Two seats are up for election on the Dripping Springs school board, where four candidates are battling for the chance to serve — one incumbent and three newcomers.
Elected trustees do not represent areas but instead are at-large. Each trustee serves three years. Early voting begins Monday and runs through May 3. Election day is May 7. The top two vote-getters will be elected.
The ballot features school board member Joanna Day as well as candidates Olivia Barnard, Thaddeus Fortenberry and Tricia Quintero.
Day, who was first elected in 2019, is seeking a second term and said she hopes to continue working to provide a quality education for students led by teachers and staff members.
Day, 46, said she spent her first term grappling with multifaceted district issues, including responsible fiscal planning, rapid growth and teacher retention.
Before serving on the board, Day was active on the district’s Long Range Planning and Bond Steering Committee, as well as being a member of the PTA. She has lived in the district for more than seven years.
“I have a deep understanding of the complex challenges facing (the school district), and I am committed to meeting them head on,” she said.
She said she plans to continue improving teacher recruitment and retention.
“As a trustee, I’ve advocated for policies that allow teachers to communicate issues and get support,” Day said. “I’ve voted in favor of creating additional positions to aid teachers in the classroom. Last but not least, I’ve pushed to keep salaries and benefits competitive. I will continue to advocate for a healthy, supportive culture for our educators, as well as a higher pay.”
But Day said her work does not stop there. She said the district is facing rapid growth, and it is imperative that it manages the growth in a fiscally conservative way that meets the needs of the current and future student population.
Fortenberry, 54, said his goal is to give all the students the opportunity to learn, grow and be well-equipped for the next phases of their lives.
The school district is growing at a rapid pace. While this causes some complications, it also gives the district opportunities to provide “fantastic student programs,” he said. However, to accomplish this, the district will need to manage budgets, meet facilities requirements, and listen to and support staffers, he said.
If elected, Fortenberry said, he will move to create a monthly method of reporting on district employee satisfaction, as well as prioritize a long-term facilities expansion plan and related bond schedule. He will also work to support programs in science, technology, engineering, math and the arts.
“I believe in the power of public education,” Fortenberry said. “The school system’s success results in graduates who can write, think and imagine beyond their own experiences. I bring a fresh viewpoint with real-world business experience to the school board. ”
Barnard, 45, said that since moving to the district in 2014, she has seen it grow and thrive, and she hopes to further those efforts as a school board member.
“I do have concerns and see areas to improve, and I am eager and excited to represent our community and to work on those,” she said. “I believe in public education. I want every child to have an amazing experience that prepares them for the world. … As a community, it is our responsibility to provide the most robust, outstanding educational experience possible for our students, their families and our educators.”
She said that if she is elected, she plans to address a range of issues, including staffing shortages and public transparency. She also promises to maintain the fiscal responsibility while keeping in mind the need to address growth.
She said staffing is the most urgent issue and she hopes to learn more about how to reduce turnover, including providing more help to overworked and overloaded teachers.
“I would like to see us focus on highly skilled part-time positions that may allow us to reach more candidates,” Barnard said. “We love our educators; we need our educators. We need to support them.”
Bringing 17 years of experience working with homebuilders and five years in real estate, Barnard said she has hands-on experience working on projects that align well with the functions of the board and can offer a perspective on population growth and trends, a vital skill as the district prepares to address growth needs.
Quintero has a “personal stake in seeing the school district succeed,” according to her campaign website.
A longtime resident of Hays County and Dripping Springs, she “knows that smart investments are needed to give kids the best opportunity at a bright future. But she also understands that area school districts can better manage their growth,” the website says.
She has served as the chair of the district’s Facilities and Bond Oversight Committee, where “she garnered a reputation as a thoughtful leader and a passionate advocate for students and taxpayers alike,” the website says.
“This experience, as well as others, cultivated a passion for servant leadership and smart governance,” her website says. “She aspires to bring these qualities to bear on the Dripping Springs School Board because we can do better. We should do better. We must do better.”
San Marcos school district
A two-way race for the District 4 seat on the San Marcos school board is underway as a voter prepares to select a new representative to replace longtime board member Kathy Hansen, who is not seeking reelection.
The race is between Gabrielle Moore, 53, and Brian K. Shanks, 52.
Moore, who has lived in the district for 17 years, said she feels an obligation to step up to support children’s access to a thriving public educational system.
She said teacher retention has dropped significantly due to the intense pressures of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her primary goal is to retain teachers by offering competitive wages and strong administrative support.
Moore said she also plans to address the fiscal issues the district is facing by pushing for policy changes at the state level and advocating for better educational funding bills in the Legislature.
She said she can offer public policy knowledge, having served as a planning and zoning commissioner for the city, a member of the school health advisory committee and a member of the city’s bond committee.
“I will utilize all tools available to support our San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District, its staff and, most importantly, our students and future,” Moore said.
If elected, Shanks said, he would work to build relationships and trust with fellow board members, the superintendent, the staff, teachers and the community.
“I want to work on bridging the gap between the school board and the community by holding school board meetings in different schools throughout the district,” Shanks said. “The hope would be to give better access to the parents and concerned community members.”
He also plans to address low performance issues on campus by giving the superintendent the support he needs and prioritizing funding for academics, he said.
Shanks, who has lived in the district for 21 years, served in the Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard and Army National Guard. He worked for 20 years in higher education, where he has cooperated with faculty in the use of technology in the classroom, classroom management and integrating technology into the curriculum.