Lake Highlands Blue hosted a forum Thursday night for candidates seeking to become the District 7 at-large trustee for Richardson ISD. Six of the seven candidates attended the virtual event: Amanda Clair, Nicole Foster, Nick LaGrassa, Chris Poteet, Blake Sawyer and Eric Stengel. Gavin Haynes did not participate.Source: Advocate Lake Highlands.
As far as I know, video of the forum is not available to the general public. But the Advocate Lake Highlands helpfully published a transcript of the candidates' answers to three questions (edited for clarity and brevity). I want to highlight a few of the sound bites that most caught my attention. Sound bites, by their nature, take words out of context. Read the full answers at the Advocate Lake Highlands to see the context of these sound bites. Also, keep in mind that for many of these candidates, this is their first run for elective office. They probably have little experience with extemporaneous speaking. These are the answers that I suggest they work on. No doubt they will get more polished by election day.
Eric Stengel: "The most pressing need in RISD and all school systems, and part of the reason I’m running, if you look at the capitol riot — that’s an educational problem. We’re full of a bunch of ignorant schmucks."
Stengel doesn't say exactly who are the "ignorant schmucks," whether it's limited to the rioters at the Capitol or includes the millions of people who believe like the rioters that the election was stolen. Ambiguity about who you are insulting is a careless mistake that trustees cannot afford. After saying "we're full of a bunch of ignorant schmucks" Stengel goes on to say "We need to stop bickering and stop all this nonsense." Who is the "we" in that sentence? Does he include himself? Before he finishes a thought, he seems to have forgotten the bickering way he began it.
Nick LaGrassa: "We should not be returning to pre-COVID classroom size until each and every teacher is comfortable doing so."
This is a noble sentiment, but it surrenders policy making to teachers. Not just to teachers as a whole, but to "each and every teacher." Giving teachers such power might win him votes, but it's a promise he might not be able to live up to in office. He goes on to say, "My number one thing is following what the data says." Already he has two number one things, what teachers say and what the data say. What if they say different things?
Amanda Clair: "We know in pre-K that part of phonics is the ability to see mouth movements. With masks that’s really hard."
I'm probably showing I never taught pre-K phonics to anyone other than my own kids, but I hadn't heard that before. It sounds obvious. She goes on to say, "We have actually seen some kids who are excelling in this virtual learning." I'm not surprised. In the push to return to face-to-face, are we harming these virtual learners? She concludes by saying, "What can we learn from this and how can we become innovative so that we aren’t going back to normal, but we’re taking what we learned and going back to greatness?" She's asking the right questions.
Blake Sawyer: "I know the bond is a lot of money. It’s not something fun and exciting. It’s not like we’re building a new band hall or football stadium."
I scratched my head on that. The RISD used bonds to build band halls and press boxes on the football stadiums, and, most recently, multi-purpose activity centers (MPACs, better known as indoor football practice fields). These were the most controversial bond items in my memory. I don't recall them being considered by the voters as "fun and exciting." Contrary to the implication in this sound bite, it's the air conditioning, it's the replacement roofs, it's the new classrooms to relieve overcrowding that voters accept most willingly.
Chris Poteet: "I told Dr. Stone when there are things I don’t agree with, that I have heartburn over, whether it’s the quarantine policy — we’re all backseat drivers, right?"
So, what's the heartburn over the quarantine policy? Actually, let's back up. What is his understanding of the policy? Let's avoid the possibility of the conversation ending like a Saturday Night Live commentary, with Emily Litella being set straight and ending her rant with, "Never mind."
Nicole Foster: "Today, I had to pack up my whole classroom because of the pipes bursting, and I realized I was packing up things of another era — pens, paper, markers — we don’t need them anymore because everything’s digital."
Yikes! I haven't been in a classroom in years. I doubt she's right, and I'm pretty sure that a number of parents (and voters) think that the root of all education problems is the move from paper and pencil to iPads and Chromebooks. Do you *really* think we don't need paper and pencils any more?
Nick LaGrassa: "I have a problem with every four years coming back to the voters and saying we need more money. Especially with this bond package not having an answer for where this money is going to come from."
RISD has an answer for where the money is going to come from. It's the same answer for every bond election. It comes from the portion of property taxes dedicated to "Interest and Sinking". I&S tax revenues will be sufficient to pay back the 2021 bonds. No "Maintenance and Operations" (M&O) tax revenues will be used to pay back the 2021 bonds. Nick LaGrassa should bone up on school finance. It'll take up a lot of his time if he's elected.
I haven't quoted Gavin Haynes (out of context or whatever) because he didn't participate in the forum. Ain't he lucky! On the other hand, "Not to speak is to speak." — Dietrich Bonhoeffer.