MISD Place 1 candidate questionnaire: Dr. Crystal Rentz
Midlothian ISD candidate Dr. Crystal Rentz answers questions for the May 1 election
Name: Dr. Crystal Rentz
Current profession: Director of Innovation in a Public School District
Elected office sought: Midlothian ISD School Board Trustee, Place 1
Previous political experience: I have not previously held a political office; however, I currently serve as a board member for a local non-profit organization.
Family: My biggest supporter, my husband John Rentz, a US Marine Veteran, a mentor for Mentor’s Care, serves in our church with the worship team doing audio and playing the drums, and is a stay-at-home father. My daughter, Abby, is turning seven this month, is a 1st grader at Longbranch Elementary School. My son, Noah, turned five in December and is in PK in the PPCD program at Longbranch Elementary School. My mother-in-love, Evelyn Rentz is a retired elementary school teacher; we are blessed she lives less than a minute away (she built a house on our property, so a sidewalk away).
Why are you seeking this office?
I am a mother of two MISD children, an educator, a taxpayer, and an engaged community member. I have a unique perspective, decades of public education experience, and a desire for excellence. I want to use my leadership skills to serve and work diligently to make MISD the premier district we all desire. I want to be engaged and honor our kids, staff, and community by working as a team with fellow trustees and the superintendent. I want to go beyond the bare minimum and give my all in preparation and action as a trustee. I want to be solutions-oriented and proactive. My kids have just started their education in MISD. I want to make sure the Midlothian schools stay great, innovative, safe, inclusive, fiscally conservative, and grounded in moral and ethical values and practices.
What distinguishes you from other candidates for this office?
I received a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2000 from Dallas Baptist University, a Master of Education in Educational Leadership in 2004 from Texas Tech University, and a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership in 2017 from the University of Texas at Austin. During my doctoral studies, I completed coursework in School Board governance, and I understand the role, commitment, and time required to be an effective school board member.
I have 20+ years in education, working in 8 public school districts in Texas, and spent one year in Taiwan, working for the Taiwanese Government teaching and training in their schools. I have been a teacher assistant, teacher, specialist, campus administrator, and district administrator. I currently serve as an executive board member for a local non-profit, Bridges Training Foundation, LLC.
I will use my expertise to inform other board members, as I expect them to do the same in their expertise areas. While I have specific education expertise (curriculum, school budgets, student management systems, etc.), I will remember that I’m NOT personally responsible for decisions relating to that area. I will use my expertise to help inform the board members, but I won’t assume sole responsibility for those decisions. I know that I’m not on the board to help the staff or even advise them with my expertise. My job as a board member is to govern. I will be aware of the community and staff’s perceptions of the board. If the board is perceived as being unethical, dishonest, secretive, or self-serving, whether justified or not, that will become a reality for the community and staff. I will consider how stakeholders might interpret my behaviors and decisions then act accordingly. I will think upward and outward more than downward and inward. There is a great temptation to focus on what goes on with management and staff instead of what difference the district should make in the larger world. This requires ignoring the minutia, day-to-day, or details to examine, question, and define the big picture.
What do you consider the key issues of this election?
FUNDING: The current state of public education is concerning. First, although the Texas 86th Legislature made significant improvements on school funding (the first significant change in decades), there are still issues with school funding, especially post-COVID. The Texas 87th Legislature is currently in session, so districts must build their 2021-2022 budgets and make decisions before we know final legislative decisions regarding funding and possible new prgram requirements.
CLIMATE: The current climate in both society and public school systems is quite tense with COVID mitigation and racial equity. There are groups of people on the extremes of both sides that speak very loudly, and the legislature and school boards are, at times, being reactive (quick to action without strategic planning), which I believe ends up hurting kids, and ultimately, no one is content. During my campaign and as a district administrator in a neighboring district, I have spent time listening to students, parents, and community members’ lived experiences and genuine concerns. I hear the valid concerns from each side, some misconceptions and see the importance of local decision-makers to be present, engaged, and approachable. If we don’t listen to those who have different beliefs from our own, we can end up developing dramatized misconceptions, unnecessary fear, resentment, and ultimately cause division in our communities.
ACCOUNTABILITY: While accountability is necessary and the A-F rating is better than previous systems, it looks at more than just STAAR (standardized test) scores; there is still so much work to do. First, we spend a great deal of money on testing, and I am not sure it produces many benefits. The STAAR test represents minimal standards. Many districts (not Midlothian ISD) spend a large portion of their time and resources remediating instruction so they can score at least approaches on the test, which is passing. However, it means they are approaching grade level, not on grade level (a score of Meets means on grade level).
What are the greatest challenges facing the district and how do you plan to address those challenges, if elected?
These align with the key issues of the election noted above.
FUNDING: It is crucial for the school board to ensure conservative spending and ensure a return on investment for every dollar spent. I will always be for lowering taxes when we can without lowering our standard of education. In Midlothian, property values continue to soar, so even without raising tax rates, the amount people pay for taxes each year is steadily increasing. Therefore, as long as we continue to be a great school district that draws people to move to Midlothian, there should not be a need to raise taxes. More money does not make for better education. It is crucial to ensure we receive a Return on Investment (ROI) for every dollar spent. If programs, positions, etc., are not producing the intended/desired outcomes, we must stop pouring funds into them. By removing expenses that are not delivering a Return on Investment, we can stream those funds back into teacher salaries and auxiliary personnel salaries (bus drivers, custodians, food services).
CLIMATE: We need leaders who make decisions in students’ best interest, not the groups that scream the loudest. Leaders who will put personal and political agendas aside and actively listen, agree, disagree, and build consensus with the single goal in mind, students reaching their fullest potential (student achievement). I WILL represent the community, not a single constituency. While I may understand and/or identify with certain constituencies (parents, neighborhoods or communities, special ed, etc.), I WILL remember that being a board member means serving in trust for the community as a whole. There’s no way seven people can provide a spokesperson for every constituency or legitimate interest, so in a moral sense, I must stand for them all. I will be responsible for group behavior and productivity. I am responsible for not only myself but the group. If the group doesn’t do its job, meddles in administration, or breaks its own rules, I personally share that responsibility. I will honor varied opinions without being intimidated by them. I am obligated to express my honest thoughts on issues, and so are each of the other board members. I will encourage my colleagues to speak their opinions and listen to them carefully and respectfully. But I won’t allow myself to be intimidated by louder or more insistent board members or community members.
ACCOUNTABILITY: I will not ignore the state accountability system’s data; it can provide insight into areas of celebration and growth areas. However, as part of strategic planning and setting goals, I will seek to have specific metrics (these do not have to be paper pencils standardized tests) to ensure every child achieves the desired academic and social-emotional growth across all grade levels, not just STAAR-tested subjects. If students are not achieving, then I would expect adjustments to be made.
What do you most want to make sure voters know about you?
Over the past two years, I have attended 20+ Midlothian ISD School Board Meetings and Workshops. For the School Board Meetings and Workshops I have missed, I watched Live on Demand or watched the meeting’s posted video. Before October 2019, I listened to the posted audio of the board meetings I missed. I also watch all of the weekly district updates on Thursdays via Zoom. Being a School Board Member is a huge responsibility, and currently, school districts are navigating in unchartered waters. There is no time for a learning curve or getting caught up on what is happening in the district. Therefore, to be the most equipped possible for the role, I stay engaged, present, and informed. If elected, I commit to the following:
I will be present and prepared to participate responsibly. I will do my homework and come prepared to board meetings. I will remember that sometimes the work is to listen, agree, and disagree when needed. I will accept that the group decision is legitimate even if it’s not my personal choice. I will focus on serving every child. Ensure every discussion, decision and action reflect the best interests of every student, and everything we do aligns with the board’s goals and vision. No child is more important than another. I will remember that my identity is with the community, not the staff. It’s easy to identify with staff as I probably will have more discussions with them about issues and because I am an educator. But I will remember that my job is to serve in trust for the community.