Image: Dale Inman, who is running for Conroe Independent School District Board of Trustees, Position 1, in the November 6, 2018, General Election, spoke, while two of his electoral opponents, Theresa Wagamon (sitting left) and Kathleen Harmatuk-Swisher (sitting right) listened.
The Woodlands, October 13 – What was both disturbing and shocking about the Conroe Independent School District (CISD) candidate forum was the failure of all of the candidates, with one exception, to express any concern for the taxpayers who are footing the bills for out-of-control spending CISD bureaucracy. It truly seems as though the administrators who control CISD operations already have Theresa Wagamon (running for Position 1), Kathleen Haramuk-Swisher (also running for Position 1), and incumbent Skeeter Hubert (running for Position 3) firmly within their grasp.
The fundamental purpose of education is to provide children with the fundamental tools with which to live their lives, particularly in the fields of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history. The fundamental purpose of public education is to meet the foregoing goals as efficiently and inexpensively as reasonably possible since the source of funds is confiscation of money from taxpayers.
The CISD Board of Trustees has lost its way. Mired in bureaucracy and the control of the highest level bureaucratic politicians within the school district, the Board has lost touch with their citizen constituents and with the children whose educational outcomes depend upon the quality of its oversight.
One candidate stood out, however. Dale Inman, who hails from an entrepreneurial background and is a Southern Baptist pastor, was the only candidate who showed any care for the taxpayers. “I don’t like bonds. I’m not always out for more bonds,” Inman responded when the left-leaning moderator asked the question what the next bonds should fund (without even considering whether more bonds were appropriate at all.)
Throughout the forum, Inman was the only candidate who showed a concern both for the taxpayers and for the children. As a matter of fact, none of the other candidates seemed focused on the children at all but rather on the needs of the CISD bureaucracy.
Inman also stressed the need for zero-based budgeting, a need-based methodology of financial planning wholly anathema to the bureaucratic growth policies of CISD.
As one sat through the hour-long candidate forum, what was most disconcerting was that it sounded like a group of children at Christmastime describing their wish lists for spending to Santa Claus.
Wagamon, a real estate agent and CISD parent, expressed:
- She’s “thrilled” with the new CISD Superintendent.
- She believes its her job as a CISD Trustee to supplant the work of the Sheriff’s Office and Conroe Police Department to determine school safety. She further argued that CISD Trustees are responsible to setting a positive relationship between schoolchildren and the Policy Department.
- She argued that the CISD budget is “very tight” despite the massive cash surplus of the district and that they “look for every spending reduction” even though there have been no spending reductions in CISD in decades.
- She blamed the Texas Legislature for school finance problems and the CISD’s budget mess in particular, as opposed to committing to take responsibility at the Board of Trustees level to implement proper budgeting practices.
- She believes teacher raises have occurred “to honor teachers” rather than to compensate them for services as government employees.
- She labors under the misconception that teachers want “more administrator support” when, in fact, CISD teachers are sick and tired of administrator interference in educational curricula.
- She focuses on transportation needs and special education rather than core teaching curricula.
- She wants an “exploratory committee” for a 2019 bond issue. Wagamon seeks to focus on building more high schools, updating the bus system, and the “92 tier one items from the infrastructure workshop.”
- While she mentioned looking at budgets during her final statement, she emphasized that CISD must “make sure everything is done to support teachers and administrators to keep standards high.” Only at the very end did Wagamon mention “managing the tax burden on taxpayers.”
In short, Wagamon is the potential dream Trustee for school bureaucrats to the detriment of students, teachers, and taxpayers.
In addition to his concerns about fiscal burdens on taxpayers, Inman mentioned he wanted CISD:
- To focus on preparing students “for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
- To use money effectively and efficiently.
- To “harden” school safety.
- To keep drugs out of schools.
- To implement zero-based budgets.
- To end the reliance on standardized testing as any sort of standard, as “you get what you measure.”
- To focus on teacher insurance benefits. (Traditionally, government salaries have been low with high benefits.)
- To avoid loading our children with future government debt.
- To bring discipline back into the classroom.
Inman has focused on the needs of children and taxpayers.
Harmatuk-Swisher is a licensed professional counselor who seemed to want to focus on bringing counseling costs up steadily within CISD. She wants:
- School safety. “I spoke to the Police Chief and felt very positive afterwards.”
- Implementation of a community-wide bullying prevention model. (Perhaps, she should begin with an end of bullying of Montgomery County taxpayers.)
- CISD to hire more professional counsels to bring mental health treatment into the schools.
- To continue the current budget system, because CISD has a $6.8 million surplus (meaning taxpayers overpaid $6.8 million last year at a minimum.)
- To continue standardized testing, because “it tells us who needs help.”
- More buses.
- More government collectivism: “we’re better together.”
Harmatuk-Swisher accepts on blind faith that CISD doesn’t ask for more bonds “unless they absolutely need them.” That’s not much of an oversight attitude for someone who seeks to serve on a District Board of Trustees.
The only incumbent Board member in attendance was Skeeter Hubert who is running for re-election in Position 3. Hubert is one of the Trustees who vehemently fought against property tax appraisal relief for CISD taxpayers whose homes suffered destruction in the Harvey storm. Clearly taxpayer misery is a lower priority for Hubert than government tax collections.
Hubert emphasized during the forum:
- He wants to stop bullying.
- Buses should have upgraded technology so “kids have quicker and safer bus rides.”
- CISD should “partner” with Tri-County Behavioral Health.
- CISD should strengthen its police force.
- He’s happy there are more crisis counselors in the schools.
- Schools can’t solve their own financial problems but we should blame the State of Texas instead.
- CISD “loves our teachers,” “has an incredible police department,” “has 377 bus drivers who do the best they can.”
- “We only look at items in bonds that are allowable, including buildings, and fixing up older buildings.”
- School safety is CISD’s biggest challenge right now.
- “I really enjoy it. It’s fun going to the schools. We have a great Board. We get a lot of things done behind the scenes in executive session or in our dealings with the superintendent.”
Other than Inman who expressed some concern about taxpayers, voters should expect the other three candidates to continue CISD’s explosive spending increases and out-of-sight taxation of properties within its jurisdiction.