Interview with Houston Chronicle

The Houston Chronicle ran an article that profiled each of the candidates. They sent out a questionnaire then used our answers in the article. Due to space restrictions that could not use all the answers or the complete answers so I have posted my completed questionnaire here. Enjoy!

1) How old are you and what do you do for a living?

I am 35 years old. I teach political science at the University of Houston and manage a family business that has served the Houston community for over 25 years.

2) What do you think qualifies you as a viable candidate for the board of trustees for LSCS?

My experience in academia and working in the private sector has given me the unique ability to communicate and reach out to different groups within the LSCS community. I feel uniquely positioned to bring together faculty, administration, and local businesses to formulate a strategy that will best prepare each of our students for their next step beyond Lone Star. By forging stronger relationships between LSCS and local businesses our students will be in a better position to succeed in a competitive work environment. LSCS needs to reach out to local businesses to secure jobs and internships for their students and it also needs to offer classes that teach students what employers want them to know. By working with employers LSCS can devise courses and programs that meet both the needs of students and employers in a way that is mutually beneficial.

3) Do you support the bond package voters will be voting on May 11?

No.

Why or why not?

LSC possesses a great future, but that future cannot be assured with only bond issue after bond issue. The college district must tackle the issues of growth. Growth for the sake of growth is too costly and wasteful. Growth must be smart growth.

I have written several articles on this topic but I can boil it down to 3 simple points: (1) LSCS has overestimated its enrollment numbers. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) estimates a modest increase in the number of students from around 77000 to around 82000 over the next seven years. LSCS estimates a jump from 77000 to over 100000 students in a shorter period of time. LSCS needs to show high anticipated growth to justify the bond while the THECB has no financial incentive tied to its estimates. Moreover, I feel both estimates are overstated given that as the economy improves fewer people will enroll in classes because they will be in the workforce. And if the government continues to cut spending on education there will be less student aid to go around which also means fewer students will be signing up for classes. (2) Classes are moving to an online and hybrid format, brick and mortar schools are not where educational delivery is going. As more classes move to an online format there will be less demand for classroom space in a traditional setting. This does not mean we will not have a need for traditional classroom space just less of a need than we currently do. This shift is instructional delivery is also cheaper and more convenient for students and instructors. And it can be just as effective as traditional delivery methods if done correctly. (3) There is already too much debt on the books. Just five years ago voters approved a nearly $500 million bond issue. This money has not yet been paid back and the projects it was supposed to be spent on are not yet complete. Let’s find out if the first bond money was spent wisely before we go deeper into debt. As Madison wrote in 1790, “A public debt is a public curse.” Too much debt constrains policy options and shackles future generations and future growth which is which is why I think Thomas Jefferson’s words are as applicable today as when he wrote them in 1816, “We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election a choice between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude.”

4) Outside of the bond package, what are of the most significant issues LSCS sees in their future, and how can these be adequately addressed?

1. Quality of education

2. Responsibly managing the cost of providing that education

3. Reducing administrative costs. Administrative salaries have increased at a greater rate than faculty salaries over the last five years. The district faces an unbelievable burden of administrators. It is difficult to see how the district can sustain the annual growth of administrators when adjunct professors are so poorly paid and class sizes continue to grow. I support a leaner administration, better paid adjunct teachers, and a well trained support staff. I prefer to put resources in the hands of those doing the teaching rather than funding growth of administration.

4. Developing innovative and effective instructional delivery methods

5. Transparency. Voters deserve to know what their money is being spent on and by whom. To this end LSCS needs to institute an online check register where interested voters can view cleared checks with account and routing numbers redacted. Also, the statement of any LSCS issued credit card should be put online for voters to see what those cards have been used to purchase. Accountability is predicated upon transparency. Unless we know what our officials are doing voters cannot hold them accountable.

5) Is the LSCS doing a good job of dealing with the growth? Why or why not?

The LSCS plan to deal with growth is to throw money at the problem. Rapid growth does not require rapid spending. We need to grow smarter and more responsibly.

I see no master plan for smart growth put forth by the current board or administration. What we have seen in the past from LSCS is growth for the sake of growth. Not only must policies be constantly studied but it is necessary to have greater involvement from the community leadership.

6) Which areas of growth within the LSCS (Cy-Fair/Tomball/Kingwood/North Harris) do you see as making the most impact, as far as growth, job creation, in the Greater Houston area?

Each area is unique which is the entire point of a community college: to serve the community. Each area has distinct and specific needs and markets to be served. Each location makes and or contributes to the economy in its own way. Every area in Houston and the surrounding areas is growing and it is the responsibility of LSCS to best serve the unique needs of each of these areas.

7) In the wake of two incidents on LSCS campuses this year that resulted in injuries — the latest occurred just yesterday– what do you think is the best way to enhance security that can be applied throughout the LSCS?

We need to support the passage of SB 182 which would permit those with a CHL to carry a firearm on campus. Also, we must do a better job screening students and monitoring who comes on campus. LSCS must be more proactive in terms of reacting to red flags by providing a strong network of counseling services, along with law enforcement, to help target and aid at risk students.

8) Do you think that such incidents can be prevented in the future? Why or why not?

The steps I outlined above will help curb the problem. We should always aim for the best outcome while recognizing we do not live in a utopia so our ability to deal perfectly with, and eradicate, all problems is probably unrealistic.

In an open society there are always be threats to the community, but as a member of the board it will be one of my major objectives to constantly seek answers acceptable to an open society to make it as safe as possible.

9)Do you anticipate, and would you support, a more stringent screening process for students and instructors? Why or why not?

I do not anticipate changes in this regard coming about but such changes are necessary. More stringent screenings should not violate 4th Amendment rights or the mission of the community college.

I will always ask the question: How much better can we as board members and community leaders improve our college district. As a board member I would accept no less from my fellow board members. It is just not faculty and staff that must be improved it is the administration as well.

10) Would you support allowing weapons on campus, as long as the holder is licensed for a conceal carry permit?

Yes.

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