"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own."
- Cesar Chavez
All Texans have the right to receive high-quality, publicly-funded education. High-quality public schools that meet the needs of all individuals should be accessible. Here's where I stand on the issues.
Every Texan should be assured that the state has comprehensive plans for handling the occurrence and aftermath of natural and man-made disasters. Following the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and during COVID-19, many students, parents, and teachers were left without sufficient support. The district must develop, fund, and implement processes to ensure the health and safety of students, staff, and the community; these plans should adhere to local, state, and federal public safety guidelines. Furthermore, the district must immediately develop plans to manage emergency learning protocols, in the event of short-term and long-term educational disruptions. Additionally, our district must actively address issues concerning violence in our schools, and invest more money in providing mental health services to our students in order to reduce the possibility of violence, particularly gun violence, in our schools.
A board member must play an active role in budgetary oversight and ensure that the district is transparent about and accountable for its expenditures. It is the responsibility of a board member to continually evaluate the basis of unrestricted budgetary items and assess the benefits such items would have on student success outcomes. Along these lines, I believe it necessary to bolster oversight and strengthen the entities that work with the community when engaging in the decision- and policy-making processes.
The district must immediately revise the current instructional practices used in both English Language Arts and Reading and reading interventions. The Units of Study approach utilized by Katy ISD is not only absent from the approved curriculum list for Texas, but has also been shown to be an ineffective and unreliable method for literacy instruction. With 60% of students unable to learn to read using the balanced literacy approach advocated by the Units of Study method, it is clear that Katy ISD is failing to meet the literacy needs of all students and must adopt an alternative, evidence-based approach to literacy.
Teachers and Support Staff
The success of our children is dependent upon the success of our teachers, counselors, librarians, aides, and other support staff. Due to meager wages, deficient funding, and the increased emphasis on standardized testing, which is improperly used as a teacher performance metric and monopolizes class time, educational institutions suffer from low teacher retention rates and are often forced to staff unqualified individuals. If we wish to recruit superior, certified teachers that have the training and tools necessary to support all students throughout their educational journey, we must increase teacher pay and advocate for quality, affordable healthcare and retirement options. Such issues have only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Individuals of all abilities are entitled to receive a high-quality education at any publicly-funded Texas educational institution. Both gifted students and those with disabilities are entitled to receive appropriate, high-quality early, secondary, and postsecondary education and access to all services and support indicated in their individual education plans. Furthermore, we believe that all institutions should provide a safe-haven for students of all abilities, and disparities in instruction or discipline based on such factors should be eliminated.
Studies show that standardized testing is an ineffective metric of both student and teacher performance, discourages higher-level critical thinking and creativity, and penalizes underserved populations. While the district receives funding based on standardized test scores, the approach to test preparation must move away from teaching to the test. Furthermore, the use of a statewide, test-based "Value Added Measure" as a teacher evaluation metric should be uniformly rejected, as such measures have been proven invalid and do not reflect an educator's ability to effectively teach. Furthermore, students with disabilities must take assessments designated in individual education plans and no longer be subject to inappropriate testing.
While there is no doubt that in-person learning is ideal, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that in-person learning is not always feasible due to health and safety concerns. During such unprecedented times, a virtual learning option must be made available for students in the district to continue their learning. Accordingly, the district must research, adopt, and implement a virtual learning environment to meet the needs of these students and ensure continuity of learning for students.
College is not for every student. For students who do not wish to attend college, vocational education programs can provide high school students with occupational training, unrelated to traditional academic skills. Accordingly, it is imperative that Katy ISD expand its career and technical educational programming The further development of hands-on training programs will prepare students for a specific career or trade. Furthermore, the establishment of career programs has been shown to reduce the number of students who drop out of high school and benefit at-risk students, while also providing all students with an alternative to college or university.