Katy ISD has two board positions on the ballot with positions six and seven seeing incumbents facing challengers. Position seven incumbent Dawn Champagne is facing Walter Butler in her bid to retain …
Katy ISD has two board positions on the ballot with positions six and seven seeing incumbents facing challengers. Position seven incumbent Dawn Champagne is facing Walter Butler in her bid to retain her seat.
The questions in this article have been brought up by community members or have impacted recent headlines and quality of life for students in the district.
Early voting begins Monday, April 19, and runs through Tuesday, April 27. To find your polling location, click the name of the county you reside in, listed below, to be directed to your county's polling information.
Editor’s note: Candidates were provided the same questions at the same time and were given the same word count limits to follow. No response was received from Butler. However, both candidates participated in an April 15 candidate forum hosted by the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce. The video of that forum has been embedded at the bottom of this article. The Position Seven discussion begins at the one hour and 29-minute mark of the video after the Position Six discussion.
Why are you running for a trustee’s position with the Katy ISD Board of Trustees? (150 words)
Champagne: I want to continue being an advocate for the teachers, parents and students of our premier school district. As a school board member, I see myself as a window to the school district. During the three years that I have served so far, I have developed a better relationship with the community, a better understanding of the needs of the constituents within the district, and a knowledge of how to navigate through the system in order to instigate changes when necessary. Improving upon the mental health care that is provided to our teachers and students, improving upon fairness and inclusion, and working to close the educational gaps continue to be focuses of mine, along with making sure that our teachers are paid well. If re-elected, I will continue to work tirelessly to help improve on these matters during the next three years.
What do you feel is the most significant challenge Katy ISD is currently facing and what do you feel the district should do to address that issue? (200 words)
Champagne: The biggest issue right now is COVID and all that it entails. Masks or no masks, f2f or KVA, what will happen when the new school year starts, to get vaccinated or not vaccinated, does my child need to quarantine or not? Most of these issues will resolve over time, so some of these will not be permanent issues. COVID created some permanent changes, that I feel are good: outdoor graduations, possible changes to final exemptions for high school students, the ability to do asynchronized schooling (which will affect absences), the knowledge that if we had to, we can teach classes online if need be (bad weather days). But there are some things that I really worry about: the loss of education for some, especially Special Ed, the mental health of our students who may feel isolated, or extra stressed about grades, etc.
While many of the afore issues are governed by laws and other executive orders, I believe that the community should be able to be involved with some of these decisions made for their children. I will continue to work on that.
Over the past year, students have faced a variety of challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, racial tension, an unprecedented winter storm and watching their parents and friends face economic hardships. How do you think the district should support its students as learners as the Katy area recovers from the pandemic?
Champagne: Students should be able to feel that their schools are safe havens and that their teachers are people who care about their health, safety, education, social and emotional well-being. Teachers and parents should (partner) to ensure students’ needs are met. Counselors and social workers should be available for students who have been identified as needing extra help. Of note, Katy ISD has a program called KEYS Mentoring which matches qualified mentors with students who may need a little more attention and support. Being a KEYS mentor myself for six years, I encourage participation in this program.
Our youth should be “plugged” into something at school, and if not, they should be encouraged to join something. The district should help promote afterschool programs such as teen support groups, running groups, book clubs, craft clubs, entrepreneurship clubs, etc. Youth who do not feel connected are at higher risk at falling prey to drugs, dropping out of school, becoming targets of human trafficking, and suicide.
The district should have a method of identifying at-risk children. The well-being of a child leads to better academic success, which leads to that child to having a better life as an adult. Our future depends on this.
Representation is important in government bodies. Currently, Katy ISD is not divided into wards or similar geographic sections, and representation skews to the district’s western half which leaves students on the eastern side less represented. Are you in favor of establishing wards for the district? If so, why? If not, why?
Champagne: What could happen with separated representation is a non-cohesive Board which may not see the district as a whole. The decisions the Board and Superintendent makes are for the entire district. What if one ward has a school board member assigned to it who is not as strong (as other areas’ trustees)? Some wards could be left for 3 years with poor representation.
Board members are assigned to feeder patterns by the board president (which is limiting). (Trustees) have been elected at-large. Since (trustees are) elected at-large, we should be able to represent all schools. There is no written policy or procedure explaining being assigned to feeder patterns. Therefore, this unwritten rule can be applied arbitrarily. Without the president’s approval, a trustee cannot visit (schools) outside his/her pattern, even if invited by that school. I would like to change this so we can visit any school (to) ensure equal representation.
Bullying is a serious problem in schools across the United States, including Katy ISD campuses, with bullying causing at least one Katy ISD student this year to taker her own life. What measures do you think Katy ISD should undertake to continue its fight against bullying and how will you advocate for bullying and how will you advocate for bullying victims?
Champagne: We have a Bullying Prevention and Student Support administrator in our district. Her department’s job is to deal with bullying issues. And we have an app called “Speakup”. This app enables Katy ISD students to anonymously submit concerns such as bullying incidents. Also, CharacterStrong is a social emotional learning program that has been implemented district-wide. This program teaches self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making, while encouraging kindness, patience, honesty and respect. But, obviously, we could and should do more.
I believe we need to focus on not just the bullied, but the bully. If we do not identify, and help the bully, who probably has underlying issues, then we will continue to deal with this problem. I believe that stricter discipline may be needed in certain situations, along with counseling and therapy. And of course, positive attention should be given to the victim, without revictimizing him/her by making that victim a target. Also, we need to make sure that the witnesses to these bullying incidents are protected. If witnesses are not protected, we run the risk of not having witnesses in the future.
Katy ISD students that excel at sports or participate in Future Farmers of America get a great deal of recognition while those in the arts don’t get as much fanfare. What will you do to support the arts programs at Katy ISD and ensure students are recognized for their talents and contributions?
Champagne: Being a former fine arts student (band) and a parent of fine arts students (two in choir and one in band), I agree that more public accolades should be given to these students. Students who achieve great successes should be praised. The choir, band, orchestra, and theater students who make All-State should be recognized. Also, the academic organizations: Quiz Bowl, Academic Decathlon, Robotics, and more, should (be supported). What I can do better is pay attention to the achievements of these groups and call them to the attention to the superintendent. I know when my kids were in choir, I only knew about other choir kids’ accomplishments from an e-news from the principal or an email from the choir director. There should be a system in place for the fine arts teachers and leaders of the Academic organizations to report their accomplishments to the district, ensuring that everyone is celebrated.
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