#minorsextrafficking | Q&A: Katy ISD trustee candidates talk attendance boundaries, human trafficking and more

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor

Three positions are on the ballot for Katy ISD positions for the upcoming Nov. 3 election. Voters within Katy ISD will have the opportunity to check boxes next to the names of candidates for the Katy ISD Board of Trustees positions three, four and five when they head to the polls.

Ashley Vann, candidate for Position 3 and incumbent on the board has effectively won her election due to her only candidate, R.C. Simmons, dropping out of the race earlier this year citing racist messages and harassment of his family as the reason for stepping away from the campaign.

That leaves Leah Wilson and Michael Dillard vying for the Position 4 trustee seat while incumbent Bill Lacy faces challenger Greg Schulte for the Position 5 seat. Current KISD Board of Trustees President Courtney Doyle and Position 4 seat holder withdrew her bid for reelection Feb. 14.

All of the candidates have children and/or grandchildren that have attended or will attend Katy ISD in the near future.

The races for the KISD Board of Trustees are nonpartisan, therefore the respective candidates’ party affiliations are not listed in this article.

Candidates were all provided the questions concurrently via email and received the same word count limitations for their responses.

Tell us about yourself:

Dillard: My family has lived in Katy for ten years. I am a former elementary school teacher. My wife has taught kindergarten for eight years in Katy ISD and has a huge impact on my desire to serve. Our three children are on the honor roll and involved in extra-curricular activities. I strongly support the district’s SPED program, having two children with their own 504 plans. Currently I am a seasoned Human Resources professional who builds strategic relationships and creates solutions that support corporate values/objectives. I have volunteered thousands of hours in the district along with serving on numerous committees.

Wilson: My husband Brian and I, along with three of their four children have resided in Katy/Fulshear since 2014. My community involvement includes: Girl Scout troop co-leader, Big Brother/Big Sister volunteer, member and officer in multiple school PTAs including Katy Council of PTAs, school volunteering and band booster organizations. I am an alumnus of Leadership Katy and was a member of the 2017 Bond Advisory Committee.

I retired from the US Air Force in 2012. Professionally, I have more than 21 years’ experience in Information Technology with multiple IT certifications and have managed procurement, installation, administration and security of vast networks.

Q: Human trafficking is a concern throughout the Houston metropolitan area. What do you feel Katy ISD can do to help keep students safe from human trafficking?

Dillard: Human trafficking is here in Katy and is a major concern for the young women in our district as well as various nationalities. Every single life matters and as a district we must do all we can to protect our students from outside influences. Train school personnel to recognize and respond to the signs of trafficking. Develop and implement a trafficking protocol. Offer a prevention curriculum to students. See something, say something; save a life.

Wilson: This is a very complex issue and one Katy ISD must collaborate with outside sources. This team should include child protective services, law enforcement and social services to develop protocols for human trafficking. Then they will need to increase staff awareness through education, increase parent and student awareness of risks and realities of trafficking and most importantly develop district-wide policies/protocols for identifying and responding to suspected victims.

Finally, we will need to institute teaching our school children about sex trafficking in an age appropriate, yet realistic manner. This must happen because children will not divulge to most adults and their fellow students will be more apt to inform someone of trust.

Q: Katy ISD students created the group Katy 4 Justice this year and said they would like to see Black History curriculum improved within the district. While much of the overall history curriculum is set by the Texas Education Agency, what do you think board members should do to ensure more options for history courses that reflect the district’s diversity?

Dillard: National conversation on racial injustice brings new scrutiny to how Black history is taught. African American history is for everyone and U.S. history is incomplete without the complete story being told. Black history plays an important role all throughout our nation’s past (and present) intersecting in every unit and period.

The Board of Education in Texas recently approved a course on African American studies that will be an elective for high school students.

I’m committed to expanding the curriculum as it pertains to Black history and petitioning TEA to do so. Helping ensure that every Black student (as well as the entire student population) gets a chance to learn about the culture they come from and most importantly, have the permission to dream about the possibilities of who they can become is critical. A month to recognize the contributions that African Americans have made to our great nation and the oppression they have faced and continue to face isn’t good enough. It needs to be talked about and incorporated into history lessons every single day.

Wilson: Board members have an obligation to our students, families, teachers and community to ensure the education of our students is whole. Katy has a deep heritage and our students will be better for knowing the entire truth: the pleasant, the controversial, the easy to discuss, the difficult to discuss, all the history that has culminated into our current diverse environment. One place we can look for detailed guidance is Fort Bend ISD to understand what it is doing to highlight the history of the district after the recent mass grave findings in Sugar Land.

Q4: Secondary education continues to become more costly, while vocational training and occupations provide good career options for those with high school educations. Miller Career Center provides several vocational training options. What other vocations would you like to see added to its program offerings to help students succeed without going into crippling student debt?

Dillard: I’ve had the pleasure of touring the Miller Career Center a few times and was completely floored with the vast array of vocations they have to offer. From cyber security and architectural design to cosmetology and hospitality, the MCC truly is an amazing resource to hundreds of juniors and seniors annually.

I have eaten at the Bistro quite often which is run by students and the food is delicious. Houston continues to be the oil/gas hub of the world and the environmental consulting industry has a dominating presence locally as well. Adding oil and gas blue collar vocations such as drillers and deck hands would prepare graduates to step into the oil field.

Environmental technicians are in high demand as well and training certifications are achievable within six months to a year.

Additionally, real estate agents will always be needed as there will always be property for sale no matter the economic climate. Giving students the ability to earn their real estate license would be a great boost to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation.

Wilson: This is a topic near and dear to my heart and is my number one priority for Katy ISD. I want to ensure we continue to support all potential post-high-school pathways and develop opportunities to match students with future needs in the workforce.

To that end, I would like to see the following vocations added to our curriculum: Carpentry, Construction Inspector, Electrician, Plumbing, HVAC, Real Estate, Firefighter and last but not least additional JROTC options. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that we could start it sooner than 9th grade. We could offer introduction opportunities for our Junior High students in a handful of areas to introduce them to the variety of options they will have.

Q: How accessible will you be to parents and students, if elected, and what will you do to ensure they can speak with you about their concerns?

Dillard: I will be accessible at all times to anyone who would like to talk, no matter the day or time. As a trustee I want to know first-hand the concerns of parents and students. There are protocols and processes the board has to follow but I will always have an open line of communication and will gladly point people in the right direction. Additionally, I will work on the back end to make sure concerns are addressed in a timely manner. If there are lingering questions still, I will work to find a solution that works for both the student/parent as well as the district. As a new trustee, there will be questions that I will not know. If I’m asked a question on a topic I’m not familiar with, I will let you know. I will confer with my colleagues on the board and do my own research to familiarize myself with the issue at hand and reach out with an answer quickly.

Wilson: I want to be a strong voice for our community and help mend the broken relationship between the school board and our community. My intention is to provide greater transparency by bringing information directly to the public and relaying information/questions back to the members of the board. I will be happy to use any form of communication legally allowed to reach every educator, parent, student and community member within Katy ISD. Building open lines of communication creates public understanding, feelings of mutual support and greater participation. If I fail to speak with our key stakeholders, how can the board possibly weigh all of the facts before making any decisions?

Tell us about yourself:

Lacy: I am a Senior Loan Officer in the mortgage banking profession. I am currently the Vice President of the Katy ISD Board of Trustees.  I am on the Texas Association of School Boards Board of Directors, TASB Budget and Finance Committee, have been a Delegate, and training partner. I a member of the Mexican American School Boards Association as a voting representative. I am active with the Gulf Coast Area Association of School Boards.  I have served on numerous Katy ISD committees.  I support Future Farmers of America. I have resided in the Katy area for more than 25 years.

Schulte: I am married with four kids and have lived in Katy for over 20 years.  I have been active volunteer in all my children’s activities including soccer, basketball, theater and choir.  I have an Engineering degree and have been a Project Manager of large complex international and domestic oil and gas projects for over 30 years.  I am currently in the ownership group of a mid-sized engineering firm with over 500 employees and 8 offices in 3 countries. I have a wide range of experience including developing corporate strategy, organizational improvement, procurement,  risk management and workforce development.

Q: Human trafficking is a concern throughout the Houston metropolitan area. What do you feel Katy ISD can do to help keep students safe from human trafficking?

Lacy: Awareness is important.  Not only the staff (teachers, administration, police), but our children as well.  Human trafficking is happening everywhere.  Education and awareness will go a long way to help prevent our children (and adults) from being lured into situations that jeopardize their safety and well-being.

Schulte: Schools cannot address this critical issue alone, and I DO believe schools can play an important front line role in recognizing key indictors and developing policies and educational awareness tools for students, parents, and faculty. I think the district should consider following a similar path that they did when bullying became a big issue several years ago. A working committee of concerned and motivated parents, administration representatives, teachers and subject matter experts was chartered.  This committee developed a framework that resulted in a comprehensive ant-bullying policy with measurable and impactful results.   The same method that worked previously, could be employed to keep our children safe for sext trafficking.

Q: As the district grows, new campuses become necessary which cause attendance boundary modifications. What can the district do to help parents better understand the process and make the transition easier for students?

Lacy: Attendance Boundary Modification is one of the most difficult jobs that is placed on a Trustee. As a rapid growth district, Katy ISD has had to open several schools over the last 30 years due to overcrowding. Safety of our children is very important to me. It is what is on my mind as I review and consider the movement of our students. 

Schulte: It looks like growth is here to stay in Katy ISD, even considering impacts COVID-19 has had on the economy.  Growth leads to difficult but necessary decisions on boundary modifications.  I feel the best strategy for the administration is to actively and transparently engage with the community with the sincere intent to listen and understand their concerns.  Whenever possible, the district should seek mutually agreeable solutions/compromises for the benefit of everyone.   And when difficult decision must be made,  the district needs to remain sensitive to the impact the decision have on the students.

Q: Katy ISD students created the group Katy 4 Justice last year and said they would like to see Black History curriculum improved within the district. While much of the overall history curriculum is set by the Texas Education Agency, what do you think board members should do to ensure more options for history courses that reflect the district’s diversity?

Lacy: History continues to be one of my favorite subjects.  The history of our state and country is important.  I feel we need to teach a full and comprehensive history of our state and country. 

Schulte: I feel the Board has the responsibility to solicit feedback from the community, determine if gaps exist, and then work with the Superintendent to  update the district’s strategic plan (annually) to ensure all critical items identified are added for consideration.  Items added to the strategic plan, should be tactical plans developed by the Administration with the Board support and oversight.  An item such as enhanced Back History curriculum benefits everyone, and as such, should be discussed and an aggressive plan developed to implement changes.

Q: Secondary education continues to become more costly, while vocational training and occupations provide good career options for those with high school educations. Miller Career Center provides several vocational training options. What other vocations would you like to see added to its program offerings to help students succeed without going into crippling student debt?

Lacy: Miller Career Center offers so many opportunities to our students.  Programs I would like to see added would be building trades  – Heating and Air Conditioning, Plumbing, Electrical to name a few.  The challenge in the past has been the number of students that have shown interest in those skills.

Schulte: I believe the Miller Career and Technology Center (MCTC) is outstanding alternative for students that make the decision not to go to college.  The MCTC currently offers a wide range of relevant post high school skills.  The list of offerings should be continuously be evaluated based on hiring trends, and interests of the community.  I would like to see consideration given for further expansion of services into the trades (electrician, plumber, renewable energy, HVAC).

Q: How accessible will you be to parents and students, if elected, and what will you do to ensure they can speak with you about their concerns?

Lacy: I feel I have been and will continue to be very accessible to our parents.  My cell phone is always on.  I have a district email.  People frequently see me out in the community.  I am not someone that is easily lost in a crowd.  I welcome discussion from anyone.  If you would like to discuss a concern, have a solution we can discuss as well.

Schulte: I think it imperative that the BOT and Administration be available and open to continuously solicit feedback from all key stakeholders (teachers, students, parents).   I do not believe that the 30-minute open forum at the begging of BOD meetings, does not provide the correct venue for concerned community members to provide feedback to the BOT /Superintendent.   I have a spent a lot of time meeting with  the community during the campaign process, and am finding there are groups of stakeholders with similar issues that have formed and would like the opportunity to discuss ideas they have.  To the extent the BOT is allowed to communicate directly with these groups, I would plan to make this a priority.




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