Hamilton Park United Methodist Church hosted a candidate forum for the first-ever Richardson ISD single-member district election for board of trustees. About 45 members of the public were in attendance.
District 2 has two candidates: Vanessa Pacheco and Eron Linn (incumbent). Linn was not present.
District 4 is an open position, trustee Katie Patterson having resigned earlier this year. District 4 has four candidates: Taler BK Jefferson, Regina Harris, Patricia Price Hicks, and Sakennia Reed.
The forum was opened by former RISD trustee David Tyson, whose lawsuit against the district resulted in the RISD adopting a mixed voting system of five single-member districts and two at-large districts. He introduced the two sponsors: Bill Brewer's law firm, which represented Tyson in his voting rights lawsuit and the North Dallas Suburban Alumnae of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, which provided the moderator, Lacy Durham.
My overall impression of the candidates is that RISD would probably be well-served by any of them winning a seat on the board of trustees. All have educational and professional backgrounds that qualify them for the job. All exhibit the temperament I expect of a trustee.
Taler BK Jefferson wants to get resources for teachers with students who don't speak English. She wants to hire more bi-lingual teachers. She would be most interested in serving with the educational equity committee. As a teacher and the youngest candidate, she feels she is well positioned to advocate for both students and teachers.
Regina Harris, with extensive experience in PTA and service on RISD's strategic planning committees, seems best positioned to have an immediate impact in RISD. She is interested in increasing diversity in leadership positions throughout RISD. As a trustee, she expects to be in the school, in the classrooms, to know what's happening and to make sure it's communicated to parents, helping parents understand what's in it for their children.
Sakennia Reed says being raised in a military family gave her both broad experiences and a few gaps. Her primary goal will be to close the achievement gaps in RISD through policies like full-day pre-K for all children, Algebra 1 for all eighth grade students, and career certification programs.
Patricia Price Hicks came across as the most passionate candidate, even when she wasn't telling us so explicitly ("I have a passion"). She is most interested in re-instituting the RISD Biracial Advisory Committee. She said she is "100%" behind the ACE (Accelerating Campus Excellence) program. She said Hamilton Park elementary "is a magnet school, but I wouldn't know it." She wants to get churches and corporations to bring leadership programs to schools.
Vanessa Pacheco wants to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout RISD. She would enhance programs dealing with mental health, increasing the number of counselors on campuses. She wants every student to have a solid educational foundation, but would also promote specialty programs in STEM subjects and career-oriented subjects like culinary arts. She would work to get businesses in RISD to provide funding for programs and to provide mentors for students learning trades.
Eron Linn was not present.
You can learn more about these candidates at the League of Women Voters website Vote411.org.