Endorsements

AISD Board of Trustees

President: Kathy Rider

For the last four years, Rider has demonstrated her ability to lead the Board of Trustees through one of the district's most productive periods of growth and student achievement. We endorse her bid for a second term as president. Perhaps now more than ever, the board needs an experienced leader to continue steering it through a mélange of pressing matters, with the search for a new superintendent topping the list. Rider's opponent is former Dist. 2 trustee Diana Castañeda, who lost her seat to Rudy Montoya in 1996. Castañeda presents some interesting ideas about improving the district's education services to minority and low-income students, and the new board should work toward enhancing services to this growing population. Overall, with the board facing a full plate of weighty issues to tackle, Rider is the best choice to lead the force.

Vice President: Doyle Valdez

Business owner Doyle Valdez has both the credentials and the ambition to be an effective leader on the Board of Trustees. He has also paid his dues through countless volunteer hours in the name of education, including three years on the Austin City Council of PTAs, an umbrella organization of local parent-teacher groups. And his two years of service on the district budget advisory council is of particular importance, since the board -- with at least four newly elected members -- will be diving into the budget process shortly after the new trustees are seated. Opponent Jennifer Gale has run unsuccessfully for a number of offices. We don't doubt her sincerity, but we're convinced that Valdez's blend of expertise in matters both educational and financial will serve in the district's best interests.

District 4: Ave Wahrmund

Not since Bernice Hart left the Board of Trustees several years ago have AISD teachers felt they had someone representing their interests on the dais. Our choice for District 4, former teacher-turned-small business owner Ave Wahrmund, would provide teachers with a voice and offer the board insight into teachers' concerns ranging from discipline, salaries, a shortage of substitute teachers, and curriculum. Wahrmund also earned praise from parents and teachers at Lamar Middle School, where she was PTA president. And as a co-owner of a small semiconductor business, Wahrmund would bring a knowledge of technology to the table. Attorney William Newberry has some teaching connections of his own; his wife and mother both work for AISD and he is a member of the Davis Elementary Campus Advisory Council. But Wahrmund's double-edged experience gives her the edge.

District 6: Jeff Jack

Jeff Jack's leadership of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, and his involvement with other civic and school organizations, provide him with a unique perspective -- not only on district issues but on how those issues affect the rest of the community. We applaud Jack's platform that calls for long-term strategic planning within the district, which would, as he says, put an end to the days of crisis-bond initiatives and under-the-gun planning. Jack faces a tough competitor in Patricia Whiteside, a CPA who, like Jack, enjoys support from progressive-environmental corners of South Central Austin. Whiteside is well-versed on student-teacher issues, and her financial acumen would be a valuable asset to the board. All the same, we endorse Jack, whose global views of the district could work in tandem with the city's ambitious planning and growth initiatives.

District 7: Olga Garza

Hard choice here, in this high-growth sector of Southwest Austin. Garza has proven her commitment to education on both volunteer and professional levels, as president of the Kiker Elementary PTA, and directing special projects for the Texas Education Agency's Office of Finance and Accountability. She notes that while test scores have improved among students with limited English skills, poor students still lag far behind; and her concern in this area is commendable, particularly in light of the large number of affluent households in her district. Like Garza, Pascual Piedfort also has a long history of volunteer work with AISD. He served two years as president of the Austin City Council of PTAs, and was Kiker's first PTA president, preceding Garza. Financial consultant Scott Branson seems sincere, but he doesn't have the same depth of experience as the other two. Overall, Garza's credentials, combined with her enthusiasm and strong people skills, have earned her the highest marks in our book.

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