Dripping Springs ISD candidates discuss growth, COVID-19, funding

by Chase Rogers

The Hays County League of Women Voters chapter held a virtual forum for candidates vying for a position on the Dripping Springs Independent School District Board of Trustees Oct. 1, discussing school district’s growth, COVID-19 mitigation and school funding.

Their terms originally slated to end May 2020 before Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to delay elections to November, board members Ron Jones and Barbara Stroud are running for re-election to the board. Newcomers Lori Broughton, a retired public school educator, and Stephanie Holtzendorf, a systems analyst with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, are running for a seat on the board.

Discussing the COVID pandemic’s impact on the district and ideas on how to further mitigate issues, all of the candidates remarked on the importance of supporting teachers and district staff, Jones stated that additional money from the state would go a long way.

“For starters, additional funds would help,” Jones said while discussing potential budget shortfalls and recent infrastructure enhancements. “But I can’t stress enough — all the candidates have talked about it — about how incredible our administrators and teachers are. I’ve always considered those people superheroes because they are really working, some work 12-15-hour days or weekends.”

Asked about DSISD’s proficiency in preparing students to succeed in college, all candidates praised the schools and discussed the need for an increased focus on trade-focused education.

“The district does an excellent job on getting children ready to go to college. They are ready, they go, and they all succeed, doing very well,” Holtzendorf said. “We do need the alternative programs and educational opportunities for those children who wish to go into the trades — welding, plumbing, construction … I think we have some students who are not interested in college, and they have many other interests that they would like to go pursue.”
Stroud recounted some of the opportunities offered by the high school, citing opportunities for students to concurrently work in internships and apprenticeships.

“We have a staff member at the high school who does a great job of finding community partners and placing students in internships that they’re interested in. It’s a great opportunity for them to see if they really are interested in the career or educational path that they think they are interested in,” Stroud said.

The last question presented to the candidates was provided by the community and regarded the district’s back-to-school plan, asking for all of the candidates’ thoughts on its execution and takeaways. All of the candidates discussed issues with communication, Broughton notably motioning that the board should follow age-related mask regulations suggested in the state’s order, which states that children younger than 10 years old are exempt from wearing a mask.

“I think we should be following state age limits,” Broughton said. “I went to the high school football game last Friday night and I couldn’t watch because my glasses kept fogging up. I missed critical plays because my glasses, so I worry about our (elementary children) sitting in first grade and their glasses are fogging up.”

Personal biographies for all four candidates are available for viewing on DSISD’s election information page and audio and video recordings of the forum are available on LWV of Hays County’s website.

Early voting for the state of Texas starts on Oct. 13 and Election Day is slated for Nov. 3. More information about ballots, voting processes and polling locations are available on Hay County’s election page.

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