Though it isn’t hosting the most heavily contested race in this round of May school board elections, the election process itself is seeing a major change for Midway Independent School District, school officials said.
For the first time in the district’s history, Midway is partnering with McLennan County to participate in its joint general election. The move will save the district between $3,000 and $4,000, officials said.
With early voting starting Monday and Election Day on May 6, the incumbent in the board’s one contested race has expressed concern about whether voters are aware of the changes to polling locations that come with the county running the election.
“People aren’t going to be able to go vote where they used to go vote for early voting,” Incumbent Susan Vick said. “Used to, they would go to the administration building, the high school and the middle school. It was very easy, but that’s not happening. They may get confused because it says county, county elections, and may not realize they can vote at any of those sites. That’s new.”
As board secretary, Vick just finished her second three-year term in the Place 2 seat and hopes to continue with work she has started, including work to ensure the growing number of students in the district from less-wealthy families have as many opportunities as any student, she said.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve had a big shift in our demographics,” Vick said. It’s not the same Midway it was. … When you bring in some of the new socioeconomic students, they weren’t at the same level academically as many of the students who had started in the district. My concern was I wanted to make sure we reached those students.”
She has been an advocate on the board for training, professional development, outreach and programs to get more parents involved and ensure all students can achieve the same high standards, Vick said.
The most immediately pressing issue the board faces is the budget though, Vick said. The state’s Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction program could create a $1.5 million loss for Midway’s 2017-18 budget if it expires in September as expected.
Her opponent Eloisa Esparza, a first-time candidate and forensic scientist, has similar goals in mind if she wins the race, wanting to bring a voice to the board that is missing, she said. The district is about 24 percent Hispanic, but there’s no Hispanic board member, Esparza said.
“I thought I could bring that demographic’s opinion or feelings into the board if I was chosen,” she said.
She decided to become more involved in politics because she has a son in the school district, Esparza said. She also read an article in the Tribune-Herald back in February about how no challengers had filed as the deadline approached for local city and school elections, she said.
“I thought, ‘Man, people should at least have a choice,’ and decided why not run and become more involved,” Esparza said. “Because we were in the Midway school district, that’s where it fell for me. (My son’s) in fourth grade at Woodway Elementary, and that’s important to me because we tell him whether you like something or not, you should voice it either way.”
Board President Pete Rusek is uncontested in his bid to retain his Place 1 seat.
Early voting the in the joint general election will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 1 and May 2.
There are five early-voting locations:
- McLennan County Elections administration office in the Records Building, 214 N. Fourth St., suite 300
- Robinson Community Center, 106 W. Lyndale Drive
- Waco Multi-Purpose Community Center, 1020 Elm Ave.
- First Assembly of God Church, 6701 Bosque Blvd.
- Hewitt Public Safety Facility, 100 Patriot Court
Valley Mills ISD
Of the three other school board elections, Valley Mills has the most contested race this May, with five candidates going for two at-large seats and an $8.4 million bond election.
Board Vice President Alice West, 51, and trustee Jim Blackford, 47, face three challengers: insurance agent Steven Owens, 43; teacher Ted Jones, 68; and Pepsi employee Josh Thayer, 35.
The district has also called for an $8.4 million bond election to fund projects at the junior high/ high school and elementary campuses, according to the district’s website. The proposal includes additions and renovations to the junior high/high school campus that will add space for sixth grade, expand science and fine arts classrooms and add physical education and athletic space. Canopies are expected to be added to the elementary campus, the district’s website states.
The district isn’t holding a joint election with McLennan County, so early voting is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, May 1 and May 2; and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The polling place will be in the Valley Mills ISD Administration Building, 1 Eagle Way.
In Lorena ISD, two incumbents and a newcomer are vying for two at-large seats.
Kristi Rowan Humphreys, 39, an editor and senior writer at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, is taking on incumbent David Busch, 44, Home Abstract and Title president, and board President Mary Timmons, 58, a speech language pathologist.
All three have a similar vision in mind: to keep the district on top of its game when it comes to student success.
Humphreys, though new to the campaign trail, grew up watching her father serve on Lorena’s board of trustees for about 20 years, she said. She was born and raised in the town.
With two children expected to go through the school district as well, she is pushing for a well-rounded and pro-teacher approach to education with opportunities in areas including sports, drama and band for students in the small district, she said.
“I’m committed and I’m pro-teacher. I believe the teachers need to feel they’re receiving the best possible support from their school,” Humphreys said. “I don’t know if that’s an issue now but I want to ascertain that from the beginning. I bring a great deal of leadership experience from the higher ed level. I know what students need to be like, and leadership is in my blood. Most importantly, I am Lorena. I grew up here.”
Timmons has been on the board since 2000 and wants to continue pushing for a better understanding of the foundation of the district through continuing education and team building exercises, she said.
“We’re always challenged to make sure we provide a rich, rigorous and relevant foundation for our students when they leave us,” she said. “In that, the board just needs to be aware of student achievement and expectations and set a high goal and vision for our students to achieve that. I want to continue to be part of a great team.”
And Busch, who will go into his second term if he wins, is focused on making sure the district is serving all of its students, not just those who are college-bound, he said.
“We have an exceptional school district and great, phenomenal staff and well-rounded students, but if we want to stay on top as a school district, we have to stay on top of the new innovations in education and what’s coming down the pipe,” Busch said. “We need to make sure we fully understand how our students learn, because not all students are four-year college students. We have to stay on top of what’s new out there.”
Lorena is participating in the county’s joint general election.
In Connally, challenger Trey Copeland, 39, is facing off against incumbent Kathy Coker, 63, for the Place 4 seat on the board. Incumbent Brenda Price, 57, is expected to keep her Place 3 seat with no challengers.
The district isn’t holding a joint election with the county, so early voting is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through May 2 at the Connally Administration Office, 200 Cadet Way.
Other district races
For McLennan Community College, Bosqueville ISD, China Spring ISD, Gholson ISD, La Vega ISD, Mart ISD and Waco ISD, only incumbents filed for open seats, so elections were canceled for those boards.