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Longview ISD trustee draws challenger

By Christina Lane
Feb. 27, 2012 at 10 p.m.


Longview ISD's District III trustee is being opposed by a businessman, who says he believes it's time for a change on the district's school board.

Randy Hufstetler has filed to run against incumbent Chris Mack for the seat on the Longview ISD school board. Mack also has filed for re-election.

"I want to leave it to the voters," Hufstetler said Monday. "I want the voters to have a choice. If they're happy with how things are going, then they can vote for my opponent. If they're up for a change, I'm willing to serve and look forward to it."

Hufstetler has lived in Longview ISD since 1998. Mack was first elected to the board in 1993. Mack was out of town Monday and was not available for comment.

Hufstetler serves as director of employee relations and risk management for LifeShare Blood Centers in Shreveport. His wife, Dana, operates a local business - Encore, a consignment shop - that the couple owns. The couple has a 13-year-old who attends Judson Middle School.

<strong>Bond election</strong>

Hufstetler's reasons for seeking the position date back to the 2008 $267 million bond election that trustees put before voters and that passed by a narrow 12-vote margin.

"I don't disagree that the bond election was needed, and we have got beautiful schools," Hufstetler said. "But a question was raised at the time - what are we doing as far as the educators to hire and retain good, qualified teachers?"

Hufstetler attended a community meeting held, at the time, at Mozelle Johnston. The answer to that question, he said, was that if the district built the new facilities, it would encourage teachers to want to stay in Longview ISD.

"I realize there is a chain of command and the school board does not often deal directly with teachers," he said. "But we need a superintendent in place who is supportive of our teachers and principals."

If elected to the school board, Hufstetler would likely be among the trustees who select a new superintendent. The school board recently rehired James Wilcox, who retired Dec. 31, to serve as an interim superintendent and to aid the school board in its search for a new chief.

Hufstetler said he wants to help trustees select a new superintendent who will stay in Longview ISD long-term.

Another event that prompted Hufstetler to seek the office was the school board's decision to spend another $10 million of bond money on projects to renovate the former Foster Middle School, G.K. Foster and J.L. Everhart schools. Trustees voted 6-1, with John Harrison opposing, to move forward on the project instead of using the money to pay the district's bonds off sooner, "as they promised to do," Hufstetler said.

"That didn't sit well with me and many people in District III, and the school district itself," he said.

The Judson Middle School football stadium renovations and the school district's lack of obtaining a building permit lit a fire in Hufstetler that a change needed to be made on the board. Hufstetler said the trustees who hired the contractor should be the same people held responsible for not getting a permit.

<strong>Experience</strong>

He said he works with budgets on a daily basis and has experience with managing other people.

"I look out for getting the best value for the dollar," he said.

As far as the district's academics, Hufstetler noted that Longview ISD is in the second year of not meeting the federal accountability standard (the Adequate Yearly Progress report) and not meeting it a third year could prompt the state to step in as recently happened in Marshall ISD.

"We don't need that," he said.

Hufstetler said he intends to leave the decision to voters to decide. For him, his focus is on the children and staff in the district.

"It's all about the kids and the educators," he said. "We have to support both the children and our educators."

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