By RISD Superintendent, Dr. Jeannie Stone
Voting is a bedrock of our democracy.
In the Richardson Independent School District, we are working hard to create a culture of voting. We pride ourselves on educating the whole child and graduating students who are complete citizens.
Elise Curry is an assistant principal at Richardson High School. For more than a decade, she has held three voter registration drives for students annually. In conjunction with National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 25, she was in the hall during lunch handing out registration forms and encouraging all students to get involved in the democratic process. We are always telling our students to make their voices heard, and there’s no better way to do that than by voting. If you are not happy with the way things are, the only way to be a part of the conversation is to vote.
We had a voter registration booth at our college fair at Berkner High School in September, and we also help new teachers and new parents change addresses to stay current and ensure they are eligible to vote in all local elections, extending our culture of voting to all community members.
When he was principal at Berkner, Henry Hall used to congratulate every new 18-year-old student with a cupcake and voter registration form, welcoming them to adulthood.
Hall, who is now RISD Executive Director of Instructional Technology, would have lunch with the students and further explain the importance of voting. We know that the earlier in life that you cast your first vote, the more likely you are to become a lifelong voter.
In RISD, we connect our students to the entire voting process by embedding this education into our curriculum for the government class that all Texas high school seniors are required to take.
For 20 years, Casey Boland has taught AP US History at Lake Highlands High School. She has often taken students into the polling station. The students get the practical hands-on experience that enhances the theoretical concepts they’ve learned in class.
This is what we strive for in RISD. We educate our students to be active citizens for life. We teach them to remain connected to their communities. We teach them to remain connected to the democratic process not just through lectures in government classes, but through civic engagement activities in the community.
RISD has a particular connection to this election cycle because we placed a tax ratification question before our stakeholders. Several North Texas school districts have a TRE on this ballot, as administrators continue to grapple with the state’s complex school funding formula and the needs of a growing populace.
Our decision to put a referendum on the November ballot came from a recommendation by a team of 300 RISD community members who met six times last year to draft a five-year strategic plan. This plan includes additional expenses. These expenses need funding. We’re asking our stakeholders to approve that funding through an increase in the tax rate.
We have held six community information sessions since the beginning of the school year that have been well attended. RISD stakeholders are interested and engaged. They know how important each vote is. There is both strong and coordinated opposition to the TRE, and a concerted effort to support ratification of the TRE.
This is exactly what Casey Boland teaches her AP History students. Every day she navigates discussions that expose them to various opinions, various positions and various ideas on every issue on the ballot from the race for Texas senator to the bottom of the ballot school district referendums.
We encourage our students, staff and stakeholders to vote. We do not tell them for whom to vote. That’s up to them. All we can do is connect eligible voters to the process.
Go vote. Stay connected.