Q&A with Trustee Justin Chapa
Today, we’re wrapping up the month by catching up with Arlington ISD product and parent Justin Chapa. Chapa has been a board member since 2017.
The theme for the month is “locally elected, community connected.” How important is community support to you?
Community support is critical, and it’s a big part of the job to get and keep it. We serve a very diverse district of almost 60,000 students and over 8,500 employees. They come from all walks of life and sometimes have different viewpoints. Trustees are elected for at-large positions, meaning that we serve the entire community—not just a single area or high school cluster.
Each of us represent about 400,000 constituents. So, to truly represent the community, we must be connected to all parts of the district, from west Arlington to east Arlington, and even west Grand Prairie, where there are several Arlington ISD schools. For me, one of the most rewarding parts of serving on the board is balancing those interests and finding ways to make sure every part of the community has a voice in district governance and policy-making.
Does the job ever get old or is it always different?
The job never gets old, but after serving for a few years, you notice that there are rhythms to it. There are events and concerns that crop up around the same time each school year, and you get better at anticipating and addressing them. But I never get tired of seeing how the opportunities we provide as a community make a difference in kids’ lives.
As an Arlington ISD product, how much joy do you take in seeing what’s happening with new facilities like Thornton, Berry and the new junior high coming?
It’s hard to describe. Maybe elated? I grew up in the middle of the neighborhood where this work is happening. My Mom and her brothers went to Roark and the original Ferguson (the site of the new junior high). My Dad and his brothers went to Carter, and then they all met at Sam Houston. I lived two blocks from the new junior high until fourth grade.
I swam at Helen Wessler Park and played in the creek that runs through the property. So, I know how much these new schools mean to the community. They’ve been on the “east Arlington wish list” for a long time. So, joy really is a good word to describe how I feel about seeing these projects finally come to fruition and getting to play a small role in it.
How different was 2023 for the board given the changes with the superintendent?
It was very different. It’s a challenge for a district this size to go without a permanent leader for almost a year, and that was made even harder given Dr. Cavazos’ long tenure with the district. He really is an irreplaceable institution. Plus, two new trustees joined the board. But I’m proud of the way that they hit the ground running and how the board and staff made sure that things kept moving and that our priority remained serving students.
What if any impact do you see coming from the legislative sessions in 2023?
I hope only a minimal impact. It’s an even-numbered year, so the legislature doesn’t meet in regular session. There’s always the chance that the governor calls for a special session, but there were several of those in 2023. I’m not hearing that there’s a real appetite to have another one, especially after the way the school voucher proposals went down in December.
The greatest thing about public schools is…….
We welcome and serve everyone.