Exclusive interview with Frisco ISD Superintendent: part two

Frisco ISD is an ever-growing district with new plans constantly in play, and Wingspan was able to sit down with the man who runs it all. Here is part two of a special interview with Dr. Mike Waldrip.

Wingspan: How do you feel about community members becoming more involved in school board meetings?

Waldrip: “We encourage all of our citizens to share their thoughts and their ideas and their concerns with our school board. And that’s what the public remarks forum at the school board means- for people to come and share their thoughts and concerns. The problem we’ve encountered is that people have become disruptive. We welcome anyone to come and share their thoughts with us, however, we don’t welcome people to come up and disrupt the board meeting. That meeting is a meeting of the board of trustees that’s conducted in public. Our school board doesn’t have to allow an open forum public comment on anything other than agenda items, but our board wants to allow the public forum segment because we want to hear from our community. We encourage that and we always have encouraged that but what we are asking is that you come and speak your piece in a respectful manner, that you come to the microphone and say what you need to say and then you turn it over to the next person. There’s a way to do that with the leadership email, which is an email that every board member has access to and can see every email, so we’re always in touch with the community. So we welcome community input, just do it in a way that is a civil manner, because we’re conducting a business meeting. That’s what the board’s job is, to govern the district, and that’s what the meeting is for. 

Wingspan: How does the district determine its legislative priorities during the legislative sessions in Austin?

Waldrip: “Well one of the things that we have started doing in recent years is we put together a community legislative committee. It’s about 90 to 100 people, and they separate into subcommittees that address different aspects of the district and what’s going on in the legislature. With input from community members and those subcommittees, we settled on what the district considered its legislative priorities- things that we wanted to communicate to our legislatures and our legislative committee that was important to FISD and FISD’s community members. So we’ve gotten a  lot of input from our community members, who are students on these committees, or teachers or administrators or business owners that are on these committees. So now, our legislative priorities are really a good representation of FISD and the FISD community. “

Wingspan: Can you talk a little bit about what those priorities are?

Waldrip: “Virtual schooling was a priority last year, just as an example. Now this is a different type of virtual learning than [the virtual academy] because we wanted the state of Texas to allow public schools to provide virtual schooling to their students [as a permanent option]. Right now, the state wouldn’t fund that so it wasn’t possible for us to provide that. What we found during this pandemic is that a lot of students really liked that option, now it’s not for everyone, the vast majority of students want to come to school and that’s the best setting for them but for some students and their families where virtual learning is a better option. So we wanted to be able to provide that option for those families. We weren’t interested in opening up for other students not in our district, we just wanted to be able to provide that to some families here. That was one of the things that we really advocated for with our legislature. Several of us went down there and testified, and we had some senators and their staff. We actually had a group of school districts throughout the state that sent a letter to the governor and the legislators asking for legislation that would allow public schools to give virtual learning. It went through the whole process, it got out of the house and the senate and it was about to go to the governor and of course, some things went down there and it no longer made it there. But now, it’s on the agenda for the special session and what we’re hoping is that the senate and the house and the governor will give it another opportunity so we can provide virtual learning.”