Richardson school board faces some tough challenges, say the two Lake Highlands residents who were elected as trustees last month.

Anne Barab and Ron Hughes say the board must improve academic excellence with a limited budget.

“This is not a maintenance time in Richardson Independent School District history,” Barab says. “This is a creative time that is going to set the tone for the next 10 to 15 years.

“In every situation you are always getting better or getting worse. We need to actively be working to get better.”

With the election of Hughes over James G. Herblin and Barab over Brooks Purnell, Lake Highlands has doubled its representation on the school board. Now, four of the seven members of the school board are from Lake Highlands, including Mike Tabor and Larry Toon.

“You have four people on the board who are very familiar with the area (Lake Highlands) and that helps,” Hughes says. “but board members serve the district at large.”

Barab expresses similar sentiments.

“I feel like I must listen harder for issues that concern the City of Richardson and make sure that we’re not inadvertently unfair to other areas in the district,” she says.

Both Barab and Hughes have long histories with RISD.

Hughes has lived in the district for more than 27 years and served two previous terms as a board member from 1984 to 1990. He was president of the school board from 1989 to 1990.

His two daughters, Peggy and Ronda, attended Northlake Elementary, Lake Highlands Junior High and Lake Highlands High School. Peggy graduated from the high school in 1979 and Ronda in 1986.

Hughes says he ran for the school board for two reasons.

“I want to participate in making public education the very best we can make it,” he says, “and I wasn’t pleased with the incumbent (Herblin).”

Barab ran because she wanted to put her experience with RISD schools to use, she says.

Barab has lived within RISD for 19 years. All three of her children attended Skyview Elementary. Her son Jeff will attend the Arts/Science/Law Magnet at Richardson High School this fall, and her twin daughters will be eighth graders at Forest Meadow Junior High.

Barab has volunteered more than 2,000 hours in RISD, she says. When her children were at Skyview, she served as PTA president and received a volunteer of the year award. This year, Forest Meadow chose her as volunteer of the year. She co-authored Forest Meadow’s application for the national Blue Ribbon award and was the 1994/95 Band Boosters chair.

“I started out trying to be an active PTA mom and ended up running for school board,” Barab says. “I’m doing it for my children and all children in RISD.”

Barab replaces Mary Cobb, who served on the school board for 14 years. Cobb did not run for reelection.

Incumbent Paula Hibbs, who lives in the attendance area for J.J. Pearce High School, was also elected last month against Ron Hinds.

A main concern for the whole district, especially Lake Highlands, is overcrowding, Hughes and Barab say.

Both serve on RISD’s Long Range Space Needs Committee, which has been studying overcrowding within RISD for a year and will present its findings to the school board on June 19. Hughes chairs the committee, and Barab is chair of the subcommittee on district demographics.

And the new trustees have ideas about how to improve what they say is already a good education.

Hughes says that money should be spent on teachers and classrooms, and cut backs should be made in “middle management” and support staff.

“Like any organization, staff can accumulate like barnacles on a ship,” Hughes says. “As times change, certain positions aren’t needed anymore.”

Barab says education can be improved by establishing measurable standards that schools should strive to meet.

RISD has set goals for “world class” education and now the district must define what world class means, she says.

Barab also thinks the merit pay program for teachers should be enhanced, she says.