The Dripping Springs school board election has drawn five candidates, including three incumbents, for three seats. The two candidates challenging the incumbents do not support a $132 million bond package that is also on the ballot in the May 5 election. The bond would pay for two schools, improvements and relocating the administration building.
Trustees are elected at-large in the 6,464-student district, and the top three vote-getters will win seats on the 7-member board of trustees.
Early voting runs through May 1.
The district is juggling continued student growth while maintaining high academic performance.
The school district is also asking voters to approve the $132 million bond package, which includes funding for a new elementary school, construction of a replacement Walnut Springs Elementary and conversion of the current Walnut Springs campus into a new administration building and childcare center. Bond funds would also pay for various improvements to other schools and a $21 million expansion to Dripping Springs High School.
The incumbents all support the bond package, which was crafted with committee input from parents, community members and administrators. The trustees say the bond is necessary as it includes projects to manage student growth. The administration building’s move also allows the current administration building, 510 W. Mercer St., to be part of a new town center, which is be created in partnership with the city.
Both candidates challenging the three incumbents questioned the necessity of spending $38.8 million to relocate the administration building to the current Walnut Springs site and replace the current school.
Challenger James Meeks, an HVAC contractor and technician for the Wimberley school district, calls it “financially absurd” to close and relocate an elementary school for administration facilities as the district enrolls several hundred more students per year.
The other challenger, retired Austin teacher Sharon Armke, said she is also voting against the bond, because the new Walnut Springs elementary would not be built in a neighborhood, where growth occurs, and the rebuild plan does not provide more student capacity.
Both Meeks and Armke said they hope the bond proposal will be reworked and presented to voters again in November.
About the candidates
Sharon Armke, 66, is a retired Austin district teacher. She has been in the district 17 years and her three children are Dripping Springs graduates.
Civic participation: Volunteers for the district’s School Health Advisory Council. She previously served on an Austin district’s campus advisory council, a local grant committee and was the chairwoman of the local bicentennial committee at Zilker Elementary. She launched the secondary library development committee for Brentwood Christian school. She is also a children’s ministry teacher at Austin Oaks church.
Incumbent Mary Jane Hetrick, 50, is a consultant and an adjunct professor in public/nonprofit management. She was elected to the school board in 2015. She has been in the district for five years and has two children who are graduates from Dripping Springs and one still enrolled in the district.
Civic participation: Serves on the Dripping Springs Education Foundation board and is the district’s Council of PTAs healthy lifestyles chairwoman. She is the former chairwoman of the Innovative Teaching Grants and former committee board member of the high school PTSA. She also serves on the advisory board for Foster Village and is on the family life center committee and visioning committe for Sunset Canyon Baptist Church.
Incumbent Carrie Fontana Kroll, a vice president of advocacy, quality and health policy at the Texas Hospital Association, is a Dripping Springs graduate. She has two children in Dripping Springs schools and has been back in the district for nine years.
Civic participation: Has been a district trustee since 2012, including as president of the school board since spring 2016. She previously served on the district’s school health advisory council. Supporter of the Dr. Pound Historical Farmstead, as well as the Dripping Springs Education Foundation. Member and former Sunday school teacher at Sunset Canyon Baptist Church.
James Meeks, 66, is a HVAC contractor and technician for the Wimberley school district and has also worked in another local district and for a private school. He has been in the district for 16 years and both of his children are Dripping Springs graduates.
Civic participation: A member of the Community Emergency Response Team, the Hays County Constitutional Republicans and the former Austin Dart Association vice president and communications coordinator.
Incumbent Shannon O’Connor, 48, a self-employed accountant, has been in the district for 9 years and has three children in Dripping Springs schools.
Civic participation: serves as a board member on Project Connect, a local nonprofit. She has been a local Girl Scouts leader since 2011 and is the board representative on the Dripping Springs Education Foundation board. She’s an officer on the executive board of the district’s Council of PTAs. She also serves in advisory roles to other nonprofit organizations, including Tiger Totes, which provides meals outside of school and other necessities to low-income students.
About the Job
Dripping Springs school board members are elected at-large by voters in the 6,464-student district and serve three-year terms for no pay. The board hires the superintendent, establishes policies, levies taxes and approves the budget.