Trustee candidates make their points at forum

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 4/20/22

Katy school board candidates expressed their opposition to STAAR testing and support for teacher pay increases Thursday at a forum sponsored by the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce and Raise Your Hand Texas.

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Trustee candidates make their points at forum

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Katy school board candidates expressed their opposition to STAAR testing and support for teacher pay increases Thursday at a forum sponsored by the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce and Raise Your Hand Texas.

The event was held at the chamber offices, 814 E. Ave. G. Justin Burdine, a former Fort Bend Independent School District trustee, served as moderator. Raise Your Hand Texas is an education public policy group. Earlier this month Raise Your Hand joined with the district to ensure that district priorities would be a part of legislative discussion.

Two separate forums were held, the first for the position 1 candidates, the second for the position 2 candidates. The position 2 candidates were sequestered so as not to hear the responses from the position 1 candidates.

In the position 1 race, incumbent Duke Keller, an attorney, is seeking his second term. He has drawn four challengers. All are seeking their first term on the board. Saki Krishamurthy is an engineer and executive. Eliz Markowitz is an educator. Victor Perez is retired. Cicely Taylor is an educator.

In the position 2 race, incumbent Lance Redmon, who works in building material sales, is seeking his second term. He has drawn two challengers. Bonnie Anderson is an IT manager who is making her second bid for office. Patricia Haggard is a stay-at-home parent who is making her first bid for office.

All candidates but Krishnamurthy attended the forum.

Regarding the STAAR test, Anderson said kids are “so nervous they throw up” before they have to take the test, and said the state has spent millions to administer it.

Redmon said the test does not provide an accurate representation of student achievement and there are other ways to assess that. Haggard said why there must be some sort of accountability system, the district needs a ratings system that does not come from the test.

Among the position 1 candidates, Taylor said the district needed some method that puts an emphasis on growth versus achievement. Keller said lower test scores could affect the local economy. Perez described the test as a “absolute sham” that was coordinated between school districts and the TEA.

Teacher pay and retention are issues facing school districts across the nation. Keller said the district has given pay increases of late but agreed that more must be done.

Markowitz said teachers were afraid of speaking up, but wanted to teach. She said 50% of first-year teachers drop out of the profession. Perez said the problem was that Katy pays its teachers less than surrounding school districts.

When it comes to recruiting teachers, Taylor said the district must become innovative in its recruitment practices to attract more teachers. She called for alumni engagement, where the district would reach out to former students looking to enter the teaching profession, enticing them to return home to Katy.

Among the position 2 candidates, Redmon, like Keller, spoke of the recent pay increases to teachers. Anderson said the district was top-heavy with management, and money should be reallocated towards more teacher pay. She said the district recently gave Superintendent Ken Gregorski a sizable raise.

Haggard, reiterating what Perez said earlier, said Katy pays its teachers less than surrounding school districts. As for retention, Haggard said that hiring teachers with experiences ideal but not realistic given the circumstances.

“It’s not an attractive position coming out of the pandemic,” Haggard said.

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