FREDERICKSBURG ISD BOARD MEMBER-CANDIDATES Q&A
Natalie Smith Bowman
1. What issues do you believe FISD needs to address in its academic programs? What changes would you recommend?
Natalie Smith Bowman: As a district, we need better alignment in our academic programs. The past two years with remote learning and the pandemic have created some gaps in learning, especially in the elementary grades. We need to work on bridging those gaps to bring these students back on grade level.
Jake Whittington: I can speak from personal experience for part of my answer and will voice some conversations I’ve had with several community members for the other part of this answer.
In our experience with both of our children, elementary level early math skills have not been pushed hard enough – specifically mastery of addition, subtraction & multiplication tables. These are the foundation for all that comes next in math and felt very rushed for both of our children who have attended Fredericksburg Elementary. Advancing to mathematical story-type problems is then presented far too early while foundational level math should still be the focus. Ultimately, more in-school time should be dedicated to foundational math skills since these skills are crucial for advancing to the next stages of math.
At the later levels, I cannot speak from experience, but it has been voiced to me from numerous parents that we are dramatically lacking in technology related skill development that could lead to careers in IT and other technology related jobs. These skills are in demand in the workforce and many do not require a college degree, so it would definitely help give our kids a great option to be able to hone these skills during high school years, especially if they will begin working immediately after high school.
Mark Cornett: Although our academic scores are better than both the state and region on almost all categories. We have students who are not at grade level and goal is for the school to move the student forward at least 1 year of academic growth. Students who are approaching grade level need more than 1 year of growth to achieve grade level by 5th grade.
To do this we need effective teachers who are supported with resources in the classroom. We need to remove obstacles that cause excessive workloads on teachers.
We will set reasonable expectations and focus on achieving those goals and not get distracted by other issues that take away from classroom teaching.
One thing we can all do as a community to influence the legislature is to stop making additional unfunded mandates. Every mandate requires effort or change within a district. This disrupts the teaching process.
Adam Riley: Our academic programs should be geared to specific needs of students in a manner that maintains consistency across all grade levels. Students have different abilities and ability levels, and I think too often we get caught up in the idea of things being all inclusive, instead of putting students in situations where they can be truly successful in academics. There were many occasions during my years at FISD where students were asked to “walk before they could crawl.” I appreciate the ideas of challenges and inclusivity, but not at the expense of skipping over the necessities needed to be successful in a classroom. I take the approach of what does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. If that means holding someone back or placing a child in a particular group to be successful, then that’s what should be done. Asking too much of a kid before they have the necessary skills in place is frustrating for both them and their teachers. As a teacher, keeping up with the pace and TEKS of a course/grade is meaningless if kids are being left behind in the process of staying on pace. I think the above points are especially true at the elementary and middle school levels.
As kids advance in age, I think more consideration should be placed in what that child would like to do post high school. Challenge them in the areas that will provide them the most readiness for what they want for themselves “in the real world”, as they say. If that means more emphasis on preparing for a trade or the military instead of a college or university, then let’s take that route. Kids don’t want to be force fed things that they know they will never use, especially once they get to the age where they can identify what they’re passionate about and have an idea of what they want out of their life after high school. For kids that know they want to go to a college or university and enter the world of academia, their challenges should be tailored for success in that setting.
Advanced placement classrooms that have rigorous testing and homework expectations and end with a standardized exam which gives them a measurement of how they match up to the people they will compete with after graduation is important. Performance on standardized tests is the most equitable and transparent way to determine academic readiness for acceptance into colleges and universities. I would like to see FHS do away with dual-credit college courses that have no in-person instructor. These classes seem to be less challenging and don’t give as accurate of a representation of a college environment as they would get with an instructor present, rather than just a facilitator or proctor. As a student, I got much more out of my dual credit classes when I had an in-person teacher leading a college level course.
Both abovementioned groups, those who seek a post-secondary education and those who do not, are of equal importance. One is not better than the other. I know many successful people, some who chose college and some who didn’t. I think the important thing is to emphasize to students that success can be achieved through hard work, regardless of the path they choose for themselves.
Something that I would like to see emphasized more throughout FISD, especially at older ages, is placing our kids in settings that promote collaboration with their peers to achieve a goal, produce a product, or provide a service. So much of success comes from the ability to think and collaborate with other people, as a part of a team, because that’s what the professional/business world requires. I do not know of many jobs out there that allow someone to truly work alone. There is almost always some sort of interaction with another person that must occur at a proficient enough level to yield results.
I am ready to put Covid behind us, and pretty much everything that came along with it; however, there is one thing that came out of it that I think is great, and needs to be used district wide, at all levels, consistently, and that is Google Classroom. Consistency as a district and educating parents on how to use it eases the stress of kids being out of the actual classroom, for whatever reason. In my experience, it was an excellent way to hold kids accountable for their work when they miss class and largely eliminates any excuses for not knowing what is going on and what is expected of them in class. It keeps people on the same page and keeps parents “speaking the same language” on what to expect when their kids miss, from one grade level to the next. I know we started using it because of Covid, but it truly is a great tool that I would like to see more widely and consistently implemented.
Another thing I would like to see is incentivized pay for teacher performance. Incentivizing teacher performance could be a driver for improving student performance on standardized tests and other measures of student success. The element of competition brings out our best, attracts the best, and ultimately leads to the production of the best products and services. Incentivizing pay would be limited to positive outcomes; in other words, there’s no “punishment” for teachers when incentive standards are not reached.
Abide by the law when accommodating for special populations. Find out what makes them tick and use it. For example, when I was teaching AP World History at FHS, I never once knew in which areas a G/T student was gifted, merely that they had a G/T designation. A more comprehensive knowledge of the areas in which they were gifted could have improved their educational experience in my class. I want to make sure that FISD is thorough in identifying special needs and abilities in its students.
Matt Seidenberger: My thoughts on deficiencies existing in student performance as children age relate to reaching them early. While not neglecting the need for improvement in the older grades, focusing instructional resources to ensure success in grades 1-3 should create a basis from which students can grow. I believe this round of testing will show us the disastrous results of the Covid shutdown & quarantines which we must also address.
J.D. Windham: The greatest academic need of FISD is to ensure our students have mastered the knowledge and skills taught during COVID due to the 2020 quarantine, students distance learning in the 20-21 school year, and significant student and faculty absences in 21-22. This requires making sure that teachers have the resources needed to reteach and help students gain lost time. This also requires retaining teachers and recruiting the best teachers to FISD.
2. Do you believe that school board trustees have a legal right to implement mask and/or vaccine mandates in public school? Would you ever vote to implement a mask and/or vaccine mandate?
Natalie Smith Bowman: As a board, we should always be making decisions for the best health and wellness of our school district, which not only includes staff and students but also the community. We would never mandate a vaccine because only the public health department has that ability. We, as a district, follow the policy of the state. I want our students to have in person learning, so I would only vote to implement masks if that was the ONLY way to attend school in person.
Jake Whittington: No, I do not agree that the board of trustees has a right to implement mask mandates or vaccine mandates.
No, I would not vote to implement mask or vaccine mandates. Additionally, it should be noted that when I signed up to run for school board, I signed a statement swearing under oath that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of the State of Texas. I intend to fulfill that oath.
Lastly, during the school year last year, several schools including Peaster ISD did not implement any COVID related changes to their school year (no masks, no quarantines, had dances, sports were normal, etc.). The TEA respected their local authority in making these decisions for themselves and the schools thrived without having their children’s educations fall behind. I would like to see our school board lay claim to the concept of local authority and making decisions based on what is best for our community.
Mark Cornett: It is my understanding (I am not an attorney) that the state sets rules for vaccination requirements in schools. I do not believe school boards are given the authority to make decisions on vaccines. FISD removed the requirement to wear masks in the spring of 2021. I do not know what the current legal conditions are for a school board to require facial coverings.
Adam Riley: No, I do not believe a board of trustees has a legal right to implement mask or Covid-vaccine mandates in public school. I do believe, however, that the best place for a kid to learn is on campus. Sacrificing on campus learning is a huge risk. I think vaccines that are proven to be effective at preventing a disease, unlike the Covid vaccine, are necessary. Minimum vaccine requirements, as they are sometimes called. (Tetanus, Polio, MMR, Hepatitis, Varicella, Meningococcal). I do not support a mask mandate, but I would also not vote in a manner that sacrificed on campus learning. The price is too high. I would not vote to implement a vaccine mandate that went beyond the minimum vaccine requirements mentioned above.
Matt Seidenberger: After the Covid shut-down & subsequent quarantines, it is obvious to me that being in school is what’s needed for the vast majority of kids. My vote on this issue would be guided by the state or local laws in place, but I lean towards a decision that allows kids to be in school. On the issue of a vaccine, I can think of no reason why a school board member would have any input on a vaccine mandate, and I would abstain.
J.D. Windham: I do believe the school district has the right to implement a mask mandate for the general welfare of faculty and students as a good community health practice. When and how that mandate should be utilized can only be determined on a case-by-case basis with the recommendation of the administration.
As everyone knows, the state does require vaccination of students to prevent certain diseases. The COVID vaccine is like the Flu vaccine where it does not prevent infection but only limits the spread and reduces the symptoms when infected. Students should not be required by the school district to be vaccinated until it is proven to prevent the disease, approved by the FDA and by state health officials to be necessary and safe for developmental reasons. Parents should be encouraged to follow the advice of their pediatrician. Faculty and administration should not be required to be vaccinated for similar reasons.
3. What are your thoughts on the current and proposed budget for your school district? As a board member, are there any areas you would consider cutting? How do you determine your budget priorities?
Natalie Smith Bowman: As a board, we have been fiscally responsible to our district. Our current superintendent of finance is an asset to our district because she is well versed in school finance and budgeting, and we are always looking for the best and most conservative approach to spending. We currently do not have a proposed budget for the 2022- 20223 school year. My top priority is always anything that will help our students and create a better learning environment.
Jake Whittington: The current budget (that is available on the FISD website) seems reasonable, but the categories are relatively broad, so it is hard to critique without having access to more detailed information. I believe we have a good team of people being led by the Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance that are very conscientious about working within the constraints put on FISD due to Robin Hood.
I would like to have the opportunity to be involved with the future budgeting processes in order to use my skillset to contribute in any way I can. It would be my hope that we can find some areas in the budget where we can make some room to increase teacher pay. If it is possible within future budgets, I would also like to see some additional incentives offered, whether it be through bonuses or raises, where our most effective educators and staff are rewarded for exceptional efforts.
Mark Cornett: I would like to cut the chapter 49 recapture payment which accounts for 35% of our M&O Budget. The FISD tax rate has dropped from $1.11 to $0.97 / 100 in the last several years. In order to do this we need to have a higher weighted daily average attendance (WADA) to keep our taxpayers dollars in FISD. Additionally I have worked with regional grass roots planning to request to include a cost of living index into the funding formulas and index them to average residential property value, which is a data point that has considerable variance across the state.
Adam Riley: I think the answer to this question depends on whether the school bond election passes or not. If there’s not some more money put into the district, the budget sort of is what it is. I would like to have the input of campus administrators and coordinators when setting the budget because I want to hear from the people with their boots on the ground. I want to know what works for them and what doesn’t. My budget priorities are focused on the human resources of a district. We must find a way to better compensate our teachers and staff. I would seriously question the implementation of any “new” social emotional learning curriculum, as it seems to change every few years. Also, any sort of new training for teachers on programs that won’t last more than a year or two need to be avoided. Things that don’t last aren’t worth implementing in the first place. This is a huge problem for public schools with frequent admin changes, because what’s important seems to change with administration. That’s why consistency in that regard is so important. Consistency and efficiency are a money saver and a time saver.
Matt Seidenberger: My initial goal would be to urge the administration to find a way to move the District’s 77% allotment for salaries to the state average of 82-83%. I believe this to be our priority goal. To reach that goal, I would greatly consider cuts recommended by the executive team.
J.D. Windham: I believe the school district is currently using funds to the best of its ability, especially with recapturing by the state. Funding opportunities that maximize the potential for success of every student in the classroom is my priority.
4. What is the public relations role of the board? How can the board be accessible to the parents? How will you as trustee communicate with your constituent groups?
Natalie Smith Bowman: The board should be a representative of the people of a community. It should represent the morals and values of those that it represents. I have been in the school district as a teacher (27 years) and as a board member (7 years), so I know the people of our community and the values that are important to them. As board members, we are accessible by phone and email to parents. I share information with ALL groups as it becomes available.
Jake Whittington: The board has a very important public relations role because the community looks to the board members to explain decisions being made by the school district. Being plugged in and knowledgeable of current FISD events is an absolute necessity for a board member to thrive in their role of communicating with the community.
Personally, I would place a high priority on being accessible to parents. I have always appreciated it when the school board members are responsive and willing to listen to and respond to my questions, so I know from experience how important that is.
Outside of being available by phone and email, if there is community interest, then I would certainly be interested in having a periodic open meeting to give the community the opportunity to bring issues and questions to me in my role as an FISD board member. If I am on the school board, I am there to represent the people in Fredericksburg Independent School District, so I would see it as my responsibility to make sure I am available to listen to the thoughts and concerns of our community.
As a sidenote to this question: One other idea that was voiced to me was to have a “board ambassador” program where people sign up to help with board projects based on their background. In my opinion, this would be a great way to keep our community involved with our schools and utilize the strengths of various members of our community.
Mark Cornett: The board’s role is governance and not management of the district. There are many ways to establish governance procedures that do not restrict a parent or member of the community to provide input, ask questions, or be accessible to parents. My cell phone and email have been available to the public for my 12 years on the board and I routinely listen to parents and other community members who have questions about the district. In the past I have hosted Taxpayer Tours at campus levels which show the campus in action to small groups during the school day. This is a very effective way to give community members a look into our schools. Board communication should start with the Superintendent and the school is really the first place to send out information – not individual board members.
Adam Riley: As elected officials, there is an obligation to be accessible to the parents, but not at the expense of decency, respect, and politeness. It is essentially a volunteer position, and most volunteers are passionate, and I think that should be appreciated and respected. I think that the school board as an entity should have one email address where formal issues are addressed. It should be required that all formal inquiries be funneled through there to ensure transparency and limit the impact of private agendas that are pursued along other avenues. With that said, there are some matters when it comes to running a district that are best left to the professionals. Some examples would include setting curriculum in core subject areas, bell schedules, major budget decisions, facilities maintenance decisions, extracurricular practice times, etc.
Matt Seidenberger: I believe the PR role for board members is to listen to the community and advocate for the schools. While the district should be the primary information source for communications stakeholders, I believe board members should strive to have access to plans, actions and accomplishments of the district. Ensuring district successes as well as needs are fully known by the community (parents, taxpayers, etc.) is an important part of funding & feedback. I would intend to be available by phone, email and personal appointment (when practical for both).
J.D. Windham: Elected by voters, a primary role of the board is to listen to parents and community members and to use that feedback to make the best decisions in the interests of all students.
As a board member, my door will be opened to listening to the ideas and concerns of parents/guardians and community members. I will actively relay those ideas to the entire board and superintendent for consideration. In return, I will be an ambassador of the school district to keep the community informed, seek support and proactively address concerns.
Most of the work of a school board member is fulfilled between board meetings, in dialogue with others seeking common ground and to better understand how we together can best serve our students.
5. Should Homeschool students be allowed to use publicly funded facilities and equipment and participate in FISD extracurricular activities?
Natalie Smith Bowman: No, the ability to use our school facilities comes with being enrolled in school. Home schools may choose to participate in home school groups and sports, but there is liability for the district to have a student who is not enrolled in our schools and held accountable to our guidelines.
Jake Whittington: Yes, homeschool students should be allowed to participate in FISD extracurricular activities.
Mark Cornett: Many non-FISD students use the facilities and equipment through community education camps /activities along with after-hours use of playgrounds and fields. Regarding participation in UIL or extracurricular activities, I understand this is left up to each school district. Funding through the M&O side of the equation is equated to enrolled students who are attending school classes and not extracurricular. The recommendation to the board has been to not allow homeschool or private school students to participate in extracurricular activities such as UIL events as there are often more students than positions available and it creates an unequal playing field with respect to eligibility.
Adam Riley: I think the decision to educate a child at home means that the parents are responsible for obtaining, implementing, and executing their child’s curriculum to the best of their ability. It is a massive undertaking to provide a quality education for a child at home, and frankly, that’s why public schools exist. A parent must assess if they have the time, materials, and financial resources to provide what a public school can provide, including extracurricular and social components. That means they have to find extra-curricular activities as well, like private lessons, club sports, etc.
As I mentioned earlier, the best place for kids to be educated is on campus. If families/parents think they can do a better job than the school, then do so, but when that decision is made, the resources of a public school should no longer be at their disposal. This situation is a product of Covid, and something that was allowed under that circumstance, but needs to be done away with now.
Matt Seidenberger: Private schools in the county currently use publicly funded facilities for training and practice, so I see no reason home school students not to do the same. As far as participation in UIL extra-curricular activities, while home- schooled and private-schooled students in the county are represented by tax dollars, I believe equity in their situations makes this a tough issue. Until we can ensure private schools and home schools are adhering to the same testing standards, scheduling, drug-testing, etc. as the publicly funded schools, I don’t see it happening.
J.D. Windham: I do not oppose homeschool students using public facilities and equipment with the recommendation of the administration. These are funded by primarily local property taxes, paid regardless of owners’ student enrollment.
I would support homeschool students participating in FISD extracurricular activities with the recommendation of the administration.
6. How do you define Critical Race Theory and its implementation?
Natalie Smith Bowman: Critical Race Theory is the belief that racism is embedded in legal systems and not limited to individuals. It has become a phrased used to include anything about race taught or discussed in public secondary schools.
Jake Whittington: I believe in teaching history honestly while educating students about the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is especially important so the same mistakes aren’t repeated. CRT takes the additional step of adding guilt in the mix for some learners, but not others. Based on information from other communities, CRT is being implemented under the radar, so it will take a board, superintendent and administration scrutinizing the curriculums that are being brought in so that this ideology will be prevented from entering our schools.
Mark Cornett: I do not. I had to look it up on Websters and do not have a clear understanding of the definition.
Adam Riley: Critical race theory suggest that race is a social construct used to oppress minority groups and attempts to explain how discrimination and inequity are woven into laws, policies, and systems. It also argues that racism goes beyond individual prejudice and is ingrained in American society. Some supporters go even farther and suggest that someone’s “whiteness” obligates them to a moral responsibility to do something about how racism still impacts our lives today. CRT’s assumption of racism is racist. It is a self-contradicting theory. I think the implementation of CRT promotes contention and uses race to promote mistrust between children and demands that everything in society be viewed through the lens of racism, sexism, and power.
CRT attempts to make kids feel guilty about the color of their skin and act on that guilt. It’s the complete wrong approach to teaching children empathy and care for others. Acting out of a posture of guilt is not empathy. Empathy is seeing the need of another and helping them because you would want the same done for you in your moment of need. If you were stranded on the side of the road, would you care what race the person is who comes to your aid? I should think not. Along those same lines, if someone is in need, I don’t want our kids in Fredericksburg to be taught to consider the color of their own skin and race of the person in need before deciding to do what’s right. What’s right is what’s right.
We should be teaching our kids to help those less fortunate and in need of help because it is the right thing to do, regardless of the color of their skin, or the color of our own skin. Reasons for having empathy for another should not be defined by race.
Matt Seidenberger: My understanding of Critical Race Theory is the focus on race as the key to understanding society and defining people. Implementation could include anything from focusing resources on training, curriculum, or activities related to furthering that ideology.
J.D. Windham: Requiring much more than can be provided in a concise answer, critical race theory is the academic concept that all social institutions are inherently racist in order to create different outcomes by race.
7. Do you think CRT should be taught in public school and should CRT reading material be in the school libraries?
Natalie Smith Bowman: Our school’s job is to teach the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). CRT is not a part of the TEKS and schools do not have the freedom to teach outside the TEKS. These materials should not be in our school libraries either. Under the new Texas law, “a teacher may not be compelled to discuss a widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” New civics training mandated by the new law will be a step to abolish CRT in our secondary classrooms.
Jake Whittington: I do not think CRT should be taught in public schools, nor should CRT reading material be in the school libraries. Effective teaching programs do not require personal guilting of students in order to be successful.
Mark Cornett: The Texas legislature recently passed laws on this applicable to public schools and the curriculum.
Adam Riley: No, CRT has no place in the education and shaping of young minds. I think it would be wise to carefully consider what is deemed to be CRT reading material and having a methodology and process in place to evaluate this. There must be consensus as a district on what qualifies as CRT and what doesn’t, and until that exists, it is tough to pass judgement on any book/material/curriculum.
It is also important to keep a watchful eye on social-emotional development curriculum, because there is a trend of taking CRT curriculum and rebranding it as “social emotional learning.” Any SEL curriculum should be carefully reviewed before implementation at FISD. I do not think that we can take the developers of these programs at their word about what they are selling, we should research and decide for ourselves.
With that said, one of the great things about our community is that issues like this have not yet come to the forefront. I hope we can maintain focus on the issues at hand, rather than spending too much time worrying about what might happen.
Matt Seidenberger: I am not in favor of CRT instruction or materials in our school district.
J.D. Windham: I do not believe CRT is currently being taught in public schools. I do not believe in limiting academic freedom, civic debate and an open exchange of ideas in our schools. I do not believe there has been enough guidance provided to the administration and faculty about the differences between CRT and historical fact.
I believe in the ability of the administration to hire quality faculty members to instruct and guide learning of our students. I believe in the ability of parents to actively participate in the education of their students as a teacher and observer.
8. Do you support or oppose natural/biological male students competing with natural/biological female students in publicly funded athletic programs?
Natalie Smith Bowman: UIL does not allow a natural/biological male student to compete with a natural/ biological female student. Students must compete based on the sex listed on their birth certificates.
Jake Whittington: I oppose biological male students competing with biological female students. I do not want my daughters growing up thinking that 2nd place is the new 1st place.
Mark Cornett: No and I believe it is not allowed in UIL events.
Adam Riley: I oppose that sort of competition once children reach an age of physical maturity where the differences in the two sexes start to make a marked difference in physical traits (size, strength, sexual maturation, etc.). If a clear advantage exists due to a gender difference, then the two genders should not compete against one another, especially when there is a sport equivalent for both genders.
Shared space between athletes becomes an issue here too, as opposite genders being in locker rooms, changing together, etc., is not a healthy environment. Safety of kids should be the first consideration.
When children are young and not physically mature, it is okay for them to compete with one another should they need to. (Youth Soccer, Baseball, Etc.)
Matt Seidenberger: I oppose males & females competing against one another in UIL athletic competitions.
J.D. Windham: I believe natural/biological male students have a physical advantage over natural/biological female students and therefore an unfair competitive advantage. Athletic competition should be focused on providing the best and most fair opportunities to encourage participation and achievement.
9. What role does public education have in sex education and when, if ever, should it be taught in school?
Natalie Smith Bowman: A public school should only teach any information that is tied 100% to biology. This would include the male and female reproduction process. At no time is it a school role to discuss anything other than the biological makeup and processes. It is the parent’s role to teach all other aspects of sex education with family at home.
Jake Whittington: The public school’s role in sex education, if any at all, is to teach children about scientific reproduction between a male and female. Beyond that, it is the role of parents to teach their children about sex and it is the parents’ choice in how they go about that teaching.
Mark Cornett: Schools are required to follow the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) established by the SBOE. Schools have a very important role in education of all forms including sex education when their parents opt the student into the program.
Adam Riley: Sexual education should be limited in public schools to the anatomical components of the male and female reproductive system, its biological necessity as a means of reproduction, the dangers sex can pose when not safely practiced, or when practiced at an age when a person is not mentally developed enough to handle the emotions involved with it. Stick to the facts.
I think ignoring it entirely would be a mistake because education about the aforementioned topics is a matter of child safety that is beneficial as they mature into adults.
It is not the place, duty, or obligation of a public school to educate students on sexual preference or gender identity. That right should he held strictly by parents and taught in accordance with their own personal beliefs, morals, and religious affiliation.
Students should be prepared and educated on the general idea that people are going to disagree and have different points of view than their own throughout their life. We need to teach children how to have respectful discourse with others that don’t share our own beliefs. I think we as adults all-too-often forget that we are setting examples for our kids when it comes to how we treat others that we disagree with. Disagreeing with someone does not give us the right to disrespect them. That’s where the focus of education should be in these terms. We can disagree with someone without diminishing their beliefs. It’s easier to insult someone than to respectfully disagree with them, and we need to be diligent in teaching children to not take the easy road in this instance.
Matt Seidenberger: I believe reproductive health should be taught as a fact-based health curriculum. It is my understanding that the District’s SHAC recommends instruction hours for health, policies and procedures, and curriculum. I believe the SHAC will properly inform these guidelines within the standards of the community. As far as sex education, it is my understanding that parents must opt-in for children to participate.
J.D. Windham: Public education has a role in providing sex education from a scientific, fact-based learning perspective.
For a significant number of students, who do not receive parental guidance, receiving appropriate information through public education is better than most other sources available. Because of this, public education also has a role in providing age-appropriate sex education to assist students with being informed and to be equipped to make the best decisions for their own personal mental, physical and emotional health.
10. According to EF Legal in school board policy law, “A district may remove materials because they are pervasively vulgar or based solely upon the educational suitability of the books in question”. Would you as a board trustee permanently remove any library books, curriculum and/or instructional resources that are “pervasively vulgar” and/or not educationally suitable for FISD students?
Natalie Smith Bowman: It is our job as a board to ensure that our libraries and classes provide books to read that help our students to become better readers. We have and we will continue to remove any books that are pervasively vulgar
or not educationally suitable for our students. The new state guidelines as well as our district’s guidelines will ensure that our books are suitable and age appropriate.
Jake Whittington: Yes. I also would accept the board taking a greater role in the actual review of the books since the board members’ views, as people voted in by the FISD community, are the most true representation of the community’s views and values. I would also not want a school distributing materials that, if distributed outside of the schools, would be considered illegal.
Mark Cornett: I support the Legal policies currently in place. We have also added clarity to the local policy.
Adam Riley: I think there is an age in which students are mentally ready to handle vulgar material, and that to me is the age of consent, 17. I think pervasively vulgar or not educationally suitable material should be removed altogether from campuses that do not have students of this age on campus (primary, elementary, and middle school campuses). On campuses that have students of this age, there should be age restrictions placed on books. Much like there is an age restriction placed on the right to vote. Once a student reaches this age, they should be granted access to said material only with in person and written confirmation from a parent.
This requires a great deal of oversight and a huge time commitment from the district, but it is a measure that I think is worth the investment of both time, personnel, and resources.
It is a compromise over the argument of the restriction of freedom of speech and thought.
Matt Seidenberger: My stance on issues that arise will always first be to defer to policy. I support the FISD board’s updated policy with regards to books, curriculum and/or instructional resources and would defer to policy. It is my understanding that guidelines are being developed to further enhance the policy in EF Local, and if that is approved, I would again defer to policy.
J.D. Windham: I support the current policy and procedures for reconsideration of instructional materials. I have faith in the decisions of committees made up of school officials and faculty along with parents and community members to review reconsideration requests. I agree with the general understanding of what “pervasively vulgar” means and support with the removal of materials that are not educationally suitable for FISD students.
11. According to the Texas Education Code, “Parents are partners with educators, administrators, and the board in their children’s education. Parents shall be encouraged to actively participate in creating and implementing educational programs for their children. (Education Code 26.001(a))…Unless otherwise provided by law, a board, an administrator, an educator, or other person may not limit parental rights. (Education Code 26.001(c)). As a board trustee, will you abide by Chapter 26 of the TEC and allow parents to actively participate in creating and implementing educational programs for their children? Please explain.
Natalie Smith Bowman: Our district has always welcomed parents in the help and implementation of programs. We have site decision based committees at the campus and district level that are made up of parents, community members, and staff. Educational programs are different than educational content. Educational content is set by the state and is in the form of the TEKS. However, educational programs should involved parental input and should reflect the moral and ethical background of our community.
Jake Whittington: Yes, I would like to see parents being welcomed into our schools and integrated into our children’s learning in every way possible, especially at the primary and elementary levels.
Mark Cornett: I intend to follow all local, state, and federal laws as I have already taken the oath as a board member.
Parents have multiple opportunities to participate including campus improvement planning, school health advisory committee, various other campus and district level committees that parents can become involved.
Adam Riley: The notion that the public educational experience falls entirely on the school is incorrect. Parents should take an active role in educating their children. In addition, I believe parents should be supportive of schools, school officials, teachers, and coaches and should defer to school faculty and staff’s expertise when it comes to education in the core academic subjects, development of trade skills, and athletic skills. I would like to leave the implementation of those areas up to the district and its faculty, who are the experts.
When we get into areas that go beyond this, such as critical race theory, sexual education, and social emotional learning, the input and participation of parents in creating and implementing educational programs should actively be sought and encouraged. Those topics, to me, are deeply personal and go beyond the scope of traditional schooling and should therefore take in the consideration and opinions of parents.
The notion that the public educational experience falls entirely on the school is incorrect. Parents should take an active role in educating their children. In addition, I believe parents should be supportive of schools, school officials, teachers, and coaches and should defer to school faculty and staff’s expertise when it comes to education in the core academic subjects, development of trade skills, and athletic skills.
Matt Seidenberger: I believe parental involvement in their child’s education is essential. My tendency would be defer to district staff with respect to core curriculum such as math, reading, writing, English, etc. With respect to subjects more related to social teachings, I would side more with a parent’s right to opt-out of their child’s participation than to create and implement them. I doubt anyone wants me, unqualified in education, creating and implementing educational programs for their children. In the same way, I am not in favor of an unqualified parent creating and implementing educational programs for my children.
J.D. Windham: I fully support all parents participating in the education of their student(s) as long as it does not infringe on the rights of other students and parents/guardians. In cases of conflict, I support existing policies that empower any parent to opt-in or opt-out of their student(s) from participation.