Candidates talk Tyler ISD

Published on Monday, 31 March 2014 23:31 - Written by EMILY GUEVARA eguevara@tylerpaper.com

The candidates for Tyler ISD school board shared their positions about district issues and their reasons for running during a forum put on by the Tyler Proud organization on Monday.

School board candidates are: for District 2, the Rev. Orenthia Mason and Cedrick Granberry Sr., and for District 5, Ross Strader and Barbara Smith.

The May 10 election ballot only will have the District 2 and 5 races because TISD canceled the District 4 race and elected Patricia (Trish) Nation as the trustee because she was unopposed. However, Dr. Nation did participate in the forum.

The participants began their time by sharing information about their lives and their relevant experience.

Strader, senior pastor at Bethel Bible Church, has three children in TISD schools. He and his wife Leslie, who is Tyler Proud’s vice presi­dent, have lived here for eight years.

Strader, who was appointed to the board in December when another trustee resigned, said he was spurred to involvement after watching the community defeat a bond proposal in November 2010. He no longer wanted to sit on the sidelines and watch people criticize the district. He wanted to have as much impact as possible.

A Tyler resident for almost 30 years, Ms. Smith is the mother of seven children. She was heavily involved in ensuring her students made the most of their education. Six went on to college and became professionals. She taught at Bishop T.K. Gorman Regional Catholic School for five years, was a board member there for three, and a substitute teacher in TISD for many years.

She said she is running for school board out of a desire to see children educated and more parents and students involved.

Dr. Nation is a native Tylerite with 27 years of education experience, some of that in TISD. She retired as a district level administrator and junior high principal in New Summerfield ISD.

“I just feel like I need to give back, like I need to use whatever knowledge or experience I have to help the district,” she said.

The Rev. Mason attended TISD schools and graduated in the last class of Emmett J. Scott High School, TISD’s school for African-American students during segregation. She became an educator working as a teacher, elementary school consultant, Title I coordinator and principal.

A nine-year veteran of the school board and current board president, she said she wants to serve another term to see the bond work to completion and the implementation of the district’s strategic plan.

Granberry is a business owner who attended TISD schools and graduated from John Tyler High School. He studied pre-law and business administration at Tyler Junior College.

He has been involved with district matters through PTA work, attending board meetings and working with the No More Excuses, Tyler ISD! Coalition, which opposed the May 2013 bond citing the need for the district to address other issues before building new schools.

He said the Rev. Mason has done a great job of being an effective board member. However, the 38-year-old said he was motivated to run because of a lack of involvement on the part of people 20 to 40 years old in district affairs.

About 30 people attended the forum. Audience q uestions addressed candidate voting records, future bond elections, the district’s federal desegregation order and spending priorities.

Three of the five candidates — the Rev. Mason, Ms. Smith and Strader — said they would be in favor of calling a bond election for new John Tyler and Robert E. Lee high schools.

Granberry said it would be difficult to say at this point. He said he supports new schools, as long as it is done with complete community involvement and not polarized involvement.

Dr. Nation said it would be difficult for her to give an answer now. She would have to walk through the schools and see them.

Regarding the district's desegregation order, put in place in 1970, the candidates had different opinions. 

The Rev. Mason said the district doesn’t have a problem showing the federal government that it’s abiding by policies set forth in the desegregation order.

The order seeks to ensure racial integration and nondiscrimination in district practices. Because of it, TISD submits paperwork to the U.S. Department of Justice twice a year and keeps meticulous records about the number of students and staff and the racial makeup of the district down to individual classrooms.

Ms. Smith said she would have to investigate the issue further before speaking about it.

Strader said he has a meeting scheduled with the school district’s attorney, so he can learn more about the issue.

Dr. Nation said she agrees with the order and knows TISD always has been a district that strives to meet the needs of all children and will continue to abide by the desegregation order and state laws.

Granberry said it’s a shame the order had to be enacted in the first place and that the district is still under it.

“For us to not be able to file for unitary status, that says something about our school district,” he said.