94° F Thursday, July 27, 2017

As the start of the early voting period kicked off Monday and Tuesday, the four candidates for the two contested seats on the Bastrop school board answered questions at candidate forums Monday and Tuesday.

The early voting period for the upcoming May 11 election to select board members for the Place 6 and Place 7 seats being vacated by Linda Apostalo and Jim Mills, respectively, ends Tuesday, May 7.

The candidates — Dr. Matthew Mix and Debra Thorne-Francis for Place 6 and Steve Miller and Ashley Mutschink for Place 7 — met with members of the public Monday at Cedar Creek High School and at Bastrop High School on Tuesday to answer questions and express their views on everything from the proper role of a school board member to the most pressing issues facing the district.

On the question of what a board member’s role is, Mix — a chiropractor who is originally from New Orleans and has lived and worked in Bastrop since 2006 — cited several roles he believes are important.

“To oversee the administration, number one,” he said, speaking to the crowd at Cedar Creek High School Monday evening. “And, number two, to be a go-between between the school and the public and the teachers and the administration.”

Miller, a former corporate financial analyst who is now attending Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, said he believes a board member should act as the ear of the community, noting that he would like to see the board’s at-large districts switched to single-member districts.

“Right now, there’s really no incentive for the board to listen to the community because of the political action committee formed by four of the current board members all living in the exact same neighborhood with an additional member living within two miles,” Miller said.

For Thorne-Francis, the role is also to act as a go-between between the public and the school system, but also to help set the policies and goals the district should work toward. Mutschink noted being a good listener is key.

Listing some of the most important issues facing the district, Mutschink’s answer was simple.

“Public school financing, high-stakes testing and post-secondary education,” he said.

For Thorne-Francis, the issues are similar— the district’s growth, financing and high-stakes testing are all important to her as well — but she noted looking at testing is something she’d prioritize.

“When they go out and get a job, they’re not going to be tested like they are now,” she said of the district’s own tests on top of the state’s standardized assessments under the No Child Left Behind Act.

As for the issue of safety and whether teachers should be armed, Mutschink believes in safety but also believes that the schools, working with the city police department and county sheriff’s office, are working to ensure students remain safe.

“School safety should be at the forefront of everything we do, even before academics,” Mutschink said. “As a parent, I want to know my children will be safe when I drop them off.”

Miller said he is not in favor of arming teachers, calling it “an accident waiting to happen,” and called for a strong police and school resource officer presence on Bastrop campuses, while Thorne-Francis agreed, noting that during her time as a teacher, she would not have wanted to carry a gun. She agreed additional school resource officers for the campuses or even hiring a security company would be a better way to go.

Mix noted he believes the district — or any district — should carefully consider such a measure and decide whether it is really necessary and whether it’s really the teacher’s responsibility to ensure the safety or if it should be that of security personnel.

“They’re there to teach our children,” Mix said. “They’re not there to be armed against a potential threat.”

We welcome your comments on our stories but will publish only those that do not violate our comment guidelines


  1. Pat says:

    I have a problem with Post Secondary Education being one of the 3 most important issues facing the district.

    Wouldn’t it be better to graduate students than can immediately go into a trade or profession immediately after graduation from High School?

    If a student could graduate from High School and immediately start work in auto, repair, AC/Heating, Information Technology, or other trade .WITHOUT having to go to a community college or university and graduating from post secondary school with a ton of debt?

  2. Pat says:

    Why isn’t quality education at the top of the list of issues facing the district. Our youth can’t do simple addition and subtraction in their heads. If they don’t have a computer or calculator, it seems that they can’t add or subtract.

    Case in point I was at a local restaurant today and my bill came to $2.76. I paid with $20.01 cash. I was supposed to receive $17.25 in change. My change was not counted out right and I was almost given $18.00 in change instead. This young person could not understand that $1.01 – $0.76 = $0.25,
    This young person could only come up with 23 cents, instead of 25 cents. I finally told this young person how much change to give me. This young person HAD to be at least 16 years of age.

    The heck with taking test or going to college as issues with the district. Why doesn’t the district teach basic addition and subtraction, WITHOUT calculators or computers. Why doesn’t the district teach our youth basic education!!!!!!!

  3. Sandy Hemphill says:

    Pat, I understand your dismay at the lack of education in high school graduates of today. I graduated from high school in the 1970s and I share your dismay. However. . .

    Have you ever worked as a server in a restaurant? I have. I’ve done every job in a restaurant, from the front door to the back, and I can assure you one of the very most difficult jobs in America today is being a food server.

    Servers have so many details to juggle in a very short amount of time. Most diners are completely unaware of all that goes on in a server’s world. They start multi-tasking from the moment they walk in the door and the good ones do it with the appearance of ease. It’s not easy. To add to the burden of non-stop busyness, they know they’re working for hand-outs, not wages, so that adds pressure that can be understood only by people who’ve worked for tips.

    I absolutely hate it when someone gives me an odd assortment of change like you describe. There are already dozens of things zinging through a server’s head and doing arcane math only adds to the already-frenzied pace of the job. It just throws an unnecessary monkey wrench into the necessary thought processes going through a server’s head.

    If I were your server and you gave me $20 and a penny to pay a bill of $2.76, I’d make change from the $20 and give you your penny back. There is no time for math games on this hectic and undervalued job. Trust me. Been there, done that.


    Back to the tricks of not publishing all the comments. So, why say you welcome comments when you don’t publish them even though mine followed the guidelines? You should also add to the guidelines that if a comment is made that we don’t agree with, we won’t publish it.

Leave a Reply