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Megaphone Interview with GISD Place 6 Candidate Aaron Smith


Megaphone Interview with GISD Place 6 Candidate Aaron Smith


The Megaphone interviewed GISD Place 6 Candidate Aaron Smith:

Q1: Are you supportive of additional bond measures for funding district initiatives and how do you reconcile this with the increase in paid property taxes?

Smith emphasized the importance of communication in the role of trustee while noting that you cannot endorse bond issues in the position, “If you look at the role of the trustee. One of its roles is communication with the community. I do door-to-door [campaigning]…and I find a lot of times I’m educating people. When you talk a lot about trustees…people have a generalized understanding…There is such an element of communication that is not capitalized on unless someone is going for election. I think the district itself does the best job it can, but the trustee’s job is to..bring an extra aspect…different way to communicate to members of the community.” He added that he is a “giant data nerd and love getting into the…finances,” and hopes to relay information on this side to constituents.

Q2: What are your thoughts on the GISD budget and recent deficits in the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 budgets?

Smith has noted his concern with recent budget deficits, “For context, my wife has been a teacher for 20 years…you see the highs you see the lows. The $10 million deficit …the fact that they’re still running deficits…the budget is terribly concerning.” He went into detail, explaining the budgeting process, “There is actually three different budgets the trustees have to pass.”

He further detailed that the deficit problem is amplified with student departure, “When you run a deficit that high and have a student attrition that high…of roughly 1500 students leaving GISD last school year…we lost $8 million…That’s students leaving the public school system…which is concerning since the district has phenomenal opportunities but students are still choosing to leave.”

Smith then went on to discuss the importance of reducing attrition to curb the deficit problem, emphasizing that large class sizes have been harmful to student retention, “the class sizes are too big…My wife and I are both Southwestern alum [and understand the importance of a small class size]…They are increasing the sizes of classes in middle and high schools…which is shooting themselves in the foot…it’s cyclical.” He detailed that the cyclical nature of the problem is that higher class sizes are implemented to reduce school costs, but that they lead to higher attrition rates, which subsequently lead to reduced revenue.

Q3: What metric do you believe should be used to measure the success of GISD?

Smith detailed that the state has already designated standardized tests as the metric, but that more detailed aspects on student growth can be used, “A metric was already designed for school effectiveness…through standardized testing…We have to address standardized testing to satisfy the state. But it’s not the only way. Individual growth of the child is so important…you can’t make a test and put a numerical value to a kid…There are a bunch of different testing, not standardized tests, that you can use to measure growth.”

He also highlighted that “If you’re failing for five years the state has the right to replace the board and put in their own management,” and that, “Georgetown, right before COVID, was almost there.”

Q4: What are your thoughts on the STAAR test and standardized testing in general in GISD?

While already having discussed standardized testing in the previous question, Smith wished to add that “It’s a tool. An imposed tool, but it’s not my singular focus. It’s important that we have to address it. But I’m more focused on my children being well-rounded [and] having critical thinking skills…There has to be a healthy medium [between test taking and growth].”

Q5: What are your thoughts on the role of fine arts and extracurricular activities in GISD?

Smith detailed his support for extracurriculars “I wish we had all of them across the board. I love fine arts, it plays such an important role, whether it be music, theatre…the culinary arts, auto tech. I hope that every kid finds [their passion] through [extracurriculars in GISD]. I would love to see the growth of all of the fine arts. My son is in orchestra and my daughter is about to be in orchestra.”

Q6: What is your top priority if you are elected/re-elected?

Smith states that his top priority is serving teachers and students, “Every time I work with boards or leadership…the mission of GISD is to help our learners…including the teachers. What is the point of an education system? To educate…it doesn’t happen in the school board…it happens in the classroom…if you’re not helping teachers, supporting them, and retaining them…then the teachers and the students are the ones who are hurt most. The teachers are the single most effective communicator to the community…they talk to the parents…they talk to the kids…it’s the reason that school excites them…If we don’t focus on this intersection then we’re failing.”

He furthered this point, stating, “[We must focus on] how do we compensate our teachers…not being at the bottom of the surrounding districts in our pay…and losing them to higher paying districts…[we must focus on] what policies and programs are we putting in place to help our teachers…and how are our teachers helping retain students.”

Smith also emphasized the importance of having a diverse trustee board with people of various disciplines and backgrounds, “We need someone financially minded…we have a lawyer…we have someone in healthcare…we have small business owners…[we need someone who asks finance questions]…There is a different decision-making process when you know your family and kids are impacted…and it’s not just my kids, it’s 13,000 students…and soon it’s going to be 15,000 students…[bigger class sizes] should not be the fix for our budget problem.”

Q7: How do you believe that GISD is responding or should respond to charter schools and the possible implementation of school vouchers?

Smith stated his position clearly, “School vouchers would be absolutely detrimental to the public school system,” noting that, “If we can get back all those in charter schools back in public schools…we can lead by example…and show the state [the value of public education].”

He emphasized the importance of data science in understanding why kids are leaving and further stated that there needs to be more forums for those who have complaints, in order to prevent, “missing vulnerable populations…[and] those who are marginalized or historically underprivileged.”

Q8: Are you concerned about explicit content or literature within GISD libraries or course content?

Smith said that content curation should be the scope of campus librarians, “we have subject matter experts called librarians on these campuses…you have them curate appropriate…collection of material for these students. There’s a way parents can resolve this by communicating with librarians.” He added that he was not concerned, “No, I am not worried about it…library science is a thing…if a parent has a problem there’s an avenue for resolution.”

Q9: What do you believe is the most important responsibility of the Board of Trustees?

Smith furthered his stance on the budget, emphasizing its importance, “At this day and age, it’s approving the budget. We know that the power of money…that the state has not increased teacher allotments since 2019…We have to pretend like the state’s never going to give another allotment…It’s the board’s job to make sure the district says solvent and sustainable…Advocacy at the state level…we want that…but we can’t hang our hat on something we don’t have.”

He added that “Being good stewards of resources…and accommodating growth,” are also important responsibilities of the Board of Trustees.

Q10: Do you have any messages for students at Southwestern University in particular?

As the interview came to a close, Smith added, “Man, go out and vote. Obviously, I would [be] biased as to who I want them to vote for, but your voice should be heard…those students, if they’re going to make their home in Georgetown…this is about involvement in community. Be engaged. Be educated. And not just in the classroom, [but also] about what’s going on your community…which is what I’ve been trying to do by going door-to-door…it’s going to affect you.”

Q11: Do you want to share any closing thoughts with our readers about this election and the importance of voting in local races?

Smith closed saying, “Voting truly shapes your community. It puts the people in place who will be making decisions on your behalf.”

Voting Information
More information about where to vote, visit The Megaphone’s look into the Georgetown May 2024 Local Elections.

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