RISD school board member Dr. Kristin Kuhne has filed to run for re-election, and once again she’ll face a challenger from Lake Highlands. Lynn Davenport, a graduate of Lake Highlands schools and the parent of three LH students, has announced plans to run for the Place 7 spot.
Kuhne is completing her first three-year term on the board after defeating Bonnie Abadie and LH resident Judy Yarbrough in 2014. Kuhne graduated from Richardson High, with one child a student at and one child a graduate from J.J. Pearce.
Positions on the RISD school board are “at large,” and all trustees serve the entire district.
Davenport was a founding member of the Lake Highlands Junior Women’s League and is a current LH Women’s League member, and she’s served on the Wild for Cats Academic Booster Club Steering Committee, the RISD District of Innovation Committee and the RISD Bond Review Committee. She’s served in various PTA roles from White Rock Elementary to LHJH to LHHS, and Councilman McGough named her to the District 10 Community Development Commission for the City of Dallas. Frequent visitors to RISD school board meetings, though, know she has sometimes clashed with the district over issues such as moving LH freshmen to the high school and building a school at White Rock Trail and Walnut Hill.
I asked if she considers herself an RISD “insider” or “outsider.”
“While I have challenged some of the recent major decisions made by the district,” said Davenport, “I am optimistic about the leadership of Dr. Stone and our new CFO. I consider myself a fierce proponent of public education and an unconventional advocate for students, teachers and parents. I am my children’s biggest cheerleader and their worst critic. The same goes for RISD. I am currently working with RISD to advocate for our rights as we navigate the new A-F accountability ratings and oppose vouchers this legislative session.”
I asked if Davenport was running with a specific “agenda.”
“I am not a ‘one issue’ candidate. I began my advocacy after witnessing the harmful effects of the STAAR assessments on my children. I testified before the board in May 2015 and challenged them to shadow a 3rd grader to see what it was like to be under that kind of pressure. In education, everyone seems to pass the buck. School boards point to Austin lawmakers and the lawmakers point back to the local boards. So who is responsible for the decline in academic excellence in Texas? That question led me down many rabbit holes searching for answers. Lobbyists, profiteers and public-private partnerships are at the root of the problem. Ultimately, it is our responsibility at the local level to protect and educate our children. That is my agenda. I’m not seeking to change RISD as much as I am seeking to preserve what we are known for: academic excellence.”
Davenport and husband, William, both graduated from LHHS in 1989. She says her experiences with their children Jack (11th grade), Lily (9th) and Wilson (7th) led to her decision to run.
“I used to have a more passive role in my children’s education. It wasn’t until my youngest was struggling that I began to ask more questions about what our kids were learning, how they were being taught and who was benefitting financially from the instructional materials and professional development. These are important questions that every parent should be asking, especially our school board.”
Kuhne married Brad, her Richardson High School sweetheart, and they have sons Alex (11th) and Rob (Trinity University sophomore). She is Director of Insights and Analytics for Educate Texas, an alliance of public and private groups seeking to improve the public education system, and she is involved in Junior League of Richardson, League of Women Voters of Richardson and Young Men’s Service League. She’s served in PTAs from Mohawk Elementary to North Junior High to Pearce and has served on the RISD District Planning Committee, Strategic Technology Committee, Graduation Program Task Force and Career and Technical Education Task Force Steering Committee.
I asked about her achievements while serving on the board and how she’s made an impact.
“I am proud of the strategic goals set by the board (1) that all RISD graduates will leave RISD with college credit or a certificate that will earn them a living wage and (2) our youngest learners will have the foundational mastery of reading and math to take advantage of these opportunities when they reach high school. Together these two goals ensure all students are prepared for the college or career of their choice when they graduate. I have made a difference on our board by bringing two unique perspectives: as a parent and as an education researcher. Professionally, I work with school districts and colleges across Texas and I bring those lessons and best practices back to RISD. As a data analyst with deep understanding of the district’s success metrics, I am keenly focused on continuous improvement. My skills in planning and analysis contribute to the board’s success in achieving our strategic objectives. Last, but not least, I am a parent of a high school student. The experiences I have had raising my sons in RISD schools and the relationships I have built with other parents as a PTA president, band and football mom inform my board service.”
Kuhne told me she has followed a personal guiding principle during her tenure.
“The board’s vision: RISD – where all students learn, grow and succeed, guides my service and reflects what I value. I am intentional about keeping students at the center of all my decisions and I am passionate about student success.”
Candidates have until March 6 to file for the opening in Place 3 being vacated by Kris Oliver, who is retiring to permit his daughter to apply for a job teaching in RISD. The district has a nepotism rule against children of currently-serving trustees from being hired. So far, Joseph Armstrong, Karen Clardy and Ben Prado have filed to run in Place 3.
We at Advocate will keep you updated about candidates for Place 3.