5 Questions: Deer Park School Board Candidates

As the primary elections draw near, the spotlight falls on the school board director positions, which play an indispensable role in shaping the educational landscape of our communities. Nine candidates are campaigning for three positions. 

As the Deer Park School Board elections approach, the Deer Park Gazette aims to provide an equal platform for all candidates; their answers will shed light on their stances and visions for the district. In an effort to ensure voters have access to comprehensive information, the Gazette has asked five questions of each candidate. The questions explored in this article are designed to encompass a broad range of topics relevant to the role of school board directors.

The School Board Director election in the At Large position during the primary holds significant importance as only two out of the five candidates will advance to the general elections, making it a crucial stage where voters have the opportunity to shape the future direction of the district by selecting the candidates they believe are most qualified and aligned with their educational values.

Questions were sent to all nine candidates; however, only six responded. Thank you to all the candidates who responded to our questions. 

For School Board Director District #1 – Incumbent Craig Phillips 

  • Craig Phillips 
  • Gina Langbehn


For School Board Director District #4 – Incumbent Carri Breckner

  • Carri Breckner (did not respond)
  • Gerry Ashby (did not respond)


For School Board Director At Large #5 – Incumbent Eric Keller

  • Meegan Ware (did not respond)
  • Eric Keller
  • Shauneen Flugel
  • Richard Price
  • Samantha Jordan


The following sections will cover standardized testing, long-term district goals, technological integration, special education services, and personal growth. Candidates can provide insight into their priorities and plans for our educational institutions. Voters can assess the candidates’ suitability and make informed choices. School board directors are responsible for making pivotal decisions that impact the quality of education provided to our children.

For fair treatment for all candidates, words that extended beyond the allowed word count were removed. Responses edited for length are marked with …* at the end. We aim to enable readers to grasp the unfiltered essence of each candidate’s viewpoint. 

1. What is your stance on standardized testing, and how do you propose to balance its importance with other forms of assessment?

Craig Phillips (District #1) – Standardized testing is a familiar accountability tool in public education that has helped both educators, students, parents, and the public evaluate the quality of learning in our schools. These tests reduce subjectivism and inform teachers, administrators, and school board members to make better objective decisions about curriculum and teaching methods. While standardized testing is useful in this regard, we have to recognize the process is often stressful for students and faculty and struggles to evaluate total growth. It is important we recognize these tests are not definitive representations of the quality of students, teachers, or the administration but just one…* 

Gina Langbehn (District #1) – I think that standardized testing is a double edge sword. First off, it does help the teachers know where that student is in that grade level and helps pinpoint where that student needs improvement in. On the other hand, it has been such a standard that sometime the teachers only “teach” for the test. I think that some students might have test anxiety and may know more than what is on the test. We should use the test as just one tool in the toolbox, but also make sure other assessments, such as assignments and in class participation be used.

Eric Keller (At Large #5) – I believe that tests are necessary as they ensure we have a baseline to judge our children’s knowledge and understanding. Because these tests are required by law and all kids take the same test, they are a help to our educators in seeing how our students are progressing in relation to others in the state. The tests provide feedback for where our children most need help. The School Board does not set the tests, but rather reviews the scores to make sure our schools are performing well and that we are providing the best possible education for our kids.

Shauneen Flugel (At Large #5) – As a parent I see the positives and negatives. Having a child on the Autism Spectrum I am aware of the struggles that students like him face. Standardized testing fails to show their brilliant minds and is discouraging. I struggle with the pressure that the state puts on the students and staff. However, I do recognize the necessity of testing for curriculum development and monitoring student progress. On the positive side, I-READY testing has been a great tool as a parent to see growth and identify areas that need improvement. My knowledge is limited on alternatives, but I hope to…* 

Richard Price (At Large #5) – Standardized testing gives a good indication of the educational level of the student and the quality of education provided by the school. It should continue. Of course, this assumes the testing continues to focus on the education basics that most of us were taught in school. Reduced or diminished testing just lowers the educational “bar”, resulting in school becoming a social club instead of a learning institution. Today schools have to deal with many issues that have nothing to do with education. Schools should not be a replacement for the family or parental authority.

Samantha Jordan (At Large #5) – Standardized testing is important to show where a child is academically. Standardized testing promotes comparing students to their peers in order to track and place them appropriately, providing the tools needed for them to succeed moving forward. Standardized tests ideally work together with other forms of assessment. Every student will test, learn, and succeed differently. The standardized test should be used as a starting point to find and implement what works best for the student to achieve the educational goal that is learning.

2. What is your long-term vision for the district, and how do you plan to work towards achieving it?

Craig Phillips (District #1) – One of our biggest goals recently was to search for and appoint a new superintendent for the Deer Park School District who has our shared values and goals. I believe we have found the right person in Alexa Alman. My goal is to work together with my fellow board members and Alexa to set policy that will provide our teachers, students, and staff with a safe and optimal learning environment. I want to help preserve what makes our community great while also equipping our students for what they need to succeed in today’s world and into the future. We are…* 

Gina Langbehn (District #1) – This town is growing like crazy, and I think we need to focus on enlarging/ improving the schools. We need to make sure that the district schools can handle the new incoming student body and make sure that they have a safe place to learn. I also think we need to make sure that the teaching staff taken care of so that they will be happy to stay for the long term and help us grow.

Eric Keller (At Large #5) – My vision for the district is to continue to provide the best education and the most opportunities for Deer Park students that we can. In my 16 years on the board, we have provided new facilities and many opportunities for our kids; while keeping our small town values in the forefront. We are growing rapidly and our board has been working to make sure that we are prepared for the future with hiring our new Superintendent and working to make sure we have the plans for the right facilities and staff going forward.

Shauneen Flugel (At Large #5) – Having spent time in the elementary schools volunteering, I have seen the struggle with space. I would love to see a new elementary school built to help with the massive growth our schools face. I have seen the creative ideas staff have used to combat this issue such as closets remodeled into offices, skillful scheduling, hallways, and nooks becoming reading group spaces, and gyms and classrooms used as cafeterias. I am currently working on the bond advocacy team to help encourage and inform the Deer Park Community about this great need and its expense to taxpayers.

Richard Price (At Large #5) – My long-term goal is to help educate our children in the time-tested basics, including math, English, spelling, writing, history, civics, technology and science. Students should be taught integrity and honesty in all situations. Schools should be a place of safety, respect, and a high standard of learning. Since 2007, approximately 90% of the funding for our schools goes from us, the taxpayers, to the State and then back to the School Districts. This makes it easy for the State to dictate policies to the School Districts, which has drastically reduced local control. I think there are new policies the School…*

Samantha Jordan (At Large #5) – My long-term vision for the district is to continue keeping the children’s best interests in mind. They need to be provided with the tools necessary to succeed both academically, socially and in the real world. I will support policies that give our children the best, well rounded, diverse education possible while keeping the districts fiscal budgets in mind. We will need infrastructure upgrading, Using the resources we already have to enhance district facilities to keep up with community growth will be a top priority.

3. AI is quickly developing; how would you integrate the technology when appropriate and prevent abuse?

Craig Phillips (District #1) – As it goes will all new technology, there are both pros and cons to AI. ChatGPT for example can be a useful tool in academia for helping improve the accuracy and expediency of communications. However, it can also be used to implement bias, stunt creativity/originality, and provide a way for students to cheat on papers or assignments. It is important as a school board that we are aware of AI capabilities as we work together with our superintendent to help create awareness of potential abuses. These will be topics further discussed at upcoming WSSDA conferences and trainings, which we…* 

Gina Langbehn (District #1) – AI is something that is here to stay. It can be very helpful but it can also be very abused. I think that IT dept will need to set up some barriers/software on the chromebooks to make sure that it is not being taken advantage of in the classroom and on assignments from the students. And also make sure that the students have the proper software and training, I think that will help the students from abusing it.

Eric Keller (At Large #5) – In my time on the board, we have worked to bring the newest technology to our students while putting measures in place to protect them at the same time. I work to continue the advancement of technology in our schools and give the best education to all our students. We live in a digital world and must keep pace with technology so we can prepare our students for the future. I believe that our kids can go anywhere and do anything, and in order to make that happen we must keep pace with our integration of new technology.

Shauneen Flugel (At Large #5) – Nothing can be a substitute for Teacher interactions with students. One way that AI may be implemented in the future is by helping teachers with grading, tutoring, and creating a more personalized education for students. That being said I also think if students are allowed to use AI to write or finish assignments this will stunt the student’s growth, critical thinking, and creativity. The goal would be to use AI to help advance education without hindering the student’s learning progress and problem-solving skills.

Richard Price (At Large #5) – Artificial intelligence will probably be another life-changing technology that will be used for both good and bad. It is probably too early to know how this will affect the schools.

Samantha Jordan (At Large #5) – Al technology that is presented to use in the district would need to be both beneficial for staff and students. The balance of easy to use, productivity, and traditional education would need to be evaluated and assessed. Students and staff need the opportunity to use, learn, teach, and implement the latest technologies, in a way that still holds traditional well rounded diverse education in mind.

4. What steps will you take to improve the accessibility and quality of special education services?

Craig Phillips (District #1) – My oldest daughter has already benefited from DPSD’s existing special education services and both my wife and I have been well pleased. Therefore, I was thrilled to see state legislators improve the special education budget over the next two years by 9% ($365 million). Working together with my fellow board members and Superintendent, we will seek to ensure those increased funds are dispersed and utilized effectively.

Gina Langbehn (District #1) – The Special education dept need to be treated just like any other dept in the district. They need to have the proper resources to make sure that the children are getting the education that they can. An example would be the new Unified Sports program, they need to be able to be able to use funds to get them the proper sports equipment to make that program flourish.

Eric Keller (At Large #5) – I have worked for many years to make sure that ALL of our students get the best care and education possible. We have worked to provide educators with new facilities that give all students what they need to succeed. Our Staff and schools are awesome and work with the families of our special education students to provide them the best services and education possible. Every student is unique and as a district we work with them to ensure their success. I have actively worked with legislation to provide more funding for this underfunded program.

Shauneen Flugel (At Large #5) – As with most programs having enough trained staffing to cover the need is important. I understand that this is difficult to achieve with budgeting and staffing shortages. One simple step would be to help ensure staff has appropriate prep and lunch breaks to be able to regroup and prep for the rest of the day. I think it is important to help support the staff as much as possible so in turn, they can do the best for the kids. Something I appreciate in the elementary schools is having the special education students in the same classrooms as the student…*

Richard Price (At Large #5) – All students need an education in the basics, including special needs students. The School District should continue this program, as it has been doing for many years.

Samantha Jordan (At Large #5) – I will support policies and procedures that will advance our special education services. Having access to the latest policies, procedures and programs is prudent, all children deserve a well-rounded education and an opportunity to grow and excel socially and academically. 

5. What is a deeply held belief you now believe was wrong, and how has that changed your perspective?

Craig Phillips (District #1) – When I was a young man, I believed all governing officials and “experts” had the best interests of US citizens in mind when presenting information or setting policy. Having been exposed to the egregious levels of misinformation and corruption at federal and state levels over the years, especially through COVID-19, I no longer have a blind trust of our governing authorities or “experts”. This change of perspective has led me to question everything and gather as much information from as many different sources as possible before drawing any conclusions. This is why I am passionate about (re)establishing a culture…*

Gina Langbehn (District #1) – There are some standard morals that one should live by but everyone has the right to believe or not believe in things. Not all of us are the same, we all came from different backgrounds and beliefs but that is what makes our country great. No I don’t stand by all the beliefs that I grew up with but that doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

Eric Keller (At Large #5) – I used to believe that most kids learn in similar ways. Having my own children go through school and being on the School Board for many years, I now understand that learning needs to be tailored to the student. It’s our job to provide for all styles of learning and programs. Be it Band, Math is Cool, Robotics, sports, clubs or just a protected and nurturing place for kids to learn this is what Deer Park Schools are all about. I am proud to have been a part of this for 16 years and want to serve for many more.

Shauneen Flugel (At Large #5) – What comes to mind with this question is how at times, we may find ourselves forming judgments about individuals based on someone else’s negative interaction. However, I have had times where my initial expectation was proven wrong, and the person turned out to be the opposite of what I anticipated. This insight has taught me the importance of keeping an open mind in all my interactions with others and always looking for their positive qualities. This mindset has helped me work efficiently with many different people and situations to get the job done.

Richard Price (At Large #5) – I used to believe that almost everyone wanted to protect and nurture the children in our society. However, it is now obvious there are many people who want to use our children to achieve some dark, evil purposes. I would like to help the School District provide a great education and, at the same time, do my best to protect the children from sinister social and moral plans coming through State-mandated requirements. I am a Bible-believing Christian and patriot who loves this country. I ask for your vote in the primary election on August 1st. Thank you.

Samantha Jordan (At Large #5) – I once believed that to be successful as an adult you need to have furthered your education beyond high school. I have since changed that belief. You do not need to have a college degree to live a successful fulfilling life. I am successful without a college degree. Life can be successful with a strong high school education and belief in ones-self. This has changed my perspective of strong education because I believe for an education to be strong it needs to prepare all students for life after school regardless of what path they choose or is right for them.

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