Mansfield ISD Board Candidate Place 3: Dr. Benita Reed Q&A

Benita Reed headshot
Photo provided by Benita Reed

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

Mansfield ISD School Board Place 3 Candidate: Dr. Benita Reed

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.

In the past, I have experienced informative communication with my daughter’s teachers, regarding academic performance and behavior. I am incredibly involved parent who attended school activities and volunteered–PTA, read-along, book fair, field day, Friday lunches, classroom parties, fundraisers, open houses, and various programs. Organized and informative parent-teacher conferences provided insight about areas that needed more attention.

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

My vision for education in Mansfield ISD is one that establishes MISD as the District that attracts national and international attention for its cutting-edge educational innovation programs. Such as District, actively, partners and leads projects with Mouser Electronics, NTX Main, and Lockheed Martin in multiple areas related to CTE and STEM, including the liberal arts. MISD can establish intensive Liberal and Fine Arts programs that attract and collaborate with national and international writing companies and fine arts programs, which welcomes and features guest artists and provides co-ops/internships.

So, to be a global District, I have a vision for MISD that includes robust academic programs that challenge students and encourages them to be innovative, even in their thinking. It is a District that ensures all populations will continuously improve. It is a District that has a community of teachers who love what they do and galvanize to help students succeed, academically and personally. It is a place where teachers design creative ways to facilitate students’ understanding that works with the students’ schedule. A place where not just teachers, but anyone and everyone involved in the day-to-day bustle of students’ lives is appreciated and rewarded for their outstanding work and contributions to the integrity of a District that creates excellence for all students, readiness, and accountability.

I envision MISD to be a District that purchases land for laboratories, eco-friendly gardens, and high-level projects, where our students are nationally and internationally known for their communal work and contributions. In addition, I see MISD as a District that creates ways to reallocate money for future academic needs–more schools, especially as the student population increases, new and innovative academic programs reflecting the trending needs and growth of industry/workforce and, importantly, increasing the salaries of our MISD Team (instructors, admins, drivers, custodial teams, security staff, maintenance) in addition to increasing our teacher and staff population to accommodate instructional needs and workload. I believe MISD can forge military partnerships through JROTC for projects designed by our students that are community-based (both locally and nationally).

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

Advocacy means actively listening to the conversations of our MISD key stakeholders and sharing their insight with board members. It means taking their input, doing my due diligence in research, and articulating the collaboration to make policy decisions that best serve our students and teachers. Communicating effectively with legislative representatives about funding, policy making, and representation concerns, along with the needs of students and teachers, reflects advocacy.

In such a competitive market, 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?

It is a competitive market, so I would tackle recruitment and retention by evaluating best practices of other districts since competition is now between both large and small districts. I would suggest signing bonuses, lifestyle/financial/educational incentives, and support.
During my conversations with teachers in the district, they voiced their concerns about the challenges they are facing. Many have expressed a lack of support and representation. So instead of my telling them what will fix the issue, I’m actively listening for solutions.

When dealing with school finances, approving a budget and setting a tax rate, how do you honor the taxpayer as you consider the district’s fund balance?
I would honor the taxpayer by only spending monies listed on the budget. However, if we must spend additional funds, we would and should provide justification, including historical data reflecting changes in the economy–like pre and post covid. I would propose sharing the data regarding increases and decreases of the budget online as well as at every board meeting to ensure the taxpayer is well-informed.

What is your stance on equity in education? In addition to the role of DEI, what additional steps should be taken to meet the needs of EVERY student in the district?

I believe that education should be equitable. Despite DEI being a federal mandate, it is a sensitive subject, so I believe that making an attractable and accessible academic experience for every student, regardless of population and academic track, enables each student and parent an opportunity to engage in an inclusive educational experience. Sometimes, this looks like academic course work in conjunction with extracurricular activities and/or accommodations, that may seem unattainable. Counselors and administrators may have to design “special circumstances” educational plans to ensure equity is achievable.

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

I thought the district responded to the Covid-19 Pandemic much like many educational institutions. There is a level of grace granted because this was a traumatic occurrence. There were a few things I would have done differently. Based on my personal experience as an instructor, I know how important it is to quickly administer training. Once we began considering online instruction, I would have begun advising we suggest YouTube videos or LinkedIn options regarding online instruction, specifically, since most K-12 teachers would eventually need instructions.

Secondly, completing an assessment analysis of effectiveness by administration would have aided the teachers’ understanding of teaching approaches and need for adjustments to enable students to understand online learning concepts. Student surveys would have helped administrators with intermittent shifts in academic styles to allow students and parents to express their needs or concerns. Allowing teachers to meet students outside of the school building upon return to the classroom would have been a preliminary introduction of a level of connectivity and engagement. We should have considered how Covid-19 put a strain on the interaction between student-to-student and student-to-teacher relationships.

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

To address the implementation of IEP and/or 504s at the campus level, I would propose hiring Coordinators and staff, if it is within the budget. If it is not in the budget, I suggest reallocating funds to hire IEP/504 Coordinators on campuses to manage the day-to-day operation to ensure accommodations are communicated to and met by specific teachers and staff. These Coordinators would work with the Deans of Academics to establish and evaluate plans that would effectively to help students succeed.

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

Banning certain books from libraries and classrooms requires considerable thought. There should be a set of standards designed to support the specific student population based on age and maturity, academic dexterity, and scholastic objectives and outcomes established by the State and the District. In a school setting, I feel the library collection should, accurately, reflect the needs of students so that they are knowledgeable. Having a quality and accurate education is important for students to do well on standardized assessments and to ensure they are ready for life, college, career, and/or military.

With key stakeholders, including educators with librarians and legal advisers, establishing the standards (and parameters) for the books our students read and discuss, I trust that our students are supported and protected in their academic growth and development. A book is “okay” for banning if it, explicitly, incites terror, promotes harmfulness (to the reader and/or others), and encourages hateful and divisive behaviors.

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

Social emotional learning is a touchy topic for our parents, especially because it is new and possibly needs more small group attention and explanation to ensure our key stakeholders are knowledgeable of its meaning and the district’s implementation of it. For me, considering struggles due to covid, social emotional learning is a priority because it relates to our students’ mental health. Again, for me, if there is anything that impedes our students’ academic and personal success, I consider it a priority.

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?

In the role of a school board trustee, I believe politics plays a role when seeking funding. Also, the community’s support and endorsement about the needs and concerns of students, teachers, and staff is invaluable. Even the purchasing of land or properties involves politics since the involvement and support from the local government, and possibly state and federal government, includes political influences and insight.

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 leadership style is participatory. I will actively listen and ask pertinent questions. I will review related data, research topics and surrounding concerns. I will evaluate comparative analyses, communicate effectively with fellow board members, and engage in making the best decisions.

Learn more about Dr. Benita Reed on her candidate website.