Candidate Q&A: Lewisville ISD

Election Day for Lewisville ISD will take place May 5. Early voting runs from April 23 to May 1. Go to votedenton.com for voting locations. Below is a questionnaire for the candidates:

Place 1

Kronda Thimesch

Green Meadows Landscaping business owner

27.5 years in the district

What is the most important issue facing the school district and how would you solve it?

LISD’s primary focus should be student achievement. I’m proud of the work from our students and teachers. As a district that continues to excel as an educational organization, we must proceed with our goals of exceeding improvement benchmarks. We must be intentional in our efforts and work toward meeting the individual need of each student. With 1/3 of our student population at or below the poverty level, and $35.5 million going back to the state in recapture funding, our end goal has to remain the success of each student in the district.

With the growing diversity within LISD I want to continue our laser focus on identifying opportunities for each student. The definition of success must be more than a score on a standardized test. I want LISD to create a portfolio that allows us to show the continuous improvement of each student apart from a one-day test – something the state would recognize as a more tangible assessment of our students.

What would you do to ensure the whole district is represented equally?

Representation for all of our students and families includes considering more than geography. LISD represents 13 cities and communities, 127 square miles, a student body that speaks almost 70 different languages, economic diversity and more. Representation is an important question that includes multiple layers. Ensuring equal representation for our diverse community must include purposeful planning. My experience in LISD over the last almost three decades has provided first-hand knowledge of the growth, changes and opportunities for our families with an understanding of each community that makes up LISD. Our district has community groups that partner to garner input with group make-up intentionally having members that include multiple layers of representation across the district. Having an understanding of the diversity ensures that we are seeking out members to represent each sub-population.

Are there any existing programs LISD should re-think or remove? Why?

LISD strives for continual improvement in all of our programs. Programs are monitored, and reviewed through a scheduled process to ensure that they are still relevant for our students. The Gifted and Talented program, Special Ed Programs and AVID in place currently will be reviewed in a three- to five-year rotating cycle to monitor and allow for program adjustments if needed on a large scale. What is relevant and working today may need to change in a few years. We want to have plans that hold us accountable for the efficient monitoring of the programs moving forward.

Are there any programs you think LISD should considering implementing?

I would like to see an expansion of the LISD Grandparent Program. There are two different types of “grandparent” programs in the District. One where LISD has received a grant for grandparents to come into the classroom room each week and work with students at campuses that have qualified for the grant program. The other program is creating more opportunities for “grandparents” or retired community members to partner with us in the classroom. More community members impacting the lives of our students. This is a win-win for both the adults LISD. Increasing one-on-one investment time with students, and it does not have a monetary impact on our budget.

Do you support LISD becoming a District of Innovation? Why or why not?

I did support District of Innovation for LISD. The District of Innovation allows districts a process to have more control or flexibility at the local level. We know what is best for our unique community and students. Having more local control to meet the needs in our district is a step in the right direction.

Is LISD’s technology program working appropriately? Would you change anything?

LISD has worked diligently to review our current technology programs, and the future needs for our students and teachers. The 2017 bond package includes technology updates that will replace current devices that are at the end of their lifespan. The strides LISD has made in the area of technology over the last several years have been impressive. Looking at our devices, online security, back-up systems, and wireless access.

What do you think should be done to address school safety?

The safety of our students is our highest priority. School safety has to be a continuous conversation with our local police departments, schools, and security experts. LISD recently had meetings with local police, neighboring school districts and the FBI to collaborate on best practices for safety and security for our schools. LISD is also looking at opportunities to have SRO officers at our middle school campuses that would have the ability to have touch points with their feeder elementary schools. The 2017 bond package included security updates such as the hardening of our campus entries, and more security cameras on the campuses.

Why are you a better candidate for this position?

I am running for re-election because my passion has been and will continue to be a desire to move LISD forward as the best educational experience for all of our students. Having almost 3 decades of experience in LISD as a business owner, parent, community advocate, and taxpayer uniquely qualifies me. I have seen the explosive growth within LISD, and our communities, as well as the downturn in the economy that affected school finance when the state significantly reduced school funding in 2011. I have seen the continued growth in the diversity of our student population, including students who have an increasing amount of needs.

My professional relationships within LISD are a clear asset; Lewisville ISD is the 15th largest school district in the state of Texas, and it encompasses all or part of 13 different communities – in each of which I have personal and professional relationships with community members with an understanding of the culture diversity in each area. My business experience across the district gives me a unique perspective. Strengths also include strong chamber, nonprofit and community partnerships.

I have been a part of LISD through these changes the last couple of decades, and I have the knowledge and experience to continue our path forward. Public education is a foundation for healthy communities and LISD is an excellent school district.

What is your history of involvement with LISD?

Flower Mound Chamber of Commerce

Lewisville Chamber of Commerce, Annual Gala Planning Committee

Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Business Forum, Ex-Officio

Flower Mound Rotary

Lewisville Education Foundation Board

Communities In Schools Mentor Hedrick Elementary

Hebron Football Booster Club, Future Hawks Committee

Hebron High School PTSA, Programs Chair

Castle Hills Education Foundation

Hebron Football Booster Club, President

LISD Bond Oversight Committee, 2012-2015

Hebron HS PTA Lifetime Membership Award, 2014

Former member and volunteer in the PTA programs of Castle Hills Elementary, Killian MS and Hebron HS

INSIDE LISD Leadership Program, 2013-2014

Chairman of the Castle Hills Grant Foundation, 2014-2017

Hebron High School Building Leadership Team, 2011-2015

Peters Colony (2014-2016) and Rockbrook Elementary (2016-2017) Mentorship Program

Flower Mound Chamber of Commerce

Lewisville Chamber of Commerce, Annual Gala Planning Committee

Metrocrest Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Business Forum, Ex-Officio

Flower Mound Rotary

glenn.ladewig@gmail.com 214-769-0525

Sandra Weinstein

Product marketing manager

2.5 years in the district

What is the most important issue facing the school district and how would you solve it?

School finance is the biggest issue for our district. Most of our property taxes (70 percent) goes to financing LISD. LISD only gets 14 percent of its funding from the state and 1 percent from the Fed. Due to rise in property values and an unanticipated decline in enrollment, over $35 million will go from LISD to Austin for recapture. Additionally, we are facing a deficit of $4.6 million this year. As a trustee, I would partner with the town councils and work with legislatures to advocate for school finance and property tax reform. I would seek to understand plans to create affordable housing to attract young families. Additionally, I would solicit input from the community and work to decrease the deficit with as minimal an impact to programs as possible while also engaging to ensure we have a robust marketing plan in place to promote the benefits of the LISD and grow enrollment.

What would you do to ensure the whole district is represented equally?

The best way to ensure equal representation is to create a more open dialogue with all communities in the LISD. This includes monthly town halls that are held mostly in the evening, when all parents can attend, using community groups on Facebook and using the LISD Facebook page to promote, educate and solicit input, and actively promote working sessions and board meetings to educate the public while also providing a means for input into the decision making process through committees and community forums.

Are there any existing programs LISD should re-think or remove? Why?

I think the LISD should consider expanding the Red Ribbon drug prevention program to include education for parents on the long term effects of drug use (including marijuana) for teenagers and include mental health ramifications, legal ramifications and how to spot drug abuse. This could be done in partnerships with external agencies and programs to avoid cost. The Red Ribbon program is great, but ultimately parents need to sign on to reinforce the message at home if drug abuse in high school is ever going to be significantly reduced.

Are there any programs you think LISD should considering implementing?

I think the LISD should consider implementing a mental/emotional health coordinator. This position would serve as a conduit between the schools and parents to identify and connect parents and distressed students with resources to meet their needs. We have a wonderful guidance department, but it needs to be more proactive in identifying children starting in kindergarten who are lonely and sad and helping them integrate with their peers. Once in high school, more emphasis is placed on college placement than being in tune to a student who may be suffering mental or emotional stress. Teachers and counselors need to be trained on how to identify signals and refer such students to a coordinator who can then work with parents and the student to get access to appropriate resources.

Do you support LISD becoming a District of Innovation? Why or why not?

I did not support the LISD becoming a District of Innovation because a) there is no innovation involved and b) the flexibility provided to schools by DOI do not fundamentally contribute to improving education overall. Becoming a DOI is attractive because it imparts control over the school calendar, but the most popular options adopted only serve to create convenience in, e.g., how the district manages the number of academic hours or in hiring non-credited teachers for hard to fulfill positions. There are other, more harmful options that a different school board could choose to adopt, like canceling teachers’ contracts, cutting teachers’ pay and eliminating planning and prep time. Attracting and hiring qualified teachers is the life blood of any school district. With the possibility of eliminating these benefits in order to “save money,” we risk downgrading our school district and eroding the quality of education our children receive.

Is LISD’s technology program working appropriately? Would you change anything?

I have no issues with LISD’s technology program, other than I still think we should be leasing technology instead of purchasing it. Technology goes out of style so fast, that even major companies have found the leasing makes more financial sense than purchasing.

What do you think should be done to address school safety?

We are fortunate to live in a community with an engaged law enforcement and a Security Operations Center that monitors social media and other communications to identify and act immediately on security threats. Most schools are hardened with an enclosed front desk to protect personnel, door locks to prevent entry by an aggressor, and cameras trained on points of entry. There is a plan in place to complete this for any school not completely hardened and to educate staff and students on the importance of keeping points of entry closed. The next best thing that we can do is become more pro-active starting in kindergarten to help children who are lonely or disenfranchised and help them befriend peers, identify children who are emotionally distressed and connect them and their parents with community resources and services, and to overall become more engaged with the mental/emotional well-being of our students.

Why are you a better candidate for this position?

I have experienced many different school districts across the country both as a parent and as a Junior Achievement Mentor, and I have seen what works and what doesn’t. I have strong leadership skills and a passion for education as well as a strong communications background that I will bring to the LISD to solve problems and promote the LISD as great school system

What is your history of involvement with LISD?

I am a member of the LISD District Improvement Committee, and I have been participating in Inside the LISD. I regularly attend school board meetings, and I follow LISD news closely.

Place 2

David Hernandez

Student

18 years in district

What is the most important issue facing the school district and how would you solve it?

I believe the most important issue is giving attention to the technology we utilize and make sure it’s cost-effective, has a positive impact on student education, is up to date and is chosen carefully. For example, Smart Boards were brought into classrooms across the district but mostly sit unused nowadays. The technology had little longevity and simply became outdated. They are used as glorified projection screens in most cases and just don’t have much use nowadays. While they may have seemed great at the time, there was no long-term plan for their usage and as a result lots of money was simply wasted in haphazard implementation. Whenever new technology is brought in, there would have to be a much more rigid plan for how they would be utilized and what they could be used for, as well as a more thorough assessment of how long they would remain viable.

What would you do to ensure the whole district is represented equally?

The most important aspect of ensuring equal representation is mobilizing equal participation of students and parents in each district. Providing more opportunities and focusing more on showing the benefits of involvement within the district in areas that are less represented would close the gap of representation within the district. This process would require research and meeting with individuals to see how what would involve them more within the district.

Are there any existing programs LISD should re-think or remove? Why?

The current program about iPads for education should be rethought. While I think there is potential for using them to enhance the education of our students, they were implemented haphazardly, without any instruction on use, standardized planning, or objective goals to be met by their use. The whole program needs to be reconstructed so we can measure the benefits they bring objectively.

Are there any programs you think LISD should considering implementing?

Teacher mentor programs should be implemented across the district so that more experienced educators can guide newer teachers to assist them on adjusting to the particular educational environment of LISD and their specific school. Those that have worked there for some time likely have insights on which styles of teaching are effective and which are not, as well as other knowledge that will benefit new teachers and make them more effective educators.

Do you support LISD becoming a District of Innovation? Why or why not?

While I do not know a great deal about the pros and cons of being a District of Innovation, what I do know makes me inclined to think it is beneficial. Often students and parents choose charter schools because traditional education lacks something they are looking for out of their education. Being a District of Innovation gives us greater local autonomy to tailor the education and schooling we provide to those who live here rather than simply follow state mandates. The flexibility promised by being a District of Innovation seems to outweigh potential drawbacks. Regardless, we are a District of Innovation now and should seek to use that designation to its full potential.

Is LISD’s technology program working appropriately? Would you change anything?

As I mentioned in my response about what the biggest issue in our district is, LISD has handled technology problematically in the past. While there is a need to integrate useful technology to improve education, not enough research is done and solid plans are not made for standardized implementation. When new technology is introduced, we need solid proof to make sure it will last and benefit the students, as well as make sure it is rolled out effectively so that people know what to do with it rather than rely on teachers to utilize it at their own discretion, as this creates a divide between educators who believe in the usage of technology and design their lessons around using it while others simply ignore it.

What do you think should be done to address school safety?

Research needs to be done first before we implement a possibly faulty program. Through consultation with experts, community meetings and statistical analysis, we should determine what course of action would benefit LISD the most, whether that be arming teachers or just increasing security through officers and metal detectors. Increasing the safety of the students is top priority, and any action will of course require proper budget allocation, so an increase in funding for security will be crucial for the future.

Why are you a better candidate for this position?

I have had direct experience as a student in the district my entire life and have unique insights on how district policies and actions affect the students. As a result, nobody else can offer the perspective I have on LISD. I find that there is a significant disconnect between students and their parents, who act as advocates on their behalf. In order to rectify this, I can serve as a direct voice of students who otherwise would be unable to voice their opinions, thus making our district better able to serve those who it is meant to.

What is your history of involvement with LISD?

I have been a student within LISD for my entire life, attending Rockbrook Elementary, Durham Middle School, Lewisville High School’s Harmon Campus, and Lewisville High School’s Main Campus. I have served as a student government officer since freshman year and served as president of my campus during sophomore year, served on my LISD zone’s disciplinary committee and was a part of my district’s advisory board during these years.

Allison Lassahn

Part-time consultant, full-time mom and volunteer

20 years in the district

What is the most important issue facing the school district and how would you solve it?

Next fiscal year, LISD must send approximately $30 million (of your tax money) to the state of Texas due to recapture, aka, “Robin Hood.” The district is already looking at budget issues that will come up due to this flawed program. Long term, we need to advocate for public school finance reform with our legislators. Short term, we need to look at the district’s budget carefully to ensure that we are spending money in the most efficient way possible.

What would you do to ensure the whole district is represented equally?

I would seek out representative parents, teachers and staff to give input on various district issues. I have connections at several campuses throughout the district that I will use to get input and opinions.

Are there any existing programs LISD should re-think or remove? Why?

I think with the current budget climate, everything is on the table. I believe it is good practice to frequently evaluate which programs are working and which ones are not.

Are there any programs you think LISD should considering implementing?

I would like for the district to expand the academy program where specialized programs are brought to certain schools, especially schools with low enrollment. I would especially like to see a music/arts academy and to explore the idea of a campus with alternative learning classrooms geared towards kids with special needs.

Do you support LISD becoming a District of Innovation? Why or why not?

Currently, I do support DOI. However, I think that we should proceed with an abundance of caution about future DOI initiatives.

Is LISD’s technology program working appropriately? Would you change anything?

I am in favor of the way the technology program is currently being managed. When the iPad program was first rolled out several years ago, it was not done well and had many problems. For the new bond program, almost $100 million has been earmarked for technology and the district has spent over a year evaluating devices to replace older iPads. They have put much time and thought into the entire process including upgrading the network on which these devices will run. I believe over the past few years there has been scrutiny of the program to say that I would not change anything as long as we keep evaluating and keep an eye on the program.

What do you think should be done to address school safety?

This is a huge issue that I believe no one person can solve. If elected, I would be open to any idea community members have, and then consult safety experts to see which ones will work for LISD. There is money from the 2017 bond set aside for more security cameras and hardening the entrances to our schools to help ensure that only those we want to come into the schools can come in. However, this does not prevent a student from bringing a weapon onto campus. This is probably the most challenging part of school safety, keeping weapons from coming into schools, and we need to focus on this issue.

Why are you a better candidate for this position?

I have spent the past two years preparing myself to run for this office. I have attended many school board meetings and board workshops over the past two years learning about the district. I have also served on three different district level committees. I have done all of this because I believe that the office of trustee is one of THE most important elected offices. Because as a board member, you are tasked with making decisions that shape our kid’s lives and I believe that an excellent education system is the cornerstone of excellent communities.

What is your history of involvement with LISD?

My children have been attending schools in LISD for the past 10 years. I have been on the board of four different PTAs in the district in various capacities. I currently serve on the Community Bond Committee and the District Leadership Team for LISD. Last year I served on the Facilities Advisory committee, and I am a graduate of the Inside LISD program.

Denise Riemenschneider

Stay at home mom

8 years in the district

What is the most important issue facing the school district and how would you solve it?

In my opinion, the safety of the students is most important. However, declining enrollment and college readiness are both important also. For security, I think there needs to be a school resource officer at every school within the district. For enrollment, discovering why parents are enrolling elsewhere is the first step in marketing initiatives that will bring the students to LISD. We have an outstanding school district that is excellent in providing an education that allows the students to excel in their future.

What would you do to ensure the whole district is represented equally?

If the first priority is education of the children, then any favoritism of a school will disappear. I will listen, educate myself and vote appropriately to be fair to all schools.

Are there any existing programs LISD should re-think or remove? Why?

*Editor’s note: Candidate did not provide answer

Are there any programs you think LISD should considering implementing?

*Editor’s note: Candidate did not provide answer

Do you support LISD becoming a District of Innovation? Why or why not?

I do support this as I believe it further prepares the students for life after high school.

Is LISD’s technology program working appropriately? Would you change anything?

I believe it is necessary in the older grades. However, I don’t know if it is necessary at the elementary schools.

What do you think should be done to address school safety?

Have armed resource officer at every school.

Why are you a better candidate for this position?

I am passionate about children, and I want what is best for all of them. I am confident that I can be fair in all of my decisions while always putting the student first. I am organized, straight forward and hard working. I am prepared to represent and serve this school district in a humble, family focused way.

What is your history of involvement with LISD?

I have been involved with our local PTA since my children started school four years ago. I am a volunteer at the school. I attend the LISD board meetings to gain a better understanding of the decisions being made.

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