Tyler ISD school board candidate Ross Strader said his leadership experience and perspective would serve the district well.
Strader, 43, pastor of Bethel Bible Church, and the father of three Tyler ISD students, is running for the District 5 position. He faces opponent Barbara Smith.
He recently spoke with the Tyler Morning Telegraph editorial board about his campaign.
Strader said he has worked on both sides of boards and understands how they work and their role in an organization.
He also brings the experience of being a father, which involves being on school campuses and interacting with students and parents, teachers and staff.
As a co-founder with his wife and other families of Tyler Proud, he said he wants to be a part of the community that supports public schools.
“I want to be there, I want to champion, I want to empower, I want to be a part of the accountability for what goes on in the public schools, but really want the community to know. … I am an advocate for what goes on,” he said. “I think … we all have to be a part of the solution in this community to make Tyler the premier place people would want to move to and see their kids educated in.”
Strader said this community is one that values local control and wants to see that in its education system. But local control means local responsibility. And the community must be willing to invest in itself including its schools.
“A low tax rate is certainly something for Tyler to be proud of, I do not disagree with that at all,” Strader said. “But, it cannot come at the expense of the investment in the community long-term that as we look down the corridors of time and envision what Tyler is (going to) be like 10 years from now and 20 years from now that investment for what Tyler will be happens now. And I think that’s part of the new consensus.”
On that note, Strader said he supports rebuilding the high schools. The district needs to complete the existing bond projects on time and under budget, he said. At the same time, TISD also needs to begin planning for the next generation of high schools, he said.
“If we want students to graduate from TISD, and we want them to compete well in college and we want them to compete well in the job market … (then) we have to give them the resources to be able to excel in that,” he said.
He said TISD’s career and technical education center, which is under construction, is going to be an incredible resource particularly for the community. It has the potential to build the workforce, provide a clear opportunity for local industry to partner with TISD, and equip students with marketable skills in high school.
“I think it’s (going to) prove to be one of the most desirable places for a student to be in the school district,” he said.
Regarding the district’s 43-year-old desegregation order, he said the district should do all it can to get the order lifted, but there must be consensus in the community that that’s the right move.
Strader said parental involvement in the schools is important, but the district must have strategies in place to help those students who don’t have parents involved.
One example of parent involvement beyond PTA is the Robert E. Lee Dads who go to the school on Fridays in groups of four or five and play ping-pong with the students and give out soft drinks.
“We go through cases of soft drinks on a Friday afternoon and get to meet and hang out with a lot of kids and just be there, but be there with a purpose,” he said. “And so I think that there are creative ways that campuses can engage parents.”
Strader said a public school is one of the greatest resources that a community has.
“At the same time a community has to be a great steward of its public schools,” he said. “So as a candidate for the board of trustees of TISD that’s what I want to do. I want to be a part of making TISD the very best schools that it can be.”