Lewisville resident Colleen Shaw aspires to begin her political career on the LISD school board.
Shaw needed help after losing many of her possessions in a flood while studying at the University of North Texas. As the social support system helped her recover, Shaw got involved in local politics. Having seen the system from the inside, she realized that education was the most important equalizing factor.
“It’s kind of interesting that everything that affects us socially is not just our neighborhood, our city or even the state of the country, it all starts at the kitchen table,” she said. “And one way that we all have an opportunity to affect our citizens and our residents in a positive way is through schools.”
On her first day at a new apartment, Shaw and her older sister, Heather, lost a quarter of their possessions to water damage. Shaw was having medical difficulties at the time, and did not have health insurance. She ended up flunking out of school.
“It really exposed me to a lot of the loopholes and confusion that we have in our social services
“We didn’t know where to go. We were overwhelmed with where to go or what to do,” she said. “What was difficult was trying to navigate through things like foodstamps and also trying to figure out what local networks we could get with.”
Shaw got a temporary job driving DCTA buses, where she got to see a different side of Denton. She decided to get involved in politics and began working with the Denton County Democratic Party, for which she served as precinct chair for two years. She volunteered for several local campaigns, as well as the Bill White and Rick Noriega campaigns at the state level.
Shaw has continued to work in transportation, eventually getting a job at a roadside assistance call center in 2011. She currently works at another call center and also works as an Uber driver.
Shaw said Texas’ zero-based budget helped it come out of the 2008 economic recession at an advantage for attracting businesses, and the DFW population shifted to favor college students and young professionals who didn’t grow up here and aren’t otherwise invested in the area. Shaw determined that strong public schools were the best way to invest in the community.
“If you don’t cater to the families, you don’t cater to the culture, and you don’t cater to making people invest because people that come in for business, just a time and a place in their life, they’re not going to be connected to the assets and the resources that need to be here,” she said. “And a cornerstone of that, of course, is really strong schools.”
Shaw, 32, is unmarried and does not have children. She said she sees LISD as a stepping stone, and aspires to a state senate seat after one or two terms.
Shaw lives in the area of Hedrick Elementary school, whose future is in doubt after the current school board approved a bond package that would see it torn down. Shaw questioned the board’s handling of the issue — specifically that they did not include a line-item veto or an agenda item so that it could be discussed openly with the public.
Shaw said schools need to come before athletic facilities, which are provided for in the bond, and that expenses related to transitioning away from Hedrick could come back to haunt the community.
“It may have raised the tax a half penny, but the cost to transport, provide additional tutors and other programs that might have to absorb the windfall of consequences that would have to be made to make up for this error of poor presentation to the FAC, it would be far easier to build the school,” she said. “That’s far more important than repaving softball fields.”
Shaw also spoke against voucher systems, which state and national lawmakers want to expand. She said she would commit those resources to schools everyone can access.
“I’m definitely more in favor of putting funds back into our public schools rather than shuffling it out to a voucher program that has no transparency and often does not offer the type of education that students of special needs or English learners would need,” she said. “I believe in a quality education for everyone, and that was the basis of having free public education as a cornerstone of our democracy.”
The district has also spoken against putting resources into a voucher system.
Shaw is one of four people running for the school board’s place 7 seat, including incumbent Tracy Scott Miller. Other challengers are Shari Chambers and Sandra Weinstein. Unlike other local elections that require a majority winner, the school board seat will go to whoever earns the most votes. The other seat up for election, place 6, also has four candidates running.
The election will be held May 6.