One of the most important and most ignored local elections is that for School Board. I reside in the Round Rock Independent School District, which manages a whopping budget of $292 Million. The district is considered to be highly ranked (Recognized), and has some good schools, so residents don't pay much attention, but there are some issues for both parents and taxpayers, and we would do well to take a closer look.
One area of concern is always the educational/instructional quality of the district. The district has improved ratings with the state, and has no academically unacceptable schools. Parental concerns stem from educational content and a perceived lack of responsiveness from some board members.
Since Williamson County pays some of the highest property tax rates in the nation, with the bulk of those taxes going to the school districts, even residents without children in the system should be concerned about spending. RRISD has bond debts of about $9.6 million (total payment; principle is about $6 million) and especially egregious to taxpayers has been the superintendent's salary. Hired in 2006 under contract for $204, 600 per year, Superintendent Chavez has been given annual increases bringing his salary to a whopping $252,875, more than any governor in the United States. Some year's increase was as much as 9%, although in the Obama economy, the poor fellow only received 1% in 2010.
Enough background, here are our choices:
In RRISD Place 4, local businesswoman and mother Terri Romere is challenging incumbent Linelle Clark Brown. While the usual benign campaign slogans for school boards are rampant, Romere is including fiscal responsibility issues in her platform. This is helpful, since most school board campaign rhetoric is dominated by emotional appeals 'for the children,' (click Brown's name above to see her enigmatic campaign website,) and we are supposed to dismiss any pleas for fiscal restraint. Romere's approach is balanced between fiscal responsibility and concern for educational quality (her own children are RRISD students). Voting history shows Romere to be a Republican voter, and she has a very impressive resume. The incumbent is a staunch Democrat. I am endorsing Romere.
In Place 5, the differences are not as clear. With incumbent Sherry Johnson stepping down, Jennifer Shockley-Daniels and Catherine Lore Hanna are the candidates. Both are Democrats, but Shockley Daniels seems the more reasonable of the two and pledges to be a voice for the community. Interestingly, RRISD Board President Diane Cox allegedly called Shockley-Daniels to tell her not to run, since Cox had already 'chosen' Hanna as the new board member. Unfortunately, this has been the Maldonado/Cox legacy; selecting candidates who will march in lockstep with the board and not ask too many questions. Even Democrat leaning former trustee Elizabeth Elleson was demonized for asking too many budgetary questions. While I am not actually endorsing Shockley-Daniels, I will be voting for her.