Tyler ISD school board candidate Barbara Smith said the key to improving education in the community is parental involvement.
Ms. Smith, 66, is running for the District 5 trustee position. Her opponent is Ross Strader, who was appointed by the board to the position in December.
Ms. Smith recently spoke to the Tyler Morning Telegraph editorial board about her campaign.
She said her leadership background, 30 years as a Tyler resident and experience raising seven children makes her the right person for the position.
“I believe what I bring to the table is I have a vested interest,” she said. “I know (Strader) does, but my children, they have finished school. His children are still in the school system. So, I’m not about making sure that my kids get a good education. They’ve already got a good education. They went through it. We’ve been tried and tested.”
Ms. Smith is a former educator and an ordained minister who serves as a leader at her church. In addition, she has served on the Habitat for Humanity board and is on the National Day of Prayer board.
She also served for three years in the 1990s as a protestant representative on the Bishop T.K. Gorman Regional Catholic School board.
As the mother of seven children, six of whom attended TISD schools, she said she has been tried and tested. Her children went on to become professionals and several attended top higher education institutions in the process.
“I believe in the education system,” she said. “I believe that it works.”
Ms. Smith said the key to unlocking the success of this system is getting parents involved in it.
“I know emphatically if parents got involved, the kids can be anything they (want) to be, do anything they (want) to do and that’s my platform … for the parents to be involved and then for the students to be involved,” she said.
Even if a parent can’t be involved, another relative such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent could take an active role in the child’s life, she said.
Poverty is not an excuse to be an uninvolved parent, she said. If parents are educated about how they can be involved and have a vision for what their kids can be and do, they will participate, she said.
This involvement is key to helping students pursue their dreams and goals.
“My vision is that once parents understand their children, they can help develop their skills,” she said.
For some students, this may mean pursuing an associate’s degree or going to a vocational school after high school. For others, it may mean pursuing advanced degrees. But once the parent knows their child, they can help direct them on that path, she said.
In addition to parental involvement, she said making public school pre-K available to all students and not just a select few is important.
She said the district would have to evaluate its budget to see whether there are any available funds or it could apply for grants.
It’s not enough to invest in children when they are in middle school or high school. That’s too late if they don’t have the strong foundation built in the early years of their education, she said.
She said she supports the upgrading of the high schools and sees it as necessary to ensure people want to come to Tyler.
Regarding the district’s 43-year-old desegregation order, she said it’s appalling to “know that in 2014, we’re still fighting this.”
She said the community leaders and members will have to come together and decide what the next step is.
As someone who grew up in the Northeast and didn’t experience segregation, it’s hard for her to comprehend why it ever existed.
She said she believes the collaboration that is going on communitywide such as the creation of the Tyler Area Business-Education Council and the inclusion of an education component to the city’s Tyler 1st plan are all steps in the right direction.
She wants to be a part of those working toward improving education in this community.
“I have a vested interest in your child being educated in this community,” she said. “This community can be a light to the nation and to the world.”