Roxanne Martinez and Cade Lovelace expected a runoff as they sought the District 9 seat on the Fort Worth ISD school board. 

What was unexpected was how close Martinez came to winning outright on May 1. With 49.2% of the vote, she came out on top of Lovelace and a third candidate, Michael Shedd. Only 26 votes separated Martinez from victory.

Martinez and Lovelace — who came in a distant second, with almost 27.8% of the vote —  are in the final leg of their campaigns to be the newest Fort Worth ISD school board member. The winner will take over for Ashley Paz, who did not run for a third term, in representing portions of northwest and central Fort Worth as the District 9 trustee.

Martinez, a marketing consultant who owns her own business, Roxstar Marketing, credited her first-place finish to her people-focused campaign.

“I think that they trust me that I know the issues because my community knows I’ve been in the schools,” Martinez said. “I’ve been in the community for years. Over a decade, I’ve built that trust, I built the relationships.”

Lovelace, a lawyer, is not worried about the 706-vote gap between him and his opponent. He said he is confident he can pull off a win June 5. In the first round of voting, 3,292 ballots were cast.

“We’re putting out our message. Our message is that, for me personally, I want the best for my two girls and all kids in Fort Worth,” Lovelace said. “I want the best schools and the brightest futures, and so we’re going to talk about that … until voting starts, and we’ll talk about it until Election Day. We’re going to be aggressive and go out and convince every person to vote for us.”

Martinez led where it mattered — votes. But going into the May 1 election, she lagged behind her two opponents in fundraising, according to campaign finance reports. She raised $14,308. Lovelace and Shedd each had more than double that in their coffers.

“I raised a fraction of what both of my opponents did,” Martinez said. “I’m working on a shoestring budget. … To me, 49% speaks volumes in that I continue doing the things that I’m focused on, which is community, community building, bridging communities together, educating communities and telling folks what I stand for and what I’m about.”

Recovering learning time

Lovelace and Martinez support Fort Worth ISD’s plan to use summer school to help get students up to speed on their learning after the pandemic set them behind. 

Roxanne Martinez

Age: 40

Occupation: Marketing consultant, owner of Roxstar Marketing

Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from the University of Florida

Family: Married and they have a son and daughter, both 9

Read Fort Worth will lead groups of community organizations to operate the program. Half of the day will be focused on literacy and math while the other half will have enrichment activities about science, technology and career skills, Superintendent Kent Scribner said Monday.

Martinez likes that the program targets the students who need summer school the most. Still, it has its shortcomings, she said.

“Is it going to be enough? Probably not. I know that this may actually take a couple of summer cycles,” she said, adding students will likely need more intensive instruction in the new school year to overcome their learning losses.

The summer school plan is a good start, Lovelace said. The extent of the pandemic’s effect on students will be uncovered over the next few years, he said. The results from this semester’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness will begin to provide a good look into how significant learning loss was, the lawyer said.

“I think as the fall comes around and we get those test results, we will see how each kid progressed or didn’t, and then we need to have plans for each of them in order to move forward,” Lovelace said.

Racial equity needed

Texas legislators have set their sights on limiting teachers on how they can use critical race theory in their lessons. Critical race theory is an academic concept that looks at how racism has shaped government and society in the United States.

Fort Worth ISD — a Latino-majority district — includes critical race theory as part of its equity efforts.

Martinez and Lovelace said the district must look at decisions through a racial equity lens.

Cade Lovelace

Age: 41

Occupation: Lawyer

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University and law degree from Texas Tech University

Family: Married to his wife, Jennifer, and they have two daughters, 5 and 10, who attend Fort Worth ISD schools.

“For Fort Worth ISD to be successful, we’re going to have to better educate those kids. There’s no doubt about it,” Lovelace said. “We have to concentrate on it with resources. We’re going to have to concentrate on it with intentionality and how we’re going to do that.”

Lawmakers’ focus on critical race theory distracts from Fort Worth ISD’s main objective, Martinez said.

“What we want to accomplish here is improve student outcomes, increase student achievement, but sometimes those issues (such as critical race theory) become such distractions,” she said. “Where do I stand on it? I know that it’s not the only solution.”

The school board has laid out three student outcome goals it wants to achieve by August 2024 — including having 47% of third graders read at or above their grade level.

Working with city of Fort Worth

Fort Worth ISD alone cannot solve all student problems, the candidates said. There are issues — such as affordable housing, food insecurity or even economic development — that trustees cannot tackle because they are outside of their statorily set responsibilities.

“A good district is going to help improve both the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. You can recruit better employers to Fort Worth ISD if you have a better school district,” Lovelace said. “The only that it is going to really move the ball forward is if everyone is on the same page as far as dedicating funds and dedicating resources to the school district.”

Although the school board cannot take on those challenges, it can work with the city of Fort Worth and other local governments to begin to solve them, Martinez said. 

The district already has an established partnership with the city through programs like Read Fort Worth, which aims to increase early literacy rates among students.

During a Tuesday debate hosted by the Fort Worth Report and KERA, both mayoral candidates, Deborah Peoples and Mattie Parker, expressed their strong support for public education and continuing to make it a priority for the city.

Martinez wants Fort Worth ISD’s partnership with the city to expand beyond literacy and begin to tackle workforce readiness.

“There’s going to be some great synergy there because I think both of them do have a big focus on education,” Martinez said.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter.

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Jacob Sanchez

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University.

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