More than 30 residents and candidates turned out Monday for an NAACP-sponsored candidates’ forum at the Maron J & Alice W. Douse Community Center in Killeen.
The forum was also sponsored by members of the Panhellenic Council as well as the Masonic family.
Each contestant had the opportunity to deliver a 90-second opening speech and answer any questions posed by the moderators, who were high school students Donald Bentley III and Jonathan Coleman from Harker Heights High School.
Candidates for the Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees spoke first and were moderated by Bentley.
Bentley asked a series of questions, many of which focused on immediate concerns, including staffing shortages, learning loss gaps related to COVID-19 and special education.
On staffing shortages, contestants Susan Jones and Oliver Mintz said the problem was teachers’ salaries, while contestant Brenda Adams said she was “concerned” about the “places KISD was looking for”.
Regarding the learning loss gap, no candidate had a particular solution, but Adams said African Americans were hit hardest by COVID-19, creating an “unacceptable” situation. Adams also said the district has not used federal coronavirus funds appropriately, and the solution may lie in investigations and programs, funded with that money.
Finally, on special education, Mintz agreed that special education is one of the biggest issues facing the town of Killeen and that if he voluntarily sends a child with special needs to KISD, he should being accused of parental malpractice.
“I don’t have a solution,” he said. “The problem is that we spend more time, more energy fighting people than putting them in the program.”
Jones pointed out that an audit has been approved for the 2022-23 school year to review KISD’s special education program.
Finally, Adams said the way to solve Killeen’s service issues is to ensure compliance with federal mandates.
Candidates for Killeen Town Council, including those running for mayor, were given up to five minutes to introduce themselves as they explained their various positions and backgrounds. In general, incumbent candidates emphasized experience and a track record of success. The other candidates focused on volunteerism and a history of community involvement.
However, as the event lasted a short time, candidates for city council only asked one question regarding Proposal C, a charter amendment to raise council member salaries from $100 to $200. per month and to increase the mayor’s salary from $200 to $300 per month. month.
Candidates Rick Williams, Jose Segarra and Ken Wilkerson said they favor a pay rise to facilitate more public events, and Mellisa Brown said the raise makes membership possible advice for many residents.
Candidates Leo Gukeisen, Patsy Bracey, Holly Teel and Debbie Nash-King said they did not support the proposal, while James Everard said the decision was ultimately up to voters.
On May 7, voters will decide the mayoral race, three seats on Killeen City Council as well as 13 proposed charter amendments.
The mayoral candidates are Debbie Nash-King and challengers Patsy Bracey, James Everard and Holly Teel.
The three incumbents are vying for the seats: Mellisa Brown, Ken Wilkerson and Rick Williams. The incumbents are Ramon Alvarez, Leo Gukeisen and Jose Segarra, the former mayor.
On the Killeen ISD ballot are places 1, 2 and 3.
Brenda Adams of Killeen and Gerald Dreher of Harker Heights are running for the Place 1 seat, currently held by Shelley Wells, who is not seeking re-election.
Incumbent Susan Jones has again come forward to run for her Place 2 seat. She will be challenged by David Jones of Harker Heights.
Lenna Barr of Killeen will face Oliver Mintz of Killeen for the 3 spot, which is currently held by Corbett Lawler, who is not seeking re-election.
Early voting for the May 7 election will take place April 25-29 and May 2-3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
Due to a statewide-administered special election, all county residents can vote at any polling place in the county.