Early voting has started for school board and city council elections across the state. March On! Texas has found 20 progressive candidates in 100 races. Today we are interviewing Jennifer Key who is running for Alief Independent School Board Position 6.
Name: Jennifer Key
Position: Alief Independent School Board Position 6
Early Voting: October 28 – November 3
Election Day: November 7
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’ve lived in the Alief community for 40 years. I taught middle school science for 10 years and was an administrator for 25 years including Assistant Principal in intermediate school and district level director for Special Populations. Special Populations includes at-risk, pregnant, homeless, gifted and ESL students. I also supervised the nursing department.
I have two children, both went to public school in Alief, which gave them a very successful start. My daughter is now a professor at Portland State University and my son works for Maersk Oil in Copenhagen, Denmark. My husband is Vice President of Signet Maritime Corporation. I retired from the school district last year.
What prompted you to run for office?
I was a volunteer before my kids started school and I love Alief schools and would like to formalize some of the progressive ideas already in place. For example, we’re open with the LBGT community, but we have no policy in place to protect them. I want to make sure that as a district we’re taking care of them.
What sets you apart from your opponents?
The man I’m running against is a very nice man from Arizona who has only has been in Alief for about two years and he doesn’t have the experience of Texas education or state finance that I have.
What is the main thing you want to accomplish if elected?
The big things I’d like to do are to make sure that we are innovative and offer lots of choice in programs so that we are competitive with private and charter schools. As educational issues become more heated with DeVos in Washington and Abbot and Patrick in Austin I want to make sure I’m following legislation that could hurt our students so we that as a board can protect students.
Alief is an 80% reduced lunch district and there are 80-100 different languages spoken in the district. Speaking two languages is so good for your brain, let’s make that an academic focus and use that asset for building community. We need to make sure all populations are protected, with the same access to programs without any discrimination.
Education as a whole is dominated by females, but males occupy the highest paying positions. I want females to get the same opportunities as males. We need more transparency in hiring practices, so that the description for the job is written first and then the best candidate is chosen rather than vice versa where it is decided who they want to hire and the job description is written with the pre-chosen candidate in mind. Let’s get rid of that old boys network.
I want to make sure kids get what they need. Homeless children need to have safety needs met before they can be successful in an academic setting and English language learners who may not have official documents and families are fearful of institutions because they’re afraid of getting deported. Employees with DACA status are afraid too. These aren’t the “bad hombres” Trump was talking about; these are good people in the community who make a significant contribution to our community.
I want to make sure testing is not the only way we determine how successful a student is. I want to make sure we have the best superintendent and to ensure that his or her foremost goal is taking care of kids.
What relevant experience makes you best qualified for this position?
I have my master’s degree as well as principal certification. As part of that certification I had to study educational law, how district money is generated and how to manage properly the finances of the school district. I spent 10 years in the classroom, 15 years in administration, am a parent and raised my kids here. I have good insight about what’s important and what we need to do to keep Alief strong.
Why do you feel local elections are important for progressives?
This is a grassroots movement. Once local progressives get in place then those folks gain experience to move them into the next level of government. We can develop closer ties to the community and become a larger voice, and it just blossoms. At the local level they actually see what people want. One of the words I hate the most is “libtard”. If you know progressives then you don’t fear them. It’s hard to hate someone you know, and if you can get them in at the local level then the general population won’t fear who progressives are and what they want. I really don’t have political aspirations beyond AISD but I want to the be the progressive voice at the local level.
What do you want to tell voters in your district?
I care about the education their children are having. Alief has a reputation of being a rough part of town , but I want them to think, ‘Hey this is a great place to live, work, and play.’ My kids got a great education here in Alief And their kids can too.
For residents who don’t have children in the schools, I want them to know that school board elections matter. Great schools increase the value of the community and brings in great people. I want our community and schools to have the reputation it had 40 years ago.
Any final thoughts?
I’m grateful to have received an endorsement from TSTA, which is the Texas State Teachers Association.