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Meet the Candidates: Argyle ISD

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Argyle ISD candidates
Argyle ISD candidates

Early voting runs from April 25 to May 3 for the May 7 municipal and school board elections across southern Denton County. The Cross Timbers Gazette asked each candidate in a contested race to answer a brief questionnaire to help voters make an informed decision at the polls. The answers below are alphabetical by community and candidate for each position; incumbents are designated with (i). Compiled by Lyn Rejahl Pry, Editor

This May, the Argyle ISD Board of Trustees will have two seats open. The AISD Board members are elected on an at-large basis, which means the top two vote recipients will become board members; specific offices are determined by the board itself.

Brad Lowry
Brad Lowry

Brad Lowry

Age: 55

Current Occupation: Commercial Real Estate and Business Transactions Attorney

Education: Bachelor of Business Administration – Texas A&M University, Commerce; Master of Business Administration – Finance, Texas Christian University; Juris Doctor, Baylor University

Current civic involvement: Argyle Economic Development Corporation, 2008 – present, current Vice President; Argyle High School Campus Leadership Team, 2015 – present; Argyle United Methodist Church, member 2004 – present.

Past civic service: Argyle Comprehensive Plan Update Committee, 2006 – 2008; Argyle Athletic Booster Club, 2008 – 2010; Argyle United Methodist Church “What If” Capital Campaign Host Committee, 2015.

Why voters should elect you: Prior to moving here in 2004, my wife and I looked all over the Metroplex for a community and school district that had the things we wanted.  At the time we knew nothing about Argyle, but a friend suggested we take a look.  It was love at first sight, and our appreciation for this community and school district has done nothing but grow stronger. This is our home.  We have four children, three of whom have now graduated from Argyle High School; the youngest is a freshman. We have had children at every grade level, pre-K through 12.  At one point not too long ago we simultaneously had a child in each of the four AISD schools (elementary, intermediate, middle and high).  As parents of four AISD students, we have spent years immersed in all things school-related.  Like many others, our children have experienced good grades and not-so-good grades, championships and losing seasons, abundant playing time and lack of playing time, and so on.  But overall, it has been a wonderful experience because we have an outstanding school district, including some outstanding administrators, teachers, band and fine arts directors, coaches and other staff. AISD has been a huge part of our life and continues to be.  I currently serve on the Argyle High School Campus Leadership Team, a committee comprised of administrators, teachers, parents and civic leaders that is charged with recommending new ideas for the school.  My wife has worked as a secretary at the high school for six years, and she has devoted countless additional hours as a volunteer for school activities. I considered running for the school board when my children were younger, but that was during a time when, like many parents, I was almost completely focused on my own children and spent my “spare” time coaching sports teams, working in concession stands, serving in various booster club roles, and otherwise actively supporting my children and their interests.  For me, now is a much better time to serve on the school board.  With three of my four children graduated, I feel wiser for the experience, I am better able to focus on what is best for the district as a whole rather than merely what is best for my own children, and I am more prepared than ever to devote the time and effort needed to be a good board member. My reason for running is simple:   I care deeply about this community and school district and want to see it continue to thrive.  We have already set the bar very high, and with the right approach we can set the bar even higher.  I want to do my part to make that happen. I believe that my experience as a parent of four AISD students gives me a unique perspective and good understanding of issues and challenges at all levels of the district, from pre-K through 12.  Additionally, I have spent most of my professional career as a facilitator of complex real estate and business transactions.  That professional experience, which typically involves bringing together two or more sides with differing interests and sometimes strong emotions, will help me tackle the challenging issues that come before the board.  I seldom consider myself the smartest person in the room, but I am usually well-prepared and I tend to get along with people.  I believe my presence on the board would be a positive thing.

The main issues facing your district and how you would resolve them: The growth of our district has to be a part of any answer to this question.  Our enrollment is expected to double during the next eight years.  The important thing is how we respond to the growth. As a current long-time member of the Argyle Economic Development Corporation Board and also having served on the Argyle Comprehensive Plan Update Committee, I have an in-depth understanding of the growth that we are experiencing and its impact on our community.  It is sometimes forgotten that AISD has already experienced significant growth during the last decade.  We have managed to absorb that growth while retaining many of the wonderful qualities about our district that set us apart.  It will become increasingly difficult to do that in the future, and there will be choices to make. Going forward, are we going to absorb the growth while remaining true to who we are?  Or, will we forget what got us here, become reactionary and let the growth change our identity?  The school board will take the lead in determining our direction.  In my opinion, we must strive to maintain our identity, but it will require a delicate balance. With a growing student population, increasing diversity, ever-higher expectations and limited financial resources, AISD will have to constantly innovate and evolve to stay ahead.  Our technology and curriculum must always be cutting edge.  We need more options for students in areas such as business, career and technology, dance and other fine arts, family and consumer science, and agriculture science.  We need to support our disadvantaged and special needs children.  We have to continuously plan ahead for new facilities, including determining where to build the elementary school that opens in 2019 and when to fund the next phase of the new high school.  With a predominately residential tax base without the optimum complement of commercial property, we must find smart and creative ways to get the most out of our tax dollars.  These are just a few of the issues we face.  There is much to be done, and if we do not act in a timely manner we risk falling behind and short-changing our children. However, if we make changes too hastily or for short-sighted reasons, if we too quickly abandon our tried and tested ways, we risk losing the things that make us special and we could rapidly become just another suburban school district.  It takes years to build the kind of school district we have; it would take much less time to tear it down if the wrong decisions are made. I believe the key is to be forward-thinking while recognizing and respecting, and to the extent possible, adhering to, the current model that has worked so well and brought us Hilltop’s incredible run of UIL District Championships, AHS’s six recent Lone Star Cups, etc.  In other words, we should embrace the growth but not allow it to change our DNA. How do we do that?  It starts with empowering our professional educators to do what they do best.  They, along with the students, make AISD what it is.  I know many of these people, and most are absolutely dedicated to their jobs and beam with pride at being part of AISD.  Their attitude permeates the halls of our schools and helps cultivate the expectation of excellence and winning culture in everything that our students do.  Their morale needs to be high, and for that to happen they must feel that the school board “has their backs” and trusts them to do their jobs.  This will help us recruit and retain the very best. AISD also needs to find new and creative ways to partner with parents and other community members (i.e., PTO, mentoring programs).  Our community is blessed with a tremendous pool of smart, talented and successful people, and we should tap into it. We have something very special in Argyle, and we must keep it going for as long as possible.  If elected, I will do everything in my power to ensure that happens.

Any additional commentsIf elected, I will strive to adhere to certain basic principles that I believe every board member should have, including (i) open mindedness and willingness to listen and learn, (ii) respect for and courtesy to fellow board members and anyone coming before the board, (iii) support for our professional educators, and (iv) no personal agenda.

Address of your candidate website and/or Facebook Page: Brad Lowry for Argyle School Board.

Jennifer Pakebusch
Jennifer Pakebusch

Jennifer Pakebusch

Age: 33

Current Occupation: Mom, substitute teacher for Argyle ISD

Education: Not provided

Current Civic Organizations: Vice President of Argyle Community Civic League; Argyle Special Olympics Coach/Volunteer/PR Coordinator; Middle School Liaison for Argyle Band; Argyle Band Booster; Argyle Middle School PTSO General Volunteer

Past civic service: Not provided

Why voters should elect you: Simply put, I just want to do what’s best for our children. I love this town, our schools, and most of all being a part of such a close-nit community. My husband David and I, along with our two girls Paige (now in 8th grade) and Savannah (in 7th), moved here three-years ago from Burleson, another small Texas town. While any move can be difficult, it was especially hard for me because that was where I grew up. It was where my parents still lived, our church of 10-years was, my girls and step-son went to the same schools I attended, volunteered, and worked at. Burleson was just home to me. But when we came to Argyle all the sadness and anxiety over leaving my hometown quickly disappeared. My family and I had found a new home in Argyle. This community embraced us so completely that within a few months of living here I started telling David and even our friends when I die, just bury me in the back yard with the dogs! At the heart of all of this has been Argyle ISD. My goal in running for the school board is just to be able to give back to a community that has given my family so much. I have been a substitute in Argyle for the past two years. Before that I subbed and volunteered in Burleson for many years. That time taught me so much. I’ve been in the trenches with our teachers and have seen what our students experience every day. I’m cognizant of what goes on in our schools and where they need the most help. I know the challenges and rewards our teachers, administrators, and students go through from day to day. Unlike any other candidate or current board member, I have the unique advantage of seeing our schools from all of these view points. For me, serving as a board member is a small way I can give back to the district which gives so much to our children and most importantly, to help the teachers and administrators guide our children towards a bright future.

The main issues facing your town/district and how you would resolve them: Our district is not perfect, but you’re certainly not going to find one much better. I’m positive as the new school opens, several grades migrate to other campuses, and the rapid growth Argyle is experiencing we will need to make some adjustments. But being less than perfect and making adjustments to achieve excellence is true for all things. We as individuals spend our lives trying to be the best we can be. Constantly learning and growing. Some things we do work, some things don’t. We learn from the things that don’t work and try to improve on those that do. This philosophy must apply to our schools and our school board. The major challenges facing Argyle ISD is growth and adjusting positively to the growth. Argyle is growing at such an extreme rate that it could potentially be detrimental to our schools. Which leads me directly to the next issue of maintaining and even improving our level of excellence that we have all grown accustomed to. So many of our teachers and coaches have multiple duties. This will only increase with the burgeoning number of students moving into AISD. Which means more classes, more students per class, more sports, more levels of sports, more arts, more everything for our schools. It’s going to be a challenge to fiscally meet the staffing needs of an already stretched budget posed by this growth. With my experience in the school system I’m confident I am the best equipped to know how to tackle these issues efficiently.  A school board’s only purpose is the betterment of education for the district’s children. I think Dr. Wright and everyone who serves under her has done an amazing job making Argyle such an incredible school district. If elected, I will strive to keep Argyle ISD on top and moving forward by bringing the focus back to our children. As a board member, I will use my exclusive insight as a substitute, volunteer, and parent to help maintain and possibly improve the already high level of Argyle excellence. Argyle ISD has given so much to me. I feel serving as a school board member is a small way I can give back to this community.

Any additional comments: Not provided

Address of your candidate Website and/or Facebook Page: Jennifer Pakebusch for Argyle ISD School Board, mommyjen123@gmail.com

Brian Ratcliff
Brian Ratcliff

Brian Ratcliff (i)

Age: 43

 Current Occupation: SVP, SCIenergy, Inc.

 Education: B.S – Electrical Engineering, Texas A&M University

 Current civic involvement: School Board President, AISD; Young Life Committee

 Past civic service: Not provided

 Why voters should re-elect you: I am seeking re-election to help preserve continuity on this board as we enter uncharted waters.  My wife and I have four girls that range from Kindergarten to 7th grade, and we sincerely love this district. I have no agenda other than to continue doing the things that bring success, and to push for improving in areas that aren’t as highly publicized.  AISD is a great district, and I am committed to help us continue to improve as we enter this new phase of growth.

 The main issues facing your district and how you would resolve them:  Argyle ISD is expected to double in size over the next six years. This is certainly the biggest issue, but it cannot be resolved; it can only be managed.  I believe that the current board has a very keen sense that this growth will bring multiple challenges, both anticipated and unforeseen. I also believe this board understands the type of vigilance, open-mindedness, and wisdom required to navigate them.  The issues aren’t just related to passing bonds and building schools; they have more to do with how to get better in all areas in the face of such prolific success. In education, just like business, continuous improvement is imperative, and resting on our laurels is unacceptable. While we are proud, and celebrate all of our successes, Argyle ISD must be diligent to improve in educating all students of all ranges of capability, and providing more diverse opportunities to students as we expand.

Any additional comments: Not provided

Address of your candidate Website and/or Facebook Page: Not provided

Wes Timmons
Wes Timmons

Wes Timmons (withdrew from the race on 4/24/16)

 Age: 44

 Current occupation: Full-time, stay-at-home dad; part-time, small business owner

 Education:  Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology – Sports Administration (Summa Cum Laude) University of Houston; Alamo Area Council of Governments Law Enforcement Academy

 Current civic involvement: Reunion Church in Dallas

 Why voters should elect you: As you may already know, my family and I uncovered some serious issues that called into question the safety of the practices within the Argyle High School Athletic Department.  As a result of working through these issues, the school board created several policies to improve the safety of the athletic program and our student athletes.  Unfortunately, these policies are only as good as the people who distribute, follow, and enforce them.  It has been my personal experience that the Superintendent and Athletic Director are lacking in all of these areas. Example 1:  Six months after the Athletic Director and Superintendent were charged by the board with creating a new policy regarding the proper dissemination of athletes’ medical restrictions, my son’s medical restrictions were disregarded on two separate occasions, by two different coaches. Example 2:  Almost one year after the board approved the hiring of a certified strength and conditioning coach, and six months after this coach was hired, the uncertified weight-lifting coach was still in charge of the weight-lifting program for football athletes.  It wasn’t until I sent the Superintendent a public information request regarding the assigned duties of the newly-hired, certified strength and conditioning coach that he finally made an appearance in the weight room during 4th period athletics.  Even still, the uncertified coach continued to instruct these athletes on weight-lifting. On March 9, 2015, there were 12 back injuries on the Daily Injury Log, during off-season football.  One of these athletes was a school board member’s son whose back was injured so severely that it required surgery.  On another occasion, this same coach became so infuriated with an athlete that he forced him to carry a 60-pound weight in each hand and complete a mile on the track.  As a result, the athlete’s shoulder was injured. When these issues were presented to the school board they installed cameras in the weight room and formed a safety committee, which includes parental representation at each campus.  This safety committee reports directly to the board, not the Superintendent. I have proven that I will stand up for the students in Argyle, no matter the cost.  I believe that these kids are worth fighting for!  My wife Jennifer and I have four children.  Next year we will have a child at each of Argyle ISD’s four campuses.  I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that our students are safe and have a successful educational experience.

The main issues facing your district and how you would resolve them: In my opinion there are some great men on the board currently and they are working very hard to do the right thing.  But they are working within the confines of a very broken system.  School systems, and school boards in particular, are established in a way that discourages change, often times derails it, even when most involved know it’s the best thing for the students. As parents we need to vote for the candidates that we believe have our students’ best interests at heart.  Being on the school board is not about protecting the Superintendent or Athletic Director’s job.  It’s about protecting the well-being of our students and the education that they are receiving.  Two of the candidates running for school board have spouses who are employees of the district, thereby creating the potential for a conflict of interest.  Get to know your candidates so you can determine for yourself why they want to be on the board. I know why I am here.  Most people would have already given up and left the district after going through what me and my family have experienced.  But after many prayers and discussions with members of this community, I know that God has called me to stand up for the students of Argyle ISD. I know this is all very difficult to hear, as I still recall the day the rose-colored glasses were removed from my eyes.  But these are some of the ugly truths about a few of our Argyle ISD employees.  We still have an army of great teachers and principals who are dedicated to our students.  I am passionate about protecting our students and I can assure you that I will put in the time and effort required to make sure that they get the best and safest educational experience possible.  I can and will make the tough decisions necessary to move this district forward. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss anything further. I’m not asking you to put a sign in your yard because I know that retaliation is a reality in Argyle. All I’m asking for is your vote.

Address of your candidate Website and/or Facebook Page: Not provided

Jeff Williams
Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams

Age: 46

Current Occupation: Director of Operations at GoVision LP

Education: B.A. Communication (Broadcast) from University of Texas-Arlington/Wichita State University

Current civic involvement: Not provided

Past civic service: Not provided

Why voters should elect you: I have been in and around AISD since August of 2001, when I was hired as a classroom teacher and coach.  My wife has been a classroom teacher in AISD since August of 2004.  I feel I have a unique perspective to bring to the board being involved in the district, as both an educator and as a parent of two students, who will run the gamut of campuses.  I want to do my part to work with the board, the leadership of AISD and the community to continue the excellence that is expected and achieved.

The main issues facing your district and how you would resolve them: The continuation of high expectations of this district and providing the tools needed for our faculty and students to meet those expectations in all areas. I am not doing this to fix something that is not broken.  I do not have a platform or agenda.  I want to serve the families, faculty– and most importantly– the students of this district by working with the members of the board to enable our kids to succeed in and out of the classroom.  Yes, this will include big-picture issues, such as integration of growth and technology, finance, retention and addition of quality staff and others; but, the end-goal of working through said issues is the preparation of our kids for their future.

Any additional comments: Not provided

Address of your candidate Website and/or Facebook Page: Not provided

Voting

Election Day is Saturday, May 7, with early voting running from April 25 through May 3. Questions about early voting via mail (absentee) or in-person, specific voter identification information or restrictions are available at: www.votedenton.com, elections@dentoncounty.com, or by phone at 940-349-3200.

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