Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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May 4, 2014

CISD Trustee Election Q&A

The Daily Sun asked the two candidates for the CISD Board of Trustees Election on May 10 to respond to a series of questions about the race and their thoughts on the district. Their responses are shared below, listed alphabetically.

Leah Blackard

Name: Leah Dill Blackard
Age: 40
Family: husband Stephen (Financial Advisor with Edward Jones), Reese (6th grader at Drane), Dill (Pre K at Sam Houston)
Occupation: Executive Director of the Navarro Council of the Arts and the Corsicana Palace Theatre
Educational Background: CHS graduate, Bachelors of Business Administration in Economics from the University of North Texas
  Why do you want to serve on the CISD Board of Trustees?:  As a Corsicana native, CISD graduate and a current CISD parent, student success is my number one priority.  I am running for re-election because I want to continue helping our educators in Corsicana build on our many strengths and achievements while we continue working to eliminate challenges.  I bring a unique dynamic to the board with a background in arts education curriculum and business experience in management and finance, which makes me an informed and a well-rounded board member.  I am passionate about our schools, our kids, our community, and I am just getting started!
  What do you see as the most important issue facing CISD?:  As a current board member, I am working diligently to minimize potential challenges.  We increased the fund balance by more than 30 percent to $22 million to assure any potential challenge is met, such as: safety and security of our students and staff, the ever-changing school finance system, adequate space for our growing student population, and curriculum programs to meet the needs of both new and current students.  I know that we, as a board, are remaining focused on these and are planning for the future as we spend many hours devoted to these issues.
  Do you support a bond issue to fund improvements and new buildings in the district?: Providing facilities that help students succeed and keep them safe is paramount for any Board. CISD is dealing with aging infrastructure, and we must make improvements focused on students. Currently, I am not in favor of a new administration building.  CISD is engaging our constituents through a committee of almost 100 parents, educators, and business owners to evaluate all CISD facilities. The role of the Board is to review their recommendation in light of our finances to see if we can afford the improvements while keeping the tax rate as low as possible. I look forward to the committee’s recommendations.
  Why should voters choose you to serve on the CISD board?: I have served for six years as a CISD board member.  With two small children in our schools and serving on PTO’s, District committees, the Corsicana Education Foundation, raising and giving money for our students,  and promoting arts for students in our community, my complete focus has and will continue to be CISD.  My emphasis will continue to be: Academic and extra-curricular success for all students; retaining and rewarding great teachers; small classroom sizes; technology focused classrooms; fiscal responsibility with our tax dollars; strengthening communication & relationships between our schools and community.

Rick Newton

Name: Rick Newton
Age: 58
Family: Wife Joanne Newton, teacher for 35 years, 23 with CISD; children Shae, Kacee Newton Harvey and husband Nathan Harvey, Corey Newton; grandchildren, Hannah and Bennett Harvey.
Occupation: Retired
Educational Background: BS in Physical Education from University of Texas at Austin; Masters Sec. Education from University of North Texas; All level mid-management certification from University of North Texas.
  Why do you want to serve on the CISD Board of Trustees? I feel that my 34 years as an educator, coach, assistant principal and district level administrator will be an asset to the board and district. I gained valuable experience under several respected individuals such as Donnie Denbow, Tom Wilson, Todd Brewer and Randy Green. Dr. Dickson, Danzell Lee, Alex Williams, Sharron McDonald and Joe Adams provided leadership and direction as administrators. CISD and Corsicana have been good to me and my family. Being elected to the board will allow me to give back to the community and students served by CISD.
  What do you see as the most important issue facing CISD? Balancing the needs of our students, faculty and staff with the resources available while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
  Do you support a bond issue to fund improvements and new buildings in the district? I will support a bond if it is student-driven, student-centered and a direct benefit to the students and the programs they participate in. Many of our facilities need to be repaired. Any buildings or repairs should be done with student safety, comfort and state and federal regulations in mind, not for cosmetic or aesthetic purposes. We should put line items on the ballot. This allows the taxpayer to see each project and the amount requested. This would fully inform the voting public and create trust within the community. If the bond is passed, the taxpayers are entitled to a return on investment and if funds are used for the improvement of the district there should be a mutual benefit to the community.
  Why should voters choose you to serve on the CISD board? Thirty-four years of experience in education. I have been a classroom teacher, coach at all levels, and an administrator both at the building level and district level. I know what good, quality instruction is. I know the importance of accountability. I know how objective evaluations are done and I know the role of a board member.

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