Candidates running for election to the Palestine Independent School District Board of Trustees on May 11 answered questions from potential voters during a political forum Thursday at the Ben E. Keith Community Room in Palestine.
Five of the six PISD candidates running for three seats on the Palestine ISD school board were in attendance at the forum, including: Dana Staples, incumbent for Place 3; JoJo Dickerson, candidate for Place 3; Janie Sepulveda, incumbent for Place 5; Mitchell W. Jordan, candidate for Place 5; and Kenneth R. Jordan, candidate for Place 4.
Rickey Ferguson, incumbent for Place 4, was unable to attend the forum.
All candidates reported having children attend PISD currently or previously, but differed on the quality of education their student had received or is receiving in the district.
Staples, whose sons attended PISD and went on to attend Baylor and UT Austin, said that she felt that they both had an excellent education.
“They told me they would never consider sending their own children to anywhere but a public school,” she said.
Kenneth Jordan, who currently has children in the district, voiced concerns about the education his children were getting.
“I am not pleased with the district,” Kenneth Jordan said. “They seem to spend too much time addressing what the child is wearing — what is on their face — rather than what is on their minds.”
Each candidate had different motivations for running for school board.
“Our kids are our future,” Kenneth Jordan said. “I want to make this district the best there is for them. There are some things I want to see done differently.
“(For example) there is no reason for scores to be as low as they are.”
Mitchell Jordan said he wanted to “take PISD to the next level.”
“There is not one summer program in this district,” he said. “Just because school is out, doesn’t mean we should give up on the kids.
“I want to be a board member through the whole year.”
Dickerson was urged by friends to run for the seat on the board.
“I have always volunteered at the school where my children are and I would like to represent the entire district on the board,” she said.
Staples, an incumbent, said she wanted to continue the good work that was already being done at PISD.
“We have accomplished such great things and were finally able to build facilities for the students,” she said. “Those buildings make students feel like we care about them, which makes them care about learning.
“PISD students now have a more complete curriculum and are more career and technology ready than they have ever been, and I feel we are able to provide all they need to be successful,” she continued. “We are working to provide students with more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
“I am proud of that, and I am not ready to leave yet. There are still many things to accomplish.”
In discussing the roles of school board members and their future vision for the district, candidates agreed that they wanted to assure that the district was run properly and the students at PISD were given the best education possible.
“It is my vision to work with the schools to enhance the district and to follow policies and make sure they serve the district well,” Dickerson said.
Staples emphasized the importance of teamwork when serving on a school board.
“The most important job of the board is to hire a superintendent and we have already done that,” she said. “Each board member is one of a team of seven. We cannot push an agenda but must work as a team.”
Mitchell Jordan agreed with Staples, stating that he wanted to see the district as one that does not give up on students.
“It is my goal to have PISD be the best in the state and nothing less — to not give up on even one kid,” he said.
In closing statements, all candidates shared that their being chosen to the board would be a great honor and that they wanted to make PISD a better district.
“I like change, and with change you have to have new and different ideas — to look outside the box,” Kenneth Jordan said. “I want to do the best for the school board that I can do.”
“I want to see PISD with a 100 percent graduation rate and to turn that dropout rate around,” Mitchell Jordan said. “We need to really get out and mingle with the students. We need to know who we are governing. I want to make PISD the number one district in East Texas.”
Sepulveda, who worked for PISD for 28 years, said she would be proud to be re-elected to the board.
“It has been an honor for me to serve on the PISD board,” Sepulveda said. “I have seen a lot of changes over the years. I want to continue to serve on the board and continue to build a stronger school and a stronger school district.”
Sponsored by the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce and aired live on Palestine radio station KNET 95.7 FM, the forum was moderated by station news director Gary Richards. Candidate questions were submitted by those attending the forum, with each candidate given equal time to answer each question.
The 2013 Political Forum was sponsored by the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce, KNET Radio: 1450AM/FM 95.7, Bishop’s Brisket House, Toni’s Petals and Parties and David Barnard — State Farm Insurance.
Early voting for the May 11 election will be held from April 29 to May 7.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com