School Board Candidate Questionnaire: Russ Lewis

Image: Russ Lewis with his daughters Megann and Jaclynn at Megann’s wedding last spring.

Russ Lewis with his daughters Megann and Jaclynn at Megann’s wedding last spring. (Marie Q Photography)

Please tell a little about yourself (current work, education, experience, background).

My name is Russ Lewis. I am an Inventory Manager at Williams Gin and Feed in Frost. I attended Tarleton State University. I was raised on a farm in Rule, Texas where, along with my father and brother, we farmed various crops and raised livestock. I am active in FFA & 4H programs all over the state helping children with their lamb projects and currently raise show lambs on acreage south of Italy where I reside. I have two children: Megann (age 23) and Jaclynn (age 15) and a wife of 26 years, Kelly. I served as President of the Ellis County Youth Expo for three years. Currently I am on the Ellis County Youth Expo Executive Committee and have served on that committee for the past ten years. I also serve on the board of directors of the South Ellis County Water Supply.

What ties do you have at the Italy school district (i.e. children enrolled, family employed, former student)?

I have no family employed at the district. My older daughter, Megann, graduated in 2007 (was Valedictorian) and my younger daughter, Jaclynn, is currently a freshman at Italy High School.

Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?

The education, athletics, and experiences that my older daughter had while a student at IISD were instrumental in her continued success as a college student, college athlete and as a positive example for her peers as well as her sister. I want to give back to the district while doing my part to ensure that the same level of education, athletics, arts, vocational and technical training, etc. is offered to the current student body.

What qualifications or experience do you possess that voters should consider?

I feel that my calm demeanor and strong desire for the success of the Italy ISD as well as the success and growth of the entire community of Italy makes me an excellent candidate for the job of School Board trustee.

What do you consider your primary responsibility as a school board member?

By definition, the primary responsibility of the school board is to hire the superintendent and to approve the annual budget. But I feel that a school board member also needs to be a voice for the community and represent their cares and concerns to the Administration and most importantly make sure that our teachers, coaches and staff are the best that we can offer our students all the while keeping watch on the checks and balances of the financial status of the school district. To help ensure that the tax payer dollars are being spent in areas of need and in the best interest of the students.

What do you consider the most important issue facing our school district today?

Growth, quality education, discipline and school finance.

What do you consider the most positive and negative aspect of being a member of the school board?

The positive would be the ability to give back and make difference in childrens’ education experience at Italy ISD. The negative would be making the community understand that I would be only one vote but would do all I could to make sure that concerns are heard.

What do you think should be the top priorities of the school board after this election?

Obviously to continue in the same direction of financial stability but also getting a staff of teachers, coaches and administrators together that will ensure the growth of the district and community. Also, work towards long range plans which could include the construction of a separate High School or Jr High campus and improved athletic/extra-curricular facilities such as a track.

Are there any policy changes you would seek to implement at the school district? If yes, which ones?

I would like to be given the chance to review all of the policies as an elected school board trustee and do not know of one that should be changed right at this moment.

What community services have you given the school district or community in the past?

Over the past 14 years myself and my family have given countless hours of volunteering at concession stands, banquets, fundraisers, parades, etc. for the school district and community. I have also coached several girls’ softball teams over the years.

Explain your position on hiring non-certified teachers?

Due to the $4 million in cutbacks by the state this past summer there were 900 teachers that lost their jobs. As a result, I do not feel that hiring non-certified teachers is an issue that the district would currently struggle with. However, there could be circumstances where this should be considered and it would be an acceptable option given that they are the right person for the job and are nearing their certification.

How would you maintain a healthy balance between education and athletics?

Children need to have their niche, be it in athletics, the arts, or other extracurricular areas, where they can grow into successful, well rounded adults and contributors to society.

Title IX laws pertain to all state funded districts. How do you feel the Italy ISD performs in this area?

Title IX laws have been in effect for over 30 years but like all laws that are there to protect our children, we as a school district need to do our diligence to improve our policy to adhere to these laws and grow as a district.

Because discipline is a nationwide problem, what ideas or changes would you like to see to continue to improve school discipline?

I would like to see more parent involvement and accountability but have seen promise in this area with the recent staff additions at both Italy ISD campuses.

With the current money crunch, what ideas do you have to keep the budget trim?

The school board has a huge responsibility to approve the budget for the district and see that the administration stays within that budget. I understand that and I also understand that it is a never ending challenge. I would like to be given the opportunity to be a new set of eyes all the while making sure that our educators and teachers are being taken care of so that they can do their job.

What positive changes within the infrastructure of our schools might be made to retain and/or attract quality teachers to educate our children?

I feel that having a strong administration in place that takes all areas of the student’s school experience to heart is step one. This administration needs to attack problems head on with conviction and fairness to make the education environment at Italy ISD more conducive to learning which will in turn attract those quality teachers.

In what ways can the district’s school board be more open to listen to teachers and parents about their concerns?

In my personal experience the current school board is extremely open and available to hear concerns. I appreciate their accessibility and willingness to hear what I have to say when I want to say it. I will continue this practice if elected as school board trustee.

What incentives, if any, do you think should be implemented to motivate students to improve their performance in the classroom?

In my opinion, motivation of the students does not fall under the realm of responsibility of the school board. What IS the school board’s responsibility is to have an administration and staff in place that can motivate and encourage the students and teachers alike and to supply the staff with all of the tools needed to do their jobs.

I would appreciate your vote and look forward to the prospect of this opportunity to serve the community in this manner. You can reach me anytime at 972/483-7779, 214/878-4626 or russ.l.lewis@gmail.com.

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