Fort Bend ISD candidates speak up at latest forum

Employee union endorsements forthcoming

By Elsa Maxey

In the midst of FBISD’s budget calamity, the district’s school board elections for three trustee seats are about to take place next month. As previously reported, there are eight candidates running and two of them are incumbents. One of the incumbents, Position 5 Trustee Laurie Caldwell, is not running for re-election. Those eligible to vote are reminded that the last day to register to vote for the May 14 election is April 14. Early Voting will be from May 2-10.

At the latest FBISD forum with about 200 participants, Position 5 board candidate Patsy Taylor did not speak up at the Fort Bend Employee Federation’s candidate forum last Thursday, because she wasn’t there. She’s been a two time no show— at last Thursday’s event held at the Sugar Land Marriott hosted and employee union organized forum for the candidates, and at the FBISD candidates forum hosted by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce the previous week. But, Jonita Reynolds, who is running against Taylor has been present at both, albeit moments after the session began last week, but just in time to field the first question when it was her turn. Incumbent Susan Hohnbaum, who is running against Wade A. Watassek, also was not at the Marriott, but she previously advised the employee union of a family event. Hohnbaum, however, completed a questionnaire and sent her responses.

The candidates briefly answered questions posed by the employee federation’s President Karrie Washenfelder, who also served as the moderator. She said the employee federation’s endorsements would be forthcoming, probably sometime this week.

The identified issues facing the school district were very similar and consistent among all the candidates, mostly the budget, communications and zoning. As for the others, the audience’s approval of the responses was clearly understood with clapping and cheering like for the one from Bruce Albright about more education in the classroom and less administrators. And, his response to the Global Center that was to, reportedly, use earmarked bond money that he said the district indicates is off the table. He said it is off for now, suggesting that one take a look at the Virginia Beach Plan, if you think that it’s off. Clapping, yea’s and cheers were heard as he said his comment probably did not need clarification. Superintendent Dr. Timothy Jenney came to FBISD from the Virginia Beach public school system where he was superintendent from 1996 to 2005.

Daniel Menendez’s comment about needing not to cut back in classrooms as opposed to auxiliary personnel or those outside the classroom was received favorably as was Kevin Daniels’ comment about the superintendent’s contract needing to be the same length as teachers’ one year contract. Positive feedback came from Wade Wattassek’s response about giving back bond money if nothing is being done with the funds.

Rodrigo Carreon, who is running for the school board for the fourth time, amused the audience with his unique response to whether he supported a tax to supplement and make up for the state’s refusal to fund public schools at a more appropriate level. Most of the respondents referred to a property tax, but Carreon asked, a tax of any kind? He said he would support a sales tax for education like a snack tax on junk food, sodas, beer, and candy. A fat tax like that for a health fund, which has been proposed in other parts of the country.

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