Focus Daily News sent the following questions to ALL candidates running for Midlothian ISD School Board. We do not edit the answers in any way and publish them exactly as they were submitted to us.
Editor’s Note: These Q&As were sent to all four MISD School Board Candidates with the same deadline. Bobby Soto Place 5 (Incumbent) did not respond.
Midlothian ISD School Board Place 5 Candidate: Jessica Ward
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 2012 I knew I wanted to get involved in the community and ran for the Registration Chair for the Midlothian Youth Football League, was successful and held that position for 4 years. In 2014 I ran for Treasurer of the Midlothian Youth Basketball League and held that position for 3 years. I was a contributor to the Midlothian Growth Committee in 2016 which focused on the impact of growth in MISD and created a plan that met future needs and financial constraints of the district. In 2016 I was appointed to the Midlothian Community Development Corporation (MCDC) board and currently serve through January 2024. I am currently a Mentor in the Mentors Care program and have been serving as a mentor for 10 years.
What is your vision for education in our district/community? More financial investment, expanding academic programs like JROTC & CTE, be specific.
High quality education for all students. Providing the tools necessary for them to be successful. Increasing the programs available for trades and hands on learning experiences.
What does advocacy mean to you and how will you advocate for the students & teachers?
To be able to identify and address every student’s educational needs. Be aware of the demographics within our community. Listen to students and teachers in order to help them meet and exceed their goals, interest, and needs.
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?
Ensure teachers have the proper utensils for collaboration with upper staff and the superintendent. Empower teachers with tools they can use within the classroom to make learning a fun and safe environment. Having excellent, strong leadership at the top so teachers are aware of their duties and expectations. Ensure teachers have the support from leadership. I have spoken with several teachers within our district, and I do not feel that the majority are happy with the current state of our district. I hope to be able to change that.
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?
Ensure community evolvement. Providing all means of communication to citizens as we are all taxpayers. Hearing from citizens that don’t have an interest within our school district anymore however still live in Midlothian and pay school taxes. Ensuring our budget is responsible and the district is not spending money where its not necessary. Making sure teacher and staff salaries are appropriate with districts that look like us. NO unnecessary spending. Ensuring it makes sense.
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?
In order to inspire excellence, we must as a district provide the tools necessary to each student to help them succeed. Every student is different and has a different way of learning. We need to ensure our resources are aligned with operations. We need to hold accountability for students that are struggling and implement support needed to help those students. We need to have measurable results in order to act. We need to communicate to parents, students and teachers our districts goals and visions effectively. We must all be on the same page when it comes to the vision and values of our district. We must hold ourselves accountable and take responsibly for the good, bad and ugly.
Do you agree with how the District responded to the Covid-19 Pandemic and if not, what would you have done differently?
I don’t 100% agree with how it was handled. I don’t believe parents were listened too and now the results of 12+ months of learning at home are coming to the surface and we are falling behind. I understand there are several people on both ends and if staff was the issue, it should have been communicated.
I would have liked the district to implement a 6–8-week fast course the first few semesters to ensure the students received the basic knowledge of what they were supposed to learn the year they were at home. I do believe it was done with the greatest intention however as time went on, I could see the disconnection between teachers and students, and it was very difficult for students to complete their work. OR no work as it became too much on the teacher. I don’t think the district was as proactive as they could have been coming back into the classroom.
What do you plan to do to address training at the campus levels to make sure IEP and or 504s are implemented?
Going back to ensuring our teachers and counselors are equipped with all tools necessary to provide for students with disabilities. My children have been in 504 for dyslexia and I can say the support they received from their counselors and teachers helped tremendously. The accommodations they received were all discussed with me, and all agreed upon. We should be able to provide the outside resources for families as well in order to improve the overall student education. Parents should have additional options to have their child tested if the parent feels their child might have a learning disability.
What are your views on banning certain books from classrooms and libraries? What in your opinion, makes a book “okay” to ban?
No child pornography should be allowed in schools, period. We should not have books telling or teaching our kids about genders or anything else of the sort.
How do you rank social emotional learning in the school board priorities, especially considering struggles due to covid?
Academic learning should always be the top priority and it will always be my top priority. Social learning is inevitable however as students are in a school setting for upwards to 8 hours a day. Students will learn social emotional skills through peers and leaders every day, so I do not believe it is wise to discount the mental state of our students and staff.
Students are obviously struggling, and we have an issue with bullying and plain meanness in our schools. I believe we need to instill more discipline within the classroom and hold students accountable for their choices and actions. A slap on the wrist cannot be justified when a student continues to make the same, poor choices over and over. Teachers needs to be equipped with the tools and options they have without the fear of retaliation. Teachers also need to know they have the full support of upper management when a student is making poor choices. We all need to get back to taking responsibility for our choices and being held accountable for them.
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?
Politics do not belong on a school board. Our district has core values and visions and if you are a trustee not living up to those visions and values set forth by the trustee’s then you are not fulling your obligations to the district. I’m very conservative. For example, we have massive growth happening in our district and we should expand those resources necessary in order to meet those growth challenges. However, with me being conservative, I don’t like to see debt numbers and I want to be fiscally responsible.
So, I have 2 options. Vote against bonds that would ensure the future growth of our district stays in line with current visions and values which would have downstream impacts within the next 10 years when are schools are overcrowded, have bigger discipline issues, have teachers resigning, have very low test scores due to capacity and overall moral of our district plumets or I choose to be as fiscally responsible as possible with the budget and future projections and agree to have the necessary schools and facilities built in order to keep up with the growth and allow the most opportunities for our future students. If we only look at the current picture, our district will never be ahead and will always struggle to make ends meet for our students.
So, with those 2 options, I would have to go against my true conservative values because I would not want the future leaders of our community and state to have a challenging education due to my personal beliefs. Trustees make decisions that can have effects for decades. We need to ensure at the end of the day, students are taken care of. Their needs are being met. That is OUR duty as trustees to oversee how the district is progressing and aligning with the vision and values, we all take an oath too.
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.
I’m very outspoken and I don’t mind having the difficult discussions. I can disagree with you however still respect you. My passion for our community comes out through my actions and I don’t take those lightly. I like to build people up for them to see their potential. I’m confident in my words and like to have knowledge prior to making decisions as once again they will affect the future. I’m not afraid to be the one in the room that speaks up in opposition and that has been seen several times over my years of service within our community.
Early Voting: April 25, 2022 – May 3, 2022
Election Day May 7, 2022