Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Latest News

April 27, 2014

CISD Trustees Election candidate profiles

There is one contested race on the May 10 ballot for the Corsicana Independent School District Board of Trustees. Incumbent Leah Blackard is being challenged by Rick Newton. The Daily Sun interviewed the two candidates and their profiles are presented in alphabetical order.

Leah Blackard

Leah Blackard views her service on the Corsicana Independent School District Board of Trustees as a way of giving back to the community that's given so much to her and her family.
Blackard is seeking re-election to her seat in the May 10 election, in what would be her third term on the board.
Blackard, 40, was born and raised in Corsicana, a 1992 Corsicana High School graduate. Her family's roots go back even more, she said.
“My parents met in first grade at Lee Elementary,” she said. Blackard and her husband have two children who attend CISD as well.
After college in Denton and starting her career in the Metroplex area, she and husband Stephen decided to return to Corsicana in 2001, where she took over leadership of the Navarro Council of the Arts when Sylvia Bonin retired.
With the connection between the Arts Council and the schools, Blackard began to focus on the role of the school district and its trustees, and became involved with the Corsicana Education Foundation, serving as its president.
After chairing a committee on the standardized dress committee for then-Superintendent Don Denbow, Blackard decided to run for the school board 2008 when Donna Ralston retired from the board. She was unopposed in her re-election bid in 2011.
“It's become a real passion for me,” Blackard said. “I'm proud of the job we're doing for the kids, I'm proud of the teachers.”
Blackard said she feels the CISD is doing a lot of “great things” right now, driving her desire to stay on the board.
“I'm really proud of the fact that we've approved balanced budgets and been able to put money into savings every year,” she said. She said trustees have raised the district's fund balance by 30 percent over the last six years.
“That's important because we're unsure about how school finances are going to be from the state,” Blackard said.
Still, she said, the district has been able to fund such improvements as a $5 million technology upgrade to better address the demands of today's educators and students.
Blackard said actions by the district in refinancing some existing bond debt also saved taxpayers $7.7 million in lower interest costs on the borrowed money.
She's also proud of the board's action in granting raises to teachers and staff this past year – a 3.5 percent increase to all the district's employees.
“My number one focus has always been retaining and rewarding great teachers,” she said. “I am a firm believer in as small a classroom as we can get, and they need to be paid as much as we can.”
Blackard said she was equally proud of the board's ability to lower the district's tax rate last year (due to the debt refinancing)  while still increasing the district's fund balance.
Looking forward, aging buildings in the district and a growing student population will be challenges that the district will have to meet.
She said the work of the current facilities study committee will be important for the district and its leaders.
Support for another bond election would depend, she said, on what the proposal contains.
“I feel like our aging buildings are an issue,” she said. “I understand we have issues with our buildings and we also have a lot of children in portable buildings … I would have to make sure the needs are there and the money is right.”
 

Rick Newton

Retired educator Rick Newton is hoping to have the opportunity to help lead the district he worked for as a new member of the Corsicana Independent School District Board of Trustees.
Newton, 58, is running against board member Leah Blackard, who is seeking her third term as a trustee.
Newton said he is running “to give people a choice” in the leadership  of the district, and to give back to the community and the people who were so helpful to him in his career in Corsicana.
The retired teacher and coach attended high school in Plano (his dad was the principal while he was there) and earned degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and UNT. He moved to Corsicana in 1990 from Lindale to join the staff of Tiger football coach Don Denbow.
Newton said some interesting family ties to Corsicana makes him think he was “destined” to live here.
“My grandfather worked for Mr. Bunch as a funeral director here and in Blooming Grove, and my father-in-law was one of the four original members of the Medical Arts Clinic,” he said.
Newton's CISD career saw him move from the classroom to administration, serving as district coordinator until his retirement in 2012. His wife, Joanne, also a teacher, still teaches part-time at Navarro College.
Newton said he's running for two reasons – to give voters a choice at the polls on May 10, and to give back to the community and the district.
“CISD has been so good to me and my family,” he said. “I couldn't have asked for better … my life has been blessed and my family has been blessed by CISD. And, I see an opportunity to give back.”
Newton said he believes that quality teachers are vital to the district's success, but all district employees play an important role.
“We need to look at the salary structure of our teachers, and the support staff,” he said. “Everybody associated with the school district does a fantastic job and I would like to see them receive more compensation if possible.”
Challenges for the district in Newton's view includes working on improving attendance, and increasing parental involvement.
Still, he says, it comes back to the quality people in the classroom to drive student success.
“Quality people, given all the educational support, and support from central office administrators, in partnership with the parents – it makes a difference. I think that's the key,” he said.
Newton added that the demographics and socio-economic base in Corsicana and the county also present a challenge for educators.
“That makes the great job that our teachers do more difficult,” Newton said.
Newton said the district needs to focus on students and the programs they participate in, and the faculty and support staff.
“Buildings are important, don't get me wrong,” he said, “but I think the money that we have needs to go into those classrooms … give that teacher everything that they need to do what they have to do to get those kids prepared.”
Newton said he supported the 2013 CISD bond election that voters rejected, and would look closely at what would be included in any new proposal.
“I would have to see what they put in the bond issue,” he said. “I know there are some improvements that definitely need to be made.”
Newton said he believes his 34 years as an instructor and administrator qualifies him to serve as a CISD trustee.
“I know what goes on in the classrooms,” he said. “I know what good teaching and good instruction is. I know what an objective evaluation is and what's supposed to happen.”
Early voting for the May 10 election begins Monday
        ‑‑‑‑‑
Bob Belcher may be reached by email at bbelcher@corsicanadailysun.com

Text Only
Latest News
  • Mills place pool Home, sweet home

    Judy and Wayne Nelson had a family of visitors last week — the daughter and grandchildren of the architect who designed their 1927 house on Mills Place.

    July 25, 2014 4 Photos

  • police stock photo Six arrested following drug raid

    Six people were arrested following the execution of a search warrant Thursday night by the Corsicana Police Department’s narcotics detectives, patrol officers and a Navarro County Sheriff’s deputy who works as a courtesy officer for the Arbors Apartment, 1300 N. 45th St.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-25-14 AgriLife additions.jpg AgriLife adds two new agents to Navarro office

    It’s been awhile since the AgriLife Extension office in Navarro County has been fully staffed, but it’s going great guns now.
    New to the staff are Meredith DeBorde, and Lorie Stovall, who will be heading up the 4-H programs and the family and consumer programs, respectively.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff seeks salary shuffle

    Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner went to the County Commissioner’s budget workshop Thursday to ask for a change of how his officers are compensated, or, alternately, an 8 percent across-the-board raise.

    July 24, 2014

  • 7-25-14 CAC boat.jpg Floating a big fundraiser idea

    The big night is fast approaching for the 10 Grand Country Jam, an Aug. 2 fundraiser for the Child Advocates of Navarro County. What will make it a big night is the grand prize, a $31,000 pontoon boat.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Candelario Garcia Jr. (main) Honoring a hero

    Since March of this year, the family of Candelario Garcia Jr. has been so proud of him, they could burst.

    July 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • County Budget Commissioners start budget process

    The Navarro County Commissioner’s Court held its first budget workshop Wednesday, the first of a dozen or more over the next month or so.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-23-14 pianos main.jpg Public pianos invite players

    Corsicana has always been a musical town, with emphasis on country and western, rock and roll, bluegrass and Gospel, but now the parks and recreation department is moving towards bringing music to the masses in a different way. They’re going to put pianos downtown, on the sidewalks for anyone to play at random.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Navarro County 4-H Club holds event

    Texas A&M AgriLife Extention will hold Summer Exploration Days at the Navarro County Expo on Tuesday, July 29 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

    July 22, 2014

  • New date for IPL Job Fair announced

    Tarrant Regional Water District IPL (integrated pipe line) Project will hold a Job Fair from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 at The Cook Center.

    July 22, 2014

AP Video
Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites
Twitter Updates