will have. What about the homeowner who moved here looking for greater opportunities in what the communities and school district has to offer, only to find great disappointment in the schools.
What steps need to be taken you ask! The district should invest, and redesign STEM/STEAM, advanced academics, and magnet programs do what it was supposed to do when it was given millions upon millions of taxpayers and private money to do. This time put someone who has the record and experience to know what to do and lead such an effort, and not someone the jump ship and causing it to sink, and then tout a false narrative of accomplishment. Even a board trustee in a recent meeting named the responsible party in which the administration affirmed as the cause of the “failure.”
Do you agree with how the district responded to the Covid-19 Pandemic and if not, what would you have done differently?
At first Gore was not pleased with the way the district was managing the remote learning for students; disorganized, wasted instructional time with students, each teacher doing his or her own thing without much direction or oversight from the administration, but it got better. Through dialog and communication with the superintendent’s office and board members, Gore’s voice was heard, and the district began making significant changes by the second 6 weeks of instruction during the Fall 2020.
What do you plan to do to address training at the campus levels to make sure IEP and or 504s are implemented?
As a Trustee it is not in Gore’s pervy to direct the actions at the campus level. Gore would hold the superintendent accountable for the alignment of the responsibilities of district and federal policies and guidelines for the campus level for ensure all personnel that are in contact with special student population understands their responsibilities for implementing services for students through ongoing professional. It takes only one adult to drop the ball and violate a student’s right to services and accommodations.
What are your views on banning certain books from classrooms and libraries? What in your opinion, makes a book “okay” to ban?
There is a time and place for most things. Gore believes that banning books hinders the free expression and interchange of ideas. For children it could disrupt their approach of thinking multidimensional and outside the box. This is exhibit today with millennials and Gen Z populations on how they view the world around them. It has almost bridged the ideology of societal realities with a more holistic optimism. Content of literary works should be vetted for appropriateness for students but should not be banned because such content is offensives to certain sensibilities.
How do you rank social emotional learning in the school board priorities, especially considering struggles due to covid?
Most parents had not heard the term social-emotional learning (SEL) until the pandemic. This was processes to help children cope with isolation and segregated from their classmates. To rank it’s important to the board is to understand that SEL is the process of developing the self-control, self-awareness, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life successes. This was crucial during the months of adverse conditions caused by the pandemic for children and adults too. Gore ranks SEL near the top of trustees’ priorities just below student achievement, academic redevelopment, and teacher needs. We often forget that our little people, mirrors of ourselves suffer the same mental health stresses as adults. They often don’t know what it is or how to articulate what they are experiencing. SEL can help adults better understand and serve our children in their times of need.
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?
People can have agendas and ulterior motives to serve on school board that has little to do with the best interest of the children and community. For instance, someone that in leadership of a charter school that looking to get a foothold in the community. That person should not serve on a public-school board of trustee as a conflict of interest. Public education has been on the defense of attack from politically interest who what to cash in on capitalizing public institutions. This is bad for several reasons; but the biggest is one will be how resources will be made available. Disparity of resources already exist and disproportionately allocated for small and urban public-school systems that comprises of majority Black and Brown students, if privatization were to happen those systems would suffer even greater disparity. The attack coming from a partisan party and their belief systems has no place on public school boards. Public school boards need to stay non-partisan to filter out the biases that would otherwise compromise the integrity of the governance process.
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.
Gore believes in consensus, common sense approaches. If you served with conviction and integrity for the best interests of children and community there will be difficult decision, but rest assure you would have done you due diligence in the process of serving the district. As Gore stated with #3 Advocacy. A true leader serves not out of self interest or to look good in front of others, but in service to other because he or she has too reluctantly do so. As a person with an ENFP-A personality Gore is holistically conditions to be of service to others; and in this instance its his daughter, the students of DeSoto ISD and to the communities it serves.
If there’s anything you’d like to add please do so.
Come out to the COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN COOKOUT, On Saturday April 30th 3:30pm at Ernie Roberts Park in DeSoto, and meet, mingle with DeISD School Board Trustee candidate Terrence Gore for an afternoon of fun, music, and real talk.
Early voting begins April 25, Election Day is May 7, 2022.