WISD Trustee Candidate: James Richmond Villarreal

WISD Trustee Candidate James Villarreal

WAXAHACHIE — James Richmond Villarreal and six other candidates are vying for a place on the Waxahachie Independent School District Board of Trustees. Voters will take to the polls on May 9 to cast a ballot for their preferred choices to fill three of seven seats that are up for election.

James Richmond Villarreal

1) What personal background information would you like to share with voters, such as your family, hobbies, personality, etc?

Married to wife Laura (23 years) sons: Bill, Jake, & Luke.

2) What professional experience, community service and other qualifications do you have that would make you an effective trustee?

Recreation Superintendent, City of Waxahachie (15 years).

WISD Education Foundation Board Member 2010-2013, WISD Bond Steering Committee, WISD Mentor, WISD Operation First Day of School, Grateful DADS (High School), DADS at the Door (Felty, Howard), Leadership Waxahachie Graduate, Fellowship of Christian Athletes Adult Huddle, Baylor Scott and White Patient Advisory Council, Waxahachie Youth Baseball Coach, YMCA Soccer & Flag Football Coach, Texas Amateur Athletic Federation-President, Texas Recreation & Parks Society Board.

Click a name to learn more about other candidates.

Matt Authier
Gary Fox
Joe Langley
Shannon Moyers
Clay Schoolfield
Theresa Smithey
James Villarreal

3) Do you currently have any children attending a WISD school or have you had any children attend a WISD school in the past and how long ago was it?

Yes, Luke is a 6th grader at Howard Jr. High.
Bill graduated Waxahachie High Class of 2005.
Jake graduated Waxahachie High Class of 2013.

4) How long have you lived in Waxahachie?

45 years

5) What reasons made you decide to run for the Waxahachie ISD school board?

My decision to run is primarily because of my love and commitment to Waxahachie. Like the current trustees, I will be devoted to making WISD the BEST in education. I want to continue the WISD tradition of excellence and help contribute to the future of our children’s education. I want to serve and give back to the community that has provided for me and my family.

6) What experience do you have with complicated budgets?

Working for a municipality over the past 15 years has given me a wide range experience from budgeting and maintaining a budget, planning, managing employees, and construction of several buildings. I oversee nearly a million dollar budget on an annual basis and understand the complexity of line items, expenditures, and revenues.

7) In your view, what has the district done well over the last five years? What has the district done poorly that you would change?

The district has excelled in the last few years in its programs. Our award winning band finished top 7 in the state at their last state marching contest, the fine arts program just won their zone competition in One Act Play. Global High continues to excel as it was named one of U. S. News and World Report Best High Schools of 2014. This district was just named Best Community For Music Education in 2014. Waxahachie High School Yearbook staff was just recognized for excellence and “The Chief” yearbook will be featured in the 2015 Jostens Look Book.

District data reports that the economically disadvantage students test scores are below the states average. We must set HIGH expectations across the board and provide students with the appropriate support and tools to reach those expectations.

8) If elected as a trustee, what do you plan to accomplish while serving the district?

I would work with fellow board members and district administration to develop or adhere to a long range financial plan. We need to be good stewards of taxpayers money and use sound judgment when it comes to spending or not spending. I think it is good we have a healthy fund balance, yet I believe we have to strike a balance between saving and spending. I know in the past dollars have been placed back, yet our teachers do not have the supplies they need in order to do their jobs and WISD salaries are not as competitive as the surrounding districts. We need to make it a priority to RETAIN quality educators.

Also, developing a long range curriculum plan is vital to establishing a sound foundation that ensures academic success for ALL students. Students need to receive a quality education, infused with technology, so they are prepared as they face the challenges of college or careers.

Working in partnership with fellow board members and district administration my goal would include developing and/or maintaining a long range facilities plan. WISD enrollment data shows our district is growing at a fast pace. It is imperative to have policies and procedures in place to address the anticipated growth of the district.

9) What do you feel are the top three issues facing WISD and what will you do as a trustee to address those issues?

One of the top issues the facing our district is our fast paced rate of growth. As a district, we must develop long range plans to effectively address our growth needs including classroom capacity as well as adequate staffing. Plans should include methods of better utilizing existing infrastructure, as well as working along with a demographer to prepare for future needs. We need to support our teachers as professionals and give them the ability to focus on educating our students in a non-crowded safe environment.

Another issue facing the district are our low performing test scores amongst our "AT RISK" students, which includes economically disadvantage students. District data reports that the economically disadvantage students test scores are below the states average.

We need to retain quality educators as well as students. WISD needs to be the premier choice of education in Waxahachie. We should be known for the excellent preparation of our students and their success after graduation.

10) What are the factors on which you will base your decisions as a school board member?

The main factor to be considered is the student. I would take a look at an entire situation at a 30,000 foot level and then base my decision on if this is best for the students as WISD.

11) If a parent or principal comes to you regarding, for example, a maintenance issue at a particular campus or a situation involving a particular teacher, how do you see your role as a school board member in resolving the issue?

I would do my best to help the parent or principal. First, I would respectfully ask them to go through the proper channels, chain of command, etc. If for some reason the issue still isn't resolved I would then do what I could to help in making phone calls or emailing the proper people.

12) What are your thoughts on the current WISD outstanding debt principal? According to WISD, the district currently has $115,092,535 in outstanding debt principal that represents debts from the 1997 bond issue through 2013 refunding bonds issued. Future repayment obligations through 2037 call for $131,375,577 in interest payments resulting in total payments of $246,468,111.
(Source: http://www.wisd.org/default.aspx?name=BUS_Debt)

I, as everyone else would like to see the debt ceiling as low as possible. I do not like to see my taxes go up, but I do understand that on large items bonds must be sold in order to build and construct. When it comes to spending those sound decisions have to be in the best interest of the student and we must allow the public to decide.

13) Voters approved two bonds in March 2010 totaling $28,120,000 thus resulting in a property tax increase of 6.9 cents per $100 of assessed value.
(Source: http://www.wisd.org/docs/1-Bond%20Brochure%20color.pdf)

13a) What is your opinion of the 2010 Proposition One bond referendum? This bond totaled $22,175,000 and was used to renovate the softball field at WHS, renovations to Richards Park, renovations at the district's baseball complex and renovations and expansions to Lumpkins Stadium. Of the total bond amount, $20,139,780 was for Lumpkins Stadium alone. This resulted in a property tax increase of 4.4 cents per $100 of assessed value. This bond passed with a narrow margin of 78 votes: 1,042 FOR and 964 AGAINST.

It is my understanding there was a great need to become compliant with the American Disabilities Act at all WISD venues. This bond helped bring those venues up to standards.

13b) What is your opinion of the 2010 Proposition Two bond referendum? This bond totaled $5,945,000 and was used for campus renovations to 11 of the district's 13 school facilities. The impact on the property tax rate was 2.5 cents. This bond passed by a margin of 750 votes: 1,372 FOR and 622 AGAINST.

The district wide renovations, improvements to technology and security were very much needed. The upkeep to our buildings is an investment and is vital when it comes to educating our students in a safe environment.

14) What is your opinion on the $125 million bond referendum the WISD board members recently called that will result in a property tax increase of 12.5 cents per $100 of assessed value if passed by voters? Are you for or against the bond and what are the reasons behind your position?

As a product of Waxahachie I love the small hometown feel. Unfortunately, the writing is on the wall and we are growing. I am for the future of WISD students and support providing a SAFE, SUITABLE learning environment. I have walked the halls during class exchange at our schools and have seen the overcrowding. I, like many others, do not like when my taxes are raised, yet we have to ask ourselves what is BEST for our students at WISD.

I would like to continue to educate myself and examine the numbers and proposals presented. This is a MAJOR decision and I want to be reassured and assure the community that there is strict ACCOUNTABILITY in regards to financial decisions within the district. I think the need to have a tight-fisted hand on every check that is written is important. An oversight system in place, while maintaining financial transparency and trust is CRUCIAL. I truly believe Waxahachie is the BEST community in the DFW Metroplex, and providing SAFE and SUITABLE facilities is a reflection of our hometown.

15) Is there any additional information that you feel voters should know about you?

If elected I would like to assure that EVERY student is equipped with the strongest educational foundation necessary to succeed in the workplace or in their college careers.