When Fort Worth voters head to the polls on Saturday, the school board ballot will have a range of familiar faces and newcomers. One of those political newcomers is a principal – in Dallas.
There’s no doubt running for a seat on the Fort Worth School board is a challenge – especially in a district with no permanent superintendent, and just weeks after the man chosen for the job pulled out. That didn’t sit well with Joel Aguilar who’s running for one of three contested seats on the board, in District 2.
“To me that just didn’t seem right, and really it goes down to how the board is working now, which is very, very divided,” Aguilar said. “Everything is basically about their own self-interests and personalities, so there’s really not a cohesion.”
Aguilar, who’s 38, is the principal at the first School of Health Professions at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center in Dallas. But he’s no stranger to Fort Worth schools. He lives there and worked there for four years, as an assistant principal and later as the principal of an elementary school. This is his second year in the Dallas Independent School District. Still, he gets questions about why he’s running.
“After I left kind of became an advocate for parents and students who still called,” Aguilar said. “To me, it seemed I could be more effective as the school board trustee in order to help and reshape the way the district is moving.”
Aguilar faces incumbent Tobi Jackson, and another challenger, Sultan Cole. He’s the pastor of a local ministry called Revealed Word. He also oversees a reading initiative called Read2Win that matches local churches and volunteer reading coaches with elementary schools in the district. What was his inspiration to launch this effort a few years ago?
"Every time I began to talk to and work with principals, they were saying that their schools did not achieve a state rating of being recognized or acceptable because of the African American boys' test scores, particularly in the area of reading," Sole said. "If you can't read, you can learn. ..."
Coles says he also wants to take a closer look at the $490 million bond package voters approved in November 2013. He wants to make sure it's being equitably spent across the district. As the son of a single-mother, he says he's attuned to the needs in some of the city's most impoverished neighborhoods.
"Much like 70 percent of the kids in our community who were brought up in single-parent homes, I can identify with that that first hand," he said.
Tobi Jackson is a longtime educator who was first elected in 2010. She says the students in her district are struggling with two major issues.
“One is student mobility," she said. "Parents move and they move their child from the school. Every time a child moves, it’s documented. They can lose four to six months of acquired knowledge.”
The other challenge is lack of parental and community involvement in the school. She says if parents and the community believe in a child’s school, they’re more likely to stay put.
“So one of my goals is to increase an attendance boundary or to make a high mobility school," Jackson said. "So no matter where a parent moves within a certain radius, a child can have one thing consistent and that’s their school.”
Jackson says that could be enough to change the child’s educational outcome from good to great. And on Saturday, voters will decide the outcome of these candidates.
Other School Board Races
Longtime incumbent Judy Needham, 73, is being challenged by Linda LaBeau, 67. Needham, a fundraising consultant, was elected in 1996. LaBeau is a mediator and is running against Needham for a second time.
Incumbent Ann Sutherland, 75, faces Cecelia Speer, 67. Sutherland is a teacher and budget analyst. Speer is a retired educator.
Incumbent Christene Moss has no opponent.