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Forum features four school board candidates

The four Friona Independent School District School Board Trustee candidates came together Sunday, April 9 at the Friona High School for a Meet the Candidates Forum. Candidates for the upcoming election are Maria Monreal Garcia, Corbin Riethmayer, incumbent Wade Schueler, and Jamie Lewellen. The forum was hosted by Coach Darrel Ray and his Government/Economics class. Moderators for the event were Paige Upton and Alvaro Gardea.

The event began with each candidate introducing themselves.

Garcia is married and has four children. She is employed by Gato Express. Garcia and her husband attended Friona schools and have their children enrolled in Friona schools.

Riethmayer is married and has three children. He is a farmer/rancher. His wife teaches kindergarten at Friona Primary School. He was raised in Friona and attended Friona schools.

Schueler is married and has three children. He has been on the FISD school board for six years. He is a farmer and attended Friona schools.

Lewellen is married and has two daughters. She and her husband were raised in Friona and attended Friona schools. She is a stay at home mom who volunteers her time to the schools and other activities.

The candidates were asked what the school districts strengths were. They agreed that the school district was stronger because of the activities, parents, administration, staff and students. Garcia stated that if parents were more involved the district would be stronger. Riethmayer added that the district provides more activities to the students, which makes this an asset. Schueler praised the administration and staff. Lewellen praised the quality of teaching and community involvement.

When asked what the district’s greatest weakness was the candidates responded:

“To point out a weakness you must be on the inside (of the school board),” stated Riethmayer. “We are a poor district and lack money. Hopefully the wind mills will bring in money for a change.”

“Test scores are low,” stated Schueler. “We are bringing in people to work on strategies.”

“We need more programs to improve the graduation rate,” stated Lewellen. “Every student should feel like they can excel.”

“Test scores are too low,” stated Garcia. She continued by saying the incoming immigrants seem to have held the teachers back.

Upton posed the question of home schooling vs. public school to the candidates. Schueler stated that he is a product of FISD. “It is a great system. I like Friona. I like the teachers. They will do their best.”

Lewellen praised, “The teachers are phenomenal. There is diversity.”

Garcia said, “We went to public school and my kids go to public school. Friona is the only perfect school for them.”

Riethmayer stated, “Public school outweighed home schooling for us. If we home schooled we could not participate in organized sports, FFA, etc. We did not want to limit our children.”

Gardea asked the candidates their thoughts on budget cuts and fund allocations. The candidates agreed that cutting funds to extra-curricular activities and vocational programs is not possible.

Riethmayer stated that reallocations could be made by following the community and student body demands.

Schueler stated that the board has started not filling certain positions as they come open as a way of cutting back.

When asked what their personal strengths were and how it would benefit the board, Garcia stated that she would do what she can to see children blossom to leave the school district and find a great future.

“I have a vested interest in the school with my children and my wife,” said Riethmayer.

Schueler stated, “I am a team player. I will hear more opinions to get a good handle on the situation.”

Lewellen said her strengths were in her volunteer work. She has ties to the community through The Parmer County Cancer Coalition and Kids Inc. “I can provide a voice for the community to the board.”

The candidates agreed that changes to FISD should include the re-instatement of the Mechanics and Woodworking program as well as the expansion of the Ag program.

Schueler stated that with the wind money they could possibly bring these programs back.

Lewellen added that more vocational programs and more resources for the ESL program were needed. With these additions, the students will reach their maximum potential.

Garcia stated that adding more entry-level career classes would help the students be ready for the real world.

The candidates were asked about specific issues that they would show interest in.

Lewellen stated that the main goal was that all students were successful. Garcia agreed and added to get the staff to the level to help the students.

Riethmayer stated he would do what he can to help where he is needed and what he is asked. He will do what needs to be done to help the community and the school.

The moderators asked the candidates what they would do with the wind energy money. They all agreed that existing buildings would need to be assessed and the possibilities of adding more buildings may become necessary with the growing student body.

The candidates were asked what the future of FISD held. Garcia stated that they will need more entry-level college classes to help the kids succeed.

Riethmayer stated that students can feel safe and learn. Moreover, those students can grow mentally and physically.

Schueler stated, “There is a bright road ahead of us.”

“This is a great district,” stated Lewellen. “We feel strongly about this school. We need to keep a variety of classes for the students.”

In closing comments, Riethmayer thanked the current school board and praised them. Schueler thanked the community and said there was more to learn. Lewellen stated she was passionate about the school system and wanted a successful school district. Garcia said she wanted to give back and help in any way possible.

Early voting for the FISD School Board Trustee election is April 24-28 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and May 1-2 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the FISD administration office 909 East 11th. The May 6 election will be held at the City of Friona council chambers at 619 Main Street from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Applications for a ballot by mail may be mailed or emailed to: Patricia Phipps, 621 N. Main Street, Friona, Texas 79035 or Applications for ballots by mail must be received no later than the close of business on Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

dana jameson photo

Meet the Candidates Forum...FISD Board of Trustees candidates assembled on stage Sunday to answer questions. Candidates are, l-r, Maria Monreal Garcia, Corbin Riethmayer, Wade Schueler, and Jamie Lewellen. Remember to vote May 6.