After watching Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State address, Kristi Hassett said she was mad.
“Gov. Abbott was giving kudos to charter schools and saying what a good job they were doing but doesn’t address the 5.3 million students within the state who are in public schools,” she said. “Charter school [students] are only 10 percent of Texas students and 5.3 million students deserve part of Gov. Abbott’s time and energy and effort. They are his students, and I get frustrated when they’re not looked at on the same level.”
Hassett is a trustee on the Lewisville ISD School Board and currently serves as the board secretary. She is running for re-election to Place 6 on the board because she said she wants to continue to be a voice for and advocate of the students. The election is on May 6.
“I want the best for these kids and I see a lot of outside forces working against districts and therefore our students,” Hassett, 46, said. “I’m just not willing to not run. I have a heart for the students and I want to make sure that we’re doing the best things for those students.”
Hassett has a degree in strategic management from the University of North Texas and said she has a plethora of experience in project management from her previous jobs. She is now a stay-at-home mom and has been for 17 years.
She is a member of the Flower Mound Parent Teacher Student Association, the Council of PTAs and Flower Mound High School’s Golf Booster Club.
Hassett was on the board of advocacy for the Flower Mound PTSA and was the advocacy chair for the Council of PTAs but has left the positions to ensure other potential candidates within the associations weren’t discouraged from running. She said she saw a possible conflict of interest because she was running for school board.
Hassett, who referred to herself as a bit of a policy wonk, is a board member of Make Education a Priority, which focuses on encouraging public engagement with public schools, promoting effective school board governance and enhancing relationships with policymakers. She is also on the board of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, or TAMSA, which is a parent-led group that works to make sure the assessments students are required to take are meaningful to the student, the parents and the teachers.
TAMSA feels the current State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness do not provide meaningful data to the students, parents or teachers as results are delivered too far into the summer for teachers and parents to take action and help students before they move on to the next grade, Hassett said. There is also not enough detail in results for parents or teachers to understand where supplemental education is needed.
“Parents usually want to go, ‘Ok well you had a problem with multiplication or division,’ but it doesn’t give you that level of detail. Parents would like that level of detail,” she said.
Teachers also need that level of detail in order to find out how to teach best, Hassett said.
Hassett and her sons are also involved in Boy Scouts and Young Men Service League through the Flower Mound chapter. The organization is for moms and sons to do service projects together. Hassett said she is trying to make sure her kids have a servant’s heart as they grow up.
Council of PTAs President Lauren Johnson has known Hassett through various volunteer activities within the schools. Johnson said Hassett has a total passion for education and an unequivocal knowledge of the relationship between education and legislation.
“This year she stepped up to help us out with our legislative position on the LISD Council of PTAs board,” Johnson said.
Hassett is getting a group of parents together to go to Austin, where they will meet with state representatives and talk about education issues, with the Texas PTA for its rally day, Johnson said.
“It’s a legislative year and there’s a lot of big topics that are coming up. We’re advocating for our children and it’s important for us to be informed about things that are going on. And a lot of it is things people haven’t heard of,” she said. “She’s held coffee talks and she’s gone live on Facebook to try to educate the public about the important topics that are going on right now.”
Hassett has also selected the issues to discuss with the representatives and sent out a fact sheet briefing parents on the chosen priorities, Johnson said.
The legislative priorities handout lists adequate and equitable school funding, STAAR, the state accountability system and voucher opposition as the Council of PTAs’ focus. To view the handout and descriptions of each topic, visit http://ltjne.ws/pta85leg.
Hassett drafted another bill that would affect the standards students must meet through the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which the State Board of Education is in charge of, to propose to another policymaker.
“The idea of this new bill is to limit the number of TEKS to those that can be taught within one year’s time,” Hassett said. “There’s lots and lots of different TEKS and in order to get all those taught by the time the STAAR test is administered is very difficult.”
She said she hopes it’s not too late in the session to propose and she is looking to see if a representative from the education committee will sponsor it.
Hassett has inspired Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R – Southlake) to file House Bill 798 this session, which would inform districts about any impacts to district budget revenue or expenses throughout the bill process instead of waiting until the bill becomes an unfunded mandate. This would allow districts to plan accordingly for mandates that won’t be funded and allot money that would have been used elsewhere to them.
“Unfunded mandates are beginning to cripple budgets within school districts. Within LISD it accounts for close to roughly 20 percent of our budget,” Hassett said of proposing the legislation to Capriglione. “[HB 798 is] just transparency and information for the district during the bill process so we don’t have to wait until the bill becomes an unfunded mandate.”
The bill might face resistance in Austin, Hassett said, because it would shine a spotlight on how much is pushed down to the districts.
“I just hope it moves through the process so that we have a chance at becoming more transparent. Taxpayers deserve that,” she said.
Hassett said she is proud of the LISD and its financial transparency by dedicating a page on its website to the district’s finances, which shows items such as where checks are being written to and for how much.
One challenge Hassett expects to face concerning the election is the upcoming bond decision.
“Nobody likes taxes,” she said. “But everybody likes the things you get when you spend the money from taxes. We like schools that are refreshed, have good roofs on them and have updated bathrooms.”
While the board can provide the data regarding the bond and allow voters to make a decision based on it, Hassett said as a running candidate she is not able to say what she likes about the bond.
“I can’t actually tell you how to vote once the bond is called. I have to be a neutral party,” she said.
Concerning Hedrick Elementary and those who would be affected if it isn’t rebuilt after its demolition, Hassett said the families and staff involved weigh heavy on her heart. Parents have emailed and spoken to her about the elementary school’s future. She has also spoken at length with the curriculum director on the academic ramifications of this change, she said.
“I’m going to continue to evaluate what the academic outcomes would be with all the changes associated with Hedrick and that’s probably where my vote will lie,” Hassett said. “[I’m] trying to make the best decision for those students and taking all things into account, especially the academic successes.”
Hassett lived in Lewisville and went to school in LISD since she was 8 years old. She met her husband, Mike Hassett, at Marcus High School. When the two were considering where to move to when their family grew, Hassett said they stayed in the area because it was worth staying in LISD even though her husband worked in Arlington.
The Hassett family has lived in Flower Mound for about 10 years. She has three sons, Ethan, 18, Kyle, 16, and Davin, 13. Hassett described herself as one of those noisy, opinionated parents that bugged administration with different questions until she got the nerve up to run for the board in 2014.
“I wanted to be involved on a higher level, helping craft decisions about the district,” Hassett said.
Voters with questions can contact Hassett through the Facebook page Kristi Hassett for LISD, her personal email email@example.com, her district email firstname.lastname@example.org, or her personal phone at 214-707-6391.
“Parent involvement is one of the key factors that will drive students’ success more than anything else,” Hassett said.
Hassett thus far remains unopposed for Place 6. Eligible candidates who wish to run for Place 6 or 7 may pick up a packet from Lewisville ISD William T. Bolin Administrative Center at 1565 W. Main St. in Lewisville. Forms must be complete and filed by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17.
Editor’s Note: This story has been edited for correction.