CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — During Saturday’s special election, residents of the Canyon Independent School District will be able to decide on who will represent the community as the Place One member of the district’s Board of Trustees. Voters will choose between Claudia Burkett and Paul Blake for the Place One position on Saturday.

According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, Place One position on the district’s board opened in August 2021 after former member Bruce Cobb resigned. Because it was more than 180 days until the next board-related election, the board appointed Burkett to the Place One position in October.

Whoever wins Saturday’s election will serve a one-year term as the Place One representative on the district’s board. According to previous reports, the Place One seat will be on the ballot again in May 2023 after the term is completed. Once the Place One seat is filled in May 2023, they will be able to serve a full, four-year term.

MyHighPlains.com spoke with both Blake and Burkett prior to Saturday’s election to see what their thoughts are on the state of the district and their priorities going into the next year.

Paul Blake

After being a Canyon resident since the 1960’s, Blake said he feels he is a strong candidate for the Place One position on the Canyon ISD Board of Trustees, a position he feels is one of the most important elected official positions out there.

Blake’s goal, if elected, is to help the district provide a safe environment for kids and teachers alike. Part of that goal, Blake said, is to ensure suitable content is located in the district’s libraries.

This has been a talking point for many politicians throughout the state, coming after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency, asking them to investigate “any criminal activity in public schools involving the availability of pornographic material that serves no educational purpose.” 

“We had some, you know, really bad books that were being presented to the high schools. It wasn’t suitable content for young eyes. I think we need to have age-appropriate books,” Blake said. “They had books in there that are not appropriate for any age, even very mature ages. So, you know, I feel like we have to be careful about what we present and not try to corrupt the minds of our kids with what they see, because you can’t undo what’s seen sometimes.”

Another one of Blake’s focuses is to implement shop classes, teaching students about construction and other trades, throughout the district. Even though the district has career and technology education classes for high school students, Blake said he would like to see those kinds of courses for middle school students as well.

“That’s one of the areas that I think really needs firmed up in our community and in our nation, really,” he said. “I think it’s not just a community problem. It’s a nationwide problem.”

Overall, Blake believes his moral compass will guide him to help do what is best for the teachers and the students of Canyon ISD. If elected, he said it would be humbling, because of how much responsibility the position poses.

“I think I’ve got the integrity, the honesty and (the ability to) be transparent in what I do,” Blake said. “I’m pretty much unfiltered and I believe in telling people what I think and then following up on my actions.”

Claudia Burkett

According to previous reports, Burkett was appointed by the board to fill the Place One seat during the Oct. 18, 2021, regular meeting. At the time, Burkett wanted to be a member of the board after being involved in various education-centered volunteer opportunities throughout the community.

After being named to the board in October, Burkett said the biggest moment so far in her tenure is also centered around the library content conversation, with the board choosing to implement policy from the TEA surrounding the choice of books. This policy was something that the board, along with the district’s administration, did not want to procrastinate on, Burkett said.

“We just immediately did the first reading (of the TEA’s policy) at the next board meeting that we had and now, we are doing our due diligence and getting stuff from (the Texas Association of School Boards) and making sure that we have a really black and white local policy on this issue,” she said. “I unequivocally do not support sexually explicit material, pornography, in our school libraries. I don’t.”

Burkett said this policy gives district officials, along with parents, the chance to look at the titles before they are purchased, which she said is especially important with the district having a new middle and high school in the near future.

Burkett also referenced the importance of the district’s five-year academic goals that were set prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, something she hopes the district continues to prioritize. She said she hopes the district continues to put programs in place so all students can succeed.

Through her time on the board, Burkett said she has been exposed to how much parents and guardians care about their kids’ learning environment. She stressed that the goal of a school board is to have the best interest of the district’s students at heart and make sure they are all represented.

“That’s one of the biggest responsibilities of a school board, not just ours, but in my opinion, all school boards is that you’re there to represent all kids… You make sure that they all have opportunities and they all have a safe place to learn,” she said. “…It just speaks volumes to be able to have a strong board, strong administration and strong parent/community involvement. I would love to be elected but if not, I would love to see that continue, that we still have that strong parent involvement in our community. The teachers and administrators, they can’t do it alone.”

For more information about Election Day voting locations for the May 7 election, visit the MyHighPlains.com website.