Parsons running to broaden impact on kids
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
A familiar face at Liberty Hill Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) functions, Megan Parsons decided early this year that she was ready to take her involvement in the school district to another level, filing for Place 7 on the School Board.
“I had always thought about it for the future,” Parsons said. “It was just a matter of timing I guess and it seemed right at this point with my presence in the PTO being president. People do know me, I am very involved in the schools and I felt like I had the support to get out there and do it.”
Dedicating time to her community is important, but there is one reason she says is the root of her decision to run.
“I’m doing it for the kids, that’s why I do everything,” she said. “I volunteer in many avenues, Girl Scout leader, basketball coach. At Burden I’ve been able to have an impact there on teachers and kids, and basically by being on the school board I thought it would just broaden the impact I could have.”
There is no singular issue rising above others as she campaigns.
“My agenda is very broad,” she said. “I care about all of the kids in this district and I want them all to be able to find success in whatever they are wanting to do. I’m not coming in with a specific targeted agenda. It is about our vision for Liberty Hill in the future and addressing all this growth that’s coming to make sure we’re prepared for it.”
A graduate of the University of Texas, Parsons said she is a quick study and knows how important it will be to make extra time for the responsibilities of the board.
“I have the time to dedicate to it,” she said. “I do not work full time, I own a small business with a friend. When I became president of the PTO three years ago I didn’t understand why we weren’t already going to school board meetings. As president for three years, I’ve been going to school board meetings that whole time period because I felt like I should know on a broader spectrum what’s going on in the district. I am aware of some of the stuff that’s going on at the district level just from having attended the meetings.”
With bond elections come questions and Parsons wants to be sure if she serves on the school board that communicating the need and the costs clearly with the community is a priority.
“People wanted to know exactly where the money is going and how it is being spent and why the budget for the schools needed to be the $96 million that it was,” Parsons said. “That was never clear and people were having trouble finding the figures on it. I know there are parameters as to what the school board can putout to the public, but the more clear information we can get out as far as why we need the money, here’s what it’s budgeted for and here’s how we are using it, the better.”
News that the school district has made moves to invest the bond money from the November election until it is spent was a smart decision.
“I was so excited to find that we are putting the bond money to work for us,” she said. “We will make more money off that money sitting where it is now than we would if we were doing nothing with it.”
Despite efforts to make information available and share it, there are always more options for doing more.
“Money brings out a lot of curiosity and people want to know exactly how it is being spent,” she said. “I think we can better communicate that, whether it’s email, board meetings, Facebook, just getting that information out more to the public would be helpful. If it’s something you’ve researched and made a decision on you should be able to explain that decision.”
A new district police department being established for next school year is something Parsons supports, and she said not having to wait for others to respond to issues, as well as providing more protections for students are key benefits.
“I think it is a good option. I know the school board did look at alternatives and financially, long term, they decided that this was the best route to go,” she said. “I hope we are going to be hiring a man that is going to hold all the kids accountable equally because that is going to be a problem if we are not hiring someone who is looking at the whole picture and all kids equally.
“I think eventually having the presence on each campus would be nice, but I know the finances are part of what goes into it and you have to watch how the finances are spent.”
The method and message of the district’s newly-instituted drug testing program is the right approach, she said.
“I actually talked to (Principal Jonathan) Bever about this recently because several people were concerned because the form requires the signature of both the student and the parent in order for the child to be drug tested,” Parsons said. “So if the student doesn’t sign, can the parents have them drug tested or not is the question that came up? I really appreciated what he had to say about creating an environment of everybody working together to try and keep a drug-free campus.”
If students aren’t open to being drug tested, Parsons agrees they should not be able to participate in UIL activities.
With limited options when it comes to budgeting, Parsons wants the focus to be on maximizing teacher compensation and benefits.
“I think we all know that teacher pay, health benefits and retirement is not what it should be,” she said. “I work in the schools and we see every year teachers who are leaving to Leander or elsewhere because of better benefits and better pay and I have talked to some teachers who are here who say it’s a struggle. I just want to make sure we are doing everything we can because if we’re not retaining quality teachers and hiring and attracting quality teachers then our students suffer.”
The coming larger class sizes at the high school is what Parsons focuses on in terms of academic and career training options, wanting to ensure that as the larger classes in lower grades today reach high school, those students have plenty of options.
“We’ve had 29 to 33 percent growth at the elementary and junior high levels,” she said. “The high school has only seen 12 percent growth at this point, so all that growth is heading to the high school. I want it to be as smooth a transition as it can be at the high school and I think we need a balance. There are kids that are going to go to college and there are kids that need that opportunity for the trades and the certificates and the things they can come right out of school with to start working.”
The decision to allow or close off student transfers into the district is one Parsons said should be made based on how it impacts the district, but if a time comes to cut off transfers into the district, she said that decision should not impact those already here.
“It is not the reason we are having all this growth, so it is not a huge portion of our student population,” she said. “The finances still show that our cost per student was less than if we had to pay the Robin Hood taxes back to the state. I will say if we ever close the district I feel very strongly that we should have a plan to grandfather in students to where we are not just booting 300 kids out of our district, and we can work it out slowly if we ever do close the district.”