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Your Voice, Your Vote

Questionnaire: Willeta Corbett for EPISD Board of Trustees

Willeta Corbett.
Willeta Corbett.

QUESTION-What relevant experience qualifies you to serve as a school board trustee?

I am a poster child of a District 5 public education. I was a student of Dowell, Terrace Hills and graduated from Andress HS.  As a professional teacher and staff development trainer, my own knowledge and practices have been informed by training, data, and working collaboratively in teams and on committees.  Having held positions with the titles of Assistant Director and Executive Director, I have supervised employees, maintained budgets, and collaborated with other departments and units to accomplish organizational goals.  As a professional consultant, I have conducted graduate classes and countless professional development seminars in over twenty-seven states. 

From such leadership and career experiences, I have solid interpersonal and teamwork skills, strong communication and writing skills, a professional demeanor, discretion, and good judgment. These are the leadership qualifications I will bring if elected as District 5 Trustee.

QUESTION -What is the top issue that's driving you to run for this position?

My campaign slogan is “A Bridge Forward to Better Days”.   A bridge symbolizes transition -Movement from one point to another.  EPISD is poised to transition from controversy, competition, and conflict to the better days of restored community.  

One of my primary positions in this campaign is the importance of community.  An idea of community built on trust, respect, optimism and intentionality.  No one entity or individual can build community alone.  Frequent introspection, reflection and dialogue are foremost because the stressors of everyone’s life in a pandemic are real, emotional and exhausting.  I’m running to assist in the endeavor and to promote:  “Students First.  El Paso Always.”   

QUESTION -On the search for the new superintendent: what are the top 3 qualifications you seek in a candidate?

  • He or she is already within the ranks of EPISD 
  • Results in achieving student/employee safety related issues
  • Proven track record of equity results of student-centered teaching & learning - (leading and serving in a “culturally responsive” manner)

QUESTION -What's the biggest challenge the district faces when it comes to educating the students and what will you do to address it?

The biggest challenge relates to addressing post-pandemic academic slide or learning loss and the layered impact of stressors on students and their families.  How we help heal, reset and stabilize mind-sets for the 2021-2022 school year is imperative.  Our expectations cannot change.  We do not want a society of children who lean on the pandemic as an excuse.

Students must come back to school.  Routines and structures greatly help kids regulate their emotions.  Engaging lessons and instructional activities with a sense of purpose will help our students thrive:  “happy, healthy, and high-performing.”

I would love to see our campuses establish Advisory Teams, Acceleration Academies, Daily Tutoring or Saturday School.  Student Assist Teams would mentor peers, establishing new relationships where “unused” social skills gain new practice and purpose.

QUESTION -Another challenge the district is facing is that enrollment continues to decline. What should the district do to better address this?

Why is EPISD losing students?? Because parents and families may not have received our NEW & IMPROVED Invitation! An invitation that reminds them that we are mission-driven NOT a market-driven business.  In 2021 and beyond, we ask our communities to RSVP – to restored trust and reputation.  RSVP – to increased transparency.  RSVP – to new School Board, new School Board President, and new Superintendent.  And RSVP – to Community Outreach and Partnerships.  

QUESTION -Do you see the value in the hybrid learning model in a post-pandemic classroom? What do you think is needed to improve upon what exists?

YES.  My proposal would be that EPISD continues to move toward or increase its shift to remote instruction.  Not as a temporary fix but in some ways a beginning of a gradual transformation to largely online teaching and learning especially within our high schools.  Remote instruction can provide a more self-motivated, student-centered and personalized learning approach.  Therefore, we ramp up.  To increase and improve training our teaching staff on BEST digital learning strategies.  

Yes. While this has been a HUGE learning curve for both educators and students, we are finding that there are a large number of students (and educators) who are THRIVING in this new hybrid learning model. Specifically, remote learning. The remote learning model allows and provides greater accessibility for our students. In order to continue to strive for inclusion we must consider all viable and successful options.

To improve, we examine the gaps. And not only student learning gaps. Gaps that continue bias.  Gaps that continue to exclude different learners.  Gaps that continue to uphold racism, classism, misogyny, and more. We must improve the gaps in student academic learning, but more so, how do we improve the gaps that continue to create inequality. 

QUESTION -Knowing that kids won't be vaccinated for many more months if not another year, should the district dedicate money to improve air flow and social distancing in facilities or should those funds be used elsewhere?

Whether 25 or 250 students are in school, health protocols are being met. From my conversations, students and staffs feel safe.  Therefore, we use funds elsewhere to:

  • Ensure 100% students with laptops and Wi-Fi access
  • Introduce or reinforce Campus Energy and Building Health Teams composed of students and staff members
  • Partner with parents for increased engagement of ways to take more responsibility regarding their child’s academic progress
  • Use funds to schedule and plan a robust summer school – offering more evening school to secondary students who have fallen behind; paying staff to rewrite the curriculum for next year with simplified/modified learning goals.

QUESTION -Last summer, the board was set to consider another $242 million bond to pay for security upgrades, conversion to refrigerated air conditioner and LED lighting, and improving athletic facilities. The district is still working on completing the projects from the $669 million bond approved in 2016. Would you support another bond issuance in 2021 or 2022? Please answer Yes, No and Why.

YES.  I would support another bond issuance only if we have maintained 25% of our operating fund balance.

NO. I am not in favor of any future school bond proposals or tax rate increases – our taxpayers and citizens – including businesses are still recuperating from the financial fallout of the pandemic –but  let me share why across Texas, for many districts bonds and increases may be inevitable.

The Texas Governor and Legislature have a padlock on federal stimulus dollars.  Local schools have yet to see an extra dime from the more than $19 billion in federal stimulus money given to the state of TX.  Because districts have had to make budget adjustments for pandemic related expenses – they are currently building two different plans for next year’s budget.  One, to include the federal relief funding and a contingency plan for moving forward without it.  

QUESTION -You represent voters in your district. Do you commit to communicating directly with your constituents and answering questions when asked about your opinion on a given issue? Some trustees punt to the board president even though they are not being asked to speak on behalf of the board, but to only share their opinion as an elected official for their specific district.

Scrutiny from the public arises from challenges large and small. As a public servant one must attempt to balance the “need to know" without defying or ignoring confidential matters or those which may have a better spokesperson more closely related to the issue at hand or such an individual as designated by the district. School board members represent a “corporate body” and as such typically, the president of the board is delegated as the voice of the “corporate body”. Individually, as a board member, I would be pleased to share with my constituents and the media/press any concerns, program events, and successes related to the schools of District 5.

I will, if elected, establish a Vertical Team Zoom, every Friday after the third Tuesday of the month. I will share my notes and reflections about the board meeting, update participants on the district’s progress, and solicit feedback about our singular goal:  

  • To improve academic achievement and excellence in District 5 schools. 

QUESTION -Last year, the board approved a 5 percent increase to the tax rate, raising taxes by $75 dollars on the average home (worth $150 million). The pandemic has brought deep financial challenges for most families and now the Central Appraisal District has raised valuations, too. Would you support a tax rate increase, tax rate decrease or leaving it flat? 

I am in favor of leaving the tax rate flat – our taxpayers and citizens – including businesses are still recuperating from the financial fallout of the pandemic.  Schools serving the most vulnerable students (as all EPISD schools do – serve ALL) will bear the financial brunt and burden.  Unless the state delivers and stops delaying the federal dollars we are due.  It’s a shell game where the state continues to spend less on public education and cut more.  Cuts that are most crucial to the most vulnerable EPISD students.

QUESTION -What makes you the best candidate for the job?

  1. I am committed to better days and what EPISD and District 5 schools will be.  Moving forward, we will be positive, productive, and progressive for “all cultures, all colors, all conditions.”
  2. I seek the endorsement of the voters of District 5. Period.  No affiliations with advocacy groups or their funding.  
  3. I will not tolerate any semblance of diminished social civility in any public school setting. Period.
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