Candidate Q&A – Ray Chavez – Hays CISD Board of Trustees District 3

What is your educational background?

I hold a B.A. degree in journalism from Texas Tech University where in 2001, I was given the Outstanding Alumnus award from the School of Mass Communication. I also hold a M.A. in Communication degree from the University of Washington, Seattle. My diploma is from El Paso Technical High School where I completed vocational training in architectural drafting.

What is your experience participating with the Hays school district or at a particular campus?

I am a community member of the Hays CISD District Leadership Team that serves as an advisory group to the District Superintendent. I am a member of the Hays CISD Education Foundation. I regularly attend Board of Trustees meetings where I have occasionally addressed the Board during Public Forum portions of the meetings. I have participated in voter registration drives at District high schools, in affiliation with the League of Women Voters. I have attended PTA meetings at area schools. I have also been involved in distribution of free school supplies to students through my membership in local civic and political organizations.

What is your motivation to become a school board member?

I have been an educator for more than 30 years, teaching at various levels from high school to college undergraduate programs to graduate level coursework and thesis supervision. I am running for school board because I am deeply concerned about the coming challenges to public school education in the District and in the State of Texas. For example, a recent study by WalletHub looked at many factors of a well-educated population in all states. The study assessed school quality, and achievement gaps between genders and different races, among other factors. Its findings across all 50 states led them to rank Texas as the 10th least educated state in the nation. The State was also found to have one of the lowest percentages of high-school diploma holders. WalletHub also released its ranking for the 2023 best and worst public-school systems in America. Texas ranked 28th. I believe I can effectively contribute to our local efforts to provide a quality education in the District while also addressing issues at the state level to improve our poor rankings.

What will you do to fight the epidemic of Fentanyl in HCISD?

The District has taken significant steps in recent years to mitigate the devastating and tragic consequences of Fentanyl. The fight against this deadly drug will continue to be a major problem. Thankfully the district now provides the antidote for Fentanyl with Narcan, which needs to be administered quickly and correctly. Training for teachers, staff and parents in administering Narcan needs to be an ongoing and periodic exercise. And we must continue to fund to restock Narcan because the FDA has set the shelf-life of Narcan from 3-4 years.

But we also need to more effectively address the root of this problem which is the abuse of drugs by youth. This has been going on for decades. For my generation, it was the use of marijuana and alcohol. Those drugs haven’t gone away. The problem now is the deadly effects of Fentanyl and other powerful drugs. Our students are responding to a lot of misinformation on social media about self-medication in many taking prescription drugs. They are taking Xanax, Librium or Valium in response to anxiety or depression.

I asked two teachers recently at Tom Green Elementary School what need is uppermost in their minds, and they both cited more funding for mental health. The mental health of our students is affected by our drug culture, and by their exposure to the glorification of drugs through pop culture. Drugs and Fentanyl laced drugs are being peddled on school campuses by student peers or outside juveniles who obtain those drugs from other drug peddlers. Yes, we’ve reduced the number of Fentanyl-related deaths. But just one more death is one death too many. Therefore,  let’s provide more support for mental health as part of this battle.

What is your plan for reducing the threat of gun violence in our schools?

School Safety in general and the threat of gun violence in particular are among the top issues I want to address as a school trustee. Unfortunately, my experience dates back to my days living in the Denver area where we saw the first mass shooting incident at Columbine High School. We’ve seen so many more such tragedies in the ensuing 29 years. We need to provide more School Resource Officers and security measures in our schools. We need to vigorously enforce compliance with safety protocols every hour of every day because it only takes one day of lax enforcement to lead to another tragedy. The cost for maintaining the service of resource officers will be high, but it is money that needs to be secured. More state support is needed for safety in order to provide relief for our already cash strapped District. Arming teachers is not the answer.

One of the root causes of these threats of gun violence comes from students who have been bullied and are lashing out at their peers and teachers. Prevention of bullying is a two-pronged problem: protecting the individuals who are being bullied and dealing with the individuals who are doing the bullying. But before addressing both sides of the harassment, you first have to be aware that it is occurring. Therefore, it involves the recognition by teachers, counselors and staff of the signs of bullying. It involves being aware of behavioral changes and acting quickly to intervene. It also involves following school protocol for resolving the issue. This means the participation of parents or guardians in the process. Everyone needs to be involved in the process to prevent the next tragedy. I will work with counselors, administrators and law enforcement to provide education for all who should be involved in this process.

Please explain your stance on book bans happening in public schools across Texas.

As a retired journalist, I hold a particular reverence for the First Amendment and its protection of free speech and free expression. Local censorship efforts have come as courts wrestle with new Texas laws that requires booksellers to rate public school library books based on their historical depictions or their references to sex. A report from the American Library Association stated that Texas was the state with the most attempts to ban or restrict books in 2022. That trend is continuing. A similar report issued by PEN America found that during the 2022-23 school year, 3,362 instances of book banning took place at K-12 schools, which was an increase of 33% from the previous year. According to the organization, Florida schools accounted for the most removals, 1,406, followed by Texas with 625. In 1933, Nazi groups carried out public burnings of books they claimed were “un-German.” The book burnings took place in 34 university towns and cities. The book burnings stood as a powerful symbol of Nazi intolerance and censorship. The book banning was internationally condemned by authors and educators as a barbaric act that is out of keeping with modern, civilized society. I will work to nip such censorship in the bud before it gets out of hand in our District and the State.

Describe how you will make sure diverse voices from the LGBTQIA+, economically disadvantaged, and culturally diverse communities will be heard and supported in the district?

In order to give voice to these diverse communities, you have to create an environment that welcomes those voices and opinions. I plan to reach out to those communities to create that welcoming environment. My extensive experience in working with diverse communities will be a great asset. For example, I was a reporter at the West Texas Times, a newspaper that was aimed at the Black community of East Lubbock. I was the Development Director of the Five Points Media Center, based in the economically depressed neighborhood in Denver. I ran the Oklahoma Institute for Diversity in Journalism. I served as a grant writer and coach for Run Free Texas, a non-profit organization that worked with at-risk youth in Travis and Williamson Counties. My diversity programs were all inclusive and included participants across gender, ethnic, racial, religious and sexual orientation lines.

If elected, how will you work to address the disproportionately high concentration of economically disadvantaged and minority students in some areas that the district serves?

I will be an engaged advocate for more equitable distribution of services to the economically disadvantaged residents of our school district by being the liaison to convey their concerns to the District administrators and the Board of Trustees. This means that I will reach out to encourage resident participation in District related events and organizations. I would like to facilitate more attendance by citizens at PTA /PTSA meetings and citizen committees. I will go where they live and will speak their language, both literally and culturally, to increase their representation in District matters that affect their children. I will use my professional communication skills to open up convenient means for participatory governance over their schools. And I will connect those area residents with civic organizations that are eager to provide assistance to our lower income neighbors and friends.

How should Hays CISD approach the new "outcomes based" school rating system that emphasizes job preparation and is this a fair metric to use in evaluating Texas schools?

Dozens of school districts sued the Texas Education Agency last fall, claiming revisions to the state’s accountability system would hurt them academically and economically. The outcome of those legal decisions is pending. I believe the proposed outcomes assessment is not a fair metric for evaluations, and that the problems have been exacerbated by the timing in the proposed implementation of the new system. State education officials rightfully say they need  data and higher benchmarks to measure school performance to better prepare students for life after high school. School board leaders agree with the goal but say the changes the state wants are too abrupt. The changes potentially set District schools up for failure, thereby  creating a false narrative of their work. The potential ramifications of a bad grade could be big. Getting an F might lead parents to leave the district, which in turn means getting less money from the state since school funding is based on student attendance. In a worst-case scenario, school districts with too many failing grades in a row face the threat of a state takeover as has already happened in Houston. School leaders also say the system also punishes districts that serve low-income families. Under current rules, a majority of campuses that would have received a D or F based on their 2022 performance serve students who live in some of the state’s poorest communities. We should not allow this to happen in Hays CISD schools and the State needs to reevaluate the consequences of such a new system.

How can the Board of Trustees help address the limited financial support schools are getting from the state to recruit and retain school professionals?

The current Board of Trustees has used emergency funds to provide raises to teachers, a commendable effort to compensate our school professionals. However, we need to ensure more sustainable ways to reward our teachers and staff for their hard work and long hours. We must remain fiscally responsible. The Texas legislature should expand public school funding by creating an inflationary adjustment to the basic allotment. Salary studies should reveal pay ranges that will keep us competitive with other districts. But we have to go beyond salary considerations, given the extremely tight budgetary constraints. We need a support system whereby teachers don’t have to pay for their own resources with their own money, which includes everything from school supplies like notebooks, pens and pencils, art supplies, facial tissues, rulers, to their own technology needs and devices. If we could provide those supplies for teachers through the District, then we would have an added incentive for professionals to teach in Hays CISD schools. Another incentive is to identify ways to improve the quality of life for teachers, for example, relieving them of being hall monitors between class breaks and serving as lunchtime monitors. We need volunteers to do clerical assistance. We should offer teachers the increased prep time to do what they do best, teach. We need to cut down on red tape and their bureaucratic duties. Basically, we need to provide them more time at school to do their job, so they can spend more time at home with their families on weeknights and weekends.

Are there other issues or ideas you have to improve the future of Hays CISD and help our students?

The rapid growth of our communities along the I-35 corridor is a major problem, not just for cities and counties but also for our school districts. And it is a problem that has ripple effects in many areas. This is why I have made rapid growth a major platform of my campaign. I have the experience and education to deal with this issue. I cite for you my work as a commissioner for the City of Buda’s Historic Preservation Commission. We have worked diligently over the past few years to deal with the problems associated with expanding population, new residents, traffic flow and congestion, aging infrastructure, and many other related consequences. The Commission had input on the recently completed City of Buda Master Plan. And if you like what we’ve been able to accomplish in maintaining that small town feel in downtown Buda and within the Historic District, well, let me say you’re welcome. I have also served on the HPC subcommittee to rewrite and update the Historic Preservation Guidelines. I have relied on my knowledge of public affairs, municipal management, land use, zoning, and architecture. My experience will lead me to advocate for equal access to services and to maintain the community aspect of our schools, and the people they serve.


Ray Endorsed

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