Chapa is a graduate of Sam Houston High School
January is School Board Recognition Month and fittingly the theme is Navigating To Success. The Arlington ISD Board of Trustees had to navigate through some uncharted waters in 2020. We wanted to get their thoughts on the year and what they’ve learned in helping lead a district of nearly 60,000 students and more than 8,000 employees through a pandemic.
Name: Justin Chapa
Board member since: September of 2017
〉Ties to Arlington ISD:
My family has deep ties to Arlington ISD. I grew up on Arlington’s eastside and attended Crow and Atherton elementaries, Hutcheson Junior High and Sam Houston High School. My wife attended Starrett and Atherton, Workman Junior High and Sam Houston. My parents, aunt and uncles also are Sam Houston alums. My kids attend school in Arlington ISD and three family members teach in the district.
〉What’s been the toughest part about being a board member during a pandemic?
Many things have made this a tough experience, but to pick just one, the pandemic has made it difficult to stay connected to the community. I enjoy attending events throughout the district to see firsthand the great work being done by our staff and students, such as theater performances, science nights, athletic events and campus carnivals. Also, after my first election in 2018, I made it a goal to do drop-in visits at each of the 70+ campuses in the district by May 2021, but COVID unfortunately put a stop to that about halfway through.
〉What have you learned about yourself in the last year?
That my commute was not the reason I ran late to work and meetings.
〉What’s helped you get through the last year?
As tough as things are, it would be immeasurably worse without my wife, Anna. After an initial slowdown, I was fortunate that my day job became (and stayed) very busy, and we have had some intense periods of work on the Board because of the pandemic, including several meetings that ran into the early morning hours. Add to that three kids, virtual learning, and pandemic life generally, and things have been hectic in our house. Anna has kept things moving on all fronts and been a strong support and sounding board for me through it all.
〉The theme for the month is Navigating to Success. What do you think has made the Arlington ISD a success?
One of the district’s strengths is that it has not let the pandemic be an excuse to delay important and long-term transformative projects. To name just a few: In 2020, the district completed the 2014 Bond program (on time and under budget), started numerous 2019 Bond construction and renovation projects and committed to a comprehensive equity review. The district expanded the number of campuses receiving free breakfast and lunch through the Community Eligibility Provision. It also made good on a commitment to maintain competitive compensation by providing teachers and staff with a historic raise and then took strong action to sustain that commitment by calling a Voter-Approval Tax Rate Election (VATRE) for last November, which passed.
〉How have you seen Arlington ISD students rise to the challenges presented to them over the last year?
Our students have demonstrated flexibility, perseverance and understanding in the face of one of the most tumultuous years in American history. They adjusted to and rolled with COVID protocols and interruptions, including missing out on formative experiences and milestone events. They also showed empathy and maturity during a time of political challenges. One of the most poignant memories I have from 2020 is attending graduation ceremonies at AT&T Stadium and listening to (and seeing) students passionately and respectfully respond to events like the death of George Floyd. A lot of adults could learn from their example.