McAlister eager to give back to hometown in run for school board

Published 5:47 pm Friday, September 30, 2022

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A born and raised Austin resident is making another run at the Austin Public Schools board.

Carol McAlister, who last ran for the remaining two years of Don Fox’s term in 2020, is one of five running for a seat this year.

Carol McAlister

McAlister, a 34-year employee of Mayo Clinic in a variety of roles, is currently a member of the hospital’s Research Billing Compliance team. However, she also has extensive knowledge with budgeting and grant writing.

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“I think that’s kind of one of those things that would be beneficial on a school board,” McAlister said.

However, McAlister’s biggest incentive for running is to simply be able to serve the district that she graduated from.

“I just care deeply about our youth in Austin,” she said. “Our students and providing quality education for all the students. I’m a parent, grandparent. I graduated from Austin High and I’m a lifelong resident in Austin. I’m really personally invested in seeing our future generations prosper.”

Austin Public Schools could face a variety of challenges in the coming years including updating district infrastructure and adapting to a predicted swell of enrollment that is already starting to be seen in the halls of Woodson Kindergarten.

These two challenges, though, could be affected by whether or not the school’s referendum is passed this November.

McAlister said that while asking for more money from the public is tough, she also has concerns of what might happen if it’s not passed.

“It’s just unfortunate with the current economy. It’s very difficult to ask the community to dig deeper in their pocket books to support the operating levy, but if the referendum doesn’t pass, very tough decisions will have to be made to trim the operating budget.”

The referendum is currently asking for an increase in per student spending by $470, which would raise the amount from a state low of $42.70 per student to $512.70. The revenue generated would amount to around $2.48 million.

The estimated annual impact on an average home of $170,000 would be $147.80.

“Austin is an awesome place,” McAlister said. “I feel investing in our children’s education means a successful and vibrant future for Austin.”

Other things McAlister said she would like to work on are bridging the achievement gap for all students, implementing strategies for staff shortages and employee retention and creating a priority approach to increasing mental health support.

“I would really like to have the school be able to reach out and get community support from our wonderful mental health providers we do have in the community,” she said. “Schools can’t diagnose, but they can certainly be in the forefront to be able to point the student or teacher too in the right direction. I know our mental health system as a whole is overtaxed. I think we need to, as a community and as a school district, get some out of the box solutions to try and get the students, the staff, the community the help they need.”

She’s also concerned about special education funding.

“Special education is significantly underfunded despite federal and state mandates to provide the services for the students,” she said. “If special education was fully funded, then significantly more money would be available for the operating budget.”

McAlister urges people to contact their legislators to support a pair of bills currently active that work to achieve some of those goals.

McAlister has also spent a great deal of time influencing the youth of Austin to make good decisions through the Austin Positive Action Coalition. It’s a group that McAlister is incredible proud of an passionate about.

“Our mission is to reduce alcohol, marijuana and vaping among the youth,” McAlister said. “Focusing on a positive community message. We go out and provide crucial prevention and education. It’s a wonderful coalition and I’m very, very proud of what we’ve done and the preventive measures we’ve taken.”