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Meet the 2012 CISD School Board Candidates

April 19, 2012

You have the opportunity to meet the candidates on May 3, as well as hear Todd Kettler, CISD Director of Advanced Academics, describe the Big Picture of the GT program for K-12th grade.  Click here for more information.

The CGA posed five questions to the 3 candidates running for the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees this Spring.  Judy Barbo and Carrie Clark are running for Place 6.   Tracy Fisher is running  for Place 7; her opponent withdrew, but the name will still appear on the ballot .  The following are their responses to the questions.

Early Voting

April 30-May 4 (Mon-Fri) 8am – 5pm

May 5 (Sat) 8am – 5pm

May 6 (Sun) 1pm – 7pm

May 7 & 8 (Mon-Tues) 7am-7pm

Election Day – May 12 (Sat) 7am-7pm

Early voting locations will be at Coppell Town Center as well as other locations in Dallas County.  On Election Day, you must vote in your precinct.  To find your precinct, visit the Dallas County Elections website.

1. How do you think CISD has done with gifted education and what do you think they could do better?

Carrie Clark- Place 6 Candidate-

At the elementary level, we use a pull-out enrichment program called Challenge.     In addition to the pull out program of Challenge, 1st-5th identified gifted kids are grouped in classroom clusters.  This allows the teachers to improve differentiation and increase the depth of study for those children ready for that.

While our GT cluster teachers have GT training, the implementation of differentiation from classroom to classroom will vary based on the skill of the instructor.    With larger class sizes compared to past years, providing this differentiation will have additional challenges.

Something we do not do at the elementary level is to allow children to really move up in an area they are particularly skilled at (for example to move up a grade in math instruction).  Rather we rely on differentiation in the classroom to meet even these wider needs.

I do think the Problem Based Learning models being used in a couple of our elementary schools will allow the GT student to work at their level and will be challenged.  Because they are sharing “what they know” and deciding “what they need to know”, ideally they will have more opportunity to explore at a deeper level.

For middle school students, I think we’ve done an excellent job at providing options.  The ability to take up to all four core classes at the GT level  allows the student the ability to customize their challenge level and areas.  These classes also emphasize critical thinking and creativity, which further challenge the GT student.    Should a GT student not want to take a course at the GT level, they can also look at the Pre-AP option for most classes.  I also really like that CISD allows each student  an opportunity to take the Pre-AP courses in middle school if they desire to without a admittance requirement.  This allows any student the opportunity to take a more rigorous course of study if they wish.

While I have not personally experienced high school at the GT level, the opportunities at this level seem almost endless.  There are GT courses in all four subject areas available.  There are Pre-AP and  AP courses available based on grade level (and these are also open to all students).  AP exams in more than 20 different subjects were given at CHS last year.  We also have our IB program, dual credit programs, academies, and New Tech’s problem based learning model.  While many of these are open to any student (not just gifted) they allow many different lenses for learning.  And the more interested  the student is, them more engaged they will be which will only enhance their learning.

Judy Barbo- Place 6 Candidate-

I believe the high school and middle schools have done a good job of giving the students who want to challenge themselves opportunities to do so.  At the high school level, there are a plethora of choices to take from the IB program, AP classes, GT classes, online courses and dual credit courses.  Coppell has done a great job preparing these students to excel and allowing them to challenge themselves through these options.  At the middle school level, students are allowed to take classes above their current grade level.  It is very common for an eighth grader to have at least 2 high school credits out of the way before entering high school as a freshman and many students have more.  These students are thriving and the programs are working well.  The elementary levels seem to be where there is more work to be done.  Some of the elementary schools are grouping the gifted children into a couple of classrooms per grade level and others have not adopted this practice.  By grouping the gifted children into specific groups, this allows them to benefit from appropriate instruction on advanced subject matters.  Through technology, such as online courses, iPads, iTouches, etc., gifted students are also able to expand their learning.  The training and resources for teachers still needs to increase, but the district is focused on improving in these areas.

Tracy Fisher- Place 7 Candidate-

CISD has made great strides the past six years in Coppell middle schools by offering GT sections in all core classes vs. only language arts.  CHS has grown to ten official core courses for GT students (4 English, 3 science, 2 math, and 1 history).  I expect CHS will continue to offer more of these core courses at a GT level.

 Number of Core GT Courses Offered

School Level



High School* (Gr 9-12)

4 out of 16 possible

10 out of 16 possible

Middle Schools (Gr 6-8)

3 out of 12 possible

12 out of 12 possible

Elementary School (Gr 1-5)**

0 out of 20 possible

0 out of 20 possible

*    The differentiation necessary because of fewer students at New Tech, IB, and CHS Academies are not reflected in these numbers.

**  Elementary schools vary in their grouping of GT students.  Many split the GT kids up equally between all sections of each grade.

GT instruction at most elementary schools, however, looks much the same from the outside as it has in the past.  Each school has a GT specialist who teaches the Challenge pull out program.  More work is being done in some schools through differentiation in the regular classroom often with support from the specialists. There is still much more work to be done with grouping and curriculum to optimize the learning of the young academically gifted.  While I have confidence that the momentum is swinging towards improving the annual educational growth of these students, I fear the new STAAR testing system could set this progress back.  Stay tuned.

CISD needs to continue to encourage the elementary school principals, counselors, and their lead teachers to support and direct the educational needs of all students, including the academically gifted.  Sometimes students are still grouped in school without regard for academic needs because of other more pressing concerns like equally distributing behavior or high test scorers.

Finally, CISD should persist in monitoring existing GT classes to ensure they are truly GT courses.

2. What is your experience with gifted education?

Carrie Clark- Place 6 Candidate-

My oldest daughter (now in 7th grade) was identified gifted in kindergarten.  She has been through the Challenge program at elementary school since being identified; and is now enjoying the GT courses in all four subject areas in middle school.  I also have two other children who are not identified as gifted in elementary school.

Judy Barbo- Place 6 Candidate-

Although my children have not been a part of the GT programs, they have greatly benefited from taking Pre/AP courses, AP courses, online college courses and dual credit.  Both of my children have taken the opportunity to earn high school credits before entering their freshman year.

Tracy Fisher- Place 7 Candidate-

I am a parent of two academically gifted students and the founder and past president of Coppell Gifted Association.  I have been a member of Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) for more than five years and a member of National Association for Gifted Children in the past, as well as have attended annual professional conferences at both.  I have attended TAGT parent conferences where I have been a speaker for three years.  I also serve on the TAGT executive board as the newly appointed parent member.

I understand a great deal about gifted education. Besides discovering that most educators get very little information to prepare them to teach the academically gifted, I have also learned that reaching a student where they are academically is also a parent responsibility.  All parents must enrich their sons and daughters, but gifted children especially benefit from academic enrichment outside of school such as music lessons, language lessons, chess clubs, math clubs, Destination Imagination, etc.  Parents play a key role in their children’s education.

3.  How might students in the CISD benefit from the findings of the national report released in 2004, “A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students”?

Carrie Clark- Place 6 Candidate-

The focus of “A Nation Deceived” is how acceleration (either subject acceleration or entire grade level acceleration) can benefit gifted students.    I believe that our middle school and high school students currently have great opportunities to accelerate on different subjects during their secondary years.  Some of the most commonly seen in CISD are testing to accelerate in courses (usually mathematics), taking high school credit courses in middle school, taking dual credit courses for college credit, and the IB program.

In elementary, acceleration is available by passing a test on an entire grade level.  This can help the student who is ahead in all areas, but does not do anything help a student who is ahead in a specific area.  Instead we rely on differentiation in the classroom and the Challenge program for this enrichment.

I think the district should consider all options that help to engage students.  For those gifted students of any level that are not being adequately challenged, we must look at ways to offer that challenge.  I think we should not accelerate without reason, but should look at the whole child (especially younger ones) to see if there are ways that we might improve their school experience.    While acceleration may or may not be the right choice in every situation, I think acceleration should certainly be one of the things that we consider.

Judy Barbo- Place 6 Candidate-

I believe the report gives great insight as to the benefits of grade skipping and accelerated learning for students.  Students within our district need to be challenged and the report gives good examples of how to provide the students with a more rigorous curriculum without necessarily skipping grades.  When you look at grade skipping by only looking at grades and not all of the other aspects of being in school that isn’t fair to the student.  I believe the district can benefit through this study by continuing to research ways to address and meet the needs of the gifted students through differentiated curriculum designed to address the needs of each individual learner.

Tracy Fisher- Place 7 Candidate-

About three years ago I ordered and distributed copies of “A Nation Deceived…” to the CISD Board of Trustees during a monthly board meeting.  There is empirical evidence in this study and its follow up report that students should be taught at the level they have reached academically without regard to social pressures (i.e., child is “immature,” too small, etc.)

So many benefits result when any student is challenged continuously in school.  They learn that school is a place to learn, not to wait.  They understand better how they are different and their confidence increases when they are allowed to flourish.  They get to college and don’t melt down when challenged for the first time because they were always challenged in school.  I could talk about this for days…

CISD would benefit from continued discussion about acceleration.  I know that societal pressures cause most people to simply dismiss any thoughts about acceleration so this is an up hill battle, but it still warrants discussion from educators who are the true experts on teaching our children.

Of course, sometimes acceleration is not the answer and more rigor in the current course level is key. There may not be one answer for all but depends on the student and teacher teaching the course.  So much is teacher dependent and without accountability for academic growth without a ceiling (TAKS performance is the current standard), it is difficult to really know how much progress is being made in the classroom.

4.  What is your opinion of ability grouping at CISD elementary schools?

Carrie Clark- Place 6 Candidate-

I think the top priority for CISD related to gifted education is our elementary programs.  We’ve got great programs in middle and high school, and I’d love to see some additional innovation in our elementary programs to further improve them so our gifted students benefit from GT oriented instruction on a day to day and hour to hour basis.  This innovation could come in many forms – ability grouping, improving differentiation, acceleration as well as other.

Judy Barbo- Place 6 Candidate-

In my opinion, I feel that ability grouping is probably the top priority and the opportunities at the elementary level are the greatest.  By grouping the gifted children into a classroom together, they will be able to learn at their own level.  On the other side of the spectrum, by removing the gifted children out of the classroom, it gives the other children remaining in the classroom the ability to rise to new levels within their own learning environment and learn at their own pace.  I believe that technology and teacher training are key to making the ability grouping opportunity work.

Tracy Fisher- Place 7 Candidate-

I strongly support academic ability grouping, differentiation, acceleration, and curriculum compacting.  I also support flipped classrooms and blended learning.  Various curricular strategies should be used to engage gifted children.  I believe the top priority should be at the elementary level where, for some reason, there continues to be push back on improving the academic rigor for gifted children.  Research and best practices regarding pedagogy for all students is readily available and should be carefully considered when making educational decisions.

5.  How would you address the funding gap for continuing education needs in GT?

Carrie Clark- Place 6 Candidate-

I don’t think we as a school district would be doing our job if we were not challenging all of our students to their abilities.  In regard to gifted education, we would not be doing our jobs if we do not continue to fund the programs that provide this challenge to our gifted students.  Just over  20% of the CISD student population is identified as gifted, so decreasing this funding would affect a large number of students.  Therefore funding for gifted education is of great importance to maintain.

Judy Barbo- Place 6 Candidate-

As a board member, I would work collaboratively within the board to ensure funding for all programs that maintain and enhance the exemplary education that make Coppell an exemplary district.  We are fortunate as a district that our students have many choices for challenging programs that meet the strategic planning goals set forth for our district.

Tracy Fisher- Place 7 Candidate-

 As a school board member, I will prioritize training and encourage professional learning networks for educators. My focus will be to continue raising the academic ceilings across our district. The old mantra: “train everyone in GT so that all will be qualified to teach GT students” doesn’t necessarily work for kids and is expensive.  (It is a way to stay “in compliance” while providing a less than effective education for many.)  These kids are gifted 24/7.   We need to redirect the education dollars we spend on them but not necessarily add more money.

General information provided by the candidates:

 Carrie Clark- Place 6 Candidate-

I am a mom of three – a 7th grader, a 5th grader, and a 2nd grader.  All three children have attended CISD schools since they began kindergarten.  We have been a CISD resident for 15 years, having moved here because of the reputation of the school district.  Having younger children will allow me to bring that unique perspective to the school board.  And, if elected, while serving my first term, I will have children in every level (elementary, middle and high).

I have been a committed volunteer in CISD since my oldest began school.   My volunteer  commitment has increased every year.  This year I am serving as the PTO President for Valley Ranch Elementary (my third term), as both  the Assistant Treasurer and the Directory Co-Chair at Coppell Middle School East PTO.  This year I have also served on four district level committees – the Calendar Committee, the District Education Improvement Committee, the Student Health Advisory Committee and the Facilities & Enrollment Committee.

I have made an effort to become more educated about CISD.  I’ve regularly attended board meetings in person for more than one year.  I’ve attended both sessions of iLead (a leadership training) held by the district in the past two years.

My background includes a Master Degree in Professional Accounting and a Bachelor Degree in Marketing.

And last, but certainly not least, I am excited about serving our students!  Being on the board is something I have been thinking about for quite a while, and when the filing period opened,  I was the first one to file for this place.

I hope you agree that my perspective with younger kids, commitment to Coppell education and tireless volunteer background make me the right candidate for the Board of Trustees Place 6.

To see more information about me, please visit

Judy Barbo- Place 6 Candidate-

Judy and her husband Don moved to Coppell in 1992 choosing this location because of the exemplary school system and attractiveness of the small town community feel.  They have 2 children Lauren, a senior at CHS and Jordan, a freshman at CHS.  Both children have been fortunate enough to attend Coppell schools kindergarten through high school.

Judy holds a Bachelor in Business Administration in Accounting degree from Texas Tech University.  She is a CPA currently working part-time on individual clients. Judy and her family attend Valley Ranch Baptist Church

 Judy’s Community/CISD Involvement


PTSO President Coppell High School

Coppell Education Foundation, Board of Directors (year 3)

CHS Site Based Committee (year 2)

Past Involvement:

CHS PTSO Vice President

CHS PTSO Datebook Chair

PTO President Coppell Middle School (CMS) EAST (2 years)

PTO Vice President Coppell Middle School (CMS) EAST (1 year)

PTO Treasurer Coppell Middle School (CMS) EAST (2 years)

Principal Selection Committee for CMS East 2007

Teacher of the Year Selection Committees for Austin, CMSE and CHS

PTO President Austin Elementary (2 years)

PTO Treasurer Austin Elementary (2 years)

PTO Membership Austin Elementary (3 years)

PTO Special Events Co-Coordinator (1 year)

Expenditure Committee – Austin, CMSE and CHS

New Tech Exploration Committee

Strategic Planning Committee 2009

iLead CISD leadership conference

CMSE Bronco Club Treasurer (3 years)

Community Involvement:

Past Sunday school teacher (5 years)

Vacation Bible School preschool director (5 years)

Pastor Search Committee (2 terms)

Chairman, Personnel Committee, First Baptist Church (2 years)

Las Colinas CC Women’s Tennis Association Board Member (2 years)

Tracy Fisher- Place 7 Candidate-

I have continued to serve on the CGA board for six years. I have attended numerous professional and parent conferences and have presented for three years.  I view gifted education as a form of R&D for all students and am committed to insuring all students learn at school everyday.

I have regularly attended school board meetings for more than six years, served on 30 district committees, and PTO boards since 1997.  I have also been very involved in the community through Leadership Coppell, Citizens Police Academy, and serving on my homeowners association in various rolls including president.  Currently I am a board member of the Coppell Womens’ Club, serve in Assistance League where I often work with the elderly, including my father who has Alzheimer’s.

I am a lifelong learner, I regularly communicate on gifted and educational issues with people all over the world through Twitter and other social media outlets, blogs, etc. I care deeply about education and am excited about the possibilities for our students and educators.  I would serve the children in our district with intensity and compassion.  I would be honored by your support on May 12!

Please visit for a closer look at her unique qualifications.


CGA does not support any candidate and offers these responses as a service to its members to help you make an informed decision on Election Day.  Regardless of who you support, please get out there and have your voice heard on May 12th.

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