By: Jackie Hardy, NDG Contributing Writer
On May 10, Irving residents will go to the polls with early voting beginning on April 28 through May 6.
In this upcoming Irving Independent School District (IISD) election cycle, only voters living in District 2 will be able to vote for the school board District 2 seat as it is a single-member voting district.
Garrett Landry and his wife, Loretta have been a resident of Irving just over three years.
Landry spoke with North Dallas Gazette via a phone interview regarding this upcoming election.
“I really want to make sure that every child is provided with the opportunity to attain a high quality education regardless of where they come from or their background,” comments Landry.
Presently, Landry works for Teaching Trust, an education non-profit organization, as a Policy Program Coordinator.
“In my current role, I work directly with principals and teachers everyday so I understand the needs of educators, the needs of campuses,” adds Landry.
Landry has overseen a national student leadership program; executed a pilot program with Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS) when he served locally as Chief of Staff for Justice of the Peace; and knows education policy.
He states, “I have a policy background in education so I understand education policy very well and that’s a big function of the school board.”
Landry feels some of the pertinent issues facing the District in this upcoming election is continuing to raise the bar for student achievement and academics through innovative and creative ways as well as improve teacher morale and teacher retention.
“We have one of the highest ranking salaries of any district in North Texas and our teachers are leaving,” exclaims Landry.
He expressed his concerns with teachers not having the freedom to teach.
“Teachers are no longer allowed to teach; they are dictated how they have to teach, what they have to teach, and when they have to teach it and what they have to put on the board.”
He feels there is no one-size fits all approach to education; and teachers, in addition to principals should be given the flexibility to make decisions that best suit the needs of their respective classrooms and/or campuses.
Landry also feels strongly that the District needs to make sure 100 percent of the parents who have children where English is a second language are properly educated and informed on all available language options when entering the school system and also feels there needs to be a balance of students being proficient in English as well as in their core subjects (i.e. math, science) in reducing high school drop-out rates.
“It’s been my experience that kids that are completely proficient in English but have fallen behind in their (core) studies are just as likely to drop out as someone who doesn’t speak the language,” he adds.
Landry also shared his thoughts on the District becoming more intentional about reaching out to the community at-large (i.e. parents, faith-based groups, etc) as well as continuing their efforts in building relationships with local businesses to help prepare high school students with skills and business connections leading to possible employment.
Expanding access to AP classes and the Signature Studies, which according to the District’s website, is a rigorous program of study students participate in, maintaining a schedule of core curriculum classes while focusing on their chosen area of interest were a few of the ideas Landry offered in helping the District accomplish college readiness/acceptance.
North Dallas Gazette also posed some questions regarding issues that are unique to the minority community (i.e. equal allocation of MWBE contracts, fair administering of discipline to minority students, and closing the achievement gap among minority students).
“More transparency and ease of information,” Landry discusses as ways the board can ensure MWBE’s are getting fair bidding opportunities for contracts. He feels there are things that the District can do to incentivize bids and contracts for minority and women owned businesses or local businesses to allow equal opportunity that ensures that due process is fair and open to all businesses.
According to a Dallas Morning News article published February 28, 2011 (which this article sourced State data from the past three years from when the article was written) reported black students in Texas are much more likely to be removed from their regular classrooms than students of other races when the choice is left at the discretion of school administrators.
The article also referenced data compiled by the Texas Education Agency which showed that “black student referrals to ‘disciplinary alternative education programs’ were twice the rate of those for Hispanic students and three times the rate for white students for incidents not serious enough to warrant automatic removal.”
“In discipline there’s often more to teach and learn from in a mistake than there is in a 100 percent perfect student. Those are all teachable moments and we as a District need to take advantage of those moments and truly teach right from wrong…implementing some character development curriculum into our current curriculum so that children are actually being built as student leaders,” comments Landry on addressing the disparity issue of discipline enforcement among minority students.
Regarding closing the achievement gap among minorities his stance is making sure there is an equitable distribution of Irving’s very best teachers in all schools. He supports offering monetary incentives to recruit high performing teachers to low performing schools.
“We need to ensure that standards and curriculum is best directed toward all students, not some, but all,” remarks Landry on closing the achievement gap among minority students.
For more information about Landry visit his Facebook page.