Members of the Board of Trustees govern and oversee the school district. Trustees set the vision and goals for the district, oversee the superintendent (who they can fire and hire), and adopt the annual tax rate and operating budget. This is an unpaid, nonpartisan position. Trustees serve four-year terms. You can find EPISD trustee district boundaries by clicking HERE. Click HERE to view a personalized sample ballot.
Who’s running for this seat?
Valerie Beals, 34, is a small business owner and homemaker.
Jacqueline Martinez, 40, is a school teacher.
Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 100 words. Responses have been lightly edited for grammar.
What experience do you have with curriculum, overseeing budgets, or setting and analyzing policy? Please explain.
Valerie Beals: I spend time with people in different types of social settings in El Paso to gain a decent understanding of the areas that are most important in the budget and how to benefit students of any economic status. I have had experience in managing budgets for religious youth groups to ensure funds are spent wisely. I have children and I speak with numerous parents in the district to know the importance of good curriculum/policies and how it directly affects the children and their ability to succeed.
Jacqueline Martinez: I am a 13-year veteran teacher. Curriculum decisions based on students’ needs is a skill I utilize on a regular basis. Additionally, I have first-hand knowledge and experience with how budgets affect my students and me in the classroom. Also, I am currently a participant in an Ed Policy Fellowship Program with Texas Tech University. I would leverage my first-hand experience as a teacher and the knowledge I am gaining from my fellowship to make decisions on adopting a budget and setting policy.
What are your budget priorities and how would you balance funding those priorities while keeping property taxes in check?
Valerie Beals: I will work to ensure that taxpayer funds are spent responsibly and transparently, while keeping property tax rates as low as possible for homeowners.
Jacqueline Martinez: Currently, parents pay a significant amount in property taxes and we have a responsibility to make sure this is going to the most important and impactful strategies that focus on providing more resources to the classrooms. With careful review of the district’s budget, we can find opportunities to cut spending in areas that are not showing an impact on student learning and outcomes. We need to be looking at how what is funded impacts students.
What recommendations would you make for the district to recruit and retain quality teachers and other employees?
Valerie Beals: I think that our children in the El Paso Independent School District deserve the best education which means we have to have the best teachers. I care about the quality of education that our children receive and will make sure that our EPISD employees are well compensated and have the right tools and resources that they need.
Jacqueline Martinez: Fair compensation is a good start, however recruiting and retaining quality teachers goes beyond a pay raise. There are other factors that have contributed to the mass exodus of teachers such as micromanagement. I would support a policy that gives autonomy to teachers, protects their planning time, and limits paperwork requirements.
How would you address the district’s enrollment trends?
Valerie Beals: I am a big believer in traditional school settings. I know there are a lot of parents out there who are a lot like me and would like certain subjects to be left for the home. I feel that in order to keep children enrolled in public schools we need to remember that they are children and they need to have the appropriate education to move on to college.
Jacqueline Martinez: As a teacher, I’ve learned that school is not a one-size-fits-all learning experience, and I think the pandemic is forcing us to re-evaluate traditional schooling. As a school district, we need to cater to what families need. For some, that means traditional brick-and-mortar services, while for others that could be remote learning. I would support offering districtwide virtual learning services to address the enrollment decline.
How would you respond to special interest groups or parents who want to limit access to existing curriculum or library books they perceive to be in conflict with their personal beliefs?
Valerie Beals: In regards to existing curriculum or library books, the schools should monitor and limit controversial content to give parents the opportunity to teach these important facts in their home.
Jacqueline Martinez: The purpose of an education is to prepare students to be good citizens. This means access to library books and a curriculum that contains a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds. Parents have access to and can challenge books, but they should be addressed publicly and with all students in mind. I believe the process should also require that challengers first read the book cover to cover and provide citations with page numbers as to why it is inappropriate.
Aside from free breakfast/lunch programs and after-school care through partner organizations, what other resources and social services should schools offer the community to help ensure overall student success?
Valerie Beals: During 2020/Covid, many of our children fell behind and would love to continue to have the tutoring options available during and or after school to help our children continue to recover from any loss of progress during this time.
Jacqueline Martinez: I would support the addition of mental health professionals to schools. Ill-equipped school counselors are not enough. They are at a disadvantage in their efforts to help students because they too are understaffed and overloaded with non-counseling duties. In fact, 98% of Texas districts did not meet the Texas Education Agency’s recommendation of one counselor per 250 students. The standard alone is both insufficient and also a disservice to students.
David Adams, Valerie Beals, Josie Castro Garcia and Jacqueline Martinez are running to represent campuses in the Franklin High School feeder pattern in the May 6 EPISD trustee election.