Dayton ISD school board members discuss their visions for the District

As school districts around the state of Texas celebrate their local school boards, Dayton ISD would like to recognize and say ‘thank you’ to the seven unpaid volunteers who are elected by the voters to sit on the school board and make the decisions that drive Dayton ISD.

The Dayton ISD school board is made up of President CD Williams, Vice-President Kerri Bartee, Secretary Chris Shumaker, and members Luke Chachere, Josh Day, Linda Harris and Thomas Payne.

“These men and women give their time and energy to do their best to make responsible and good decisions for the students, teachers, and voters of Dayton ISD.  This is a thankless job that comes with a lot of joys but also a lot of difficult decisions and these men and women take the job head-on,” according to a statement from Dayton ISD.

The District asked each member some questions. Four of them are being spotlighted this week with the others to follow. Their answers are great information for the stakeholders of Dayton ISD.

Superintendent Dr. Jessica Johnson stated,  “William Arthur Ward once said, ‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.’ If we substitute the word ‘teacher’ and put in ‘Trustee’ I truly believe that our school board members inspire our staff. They support, they question, they are passionate, they are actively involved in the district/community, they are informed and they all want the best for our students and staff. We certainly appreciate them!”

Q: How long have you served as a Dayton ISD board member?  When was your first year to be elected?

CD Williams: I have been a school board member for 11 years. I was first elected in 2012.

Linda Harris: In 2011, I was asked by the Board of Trustees to take Craig McNair’s position on the board. He had been elected County Judge.  I completed his term and in 2012 ran for that position and won it.  I ran again in 2015, 2018, and 2021.  Succeeding each time.  My present term will end in 2024.

Dr. Luke Chachere: I am currently in my 22nd year. I was first elected in May 2000.

Kerri Bartee: I have been a member of the board since 2017 when I was assigned after the resignation of a sitting board member.

Q: As a board member, what are you most proud of?

CD Williams: I am proud of our District. I am proud that our teachers and staff go so much further than just what the state is tracking based on one single test that’s given one single day. I’m proud of the many tangible and intangible things they give to our kids that no one but God keeps track of. All of the meals, gifts, school supplies, counseling, advice, and genuine concern about the kid’s overall well-being; not just grades or performance, but each student as a whole person.

I am proud of our kids, many of whom fight tough circumstances that are unknown to others, yet they still show up, work hard, and do their best.

I am proud of our staff who work diligently to keep the A-plus ratings from our auditors and help us to maintain a strong financial position.

I am proud of our board who works as a team with our Superintendent. That even when we disagree on issues, everyone has an opportunity to share their opinion and is respected. Finally, I am proud to be a Bronco and the trust our community has placed in us as Board members.

Linda Harris:  I am proud of the passing of the bond in 2014 and the processes used to build new facilities.  The community, superintendent, school personnel, and citizen committees came together to inform and advocate the necessity for new and updated facilities.  Every school department met and had input into the planning of the buildings and what was needed for their areas to flourish.  The architects, PBK, and the general contractor manager, David Marshall worked tediously to fulfill the directives of the district.  The board was involved in these meetings, in visiting other school facilities, in weekly progress reports, and in every facet to completion.  Dr. Jessica Johnson, Tami Pierce, and her department, Hector Herrera, and Steve Bell and his maintenance department were dedicated to the success of the projects.  Through solid planning and foresight, additional projects were able to be added to the basic plans of updating.  I am so proud of this experience.  It gives me confidence that we can succeed with the next bond.

Dr. Luke Chachere: I am most proud of our students and their successes. Often we only hear about the students in trouble, but we have so many young people that are successful both in and out of the classroom. I also take pride in all of our staff. They work hard and are so dedicated to Dayton ISD. I am also proud of our community. Dayton ISD residents have always stepped up to support our school district.

Kerri Bartee: I’m proud of our students, our teachers, and our entire Dayton ISD administrative team and staff. We have some of the greatest young people out there in the world now that we shook hands with as they crossed the stage. Many are making the world a better place. We have some award-winning teachers that affect our future every day and we have administrators that make things work no matter what challenges they face. As a Board…I’m proud of our teamwork and respect for each other. I’m proud of the programs and systems we have approved to help our students achieve amazing academic success. I’m proud of our budget always working out even though we’ve had some real challenges there. I’m proud of the beautiful campuses we’ve helped build. I’m proud of our programs and effort for our Spanish-speaking students. I’m proud of the little surprises we’ve given DISD employees through the years. I’m proud of the extracurricular things we’ve supported and made happen because those things are important in building up students. I’m proud of how we handled the specific challenges of the past few years and how we are recovering from those.

Q: As an unpaid volunteer, who is elected by the public, why do you feel it is so important for you to fill this role as a school board member?

CD Williams: I am honored to be allowed to represent our district as a Board Member. As a member, we attempt to make unbiased decisions that are best for our district. The best decisions are the ones that have our kids’ best interest at heart and not other groups. I have been blessed to have many great people teach and train me in business and life.

Linda Harris: I was an educator for 32 years.  That career included teaching elementary, middle school, high school, and as a curriculum coordinator.  There were years of education, training, certifications, and experience with students and parents.  Most of these years were here in Dayton ISD. Then I retired in 2009.  I felt that I could offer back to the district this background of “school business.”  The district voters elected me, and I became a School Board Member.  I am an advocate for classroom teachers and their students.  I have lived it.  It’s hard to teach; it’s a huge responsibility to ensure learning to every student.  I still have the desire to learn new things and I have an open mind to know about all areas of the district’s business.

Dr. Luke Chachere: I feel that God has put each of us in positions where we can use our gifts and talents. I feel that I set an example of leadership, financial stewardship, and integrity to our students, staff, and community.

Kerri Bartee: It’s important because people within a community need to do something to make their community better in some way. We always say “it takes a village” and that is so true. There are things that need to be done in order for a community to function well and everyone can do something. In an elected, unpaid position such as a School Board Member, it is a way to be a liaison between staff and the public. You are a voice of reason and a person trusted to help make decisions who has a vested interest other than a paycheck. It’s really a service from the heart. Of course, our staff serves from the heart too but for elected folks, it is a bit different and a very important distinction.

Q: What are your long-term goals for Dayton ISD?

CD Williams: To continue to care about and educate our kids as a whole, not just on taking a test. To see our scores get better. To become more efficient in our procedures and methods. For kids to be able to graduate with an associates degree at high school graduation and offer more technical training. To be a place where kids want to learn and staff wants to work and teach. To get ahead of the growth curve and get our community more involved with our schools.

Linda Harris: My long-term goal for the district is to be one of the highest-rated school districts in academics in the state of Texas.  This acclaim would attract highly qualified teachers, and students, opportunities for business partnerships with technical training, college-connected programs, and high expectations for success. Part of the foundation for this goal is to continue raising teachers’ pay, creating a positive environment to work and learn in, and being receptive to new partnerships. What a great opportunity for every student in the district.

Dr. Luke Chachere: My long-term goals for Dayton ISD are for student success and safety. Other goals after this include quality staff for our district, student success out of the classroom, financial soundness, and outstanding facilities.

Kerri Bartee: To grow with our community in a positive way. Meaning, we take every decision for new schools and programs very seriously and really make sure we plan well, smartly, and strategically. We have the physical growth, campuses, and things to consider but also the students and staff have to be the top priority. We want to have the best educators, coaches, and directors so that our students can have ultimate personal success. We need to have highly qualified, creative teachers who love teaching, love our students, invest in being Broncos, and do not leave! We need highly qualified administrators and staff as well to make it all work. As we grow, I truly believe these people will come and we will become one of the top school districts in this great state! Kids are kids…sure their ways of learning and entertaining themselves have changed through the years but they are still kids and have the same basic needs. It’s (us) the adults that have to change how we reach them. I’m all for things that are “outside the box,” creative and innovative when it comes to educating each child as a “whole person.”

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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