Why I Serve

Board members from across the state have taken a few moments to tell us why they serve. Here, three trustees tell us what motivates them. These interviews originally appeared in the June 2006 Texas Lone Star.    

James L HowardJames L. Howard Sr., San Antonio ISD

Why do you serve on your local board? Texas school board members receive no pay, and the service is often difficult, sometimes even contentious. What motivates you?

I serve because I want input into our future--and our future is the children. I want to at least be able to say I was involved. My motivation is the children. To see them develop, grow, and achieve makes serving on the board worth the while. The pay is priceless.

If it were up to you to fix the state's school finance situation, what would you do?

Public schools should be totally funded by the federal and state government with a tax structure that assesses everyone through a statewide sales, property, or income tax. This way, all school districts would be funded equally and ensure each child the same appropriation, opportunities, and resources regardless of where they live. Also, we need more consolidation of our school districts. San Antonio (Bexar County) has 17 different school districts. That's too many.

Do you feel that Texas schools are getting the job done? How do you view the future of our public education system?

Yes. But we can do even a better job if we allow our schools and teachers the flexibility they need to address the children's need.

School districts in Texas are very diverse; small districts have different needs than large ones; rural districts are different from urban, etc. What needs and goals do you see that they have in common?

The commonality is children. They all can learn; they all grow; and they most certainly will develop. That development is our future. So what we nurture today will determine our tomorrow.

   

Ralph ParrRalph Parr, Clear Creek ISD

Why do you serve on your local board? Texas school board members receive no pay, and the service is often difficult, sometimes even contentious. What motivates you?

I serve on the Board of Trustees of Clear Creek ISD to give something back to the district that gave so much to me. I was a student, teacher, administrator, parent, and taxpayer in Clear Creek. When I retired in 1994 after 34 years in the district, I rested a year, then ran for the board in January l996. This May I will begin my fourth term. I consider serving on the board the ultimate act of volunteerism.

I have maintained connections to people and schools that have been with me my whole life. I hope and believe my long experience in CCISD enables me to make decisions with a perspective few people will ever have the privilege to have. Serving on the board keeps me active and involved. I am so happy to still be associated with the district I love at a time when we are reaching new heights. With all our great achievements, I believe our best days are still ahead, and I want to be a part of accomplishing our goals.

If it were up to you to fix the state's school finance situation, what would you do?

I would guarantee every child the best education possible, as our Constitution dictates, regardless of his or her circumstances or location. All of the talk in Austin is tiresome rhetoric, for the most part, by politicians who have little or no understanding of day-to-day operations and concerns of public schools. I have always felt one gets what he pays for, and citizens are willing to pay for quality education. Local taxpayers should not have to bear any more of the burden, and there has to be a formula to fix the problem. Legislators should devote themselves to finding that formula 24-7 until the broken system is fixed. It can and must be done by the politicians with huge input from the education community.

Do you feel that Texas schools are getting the job done? How do you view the future of our public education system?

Absolutely, public education is getting the job done. There are exceptions that media and malcontents like to emphasize, but for the most part, in most districts, the job is getting done by quality educators, boards, and involved parents. Students are smarter, more sophisticated, and better prepared now than ever before. I am amazed at the depth and breadth of most of the teaching and learning occurring in our public schools today.

School districts in Texas are very diverse; small districts have different needs than large ones; rural districts are different from urban, etc. What needs and goals do you see that they have in common?

All districts, large and small, urban and rural, have the same basic needs and goals: to educate their children as completely as possible to prepare them for a useful, productive adult life. The challenges are different, and smaller, less-affluent districts must be brought into the loop with upgraded technology, modern facilities, and highly trained staffs. Also, large, urban campuses must be looked to for additional safety and cultural improvements. I am fortunate to serve in a suburban district with a strong tax base and supportive parents. But we, too, are experiencing growing pains and struggle to keep up with facilities and finances. But, again, the challenge is to provide what is best for the students. While the problems may differ from district to district, dedicated board members across the state are dedicating themselves to meeting these challenges every day. I am proud to be a member of that group of dedicated volunteers!

   

Lucy RubioLucy Rubio, Corpus Christi ISD

Why do you serve on your local board? Texas school board members receive no pay, and the service is often difficult, sometimes even contentious. What motivates you?

After 14 years of volunteering in the PTA at the local and state levels and always advocating for children and youth, I felt that the next logical step was to volunteer for my local school district. My biggest motivation is the fact that we as board members can truly make a positive impact in the communities we serve. We're empowered to affect the educational future of all students, even though we are dealing with children with varying backgrounds, ethnicity, and socioeconomics. My motivation stems from seeing our students and staff succeed and providing reassurance and support toward that success.

If it were up to you to fix the state's school finance situation, what would you do?

I think the first step toward addressing the state's school finance situation is to truly recognize the inequities in the system. On one hand, we are requiring schools to implement state mandates, programs, etc., but we fail to provide additional resources to ensure success of that particular program or mandate. The state of Texas truly needs to take a long, hard look at the requirements being imposed on school districts and make sure there are matching funds to meet district needs. In addition to the current proposal for a franchise tax and a cigarette tax, I'd like our state lawmakers to consider a state income tax, for supplemental funding for public education.

Do you feel that Texas schools are getting the job done? How do you view the future of our public education system?

I'm proud of what is happening in classrooms across Texas. I am a staunch supporter of public education, and I believe our schools are doing a great job of meeting state testing requirements and mandates on a lean budget. Public education is about caring, teaching, and promoting education for all students. Texas public schools do not turn students away. Our motto at Corpus Christi ISD is "Developing Hearts and Minds." It's something our teachers, principals, and support staff strive to do each and every day for all students. When I think about the future of public education, I vow to maintain a positive attitude, because our students deserve nothing less. I also admit I cannot ignore the fact that there is a silent movement aimed at derailing and demoting public education--and, frankly, that terrifies me.

School districts in Texas are very diverse; small districts have different needs than large ones; rural districts are different from urban, etc. What needs and goals do you see that they have in common?

No matter what size school district, no matter what size community, I believe school districts across Texas share one common goal that is centered on the success of our students. Student achievement is a common thread that binds us together. Every district wants to see students graduate and go on to become productive citizens in society. Our job as school board members is to ensure that the decisions we make are student-focused. If we do so, the rewards of our labor coincide with student success.