As your local election headquarters, we are putting a spotlight on key local races that you’ll be considering inside of the ballot box. The Wichita Falls ISD will have three races on the ballot, but one of them uncontested. We’re focusing on the race for place three between incumbent Adam Groves and long-time educator Mark Lukert.
The midterms are right around the corner and when it comes the local races Wichita Falls and Wichita County aren’t the only entities having an election.
Seat 3 WFISD school board candidate Mark Lukert believes education funding is at the center of this race.
An issue that intensified last spring when teachers in several states, including in Oklahoma, walked off the job.
Adam Groves, who is running for re-election, said although teacher pay for WFISD employees has tested in the highest percentile for the region, there’s still more that can be done.
“That is probably the primary way that we can improve retention as well as attract new teachers in to replace those that are retiring or leaving the district for other school districts.”
And the WFISD is also figuring out what to do with aging facilities. One possible option could be a school bond election next may to repair and or replace area schools, and Lukert said the schools can’t do anything until there is money to do something with.
“We have a lot of facilities. We’ve got to look at smarter ways to use that money, but I don’t think we can do anything major. And trust me, there’s some major needs in our schools as far as the facilities that I don’t think we can do anything until we get some money.”
Adam Groves said,
“It would be helpful to get some people into the schools, those who are willing to come out and look at the condition of the schools now and then go look at the CEC and see what a new facility looks like. That would be one means of convincing folks. Another would be to get them the data that shows what it’s costing now to run these facilities.”
However, Groves admits change isn’t going to happen overnight.
“We’re not talking about replacing everything at one time, that would be inconceivable but we are talking about looking at the greatest needs and addressing those.”
Another key issue facing the school district is finding a way to keep students in the WFISD and not leaving for another district.
Adam Groves said,
“We have to have at our schools what students want to do, both academically and extracurriculiarly. What we need to do is to continue to find the ways to make those programs better that will draw in more students because more students obviously mean growth.”
Lukert said if elected, he doesn’t want to come off as a superior but instead — the biggest cheerleader for the district.
“I want to be transparent. I want people to know what’s going on in our school district and in our schools. Again, we need to be praising and thanking our teachers and administrators, and educators, our paraprofessionals, our bus drivers, our cafeteria people, everyone that works in our district. We need to let them know how much we appreciate them and I think the morale will be raised.”
Transparency is something Lukert said he learned through his many years as a educator, serving as a teacher and principal within the wfisd and at Coppell Northwest of Dallas.
While there, Lukert was once accused of misusing funds to purchase a school pet. The superintendent later told him he did nothing wrong. Lukert explains how that was a learning experience.
“The relationships that I had built with the students and the parents of that community made it one of the greatest things ever. They stood behind me, they fought for me. I have a 2-inch book full of notes from those people supporting me telling me ‘thank you’ for what I did for their kids and getting a school dog for the school, over and over and over.”
And it’s that relationship between students, educators, parents and the school bond that Lukert and Groves agree is so vital to having a successful school district.