NZISD school board hopefuls vie for seats

Posted 10/27/20

Four North Zulch ISD school board positions are up for grabs this election season with a mix of new faces and familiar staples vying for seats.

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NZISD school board hopefuls vie for seats

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Four North Zulch ISD school board positions are up for grabs this election season with a mix of new faces and familiar staples vying for seats.

School board positions 1, 2, 6 and 7 appear on the ballot and will be officially decided Nov. 3. Richard Weaver, who has served since 2016, will run unopposed as Position 1’s incumbent. Weaver could not be reached for comment for this article.

Position 2 features Becky Wilson, who has served since 2016, against Kali Crocker-Reiling.

Position 6 will feature a three-way race between Daniel Theiss, who has served on the board since 2019, Rinza Stewart, and former board member Michael Crocker.

Position 7 will feature two longtime board presences in Karl Radde, who holds the position and served for over a decade prior to his current term, and Mike Crocker, who stepped down from the position in 2019 after 23 years due to a state rule preventing individuals from voting to hire district personnel they are related to within the third degree.

Position 2

Becky Wilson has served in Position 2 on the NZISD school board since 2018. The appointed incumbent is facing off against Kali Crocker-Reiling for the seat, who could not be reached for comment for this article.

Wilson, who is from North Zulch, is a graduate of Texas A&M and worked in education for 33 years, including five years as a teacher at NZHS from 2010-15. Her other roles include a position as TAP (Teacher Advancement Program) Master Teacher at Milam Elementary in Bryan ISD, reading specialist at Forest Ridge Elementary in College Station ISD, Elementary Reading Specialist for the Region 6 Education Service Center, and kindergarten through fourth grade teacher at South Knoll Elementary in CSISD for 20 years, where she also served as an assistant principal.

“While I was teaching away from (NZISD), I tried to continue to support the school and community by serving on the North Zulch Ex-Students board for about 10 years,” said Wilson. “I sent out notices for homecoming, served as vice president, and became the first woman president of the organization.”

Wilson has remained adamant in assisting the district in any way she could after retiring from the classroom. Since joining the board, she highlights efforts to improve the educational side as one of her main accomplishments along with building improvements.

“The thing I’ve really focused on the most is academics because I am a retired teacher,” said Wilson. “I want our kids to be able to go to school anywhere they want once they graduate. I want them to have the skills to be able to do that. I have also focused on helping get certification programs for those kids who don’t want to go to a four-year school, because not everybody does and it is very expensive.

“Also, our building maintenance. We have worked really hard over the last two years in trying to get our buildings up to date and provide funding for it, because that is a big chunk of money.”

Wilson also praised the work of NZISD personnel in their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in comparison to other school districts she has worked with in the past.

“I think (NZISD) has done a phenomenal job,” said Wilson. “One, we had better technology in North Zulch than I had in College Station or Bryan, which is unreal, but also to get the teachers up-to-date in getting classes online and getting the kids to the point where they can handle that technology. I have been blown away by the amount of work they have put into it and how smooth everything has gone.”

If elected, Wilson pointed to the continued handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the most important aspects of the next term and making sure the students properly continue to transition without back-tracking academically. She also highlighted continued maintenance of the district’s facilities.

“One of the biggest things is going to be our building,” said Wilson. “We just have so much that is reaching the point of old age and needing to be updated or fixed. I see things from a teacher’s perspective in terms of what we need, what kind of facilities will be helpful and what is practical.”

Wilson’s family has been involved in North Zulch schools for several generations. She has multiple family members who have served on the board in the past and taught in the district.

Position 6

Daniel Theiss looks to retain his spot on the NZISD school board, which he has held since his appointment last year. He is going up against former board member Michael Crocker and Rinza Stewart. Theiss and Michael Crocker could not be reached for comment for this article.

Stewart attended NZISD and worked in the district as a teacher and elementary principal before opening the North Zulch Learning Center, a daycare and tutoring facility in town. She has since handed off daily operations at the center, which allowed her to focus on running her campaign for Position 6.

“The things I have been working on since 1987 have been the same: it has always been children, education and their parents,” said Stewart.

Stewart highlighted the district’s all-around vertical alignment in teacher training, communication, guidance and discipline as one of the main areas she hopes to focus on if elected to the board.

“The curriculum is aligned, but other things need to be, as well,” said Stewart. “Parents and children need to know that, when they move from one teacher to the next, or from one grade level to the next, that everything is going to flow without any disruptions.”

She also mentioned overall communication with all individuals living within the district as something she would like to see improved.

“As an outsider looking in, one of the things that I see and I’ve heard people talk about is a lack of communication,” said Stewart. “Having worked in the school, I know the district communicates and does all they can to get the word out, but the word is not reaching everyone. It is not reaching the people who don’t have children in the school or the people who don’t have technology.”

Stewart agreed with many of her fellow candidates that the district has done a strong job battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the district has done its best considering every day is different from the day before with a “new normal” as administrators, staff and students modify their social distancing practices,” said Stewart. “From what I’ve seen, the district promotes daily preventative actions for all staff, students and families.”

She labeled the continued response to the ever-changing pandemic as one of the most important aspects of the upcoming term, if elected. Specifically, she touched on mandatory state testing and preparing the students during the unprecedented time.

“Our focus needs to be on what we are going to do about the stress level of students, teachers and administration that is at an all-time high due to (COVID-19),” said Stewart.

Stewart also mentioned the importance of ensuring the district meets the needs of special education students and those with disabilities.

“I think I would be the best candidate for Position 6 because I bring experience as a parent, community member, school volunteer, teacher, principal and community business owner to the team,” said Stewart.

Position 7

Karl Radde sat on the NZISD school board for 12 years before falling to current Position 3 board member Steve Diserens in the 2018 election. He rejoined the board last year to fill the unexpired term after Crocker stepped down.

“The biggest thing we accomplished was the building of the new high school,” said Radde when asked to highlight his proudest accomplishments throughout his years on the board. “That was obviously a while back, but that and the building of the track facility are the big ticket items in terms of campus upgrades.

“As far as education goes, I think we’ve had a succession of good superintendents, and each one has brought their various areas of expertise to the board and each has, over their timeframe, brought the right teachers on board that have increased the test scores and the performance of North Zulch students.”

Mike Crocker, who is hoping to rejoin the board he served for over two decades, also touched on campus upgrades and new opportunities for the district’s students as two of the main actions he is most proud to have been a part of.

“Overall, we’ve built the new gym, classrooms, and we’ve added a lot of educational programs,” said Mike Crocker. “Everyone used to say ‘go to college’, but not every kid in the country is going to go to college. We try to prepare them to either go to college or have a trade so they can make a good living.

“That is what I want for the kids: to be able to make a good living and be productive citizens.”

The candidates also weighed in on the COVID-19 pandemic and offered their thoughts on how the district has handled the unprecedented crisis. Both agreed the NZISD administration and its teachers have fought valiantly in combating the virus and the ever-changing policies that came with the new normal.

“I think we’ve weathered the (COVID-19) storm well,” said Radde, who praised the district for being one of the first schools to get approved for an outdoor graduation ceremony last spring, just months after shutting down. “I think we did as well as any district could in terms of finishing out the year and having plans in place for (asynchronous online learning).

“I can certainly appreciate what the teachers are going through to make it work and I think North Zulch has a fine group of teachers that are pulling that off.”

Crocker also commended district personnel and mentioned the importance of getting all students back into the classroom for traditional, face-to-face learning.

“(The district) has done the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt,” said Mike Crocker. “People have to understand that the state basically controls most of the stuff that goes on at the school. You can do the best you can and some will think it’s not good enough, but the main control comes out of the state.

“Distance learning is not going to work for these kids (in the long run). You have to have kids in school to stabilize their environment.”

Both Radde and Mike Crocker agreed that, if elected, the most important aspects of their term would be continuing to navigate the pandemic and its challenges as well as state funding.

“As a district, we will have to be very cognizant of the fact that we are going to have to watch what is going on at the state level for education funding,” said Radde. “I own a business in Bryan and North Zulch. Finances and watching the balance sheets, profits and losses, while these are certainly different for state agencies than for the private sector, there are a lot of things that carry over.”

“I expect that the school and this area will grow quite a bit, but the main things are funding and the pandemic,” said Crocker. “We have to get our funding, which is based on (average daily attendance). We need to get our attendance up so we can get our funding up.”

Radde had a son graduate from the district last year and highlighted his past experience on the board and his financial background as his top qualifications.

“I hope my (qualification) comes with the fact that I have been on the board, have the experience of being on that board, and the financial side,” said Radde.

Mike Crocker also pointed to his prior board experience as well as his many family members with ties to the district as two of the reasons citizens should back him on their ballots.

“I have over 225 hours of board training, more than anybody on the school board,” said Mike Crocker. “I was born and raised here, graduated from here, my wife graduated from here, my kids graduated from here and six of my grandkids currently go to school here. I have a vested interest in this district, the taxpayer and what goes on here.”

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