By George Slaughter
Leah Wilson, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran, is seeking her first term on the Katy Independent School District Board of Trustees. She is seeking position 4 on the board. Incumbent Courtney Doyle is not seeking reelection.
Wilson is facing Michael Dillard, a human resources executive.
1. Why do you want this job?
There are three things about which I am passionate: children, education and our community. I have seen academic successes and struggles in others as well as in my own family. I have ideas to further improve those successes and strategies to address the struggles. I want to advocate for all the students within Katy ISD and for the teachers that make it all happen. I will serve as a voice of reason for parents and all stakeholders in our community, striving to unite our community as we take on challenging Katy ISD issues.
2. Briefly discuss your professional background, and how that will help you if elected.
As a retired U.S. Air Force veteran, I am an experienced common-sense leader who is service oriented. Those many years cultivated my ability to work with teams to achieve strategic goals. I served in the IT profession over 21 years with experience in network procurement, administration and security, all key areas of importance to Katy ISD. I have worked creating better opportunities for our children in my roles as a PTA officer, classroom volunteer and 12 years as a Girl Scout troop leader and am committed to continue creating student opportunities as a board member.
3. If elected, what would your top three priorities for the district be, and why?
Mental Health/Safety/Security: I put these together because they are closely interdependent. We need to improve access to mental health initiatives and have readily available LCSWs (licensed clinical social workers), psychologists and counselors who are equipped to discuss the myriad of concerns our students and staff face daily. Safety must be a matter of continued discussion in which we listen to concerns from all community stakeholders and constantly improve our procedures and ensure they are being followed. The complex threats our students face today are not issues we can ignore. We must protect our children from gun violence, physical and cyberbullying, and from predators. Improving mental health in turn improves safety and security and vice versa.
Enhanced Learning Opportunities for All Students: There are many facets to this priority, including but not limited to expanding CTE (career and technical education. We need to craft a way to provide more opportunities across our district with better utilization of Miller and/or expanding our schools’ CTE capabilities due to demand. I believe Katy ISD should create an initiative that allows students to graduate with a high school diploma and associate degree simultaneously. I also have a vision to expand leadership opportunities by creating two additional JROTC units, allowing for greater participation.
Communications and Transparency: We must provide clear, timely, accurate, and trusted communications to the community, getting ahead of social media rumors, misstatements, and blatantly false information. I want to provide greater transparency by bringing information directly to the public, responding with clarity that reflects the needs and goals of our community. We must move forward and not stay focused on the past.
4. Do you anticipate that the Katy Virtual Academy (KVA) will become a permanent option for students, even when the pandemic comes under control? What measures would you support to ensure all KISD students have access to needed technology for virtual learning?
I do not anticipate that KVA will become a permanent option. However, if the need presented itself, KVA will need to become an independent school within our district, with dedicated and differently-trained teachers and technical support staff to ensure equality and student success. fully support a one-to-one issue of a Chromebook or comparable device for all students within our district. We need to ensure we have working business agreements in place for providing free Wi-Fi to our students as it may be required. I want to caveat, we will need to ensure that we are providing this resource with as many safety precautions as possible. Our students must be as safe as possible when having to engage in education online.
5. How have you been able to campaign, given the pandemic restrictions (avoiding large gatherings, social distancing, and so forth)?
Campaigning has definitely looked very different than what I expected at the beginning of this journey. It has largely been done via social media. In addition, we have held Zoom meetings, met at outdoor locations, and finally have now been holding meet and greets in outdoor locations. Anything is possible, you just have to think creatively and that is what we have been doing to continue giving a voice to parents, staff, and other Katy ISD voters.
6. Is there anything else about your candidacy that Katy News readers should know?
As a retired U.S. Air Force veteran and ongoing school/community volunteer, I am truly blessed to be able to continue to give back to my community. We chose to retire here to Katy ISD to provide the best opportunities for our remaining three children. As a Texas native who is a first-generation college graduate, I deeply understand the value of public education. I am running for school board because I have personally experienced how quality education positively impacts individual kids, their families, and the entire community. After having served our country, I want to focus my efforts and energy on the country’s most valuable resource—our children. I attended Leadership Katy in 2015 and served on the 2017 Community Bond Advisory Committee to gain a better understanding of our school district and help guide our district in the needs of our students. My efforts as a Katy ISD trustee will center on serving all 84,000+ children across the district, keeping that word “trust” as a basis for my actions and decisions. I strongly believe that we have tremendous teachers and staff working with our children and I want to ensure that this support continues and grows. I know that by working together, we can all share in the knowledge and satisfaction that we have provided for the educational needs of all children. We can take pride that in unity; we have built a district where students, parents, teachers and staff feel welcome and at-home in Katy ISD. It would be an honor to serve Katy’s outstanding public schools.