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Voters in Midland Weigh In On Education, School Board Runoff Election

The special runoff election for the District 5 seat with the Midland ISD Board of Trustees beging Monday, November 26. (Left: Heidi Kirk, Photo Courtesy of Kirk. Right: John Trischitti, Photo Courtesy of Trsichitti.)

By Mitch Borden

Today, some Midland voters, will decide who will be the latest to join the Midland Independent School District’s Board of Trustees. A race for the District 5 seat is in a runoff between former teacher Heidi Kirk and Midland County Library Director John Trischitti.

And voters in this corner of the district have a lot on their minds when it comes to education.

Around the Brew St. Bakery, huddles of people are gathering to talk about what they just heard at a school board candidate forum between John Trischitti and Heidi Kirk.

There’s a lot to think about as residents of district 5 — which covers the northern corner of Midland ISD — decide who they’re going to vote for in the upcoming runoff election.

"I’ve seen the education performance in the school district deteriorate over the last 15 years and I just think it can be made better," said Peter Schrenkel, who is married to a teacher in Midland.

Schrenkel says he wants someone to address the quality of the city’s schools.

Providing educational tools for students — like tablets and smart boards — is a key issue for Whitney Roland.

"We are ill-equipped in being able to supply, in being able to supply the things for our students we need to further our education," said Roland. "We live in a technological world and our schools are not supporting that."

Roland is also concerned  with growing classroom sizes across the district.

“My son has 25 kids in his kindergarten class. Fortunately, I have the capacity to be very involved. But what about the kids who are falling through the cracks.”

Throughout the district, some officials and parents have called for additional schools to be built. But for Summer Belloni , she also thinks the district needs to figure out how to retain more teachers. That, she adds, can go along way to help with the district’s issues.

"As a former teacher if you can solve that piece of the puzzle a lot of other things will fall into place."

At the forum, school financing was also a big topic of the night. Audience members asked Kirk and Trischitti their stance on school vouchers and the state policy known as the “robin hood” plan” which takes funds generated by so-called “property wealthy”  districts and redirects that money to “poorer” districts.

Voters at the forum saw this as unfair, especially when Midland schools are struggling. Amory Skaggs is a young mother and wants this policy reversed before her preschooler enters the district’s schools.

"As much as I want for the entire state of Texas to have quality education I want my community to have a quality education."

Since this specific policy is a state funding issue, the school board can’t directly change the “robin hood ” plan. But this issue and others like it will be on the minds of voters as they choose who will join the MISD Board of Trustees.

Election day for Midland residents who live in district 5 will take place on December 11. Polls close at 7 p.m.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.