Candidates in two school board races disagreed on several points at a forum on Thursday ahead of the May 7 election in which questions came from Victoria Advocate readers and the paper’s editorial board.
Two challengers for District 1 of the Victoria Independent School District Board of Trustees, Kathy Bell and Theresa Klacman, had differing opinions about controversial subjects like critical race theory, social emotional learning and similar hot-button topics of the day. In the District 6 race, incumbent Margaret Pruett went head-to-head with challenger Emett Alvarez on the fate of the Stroman Middle School campus, fiscal management and parent access to board members at meetings.
The forum, sponsored by the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and the Victoria Advocate and hosted by the University of Houston-Victoria in the Walker Auditorium, gave readers a chance to have their questions answered. It aired live on the Advocate’s Facebook page and about 50 people were in the audience.
Also at the forum were candidates for City Council Super District 6 incumbent Mark Loffgren and April Butler.
Bell, who served as a teacher for 24 years, said the priority needed to be on challenging students so they would remain in the community after graduation.
“We have bright kids, we have intelligent kids here,” Bell told the audience. “We want to keep them here.”
She said by making the schools more efficient it makes the students more successful in their future efforts.
Klacman, Bell’s opponent, said residents don’t trust how the current school board is spending tax dollars.
“There definitely needs to be more communication with the community on how money is being spent,” Klacman said.
When asked if philosophies such as social emotional learning (which gives the same attention to social and emotional skills as studies on math, science and reading), gender identity, critical race theory and sexual orientation should be discussed in the classroom, both Bell and Klacman agreed that those issues were ones that needed to be discussed at home.
“I’m from the old school,” Bell said. “Those things should be taught at home, not at school.”
Gallery: Moments from political forum
Two Victoria City Council candidates and four Victoria Independent School District candidates discussed the issues and answered questions from readers and the Victoria Advocate's editorial board at a forum co-sponsored by the Victoria Chamber of Commerce at the University of Houston-Victoria on April 28, 2022.
“It’s not the government’s responsibility to raise our children,” Klacman said. “It’s our responsibility.”
Klacman said the public needed to realize there are problems in the school system and that discipline needed to be brought into classrooms, giving teachers more authority.
“There’s really something wrong here,” she said. Klacman, who founded Restoration House Ministries, said students needed to learn in a safe and functional work space.
VISD District 6 Trustee Margaret Pruett and challenger Emett Alvarez were faced with the same questions from both the community and the Advocate’s editorial board.
Pruett said she has been involved with VISD since 1994, working in special education, English as a Second Language and as a permanent substitute teacher. Since her involvement on the school board, she said dropout rates have fallen and high school graduation rates have gone up. She said she would like to include the community in more school-related issues.
“If we create more partnerships, it creates more opportunities for our students,” Pruett told the audience. “It gives them tools to be successful in their futures.”
Alvarez said he wanted to fix and renovate schools, including Stroman Middle School.
“I want our community to step up,” he said, adding taxpayers had to be informed about issues facing the schools in Victoria.
“We’ve come to a time where change is in order,” Alvarez said. “We are in the business of education. Isn’t it about the kids?”