Three of four Little Elm school board races on the May 10 ballot are contested.
Place 2 incumbent Curtis Savage is facing a challenge from Alejandro “Alex” Flores. Place 3 incumbent Sally Coleman is squaring off against Melissa Myers. And incumbent Elisa McAtee, who was appointed to the school board last summer, is in a race against DeLeon English and Larry Salerno in Place 4.
Place 1 incumbent LeAnna Harding is running unopposed.
Early voting is ongoing and will continue through Tuesday for the nonpartisan May 10 school and city elections. Early voting in Little Elm is at the Little Elm Recreation Center at 303 Main St.
Savage, 49, director of career services for Kaplan College, was first elected to the Little Elm school board in 2005 and has served two years each as board president and vice president. In that time, the district has experienced rapid growth and worked to sustain that growth within its means, he said.
He said he’s concerned about project-based learning, which was recently introduced to the district, and whether it will be a good fit. He also wants to identify funding and resources to ensure the district is “academically sound.”
In a recent candidate questionnaire, he cited as top priorities his support for teachers, reviewing and monitoring the budget, ensuring consistency in technology, balancing “hands-on” classroom learning and teaching for students, creation of a senior internship or mentorship with local businesses and improved academic rigor and curriculum.
He said this will be his last time to run for the board.
His experience, he said, sets him apart.
“With me there is no learning curve,” he said. “You have to have a passion for wanting to do this job … and you have to love what you do. For the past nine years, I’ve loved what I’ve done in serving this district.”
Flores, 48, a channel manager with a local electric company, said he’s worried that parents are leaving the community because of concerns about the school district.
He said he wants to be “a voice for those families … that feel they don’t have a voice,” including Hispanics and others in the community.
Flores said he’s concerned that not all students in the district are being represented. The district’s offerings of project-based learning and a kindergarten through eighth grade science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, academy — slated to open this fall — are good, he said, but he questions why there are not more programs for students who aren’t college-bound.
He said he would like to see the district explore options in technical fields and Junior ROTC.
Flores said he would also like to see lines of communication between the school district and community improve. Most people, he said, “don’t know what’s going on in the district until it happens.”
“I’m known in the community,” Flores said. “People feel comfortable addressing concerns with me.”
Coleman, 49, co-owner of an insurance brokerage business, has served on the board since 2005.
Coleman said she is running for re-election because she wants to continue supporting the district’s programs and administrators, and believes it is important for the district to maintain a balance of school board members who live in all areas of the district.
She said her top priorities include managing the district’s funds, improving facilities and offering teachers the best curriculum.
In a candidate questionnaire, she emphasized the importance of preparing students for success by providing “innovative and engaging instruction led by skilled staff with access to technology and inspiring facilities.”
“I feel my experience and tenure on the school board [could] effect change and make progress,” Coleman said.
Myers, 40, an implementation manager, has served on the Little Elm Parks and Recreation Board.
She said she’s interested in becoming involved and making “some effective change in the school district.”
Myers said she’s concerned about overcrowding at Lakeside Middle School. She said the STEM academy will alleviate some of the overcrowding, but she’s concerned the district doesn’t have the funding to construct a new middle school in the next couple of years.
She also expressed concern about a decline in test scores and suggested that the district “push the envelope” and look at different ways of teaching students.
There needs to be a “different line of thinking” and accountability on the school board, Myers said.
“I’m very passionate about the kids in Little Elm, very passionate about the town. I want change,” she said. “I can bring a new light to the school board.”
McAtee, 43, an insurance claim representative, is a few months shy of completing her first year on the school board. She said she is passionate about serving the district and wants to be a “positive part” of the district’s changes and in helping the district continue in the right direction.
Ensuring students are college- and career-ready upon graduation is something McAtee said she would like the district to strengthen. Growth in the district is also an area of focus in the next few years, and could bring about several new challenges as well as opportunities, she said.
In a candidate questionnaire, McAtee said her top priorities for the district include “innovative and relevant” learning for students and strengthening career and technical readiness.
Within the last year, she said she’s researched and brought information back to the district regarding independent study mentorship programs, which the district is looking to develop at Little Elm High School.
“I am really passionate about making our community and schools a good place for our kids,” she said. “I’m very proud to be a part of Little Elm ISD. I just think that we’ve got some great things we’ve done the last year.”
English, 45, a consultant, serves as vice chairman of the Little Elm Planning and Zoning Commission.
He said he’s running for school board out of concern for the education of Little Elm schoolchildren, a decline in test scores and the district’s finances. He said the students’ test scores are under par compared to area school districts, and he wants to ensure that students are ready for careers or college when they graduate.
He also wants to develop a strategic plan that creates “an atmosphere of academic excellence,” improve academic rankings through continuing education and training of teachers, improve the district’s perception in the community and enhance relationships and communications among parents, students and educators.
“I don’t think it’s out of our reach to move our district into exemplary status,” English said. “I’m here to work for them. My goal is to put their children’s education first.”
Salerno, 54, an operations director for a local business, is a graduate of Little Elm High School and has been in the community since 1972. He’s also served on the board of the Little Elm Area Food Bank.
Salerno said he’s proud of the district and wants to help it improve.
He said he’s concerned about overcrowding at the junior and high schools, and wants to improve communications between school board members and residents. He also lists recruiting and retaining teachers as top priorities.
Professionally, he said he works with more than 100 employees and does work that deals with budgeting, equipment and buildings, all experiences that “will benefit the school district.”
“I’m just an average person that cares,” he said. “I care about the Little Elm community. I really am proud of our school district … and I want to continue to be very proud of it.”
Place 1 incumbent Harding, 37, a human resources manager, has served on the board for nearly a year after being elected last May to an unexpired term.
Harding’s responses to a candidate questionnaire were not returned by press time.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.