School Board Candidates
School Board Candidate Questions
***All candidates who participated in the forum were sent the following list of questions to complete. All candidate responses we received are posted below, unedited. If a candidate from the forum does not have answers listed below, it is because we received no response from them. Colors were used to make individual responses clearly distinct from one another, and in no way indicate party affiliation.***
Additional Questions from LTP Education Committee:How can LTISD address the needs of students who would like to learn a trade or attend non-traditional post-secondary education, such as certification programs in auto mechanics, HVAC, computer repair, etc.?
Adrienne Trigg responds: I do know that the high school has a great welding program and FFA program. The school did partner with ACC and has recently added other resources. As a homebuilder and consultant I see the need for trades and certified skilled jobs. Not only for those not college bound in our society but also specifically for my construction industry.
Lauren White responds: For a long time, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs had a negative connotation. As a result, schools like Lake Travis High School have instead focused primarily on college preparation. But high quality CTE programs, updated to meet the needs of today’s workforce, can help students be more engaged in school and can give them the skills needed to succeed in the workforce. LTHS should support CTE programs by pursuing community partnerships with local businesses to provide CTE coursework that gives students skills that are in demand.
Expanding CTE programs in the High School does not have to lower expectations for students or weaken the academic quality of our schools. If implemented carefully, CTE programs could help students connect their academic coursework and career goals. These programs could better serve students who may not go directly into a four year college program, or students who intend to work while attending college.
Jan Moreland responds: I think this is a gap in LTISD, and it is also a gap in districts with a similar demographic as ours. However, this should not stop us from researching best practices in non-traditional tracks. We may have to look at programs outside of the state to glean best practices. Since this is a new arena for us to tackle, I would recommend creating a sustainable plan (both for budget and students) that spans over 5-7 years. Perhaps we could implement one program, assess its workability, and then move to a second as we fine tune the first. A methodical process would likely reveal its feasibility in Lake Travis ISD. I do believe that there are some students that prefer a non-traditional track that may be very discouraged in the current college readiness track. This would benefit them in more ways than one: readiness for the “real world” and an increased feeling of accomplishment in the here and now.
Donald Scott responds: The easy answer is budgeting and priorities. When I was in HS we had curriculum for ‘shop class’. People learned their way around car engines, refrigerators, and electronics. I do not know if LTHS has something similar. If not, the first question is how does this opportunity get funded, and who decides the priority. I’d say that the immediate next step is to find parents, students and educators interested in showing support for creating more options, and then get them actively involved in the process to make the changes that they want to see.
Tritia Land responds: Currently LTHS has many vocation programs; such as Certified Nursing Assistant, Welding, Auto Mechanics, and many more… I would like to see the high school add Culinary Arts and Cosmetology programs. I would also support a school half day/work half day program. Students could take their basics and then work at area companies for HS credit. With this program, we could also work with companies to offer ‘apprenticeships’. This would help students learn a trade, help the area companies with their workforce and would be a low-cost solution for the district.
Jessica Putonti responds: I believe that not all kids are college bound and as a society, if all kids went to college, we would be in some trouble! We desperately need people to go into trades. Our kids should be empowered to make these choices and there should not be a stigma on kids who do not go to college. I would like to see more certifications offered in the high school. This also assists with connectivity issues. These kids will have their “place” and “peer group” and give them a sense of belonging. If they can become certified prior to graduation, then they can hit the ground running after graduation. This is preparing the kids for life after school. The goal at the high school level should be to provide options to the kids and a clear direction after graduation.
There seems to be a shortage of reliable substitute teachers in the district, especially at certain schools. Classes are often split up among other teachers, or administrative assistants are asked to fill in. What suggestions do you have for addressing this issue?
Adrienne Trigg responds: From what I have heard from the administration as well as those that want to substitute teach, there is too much bureaucracy. The application process is long and tedious and often can get lost. You only get paid monthly and in the rears. So for someone interested, substitute teaching it is often not worth the effort. We are losing our opportunities.
Lauren White responds: When teachers can’t get a substitute, other teachers have to cover classes, or children are split into different classrooms. This adds stress for teachers and interrupts learning. The LTISD School Board is considering a proposal to increase pay rates for substitutes. If elected, I would support this proposal. Also, I believe that the district should increase the number of substitutes it accepts. This will better accommodate parents, retired teachers and others who have the skills and interest in working as a substitute, but are unable to work on a regular schedule. Finally, the district should seek feedback from teachers, substitutes and potential substitutes about the roadblocks that prevent people from applying to be substitutes or prevent people from taking on substitute jobs.
Jan Moreland responds: This is a nationwide issue in school districts with a similar demographic as ours, and I would like to research what other districts are doing well that retain substitutes. We need to be creative to attract quality substitutes that will keep our kids safe and learning. No one wants a missed day of instruction, yet the reality is teachers get sick and have families--they should be able to care for themselves. My suggestion would first and foremost be a bump in pay. Additionally, in my research, I have found a positive reporting of schools with an “on call” sub list for particular days-these subs are kept on a retainer of sorts (i.e. a sub could opt in to be an always available Monday sub). They are paid an extra stipend to be available on their self-selected days. Lastly, in my research, I found district programs that offer a teacher incentive for attendance (non-related to sick days) and others that offer sub pay to teachers that serve as subs during their off periods. All ideas would have to be vetted in a budget analysis, but I think creative and research-driven ideas could benefit us.
Donald Scott responds: I think that this question is associated with how economically diverse our community is.The inability to find substitute teachers stems from the same source that makes it difficult to find people to work at Target or at the boutiques at the Galleria. The cost of housing, along with the lack of public transportation, means that our community misses out on those groups who would fill this void. The job does not pay enough money to entice those who would love to sub or work at the Galleria to make the necessary sacrifices to take those jobs. How we build our community and ‘whom’ we decide to make it available to has to be considered. -DS
Tritia Land responds: I know several people that have applied to become a substitute but for some reason have never been called to attend Sub U (the training program). I would first start with our vetting process to make sure we are using all our resources. I would be in favor of increasing the pay schedule to keep it in-line with outlying districts
Jessica Putonti responds: At the last school board meeting, it was discussed that the daily rate for substitute teachers will increase to the equal to the highest rate in the area. This will be voted on at the next meeting. If I am elected, I will vote to approve this. If more money is offered, there would be more incentive for people to become substitute teachers.
What is your assessment of the current programs in place for English Language Learners and foreign language instruction? Do you think that LTISD should implement two-way dual-language classrooms at the elementary level?
Adrienne Trigg responds: We were actually at Lake Travis elementary when Spanish dual language program was in place. I am unaware of how that curriculum is funded. It was a wonderful opportunity but those type of programs cost money. This might be something that we look to for philanthropy organizations possibly such as the Lake Travis Education Foundation to assess and determine?
Lauren White responds: Research has shown that the results of high quality dual-language programs can be, as one researcher put it, “astounding.” If the demographics of a school support two-way dual-language programs, with enough students speaking the same second language and enough native speakers, the district should support dual-language programs. This kind of program can result in excellent academic outcomes for students. However, not all schools in LTISD have the demographics to support a dual-language instructional model. In these schools, it is important to have one-way language learning programs with highly qualified bilingual teachers. This kind of programming should not be limited to elementary schools. While students learning to speak English can often master functional language quickly, it can take 8-12 years to develop the cognitive, academic language skills required for school success.
Jan Moreland responds: As our area grows, we need to be thoughtful about our existing programs and remain open to modifications as needed. ELL and foreign language instruction is an area that we will want to keep a careful eye on in effort to meet the need of ALL learners in our district. As for two-way dual language classrooms, I think we would need to research the long-term feasibility of this and consider its existence past elementary school. I would suggest that there be a plan in place for those participating students and their families to have the option of a two-way model through high school. El Paso ISD has a great model that is from kinder through high school that I would like to further study. In addition, we have to think about the feasibility as far as transportation for students. If the dual-language classroom is only at one elementary school, will we mandate parent drop-off for participating students from other “home” schools? There is a lot of complex thought that needs to be considered, but my first order of business would be to study the aforementioned model.
Donald Scott responds: I do not have an assessment of current programs. I think this is a great topic where getting information from the community of parents and educators currently engaged, and then sharing what has been learned with the greater community would generate the energy to make any meaningful changes. Personally, I would say there’s always more than can be done. Selfishly, I’d love it if part of the curriculum included foreign language options (that I didn’t have to pay for out of pocket). The challenge of course, is that someone has to pay for it, and so we arrive back at budget and priority – whether LTISD budget or our own individual budgets.
Tritia Land responds: LTISD uses the Gomez & Gomez Dual Language Enrichment Model for pre-K – 3rd and will be implementing this program in 4th and 5th grade. It is currently only offered at Lake Travis Elementary School. If our needs change, I would support the spread of this program to other campuses.
Jessica Putonti responds: My understanding is that at least one elementary already has dual language classes at the elementary level. In speaking with high school kids, it seems to be the consensus that it would be a good idea for all of the campus. Learning a second language is best accomplished when kids are younger and provides a base for the foreign language classes in high school.
Do you feel that LTISD teachers are fairly compensated, especially in comparison to neighboring school districts, and in relation to the cost of living in our area?
Adrienne Trigg responds: We choose to live here because of our wonderful teachers and community. I believe that our educators pay should be on par with state averages and that we should recognize and reward excellence. After having grown up in a title 1 school, I know that our district does not face the same socioeconomic challenges of lacking in supplies of basic needs of food, clothing and hygiene as many other districts.
Lauren White responds: LTISD teacher pay should be competitive with surrounding districts, both for starting teachers and for experienced teachers. The initial pay rate in LTISD is close to that of many surrounding districts, but at the ten year mark the pay rate falls short. In addition, LTISD does not offer the stipends for bilingual teachers or special education teachers that are offered by nearby districts. Teacher salaries comprise the largest portion of our Maintenance and Operations budget, and that part of our budget is limited by the State of Texas school finance system. Nevertheless, while we cannot pay teachers what they actually deserve, we must make competitive salaries a priority.
Jan Moreland responds: No. In addition, I do not think our assistant principals and campus support staff are fairly compensated. In fact, many teachers and campus support staff do not live in the district because of the high cost of living. However, this comes down to budget, and I am confident that our current board appreciates our teachers-we just truly lack the resources as a Recapture district. At that juncture, we have to think of creative ideas to bring in revenue that can fill in the gaps in our budget. It is paramount that we approach this issue from a business mindset and collectively, as a board, analyze how we can squeeze every penny from our budget to benefit those on the “front-line” of education (i.e. teachers, counselors, administrators, campus support staff). They are worth their weight in gold. I promise, I will make this a top priority because I KNOW what it is like to not make enough money as a teacher to support my family. I will work on increasing our community/school partnerships and working with LTEF to supplement that loss of revenue.
Donald Scott responds: Fairly compensated is a relative term. In general, given the effort it takes to raise our children, the expectations placed upon teachers to manage personalities and learning abilities, and the fact that our children are our most amazing creations, I think that teaching, as a profession, should command higher salaries. If I focus on the teachers with whom I’ve chatted at the schools and those who are my neighbors, I’d say that I don’t get the sense that as a collective group they feel over-worked and under-paid. However, we’ve all seen the slashes in education spending across the country – that reality represents our commitment to our own children and our own values. How we spend our money determines what we find to be most important. Whether talking about teacher salaries or affordable housing or criminal justice. The conversations become political, but the outcomes play out in our schools and in our neighborhoods.
Tritia Land responds: I firmly believe if you take care of your staff, then your staff will take care of you. This is a two-part issue, compensation of teachers and the tools needed to succeed. This is a balancing act. We need to pay the teachers as well as the budget will allow and provide them with the best tools possible. This is why fundraising is so important in this district. LTEF and PTO’s help fund a lot of our progressive and innovative programs.
Jessica Putonti responds: Currently the vast majority of the school’s annual budget goes to salaries. To the extent possible, we should make efforts to keep up with similar school districts. However, I also know that some of the school districts in the area have a homestead exemptions and others do not. Schools that offer the exemption are not in the same budget scenario that those that don’t. We give 20% back to homeowners. Therefore, comparing salaries to similar school districts is not comparing apples to apples. Also, our district give the fourth highest amount back to the state in Robinhood. We need to work with our legislators to implement change for the greater good for all students and residents.
As a school board member, how would you respond to the efforts of individuals or special interest groups who advocate for the censoring of existing curriculum perceived by them to be in conflict with their personal beliefs?
Adrienne Trigg responds: I would need more of a direct specific question. This is somewhat vague and I do believe in protecting personal religious beliefs.
Lauren White responds: We need to be sensitive to the views of our community, but I do not support censorship of our curriculum by individuals or special interest groups.
Jan Moreland responds: I think the solution that would meet the needs of all people in our community would be to allow these individuals the opportunity to “opt out” or receive a substitute assignment that has the same goal. I know that curriculum choices are not a board decision, but, rather, there is a central office staff member that is over curriculum and instruction. My hope is that all curriculum will be vetted by him/her and most complaints would be settled at that level. If they should escalate to the board, however, I would hope that we would review the curriculum in question and examine the learning goals behind it before meeting with the group/parent.
Donald Scott responds: There is an ongoing debate around free speech and diversity and inclusion. My perspective is that everyone should have access to all of the information that is available to make the best decision possible. It is then up to individual families and cultural groups to impart to their children how the information does or does not align with their independent beliefs. I do not believe we should be filtering the free flow of information in an attempt to make others more comfortable because a position differs from their own belief system. I believe this both positively and negatively. Meaning, facts should always be presented, even if the fact casts a negative light on one more many groups. The issue is (and again, this too has become politically charged) the people in power control the facts and the loudest voices. I think that our responsibility is to ensure that we (parents and educators alike) are constantly telling both sides of the story, not just the side that makes us look good, or that we agree with. It is also our responsibility to know when some topics should be freely shared in a closed setting of like-minded individuals.
Tritia Land responds: Below is from the state Education Code. A parent has the right to remove a child temporarily when a topic conflicts with their personal beliefs. I would follow the law as a board member.
Sec. 26.010. EXEMPTION FROM INSTRUCTION. (a) A parent is entitled to remove the parent's child temporarily from a class or other school activity that conflicts with the parent's religious or moral beliefs if the parent presents or delivers to the teacher of the parent's child a written statement authorizing the removal of the child from the class or other school activity. A parent is not entitled to remove the parent's child from a class or other school activity to avoid a test or to prevent the child from taking a subject for an entire semester.
(b) This section does not exempt a child from satisfying grade level or graduation requirements in a manner acceptable to the school district and the agency.
Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 260, Sec. 1, eff. May 30, 1995.
Jessica Putonti responds: As with any proposal by a parent to the school board, I would listen with an open mind to the evidence and ideas presented and determine what is in the best interest of the kids. I will put aside my personal beliefs and make decisions based upon the best interest of the kids.
Having heard your fellow candidates introduce themselves, what one trait or experience do you think you have that sets you apart or makes you uniquely qualified to serve on the school board?
Adrienne Trigg responds: I believe that the number one job requirement is to review and set the budget. I believe I am the only one that uniquely has that training, education and experience with my MBA and working in corporate finance for 10 years to meet minimum job qualification of analyzing and approving the budget. I have actually been an agent of change in our district having worked with the school board and administrators to get all new accessible playgrounds for every elementary school on our campus.
Lauren White responds: I like to make decisions not only based on my own education and experience, but also taking into account the results of the best academic studies about what makes a school successful.
Jan Moreland responds: While I appreciate the volunteerism of each candidate, there is no doubt in my mind that I have more experience as a whole that makes me uniquely qualified. I am a teacher, a 12 year LTISD volunteer, and a local business woman. I know this area, I am intimately involved with the community on multiple initiatives, I have a master’s degree in education, and I have volunteered at each level (elementary, middle, and now high school) of my daughters’ education. But, even with the aforementioned being stated, the one trait that sets me apart from other candidates is GRIT. I invite you to view my campaign video online to hear my personal story in question 10 regarding my “super power” of grit and determination. I am NOT afraid to fight for children, and I will fight for the good of each child in LTISD. You can count on that.
Donald Scott responds: I’d say the experience that sets me apart from my peers would be my opportunity to function as a peer mediator in elementary school. I was taught at a very young age how to listen to my peers, navigate difficult conversations, and steer people to an acceptable and palatable agreement. Negotiation starts with listening, but it also requires a level of disconnect. I am capable of listening to two opposing sides of the same situation and help both parties understand how and why their background and experiences led them to their current interaction / conflict. I’ve always been a leader in sports, academics, relationships and my profession because of the skills I learned in conflict resolution at a very early age.
Tritia Land responds: My experience with the district. I have 5 children that have attended 5 of the 9 schools and represent a wide range of learners and extra-curricular activities. I can relate to most parents that I meet because of my involvement with so many aspects of the district. I also understand the importance of community support. I have fundraised for the district for 5 years and raised over a $1,000,000 to fund teacher grants. Community support and fundraising are essential to the districts success.
Jessica Putonti responds: I bring to the table a unique aspect of a mom AND an attorney. I have passion for the kids, but I am also able to critically think about what is best for them in every aspect that touches them. As an attorney my job for the last 15 years has been to critically analyze data, situations and issues, identify and manage risks, create and interpret contracts, recognize the long term, big picture effects of decisions, handling employment and human resource issues from a legal aspect, and running a business with a budget.
I have done the volunteer work and fundraising that the other candidates have done. I have put on dinners, multiple galas, luncheons, worked the front office at the school, read weekly with the first graders to help their reading progress through the year, Mariner Math, worked book fairs. My volunteer work even extends past that where I coached the cheerleaders for four years and am now running the LTYA cheer program, as a Court Appointed Special Advocate where I advised the court whether a child should be reunified with their parents or if parental rights should be terminated, to planning a Bingo event which required six hours of training by the state, pouring over the statutes, rules and regulations to make sure we were in compliance, because if we weren’t, the state could come after our organization. I’ve done the volunteer work that the other candidates have done and more. But this job is not about fundraising and planning events, it is about getting into the data, the evidence, the laws, the statutes, the policies, and analyzing them.
Questions Texted in From Audience:
Do you see LTISD as innovative and progressive? If so, how so? If not, why not?
Adrienne Trigg responds: I think we have to recognize ourselves if the TEA does as a district being in the top 10 for 2017. I believe we could be more innovative by improving our transparency and communication. Most issues are communication issues.
Lauren White responds: Yes and no. In some schools and departments, teachers are able to make decisions about curriculum, instruction and policies. These decisions utilize the teachers’ professional judgment and experience, and listening to teachers is, unfortunately, innovative and progressive. The challenge is to balance allowing teachers to use their professional judgment and knowledge to try new and different things with ensuring that large-scale innovations and policy are based on peer-reviewed, replicable research and not fads.
Jan Moreland responds: I think the answer to this is the always popular yes AND no. :) Overall, I think we can do a better job of research. What I mean by this is that wherever we see “gaps,” or areas of need, we need to research best practices either through studies or experientially. I would love to see a qualitative study done on districts with similar demographics on the following: budget, creative streams of revenue to supplement decreased revenue through Recapture, social & emotional learning, teacher pay & retention, high school classes, homework, high school reconfiguration or second new build, and the like. I would also be open to visiting such districts to gather the qualitative data that would inform us as decision-makers. I DO think we do many things well and that we employ creative thinkers. I think in the aforementioned study, it would reveal to us our areas of innovation and our gaps for the same.
Donald Scott responds: I believe that today LTISD has a commitment to innovation and progress. I do not think we can fairly measure because it would mean that we are comparing ourselves to others. That we want to keep dialog open, and that we have innovative and progressive leadership is the best way to know that we are on the right path.
Tritia Land responds: I do feel we are innovative and progressive. Our teachers are constantly learning as well and implementing new ideas. Our MedTech program purchased realistic fake cadavers to help learn, our Discovery program works with robotics, we have a 5th grade teacher that recently won an innovative award and Serene Hills introduced target learning. Our teachers work with a company called Advanced Learning Partners for a two-day mandatory training. This two-day workshop allows teachers from every level and every subject to share ideas and continue to learn. I am in favor of qualified continuing education courses for teachers as well.
Jessica Putonti responds: I think we are getting there and there is more we can do. We need to add trade certifications. We need to address the needs of all students. Times are changing. This is not the world we grew up in and we need to progress with the changing times. Just because we have always done things a certain way, doesn’t mean it is the right way. We need to be constantly evaluating and ensuring we are meeting the needs of our kids. We need to think outside the box and open our minds to new ideas.
What are your thoughts on the district cutting speech and health classes?
Adrienne Trigg responds: This was not something that I was aware of. Nor would I know the rationale behind it. I would want to give thoughtful consideration to the experts as to why this decision was made.
Public speaking is a lifelong skill set. And health classes are necessary for life skills and self sufficiency.
Lauren White responds: Several years ago the state of Texas eliminated Speech and Health as required classes. LTISD kept the classes, but has now decided to eliminate them for budget purposes. I think it’s unfortunate that students won’t have the opportunity to take these classes. If the state of Texas continues to reduce its investment in public education, the school board will have to make difficult choices about what classes we can provide.
Jan Moreland responds: I would need to speak to the school and district leaders to learn more of the rationale behind cutting these two particular classes before I asserted a formal opinion in the matter. I see intrinsic worth in both of these classes for students, yet I know that the movement in education is to integrate subjects in a cross-curricular manner. My assumption would be that the central office staff member over curriculum and instruction may have the answer over whether this is the case here or not. My overall thought is that the decision to cut any classes is based on the district’s desire to allow students to pursue classes they are passionate about since so much of a student’s academic requirements are mandated by the state. I would personally contact the school leaders and then our C&I specialist if I had an issue with the lack of a course offering for my daughters at LTHS. And, as a board member, I would follow that same path of communication to dig deeper for the rationale behind this. You will find that I am a question asker and a digger-I like to have all the facts before I make an informed decision.
Donald Scott responds: To give a direct answer, I would need to see the discussion, prioritization and background on how the district came to decide that cuts would be made. In general however, at the federal and state levels, cuts to the educational opportunities presented to our children have reached critical levels and people are starting now to deal with the decisions made by those elected to execute ‘our priorities’. My personal opinion and prioritization is that we should never be taking away from our children’s opportunities to learn and grow. However, this also means that we have a responsibility to be educated about and educating others on how the decisions to empower individuals (politically speaking) will have an effect on us at home. If we have gotten to the point where the conversation is ‘cutting speech allows us to keep two full time staff’, then we all need think about how we arrived at the conversation, not just the impending decision.
Tritia Land responds: I was surprised when the state dropped these requirements. I do feel both are essential parts of learning and would be in favor of imbedding the curriculum into other coursework.
Jessica Putonti responds: I do not agree with this. The skills learned in speech are necessary for all students regardless of their future plans. They need to get out of comfort zone and learn to communicate. Health classes teach our students how to survive as people in this world. Learning is not solely academics. This class teaches students how to handle mental health issues; gives them resources and opens the line of communication about difficult topics. Schools should not be a substitute for what parents teach their kids, but not all parents have the capability and capacity to teach their kids everything they need to learn as they become adults.
What is your opinion on the high school having all sports double-blocked in the A/B schedule, but no academics double-blocked?
Adrienne Trigg responds: I have not researched it and would want to give it thoughtful analysis.
Lauren White responds: I don’t know, because I’m not sure what academic courses would be double-blocked and how that would work with state requirements. In comparing academics and extracurriculars, the first priority of the School Board has to be to providing the best possible academic opportunities for students.
Jan Moreland responds: To my knowledge, band as well as athletics are double-blocked (i.e. meet daily) and core classes are single blocked (i.e. meet every other day). I think all teachers, coaches, and directors want to see their students daily; however, under a block schedule that is not possible. I am open to what suggestions our community and school leaders have regarding this issue. There may be some tradeoffs, such as looking at modifying our block schedule to meet the academic and extracurricular desires. The further issue is budget-what would any changes look like to our budget? Could it benefit the budget? Would we need to move money from elsewhere to make-up for the trade-off? While the current block schedule has benefited my daughters, I am not married to it. I am open and ready to listen to all stakeholders regarding this issue. In addition to listening to our community, I would like to research other high-performing school districts to see how their schedules are configured. Perhaps we can extrapolate some ideas that may benefit us.
Donald Scott responds: My personal opinion is that something should change. I do not have all of the details, but I do know that how we prioritize our time (as well as our money) speaks volumes about what is most important to us. I can appreciate our sports. I love the academics.
We moved here to take advantage of both. At present, sports capture the majority of the attention, I think it would be good if we (parents, teachers, community in general) had the ability to see the details and ask good questions. My own question is how will my son play football and also compete to be #1 in his class. If the answer is ‘football or #1’ based on the structure of the school day and the priorities assigned, then we needto discuss how we came to this reality, and what it means for the future.
Tritia Land responds: There are double blocked academics. My daughter is in Special Education and freshman SPED English is double blocked. The instruction time for double block schedule is the same as if the school had 8 classes a day. Double blocked athletics is taking up a student’s elective time. Parents need to make that decision based on what is best for their student.
Jessica Putonti responds: It is typical for sports teams to practice daily in order to be competitive. This also encourages friendships and relationships between members of the sports teams. If there is a concern that the students are not getting the time they need in academic classes, then we should research this issue and address it.
Student testing below grade-level are given additional tutoring. Students that are testing as approaching grade-level are considered on-target. Do you agree with this? How would you improve the system?
Adrienne Trigg responds: Due to the new federal mandate that has recently come down on TEA for “illegally” excluding thousands of children from special education, things will change dramatically. Special education is only provided to less than 8% of our population while the national average is near 13%. Early intervention and testing is about to change greatly in our district. This will cost more with no additional funding provided from the state.
Lauren White responds: A child may score “approaching grade level” in reading with superior reading comprehension skills but with significant deficits in phonological processing and/or rapid automatic naming. This child may be close to grade level, but is exhibiting signs of Dyslexia. “Grade-level” is a generalization. We should be much more specific. High-quality screenings can identify specific areas of need, and we should push evidence-based intervention as early as possible.
Jan Moreland responds: I believe strongly in differentiation of learning, as a teacher AND parent. I think that we need to work hard, as a district, to move each “group” of learners to the next level. Those that are below, we need to target to on level. Those that are on level, we need to target to reach above, and so on. This will require much thoughtful discussion with a teacher focus group on how we can implement an improved system while not piling an overly demanding workload on our teachers. Some thoughts I have are: How can we meet the needs of each group by differentiating better during the day? Can we have different days of “extended learning” (i.e. tutoring) for different groups? I believe this is why my education background will be a benefit on the board-I understand the challenge and the systems.
Donald Scott responds: Relative to student achievement, while I do believe that the educators play a large part, parents have the greater percentage of the responsibility to ensure that their children are performing at the level they expect. Personally, I believe that testing only measures how well a parent has prepared their child to learn. I understand that everyone has plenty of responsibility in life, but we do not get to pass off the responsibility of education entirely to someone else. The educator community provides parents plenty of the information necessary to make personal decisions on the importance of their own child’s preparedness. How I view report cards is different than how my neighbors view eport cards. Any improvement to ‘the system’ starts at home.
Tritia Land responds: At LTHS, every teacher offers tutoring either before or after school. All students can take advantage of this program. This has been a great opportunity for my students and I would support a district wide program if it proves to be successful at the high school.
Jessica Putonti responds: If it is stating that students are considered on target if they are not testing where they should be at that specific time, then I do not agree they should be considered on target. We would need to look at the budget for additional tutoring for these students and see if there is a way to add them to the program.
Did you support the LTISD bonds? If not, why?
Adrienne Trigg responds: I support the bonds. The school district has an excellent bond rating of AA plus. They were necessary to grow to fund construction of buildings without any tax consequence passed on to homeowners.
Lauren White responds: Yes.
Jan Moreland responds: I served on the Lake Travis ISD Bond Committee in 2017, and I voiced my opinion in the meetings over each portion of the bond that I agreed or disagreed with. You can ask anyone on the committee - I was not afraid to ask questions or review data to ensure we were making an informed decision in putting together the bond. It was a very educational experience, and I appreciate the thoughtful process of procuring land over the past years of growth. I did support any aspect of the bond that reduced overcrowding for the benefit of our students.
Donald Scott responds: I did support the LTISD bonds.
Tritia Land responds: Yes. The money regenerate from taxes is the M&O or Maintenance and Operations. We are bound by law to only use this money for specific items. It is what pays for our daily operations. It cannot be used to build schools. Bond money is the only way we can purchase new buses and build additional schools, among other things. With our growth, we don’t have a choice.
Jessica Putonti responds: Yes generally. Of course, I can’t answer this without seeing what is included in the bond. I have supported all bonds that have been presented since I have lived in Lake Travis and I do not anticipate that I will not support any future bond.
Do you feel that the high school’s current voluntary drug-testing program is effective?
Adrienne Trigg responds: No. Not from the members of the SHACK committee. I will also be attending the forum next week.
Lauren White responds: I would have to see more data on the current, voluntary program to judge its effectiveness. The school board is considering making drug testing mandatory for all students participating in University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities or for students who request parking passes. The research on student drug testing is inconclusive, and there are unintended consequences of drug testing that have not been fully explored. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a strong stance against student drug testing. Another consideration is the cost. If drug testing isn’t proven to work, can we afford to allocate resources for the program? Given what is known at this point, I would vote against expanding drug testing.
Jan Moreland responds: I think enhanced testing alone is not the solution. Our community needs to embrace this challenge alongside LTHS. How can we do that? First, by every family doing their part, and second, as a board, we need to ensure that the school has the resources to offer support to students who struggle with addiction. I would love to see more counselors, more specifically an “adjustment counselor,” as districts in the North East refer to mental health counselors in the schools. In addition, can we provide more preventative education in younger years? Absolutely. Social and emotional learning, beginning at the earliest years, is something I am a proponent of.
Donald Scott responds: I think that by virtue of having a drug-testing program LTHS is effectively letting the community know that we have a responsibility to be part of the conversation and the solution. How many students take advantage of the program, or how many students are using and abusing drugs is, in my opinion, a function of parental involvement.
Tritia Land responds: Leader for Life which is changing to A Better Life. A Better Life is an app-based program. It gives incentives for students that choose to be a part of this program. It is our first line of defense. What I like about it that it gives parents another tool to help them. It also gives student’s a second chance, meaning the first time you have a positive drug test, only the parents and administrator know. This gives students the chance to correct the behavior and move on from it. Hopefully learning to make better decisions in the future.
Jessica Putonti responds: It was a good first step to get students and parents eased into a drug-testing program. I support the Leaders for Life proposal to make it mandatory, random, urine test for all UIL, and all students with a parking pass. I think it should include all sports clubs associated with the high school as well. Also, I believe it should be mandatory, random, urine testing for all UIL starting in 7th grade. In the high school, this would cover 2200 kids out of 3300. Generally kids that become addicts or regular users can avoid this by never trying it in the first place. If kids are given a good excuse, or relief from the peer pressure, they may never try the first time.
As a school board member, what would be your top 3 budget priorities for the upcoming year?
Adrienne Trigg responds:
- As will be discussed next Tuesday the immediate need is funding for staff. That includes teachers, administration, and other professionals. Funding for staff will be decided upon shortly.
- I would also like to consider the allocation of contingent funds.
- Reviewing projections and goals of the variables.
Lauren White responds:
1. Hire more school counselors, starting with the Middle Schools. With appropriate caseloads, school counselors can make our schools safer and more effective, and can save money.
2. Invest in school safety. Ensure all of our campuses offer the same protections to students, make necessary upgrades to facilities and technology, and support training for staff and local law enforcement.
3. Invest in early intervention. If we want the best outcomes for our students, we should provide evidence-based interventions in the early grades for any students that struggle with learning or behavior. With high-quality early intervention we can remedy most learning problems with fewer resources. If we wait until students are older, intervention is more expensive and less effective.
Jan Moreland responds: To be transparent, I do not think I can identify three top budget priorities with marked precision without reviewing the budget in its entirety, as I would be privy to once elected. However, I can give you three priorities that I would advocate for given the reality of our budget. 1) Increasing teacher and support staff pay 2) Lowering class sizes and counselor loads through additional hires 3) Assessing the budget and growth predictions to make a concrete plan for the future of the high school. I am a creative thinker when it comes to streams of revenue, connecting the community with our schools, and squeezing every penny out of the dollar. I think I can add an informed voice to budget discussions and approval based on my business and educator background.
Donald Scott responds: I think the top three conversations that I’d like to have would be centered around growth:
i. Including teacher compensation, recruiting and retention
ii. Including plans for how to continue building out the infrastructure: buildings,
iii. Including actively and publicly showing the community the board’s draft prioritization list to ensure that what is developed is not ‘final’ before anyone gets to see it and monies get allocated.
Tritia Land responds: I wholeheartedly believe in the value of public education, especially here in Lake Travis ISD. I am dedicated to ensuring a high-quality education for every child in this district. As a trustee, I will have the fiduciary responsibility to allocate funds to what matters most, a superior staff, exceptional educational programs and the safety of our students and staff. I will take a pragmatic approach to reviewing financials to ensure we generate smart decisions in our district, that provide a beneficial impact to our students and staff as we look to the future as our district grows.
Jessica Putonti responds: Mental health counselors, school security, teacher salaries
As a school board member, how do you propose making both middle schools and the high school a more inclusive and less exclusive environment?
Adrienne Trigg responds: We need to continue to look out for those most vulnerable among us. Through my participation with champions for children I have seen their inclusive model and just how well it has worked in our community. I believe in the buddy system. Big brothers big sisters is an entire organization based on it. I think that we need to give her teachers smaller class sizes so they can have the attention of the students within their band with.
Lauren White responds: We should focus on celebrating our differences and learning more about members of the community with different backgrounds. As a district, we should be mindful of practices and traditions that may make some community members feel less included.
Jan Moreland responds: This is a two-fold answer: 1) How can we deal with the reality of the current situation? 2) How can we mitigate future issues of exclusivity? Regarding the current situation, we need to work with our leadership and counselors to create an environment that celebrates all accomplishments and differences. What does this look like? I want to hear from our counselors and research other schools that are doing this well to have an informed opinion on this issue. Additionally, I think we, as a community, need to embrace our students and invest in them through volunteering on campus, utilizing community/school partnerships, and supporting our teachers that are the “front-line” of education connecting with our students daily. Regarding the future of LTISD, I believe that we can implement more social and emotional learning in our elementary schools, focusing on topics such as empathy and anti-bullying. When we invest in our younger generation, we will see the benefit in future years. I was a kindergarten teacher for many years, and I know those young students are sponges. They will take in what we are “feeding” them, and it will benefit the holistic growth of our students in years to come.
Donald Scott responds: As a school board member, I believe that parents have the responsibility to make their children more inclusive. People in general like to cluster around a comfortable topic (race, religion, origin, sport, etc.). Children will do what we tell them to do, will learn what we model for them, and will watch how we conduct our own day to day. An
inclusive block, community, neighborhood will naturally make the schools inclusive. No school board member can make a community inclusive…but hopefully an inclusive community can strengthen an inclusive school board.
Tritia Land responds: Supporting student lead initiatives that help include all students; Teen Impact, LT Buddies, PALS, Kardivas – all programs available to students to help with their well-being. I am currently doing research on The Georgetown Project. I’m still in the learning phase but lots of great work being done. I am part of a start up Alliance group ran by parents that is researching the project.
Jessica Putonti responds: We need to have more opportunity for clubs that encourage regular participation and inclusiveness. Friend groups generally come from clubs that meet regularly. There needs to be something for everyone. Counselors should be available to assist students in finding clubs that fit their personality and interests. Also, adding more trade certifications will assist with this. This will provide an opportunity for peer groups to form and for the kids to find their place. Additionally, programs need to be put in place that assist with helping new students find their place. Some of the schools have this. Teachers and staff should also be provided with assistance with their workload so they have the time and capacity to reach out to the students are appear to be isolated.
How can we improve the ratings of schools that are not 10/10 already?
Adrienne Trigg responds: It is not up to the teachers alone to be innovative. It includes a lot of community involvement. Teachers are doing their part and we as parents and volunteers need to be actively engaged in good works and continued service.
Lauren White responds: The “Great Schools” ratings identify the following student categories as underperforming: students who are Hispanic, students who come from low-income families, and students with disabilities. Educating these students requires more resources, including resources for language instruction and early intervention. The district should allocate its funds accordingly.
Jan Moreland responds: All of our schools have room to improve in a variety of areas, not just student performance, as measured by standardized tests. The state of Texas is about to unveil the A-F system of measuring schools. I am interested in learning more about the methodology used to calculate the A-F system, as well as how this A-F system corresponds to the 1-10 system. To be more specific to the question, I think we need to treat each school level as a separate entity, and then parcel it out even further to each individual school. I think we could target teacher/staff training to our lowest rating areas, review our systems, and create focus groups to further analyze the area of need and possible solutions to improve our schools.
Donald Scott responds: While I certainly do agree that 10/10 is an awesome rating, I do not believe that we should actually be focused on trying to boost ratings. A focus on rating is actually a focus on exclusivity. Our focus should be on how we can ensure that our educators are feeling the most supported. How can we ensure that our leadership is making decisions that represent our community and support the education of our children. Every school in our community has a volunteer army (some big, some small), dedicated educators, and a passionate school board. We can improve our children’s experience and enhance their love for learning by focusing on how we can use our time and our resources to support the building blocks of the community.
Tritia Land responds: The only 10/10 rating system I am aware of is great schools. Those schools that are not at a 10 should be addressed through a series of staff evaluations, implementing successful programs from other schools within the district and offer additional training of staff to address specific needs.
Jessica Putonti responds: We would need to do an analysis of each school to determine why they are not 10/10 and address those specific needs.
If you were not running for school board, who would you endorse?
Adrienne Trigg responds: I would look for someone with empathy. I would look for someone who understands budgets (the primary duty), who does not have an ulterior motive using the position as a platform for personal business promotion for financial gain or a political steppingstone. I would want to endorse someone with a clear agenda to serve all of the students on a non-partisan basis.
Lauren White responds: If you have read all of these answers you deserve a medal, and you probably know who you want to vote for!
Jan Moreland responds: It is interesting to watch each candidate as we each reach out to the community. Are our ideas and methods different? Sure. But, I hope the heart for the children of LTISD is the motivating factor for each. I do not believe in a negative campaign that aims to reduce the credibility of another candidate. So, out of respect for each, I will decline to choose one person. We are all neighbors, and I hope we will work with one another on future community or school initiatives.
Donald Scott responds: A. I am purposefully not answering this question with a list of names.
B. I believe that anyone running for school board deserves to win because they are willing to serve.
Tritia Land responds: I only know 2 other candidates running in Place 3. I think both are great people. I comforted by knowing the school district is in good hands if any of us wins.
Jessica Putonti responds: I would endorse Guy Clayton. He has been on the school board for a significant amount of time. He was involved in locating and hiring Dr. Lancaster. We will need to hire a new superintendent in the next 3-5 years. This is a difficult and time consuming process and he has experience with this.