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A year after Keller ISD’s dispute over books, board candidates want politics out of schools

John Birt and Haley Taylor Schlitz are vying for the Place 4 seat on the school board.

Birt, 70, is a U.S. Air Force veteran and retired vice president of chain/customs compliance at Williamson-Dickie. He’s hoping voters send him back to the school board. He was a trustee from 1996 to 2000.

“I understand the challenges that our teachers face on a daily basis, and I know I can work to ensure that they have the resources they need to provide our students with the best education possible,” Birt said.

Birt wants to ensure Keller ISD teachers are well compensated and have the necessary tools to educate students, he said. Doing that would keep the district competitive with other school systems that also are looking for teachers, he said.

Like Coker, Birt wants education in Keller ISD to be free of politics, he said.

“We must promote classroom instruction of high academic standards without political bias and focusing on academic programming that prepares all students for the future,” Birt said.

Birt said he wants to strengthen parents’ rights to have a say in their children’s education.

“I’d never undermine the rights of parents, or shut them out of decision-making,” Birt says. “I’d work hard to strengthen parent-educator relationships.”

He said this goes hand-in-hand with promoting community feedback and finding ways to get more parents attending board meetings.

Schlitz, 20, said she aims to bring more diverse voices to Keller ISD’s school board, as she believes it needs a change.

“I’m very excited at the prospect of giving Keller its voice, and filling in the space that has gone unheard and silent for so long,” Schlitz said.

As a former Keller ISD student, she experienced racism and sexism, which led her parents to withdraw her from the district, she said.

Schlitz graduated from SMU Law as a 19-year-old, and says she’s the youngest Black American to graduate from law school. She adds that this unique perspective will serve students well.

“Students should have a voice in the decisions that are made about their education, and I am committed to representing their interests on the board,” Schlitz said.

If elected, she plans to represent all students, she said.

She criticized the school board’s decision to ban books about gender fluidity, which excluded and made many students feel unwelcome, she said.

“It was so hateful, and it made hundreds of our students feel excluded and not welcome in their own schools,” Schlitz said. “That’s not what we want as a community.”

Schlitz aims to push for better mental health initiatives in schools to create a welcoming and safe environment for all students. Student success will follow, she says.

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