Robert Sitton was originally elected to the board of trustees in 2011 to fill the unexpired term of newly elected State Representative for District 127, Dan Huberty.
Sitton was re-elected for a full, four-year term in 2013. Sitton is a financial advisor for Edward Jones Investments, a lifelong Humble resident and former teacher and coach in Aldine ISD.
What is the greatest challenge Humble ISD will face in the next four years, during your term, and what remedies do you offer to address it?
The greatest challenge for Humble ISD is growth. We are currently serving over 41,000 students. That number is expected to top 52,000 over the next eight years. We must handle that growth with appropriate facilities and staffing needs. We will need to address a bond referendum, probably in 2018, in order to continue keeping up with the anticipated growth.
Name one or two things you’ve done to help youth in our community or in other communities in which you’ve lived.
I taught personal finance, business law and general business for eight years in Aldine ISD. I also coached football and baseball. I spent several years involved with the Humble Baseball Association and the Humble Area Football League. I have served as a coach, mentor and board member for HBA and coached for several years in HAFL.
I volunteered with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, whose primary purpose is to raise scholarship money for area students. I [now] enjoy reading to elementary students all around the district.
What is one program or service in the school budget that you would cut and why? One that you would add and why?
We established the Program Evaluation Committee to ensure that all programs and services remain relevant and efficient. I currently chair this committee and have served on it for the past five years. At this time, we do not need to cut any programs or services.
How do you define student success?
Student success cannot be measured by a single test. We must teach the whole child and it is our responsibility to teach all students. It is not our job to determine which students will attend a four-year institution, a two-year college, a tech school or go directly into the work force. Regardless which path the students choose, it is our responsibility to give them every opportunity to succeed. In doing so, we must offer pathways for college AND career readiness. At the end of the day, we must produce young adults that can be productive in our society regardless of the path they choose.
Rehak has been a Kingwood resident for 33 years and had two children who attended Bear Branch Elementary, Kingwood Middle and Kingwood High schools. He owned a local business, Rehak Creative Services, for 22 years and retired from that business last year.
Do you feel that there is a communication divide between the community and the board? If so, how do you plan to bridge that divide to restore confidence in the board?
Communication between the board and the community needs to be improved. I’ve talked to dozens of parents who felt their voices were not heard in the selection of the new superintendent. Listening and talking openly goes a long way toward creating trust.
Also, the Humble ISD website and the information on it could stand a good scrubbing. Many of the documents are filled with jargon and acronyms that make them difficult to comprehend. Also, the navigation is non-intuitive.
Also, why has there been so little talk about the need for an upcoming bond election before the board election? The 'official' answer is that they don't yet know how the bonds will be structured or how much they will need. But average school costs can give us the rough magnitude. If you assume an average cost of $45K per student, and that we are expected to add 11,500 students in the next five years, the financial need would total more than a half billion dollars just for new schools. Then add to that the cost of renovating, repairing and replacing several older schools. Where will the priorities be? How much can we afford? These are major issues that our current school board should be discussing right now, during the election, not after.
What are you hoping to get out of your board experience?
The district expects to grow approximately 20 percent in the next five years. In the rush to build new schools, I want to make sure the needs of students and teachers in existing schools, especially our 11 Title One schools, are not overlooked. I want to make sure that teachers have the tools, training, time and support to inspire every student to be the best she or he can be.
Name one or two things you've done to help youth in our community or in other communities in which you've lived.
I worked with the Children's Defense Fund and American Leadership Forum to raise awareness of ways to disrupt the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. The overriding characteristic of those caught in the Cradle to Prison Pipeline crisis is poverty. CityData.com estimates that almost one in four Humble children lives in poverty. To help break the cycle of poverty, the district needs to build more community partnerships with businesses, parent groups, volunteers, nonprofits, other branches of government, and community organizations.
I was a founding sponsor of the Ecobot Challenge – a free, statewide robotics contest designed to interest middle school students in math, science and technology. In the nine years since its inception, more than 3,000 Humble ISD students have participated in the Ecobot Challenge.
Name one thing the district is doing well, and one thing you would change.
The Humble Gifted/Talented and Advanced Placement programs are among the best in any school system anywhere. However, we also have a growing number of Title One Schools that have high percentages of people living below the poverty line. We now have 11 of those schools south of the river. For years, the academic performance of these schools has suffered compared to the rest of the district. Families in this area represent the working poor. The school district can’t solve all [of their problems] alone, but it can address many issues and work with community partners to address the rest.
Regarding one thing I would change: some board members have [lobbied] to change the way our schools are graded in order to make them look better. I believe the question is not, 'Can we change the way schools are graded,' but 'What can we do to improve the grades?'
Rolando “Roli” Cruz is a native Texan and the proud son of a U.S. Air Force member. He received his K-12 education in Humble ISD, but the classroom is not the only place that he learned his most valuable lessons. As the eldest of four children, Cruz learned what it meant to protect the vulnerable when a family member received an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis that affected how he was taught and expected to learn. As a global tech professional for Apple, Cruz says he can identify with challenges that students will face as they matriculate into the real world to meet the rigorous demands of changing industries.
What are the kinds of circumstances in which you are most effective?
Circumstances that require equal amounts of introspection and action. It’s imperative that all the moving parts of an entity like the Humble ISD educational community be examined, and from every perspective, to make sound and responsible decisions for all those that would be affected. I am an analytical thinker who believes that every decision should start with a “why” and then a “how.” Decisions should be rooted in strategy and executed with compassion.
What appeals to you about board service as a volunteer activity?
What appeals to me most is the opportunity to interact with the educational community and the families that support our students from several angles. It’s easy to make conclusions from a bird’s eye view, but the task becomes more meaningful when it is rooted in volunteerism. Looking students, parents and teachers in the eye, hearing their concerns, and becoming exposed to their potential should embolden servant leaders to lead well with equity being top of mind.
How do you define student success?
Student success can come in many forms. I believe the measuring of success should focus on ensuring that every student gets an equal share in their development, proficiency and talents; cultivating the WHOLE student. The school system should focus on the intellectual, emotional, social, ethical and physical development of a student. When you look at my three-point-plan for driving equal, equitable education, much of what I describe as 'student success' lies in Point 1: 'Care.' Learn more at rolicruz.org.
Are there educational innovations that you've seen other places that you would bring to our district?
School systems emphasize that the sole benefit of education is securing a job, but we rarely illustrate what those options can be. Many only see a 'job' as what their parents or grandparents do, leaving more to be explored.
High School, INC. is where students get a real-world application of what 'business' means. From entrepreneurship to corporate roles, students participate in classroom learning and also internships, which provide a more precise understanding of how their hard work equates. I believe if we brought a program like this to Humble, or redefined an existing program, it will be life changing.