Long-time AT&T employee Sandra Weinstein, 57, has thrown her hat in for one of the open seats on the Lewisville ISD board.
Weinstein graduated from Butler University with a journalism degree. She got a magazine job that didn’t pay the bills, but was hired by AT&T, a company with which she has remained for 33 years and in four different states. She and her family moved with the company to the DFW Metroplex a year and a half ago from Branchburg, New Jersey, which is where she spent the past 25 years and where her children went through most of their schooling. Weinstein chose to settle in Flower Mound because she was impressed with the school district. Weinstein has two children, with her youngest being a sophomore at Flower Mound High School.
“I was very impressed with Flower Mound High School, how they tried to accommodate her and make her feel comfortable,” she said. “Branchburg’s a relatively small community. That was probably the biggest thing — the size of the classes and how large the schools were. And plus, my daughter grew up there for all of her life.”
While in Branchburg, Weinstein was heavily involved with her children’s education. She worked with the PTA and the national entrepreneurship program Junior Achievement and served as a Cub Scout leader and a baseball coach, in addition to working a full-time job and being involved with employee resource groups.
Weinstein’s main avenue for involvement was advocacy, both to increase the level of services her son, now in graduate school, was receiving and against standardized high-stakes testing when it came to New Jersey. She said accountability is important, but there should be a more diagnostic approach.
“Why isn’t it diagnostic? We shouldn’t be saying, ‘Let’s take the funds away from the school because they’ve got an F rating,’” she said. “I don’t think that’s the right answer, I think the right answer is, ‘What are they struggling with and how can we prop it back up?’”
Weinstein’s desire for appropriate accountability also informs her view on voucher systems, which are currently advocated for by state and national government. A voucher system would divert government funding currently meant for public schools into vouchers, which parents could use to help pay for private and charter schooling. But in Weinstein’s experience advocating for her son, she’s seen schools that already don’t have enough. She said her son needed an extra push, but the primary barrier to that was his school not having the money to do it.
“He was a middle of the road student. I didn’t think he was reaching his full potential, so I had to go in and advocate for that, and it shouldn’t be that hard,” she said. “The school shouldn’t be worried about managing a limited budget for people with needs.”
In Flower Mound, Weinstein has continued to advocate, attending some board meetings and joining the district’s recent trip to Austin to protest the state’s voucher plan.
In addition to joining the board’s current fight against the voucher system and STARR tests, Weinstein said she would bring her experience from decades of different positions at AT&T and an outsider perspective from her heavy involvement in New Jersey schools. She said she wants to examine the way the district upgrades its technology and potentially look at renting, in order to offset the cost of replacing the fast-updating devices, and potentially bring in programs to help students feel more at home based on things she saw in New Jersey.
“A guidance counselor created a group of children that she saw as isolated, and she created it like a club, so there was no stigma,” she said. “The girls learned form that that they were not so different, that they all had the same fears and so forth, and it helped a lot.”
On the hot-button issue of Hedrick Elementary’s potential closure, Weinstein said she’d been through a school closing before, though it was because of underpopulation and not a need for repair. She said she assumes the district and the Facilities Advisory Committee made the best financial decision, but there needs to be a more public plan in place.
“The difference between there and here is, before they announced they were closing the school, there was a plan. Everybody knew where they were going. There was none of this, ‘Oh my gosh, what if my child can’t walk to school anymore? Will they be safe on the bus? Where will the bus stop be?’” she said. “I did go through some materials on this, and I would have liked to seen specifically, what was the cost to the total cost of improving Hedrick or getting a new piece of land and building a new school versus the cost of excess bussing and after school. It would have been good to see that kind of a cost comparison. Without it, I don’t have a third option, other than more transparency.”
Campaign manager David Billings worked with Weinstein for 25 years at AT&T and said that her passion and dedication to doing what’s right for the kids would make her an excellent trustee.
“She doesn’t play political games. She’s about the kids,” he said. “Her passion is really the best thing about her. She’s passionate, and she believes in it.”
Weinstein is one of four candidates running for Place 7, including incumbent Tracy Scott Miller. Unlike a city council election, a school district seat only requires a plurality of the vote. The position will go to whomever has the most votes, and there will be no runoff election.
The election will be held May 6.
To read more coverage of the election in May, go to ltjne.ws/election2017
Editor’s note: This article originally erroneously said that Weinstein was running at the behest of the Denton County Democratic Party. While the Denton County Democratic Party encourages its members to run for local political office, DCDP Executive Director Travis Cooper says they do not select or endorse candidates in local races. We apologize for the error.