Kathi Arocha, Candidate for AISD Place 3

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1. Taxpayers' Dollars – please respond by February 29, 2024

Currently the AISD has the highest M&O rate of any ISD in Tarrant County. Staff has started budgeting for the paying of recapture (“Robin Hood”). How fiscally responsible should the board be with taxpayers' dollars and why? How high of a priority should fiscal responsibility be and why? What are your suggestions to be more fiscally responsible?

It is a top priority for Trustees to be fiscally responsible. As a trustee, the allocation of taxpayer money must be managed wisely. A trustee should ensure the minimization of unnecessary administrative costs while managing structured capital cost-effectively. Ultimately, a Trustee should continuously operate ethically and transparently.

 

2. Transgender – please respond by March 7, 2024

Which locker rooms/restrooms, etc., should transgender students be using? Should there be a District policy? Why or why not?

My stance hasn’t changed since the last election cycle. If a transgender student requests facilities that align with who they identify with, those requests should be addressed at the student and parent's level to discuss potential accommodations. Many business establishments have made accommodations, such as family and unisex bathrooms as an alternative. A Unisex bathroom option provides privacy and non-discriminatory access. There are bathrooms currently available in AISD schools that can accomplish this.

I believe when deciding on privacy matters, such as which facilities or lockers to use, the district must include ALL students' privacy rights. Ultimately, our goal should be to ensure ALL students feel heard, safe, and protected. In addition, our legislators have so many active legislative bills that impact the Transgender topic. Therefore, it would be premature to set a district policy at this time. It is also imperative the school district is aligned and compliant with applicable laws.

 

3. Teachers' Salaries – please respond by March 14, 2024

Is having the highest teachers' salaries in the north Texas area a good thing? Why or why not?

AISD teachers should be compensated competitively. They are the backbone of the academic goals. That said, we must provide the resources to support them in achieving these goals. The good news is that SB2 will give a pay increase beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. It is a good start; however, with increased inflation, we must consider this and find creative ways to retain our great teachers.

 

4. Student Achievement Goals – please respond by March 21, 2024

The district has performance improvement plans where the goals are for less than 50% of the students meeting or exceeding grade level expectations on the state achievement assessments. Is this acceptable? Why or why not? What are your suggestions regarding student achievement goal plans?

First and foremost We must diligently ensure that all students have equal access to all resources and curriculum across-the-board. We want all students to excel in every subject.

Performance improvements are good strategies but we have to take into account that the teacher must have the resources to accomplish these goals. I’m concerned with the recent announcement of downsizing, these positions that were helping in the classroom will no longer be available therefore we may see more declines.

Parent engagement is vital in this stage of the child’s life. Therefore the partnership between parent and teacher must be in unison in order to achieve such goals. Without that, it will be challenging.

We also must keep in mind the different learning types the students have. The district must ensure they are identified quickly in order to meet that child learning abilities.

 

5. Communications – please respond by March 28, 2024

If you receive an e-mail from a constituent on an AISD issue and the constituent logically laid out and well documented the issue, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not? What actions will you take?

The Trustees are accountable to the voters. We are to listen to the voice of the taxpayers & parents on any concerns they have within AISD. Trustees are also responsible to ensure all student receive quality education. I have no issue in responding to the constituent truthfully and transparently. I believe in order to build trust we must lay a foundation of partnership and with that clear communication is key to a successful partnership.

 

6. Issues – please respond by April 4, 2024

What is the most important issue the board is currently facing? Why? What are your suggestions for addressing this issue?

It’s not only one unfortunately.

BUDGET

There are some major challenges. We have a huge deficit and will have to re-evaluate overall options from administrative structure, efficiency opportunities, vendor agreements, any programs that may not be returning the expected result, asset ROI’s, etc.

With that being said, we also must partner with the parents who are leaving AISD Schools to understand their reasons for withdrawing their children. We must prioritize and develop a “Bring them Back” strategy based on their feedback. This will build trust and help with our funding gaps.

Consistency on policies we currently have will also help. This will send a clear message that regardless of which school a student is at, it will be handled the same in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct.

Academic scores continue to struggle and the concern I have with Covid relief fund ending, we are losing vital resources such as Teacher assistants, after school care, tutoring, mental health resources, etc. These important resources are needed especially for our teachers. We must understand the impacts of these changes to develop swift effective solutions.

Safety is a priority. I have said it many times. We must have the appropriate measure in place to ensure our staff and students are secure. We also can’t leave out the discipline issues that are considered violent and/or criminal.

One possible option could be surprise K-9 searches periodically to lower and/or eliminate drugs and potential weapons. As for drugs, many kids aren’t smoking “weed”, they are choosing bake bars instead because this avoids the smell. I believe, having such strategy will have these students think twice before selling/bringing to our schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Taxpayers' Dollars – please respond by March 2, 2023

Currently the AISD has the highest M&O rate of any ISD in Tarrant County. In February staff did a budget adjustment of close to $1 million to start planning for the paying recapture (“Robin Hood”). How fiscally responsible should the board be with taxpayers' dollars? How high of a priority should fiscal responsibility be? What are your suggestions to be more fiscally responsible?

I am a firm believer in Transparency, Truth, and Ethics.  An elected official should be fiscally responsible for the decisions made on taxpayers' dollars.  Taxpayers should have a clear understanding of tax dollars allocation.  I also realize that unforeseen economic shifts could happen and adjustments may be warranted, but ultimately, the taxpayers should clearly understand when and if a change occurs. 

Proactively assess current programs and curriculum spending to determine if any modifications or shifts are needed.  

 

2. Transgender – please respond by March 9, 2023

Which locker rooms/restrooms, etc., should transgender students be using? Should there be a District policy? Why or why not?

If a transgender student requests facilities that align with who they identify with, those requests should be addressed at the student and parent's level to discuss potential accommodations. As we have seen in Arlington, many establishments have made accommodations such as family and unisex bathrooms as an alternative. A Unisex bathroom option provides privacy and non-discriminatory access.

When deciding on privacy matters, such as which facilities or lockers to use, the district must also consider the non-LBGTQ+ students' privacy rights. Ultimately, our goal should be to ensure ALL students feel heard, safe, and protected from bullying or backlash. In addition, many active legislative bills impacting Transgender topics are in review during this legislative session. Therefore, it would be premature to set a district policy. It is crucial that the school district aligns and is compliant with applicable laws.

 

 

3. Teachers' Salaries – please respond by March 16, 2023

Is having the highest teachers' salaries in the north Texas area a good thing? Why or why not?

Although teachers' salaries are deemed the highest, more work is needed to impact benefits and compensation packages. We have all felt the rise in inflation cost of everyday living. Educators and AISD employees are the backbones of the future leaders in this country. Therefore, they should be compensated appropriately for their hard work.

The good news is there are 3 House Bills officially introduced impacting teachers' salaries and retirements. If our elected officials get this right soon, our teachers will see the significant increases they deserve. Bumping up salaries would help close the gap between teacher shortage and churn.

HB's introduced on March 1st has been assigned to committees.

HB 1548 (By Talarico, Meza, Bernal, Hinojosa, and Allen), Relating to the salary and wages paid to public school employees

HB 1115 (By Hernandez), Relating to cost-of-living increases applicable to benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

HB 1116 (By Muñoz), Relating to a cost-of-living adjustment applicable to certain benefits paid by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, including a related study.

 

 

4. Citizen Speakers – please respond by March 23, 2023

Currently citizen speakers are given a two minutes to make their points on a subject. Do you feel that is an appropriate amount of time? Why or why not?

More than two minutes may be needed.  Three min is ample time to allow the public to speak clearly about their issue(s).  This will enable the public to ensure all their points are clear and concise.  An issue template example can be helpful to ensure all topics are covered.  Ultimately, we want to give the public time to speak about their concerns.

 

5. Communications – please respond by March 30, 2023

If you receive an e-mail from a constituent similar to the top of this webpage [ http://arlspectator.mysite.com/rich_text_83.html ], but concerning an AISD issue and/or problem, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not? What actions will you take?

Constituents deserve a response from their elected officials, especially when they have done due diligence on their research. Their voice provides insight into issues the Board may need to learn about as well. It is good practice to give a solid answer to the constituent, i.e., agree, disagree, not at this time, etc. The Board is responsible to taxpayers as this contituent outined. They elect us and it is our duty to be transparent and ethical in all public matters. Ultimately, the Board should also ensure responses are compliant with the bylaws.

 

 

6. Issues – please respond by April 6, 2023

Other than selecting a new superintendent, what is the most important issue the board is currently facing? Why? What are your suggestions for addressing this issue?

 

Safety is a priority for our students and our staff. We need to ensure that we are providing enough security on each campus. I also believe we can work with APD on a potential program having off duty (paid by district) plain clothes police officers to be a presence at schools. This will send the message to anyone who would attempt any harm to think twice before targeting our schools. Surveillance technology is key and we need to consider clear backpacks just like Dallas and Kennedale school districts have.  Competitive compensation for our educators is key for retainment and to draw more talent to the district. We also need to look at the educators' administrative requirements.  These admin requirements are overwhelming to our educators and we should look at that to determine efficiencies. Budget: we need to evaluate non/low producing programs and cut them. As a Board of Trustee, we need to make sure the taxpayers money is allocated in the right areas to ensure a balanced budget.