For residents in the Northwest ISD, growth is as much of a certainty as death and taxes.

It’s especially true in the upcoming school district election.

Seven candidates vying for three seats on the school board agree managing the boom of the fastest growing district in North Texas is the most pressing priority. 

However, voters also will decide whether they want to see the influence of partisanship on the traditionally nonpartisan board.

Northwest Family First, a political action committee aiming to elect conservatives to the school board, endorsed three candidates: Jennifer Stephens, Michelle Slater and Jon Pendergrass. Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare, who founded a similar PAC in neighboring Carroll ISD, also endorsed the trio.

Northwest ISD, which covers 234 square miles in far north Fort Worth and 13 other cities and communities, including in Denton and Wise counties, has a student population of 29,150. That figure is expected to grow by 8,400 students in the next five years.

Voters also will decide the fate of a nearly $2 billion bond proposal that calls for the construction of new schools, building upgrades and stadium improvements. 

It will be the third bond election in Northwest ISD in three years. A nearly $1 billion bond was rejected by voters in 2020. But after cuts were made to reduce the scope of the bond projects to $745.7 million in 2021, voters approved three of four of the proposals totaling $737.7 million.

Early voting ends May 2. Election Day is May 6.

Place 5

Incumbent Steve Sprowls and candidates Amanda Smith and Jennifer Stephens are seeking the Place 5 seat.

If reelected, planning for future growth is the top priority for Sprowls, who has been on the school board since 2017.

“If you just drive around the district, no matter where you go, you see dirt being moved, which means houses are being built and… companies are moving in,” Sprowls said. “So we are a well sought after area that we just got to keep up with.”

Sprowls, an U.S. Air Force Combat Veteran and a pilot for Southwest Airlines, voted to put the district’s bond on the ballot. 

The bond is a no-brainer for Sprowls. New schools need to be built so existing campuses are not overcapacity, Sprowls said. With new schools and more students, Sprowls said funding new facilities is a necessity.

Smith, who works for a Southlake eye surgeon, is a mother and a self-proclaimed animal lover. 

Smith supports the bond proposal because of the obvious needs of the growing district, she said. She’ll vote yes on all three props, she said, noting that the district must build new schools, and expand current ones, to hold the new students.

Prop B calls for the construction of home stadiums at three high schools, while Prop C would fund new devices for students and teachers.

“We have three high schools and many more middle schools that use that facility (Northwest ISD Stadium). We need to be able to fit everyone who attends,” Smith said. “(Prop C) speaks for itself. Having available technology such as tablets and laptops for students and teachers is needed in today’s society.” 

Stephens, an educational diagnostician for Denton ISD, opposes the bond proposal. The school board put the cart before the horse and its priorities are wrong, she said.

“If we prioritize new buildings or gyms or programs or admin salaries before we prioritize classroom supplies or resources for students, we are failing them,” said Stephens, who describes herself as a conservative Republican. “While I support the need for new schools, I believe it’s  important to ensure complete transparency of where the money is going and how it will be spent before asking taxpayers for money, which this board has not done.”

Bonds must be used for specific purposes, such as building new schools, renovations and buying new buses, and cannot be used on recurring expenses, like salaries.

If elected, Stephens said she plans to focus on current students in Northwest ISD before worrying about future students.

Place 6

Place 6 trustee Lillian Rauch, who has been in her position since 2014, is running for reelection. Pendergrass is her only opponent.

Rauch, a former Northwest ISD educator of 13 years, supports all three propositions on the bond. 

The school board must be transparent and held accountable if voters approve the nearly $2 billion bond, she said.

“We have an excellent, excellent record of paying our bonds off early,” Rauch said. “Most of them are 25-year bonds. We pay most of them off in less than 15 years. We are very, very aware of fiscal responsibility, and we have an excellent record for doing that.”

Rauch discussed the district’s long-term planning committee, which is made up of community members. She said that the committee determines what the district needs, and its recommendations is the only thing bond money can be used for.

Rauch emphasized that communication with parents and taxpayers will be key in efficiently spending the proposed nearly $2 billion.

Now is the time for a change on the school board, Pendergrass said. 

Pendergrass’ main priorities are championing education, not politics in the classroom and honoring parents’ authority to be in charge of their children’s schooling.

Pendergrass supports Prop A and C in the bond, but doesn’t believe Prop B – the building of stadiums – is a priority. He added that expanding career and technical education will be crucial.

“This requires making education the central focus, providing premier facilities and excellent programs including the expansion of CTE programs, and attracting the best educators in the nation to our district,” Pendergrass said. “What it does not require is a political agenda that will hinder intellectual growth.”

Pendergrass, a former account manager for a supply chain company, is comfortable managing a budget, he said. If elected, he will listen to parents and community members to hold himself accountable.

Place 7

Place 7 trustee Jennifer Murphy is running for re-election, but she faces a challenger in Slater. 

Murphy supports the bond because the expected jump in enrollment is a “big, big, big priority.”

“Our reputation is really good and we want it to stay that way,” Murphy said. “This bond is going to help us provide the seats for all the kids, but it also helps us provide the space and the facilities.”

Murphy, who has been on the board since 2021, and has been involved in Northwest ISD for 13 years. She has extensive relationships with teachers, faculty members, parents, and even students. 

Murphy said it is important to provide new families with the same levels of service, education, and community that Northwest ISD provided her family. The bond is needed to do that and to keep student-to-teacher ratios low, she said Northwest ISD’s current ratio is about 15-to-1 — roughly on par with statewide figures. 

The school board needs fresh ideas and new leadership, Slater said. 

She doesn’t want families, and taxpayers, to carry the burden of Northwest ISD’s record growth. Being prudent in determining what gets funded, and by how much, will be essential, Slater said. 

If finances aren’t handled responsibly, Slater expects that the whole community may be negatively impacted. 

A conservative Republican, Slater wants transparency and responsible growth. Taxpayers have a right to know where their tax dollars are going, she said.

Slater did not disclose how she’d vote on the bond but does support some of its aspects. 

“Although I support the necessity of constructing new schools, I firmly believe in the importance of ensuring complete transparency regarding the allocation of funds and its intended usage before soliciting financial support from taxpayers,” Slater said. “Regrettably, the current board has failed to uphold this level of transparency.”

Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Noncommercial entities may republish our articles for free by following our guidelines. For commercial licensing, please email

Matthew Sgroi

Matthew Sgroi

Matthew Sgroi is the 2022-23 Fort Worth Report multimedia fellow. He can be reached at or (503)-828-4063. Sgroi is a current senior at Texas Christian University, majoring...