22 questions with Austin ISD At-Large Position 9 Board of Trustee candidates Arati Singh, Heather Toolin

In partnership with the Austin Council of PTAs, the Shield brings you exclusive interviews as early voting starts

Shield+co-news+editor+Ingrid+Smith+interviewed+Heather+Toolin+on+Oct.+5+and+Arati+Singh+on+Sept.+26+in+the+English+book+room+on+the+McCallum+campus.

Kate Boyle

Shield co-news editor Ingrid Smith interviewed Heather Toolin on Oct. 5 and Arati Singh on Sept. 26 in the English book room on the McCallum campus.

MacJournalism news team

The Shield was asked by the Austin Council of PTAs to conduct interviews with At-Large Position 9 School Board Candidates Arati Singh and Heather Toolin ahead of the Nov. 8 election. According to the Austin Independent School District website, members of the Board of Trustees employ the superintendent, approve the budget, set the tax rate, call for bond elections, establish policies for operating the district and work closely with the community to oversee the district. The ninth, at-large, position on the Board is elected by voters from across AISD. Early voting begins on Monday, Oct. 24 and will last through Friday, Nov. 4.

Incumbent Arati Singh, whom The Shield interviewed on Sept. 26, is a mother of two AISD students as well as a former teacher and AISD board secretary. Singh’s website lists her priorities as student safety, student excellence and innovation, teacher and staff support, advocacy, strong systems and family and community.

Candidate Heather Toolin, who was interviewed on Oct. 5, is a mother of AISD students and an interior designer. Toolin’s website says that she is “leading on the important issues” of ensuring that the primary focus for AISD remains education, creating a community-led process for reviewing books and materials, championing parents and guardians in education and supporting our best teachers.

Editors Kate Boyle, Alice Scott, Lanie Sepehri and Ingrid Smith prepared a list of questions in partnership with ACPTA. Prior to the interview dates, the candidates received the same list of questions with a week-long review period. The interviews were conducted in person at McCallum with student journalists both in front of and behind the cameras. The candidates were asked the same questions, without variation from the finalized question list.

Many McCallum students are unable to vote, but the results of the election will directly affect us and tens of thousands of other AISD students.”

— co-news editor Ingrid Smith, who conducted the candidate interviews

Co-online managing editor and co-news editor Ingrid Smith was given the opportunity to voice the questions. Smith said that she was proud to represent The Shield in the interviews.

“It was awesome that The Shield was able to ask the candidates questions from the student perspective,” Smith said. “Many McCallum students are unable to vote, but the results of the election will directly affect us and tens of thousands of other AISD students. Plus, it was an exciting challenge to interview candidates in a city-wide election. By working with other staffers to write the questions and conducting the interview, I learned a lot about how AISD operates politically, outside of the classroom. In a way, it felt like I was taking my journalism career to the next level.”

Both candidates encourage voters to cast their ballots in the upcoming election and make a choice with AISD’s 74,645 students in mind. The Shield is proud to present the edited recordings of interviews with At-Large Position 9 School Board Candidates Arati Singh and Heather Toolin.

Note: Early voting starts Monday and continues through Nov. 4. The last day to request a ballot by mail is Friday. In addition to the Position 9 trustee seat, there are also trustee elections in districts 1, 4, 6 and 7. To see which district you live in, please see this map of trustee districts, which includes some changes over the summer due to boundary redistricting after the 2020 census. The AISD bond, including 3 propositions, is also on the ballot. The Austin Council PTAs, and their member organizations, including the McCallum PTA, have all voted to support all three bond propositions.