Four candidates for the Lewisville Independent School District board of trustees honed in on wanting to build more relationships in the community and to communicate more effectively with parents, teachers and students during Monday’s forum by the LISD Council of PTAs.
Incumbent Kathy Duke, Mary Smith and Kronda Thimesch are vying for the Place 1 seat on the board.Incumbent Trisha Sheffield, serving as board president, is seeking re-election to her Place 2 seat. On the ballot, Roger Myers filed for Place 2 but has publicly stated he has no plans to run a campaign.
“I had a meeting with Mrs. Sheffield and believe the issues I have are not with her or the local school board,” Myers wrote in a statement read during the forum Tuesday at the Bolin Administrative Center off Main Street in Lewisville. “I know it’s short notice, but wanted to let you know that I don’t plan on running a campaign against Mrs. Sheffield and will not be attending the candidate forum.”
Effective communication and building relationships were the two key issues Smith touted in her opening statement.
Duke, who has served with the district for nine years, said the district believed in working together with the communities it serves. “As a team, we’re going to do great things,” she said.
Thimesch said she wanted to use her business skills to help LISD continue on its course, suggesting the district consider community partnerships with businesses.
Her response was to the question about the strengths and weaknesses of LISD and how, as a board member, they would exploit the strengths and embolden the weaknesses.
Sheffield said the district’s size, covering a number of communities, can make it difficult for everyone to feel as “we’re all one.” She said one of LISD’s strengths is its diversity. “In all of that diversity is richness,” she said, adding the district has created opportunities for engagement that were not in existence several years ago.
Smith touted the teachers as being the district’s greatest strength. “LISD has a lot to offer,” she said. Smith disagreed with Sheffield on how the district has handled diversity and suggested there was more that could be done.
Duke said the district writes its own curriculum, which is one of its greatest strengths. In addition, the school district offers a smorgasbord of class opportunities at each campus and the classes are different among the campuses.
“But we can do more. We can do better,” she said.
Thimesch said the district was creatively working with families and mentioned fine arts program as an example of how the district works together as a team. “We are creatively working with families,” she said.
The candidates were asked how they see LISD responding to competition from charter and private schools.
Duke said she did not support a voucher system but believed the school district can work with students who come back to public schools from charter and private schools.
Sheffield said she did not see charter and private schools as a threat. “It’s a choice,” she said. “What I think is we need to be doing a better job of telling our story.”
Smith concurred with Sheffield about not seeing private and charter schools as a threat to the public education system. She indicated the need not to divert public education funds to other school systems.
Thimesch suggested working with charter and private schools by offering flexibility in the use of public school facilities during non-peak times.
The candidates were asked about the STAAR test currently used by the state and about legilsation that would include a grading system for schools.
Sheffield called the testing mandates unfair. “Education is not a cookie cutter system,” she said.
Smith said it was important to test students initially to know where they are in the level of knowledge but indicated the annual testing was not something she favored. Smith said she did not believe that teachers should be forced to teach to a test.
Thimesch indicated the state legislature has not had a good record with its testing requirements. “I feel like we need to do what’s best for each individual child,” she said.
Duke said she did not agree with how the state is holding schools accountable and advocated bringing local control to the staff level. “You cannot grade schools or teachers on an A to F system,” she said.
Candidates were also asked about the block scheduling now in place at the district’s high schools. All of the candidates indicated the block scheduling was not the preferred system and would prefer to modify the system.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dawn Cobb served as moderator at the forum sponsored by the Council of PTAs. However, all questions for the candidates were written and selected by the council.