Listen to interviews with Eanes ISD School Board candidates and our new Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Arnett. Check back for new episodes!
Eanes Parents Unite Podcast
Let’s talk about what’s great in Eanes and how we can come together to keep it that way
We’re starting a productive conversation about the state of Eanes Independent School District. Our hope as parents and leaders is to find common ground by discussing the history of EISD, the merits of leadership decisions happening right now, and the change in the district’s stated mission that could hold sway over its future. This conversation is vital because, like all parents, we want our children to grow as individuals, learn in a culture of excellence, and remain safe while doing it. EISD has delivered on these promises in the past, and now we must work hard to preserve them for our kids. No matter your stance on the issues, please join the conversation and believe in Eanes!
EANES PARENTS UNITE PODCASTS
in order of release, with descriptions
Episode 1: A Brief History of EISD (Part 1) - From Robert Eanes to the Skinny Chicken and the Mexican Hat Dance
The parents of our great community are divided across many issues. Part of this division exists because we have stopped talking to each other about what we have in common – our kids. The goal of this podcast is to unite our parents and get us talking again so we can refocus on the bigger goals. To understand where we are – and get on the same page – understanding where we came from is informative. This episode starts with an interesting and factual explanation of EISD as recorded by historians and retold by alumni from the earliest graduating classes of Westlake High School. Learn where some of our earliest traditions started, how we got the “skinny chicken” mascot, and why Westlake Hills broke away from Austin ISD in the 1950s. For long-time residents and especially for transplants, this history lesson will fill in a lot of gaps and get us talking about what we all have in common … our history.
Episode 2: A Brief History of EISD (Part 2) - Traditions Begin to Unravel as Heritage is Forgotten
We’ve learned that there is so much to celebrate about the history of Eanes; its spirit of independence, the beyond tight-knit community of the schools, and how the district has always been the best steward of its 50-year heritage. This week we’ll touch on some of these points of pride, but we’ll also start to delve into the culture of division that has taken root in the modern era of Eanes. We’ll be joined again by our previous guests, all Westlake High School Alumni, to try and understand why Eanes seems to be losing its trademark community and kindness: from long-held traditions canceled for questionable reasons, to topics of education that can’t seem to find broad support by parents.
Episode 3: Fact vs. Fiction: Harmful Myths that are Dividing Eanes Parents
Now that we’ve discussed the history and legacy of Eanes, let’s step fully into the present day. There is no doubt we’re proud of our schools, teachers, and students, but certain unfounded or embellished rumors have circulated for more than 30 years about Eanes that paint a misleading (and sometimes flat-out dishonest) portrait of our special community. Repeated enough over the years, these rumors become myths that result in needless division among parents. If we don’t work to dispel these myths, we’ll never be able to come together as a district to solve the true issues that matter the most. So let’s get down to it and talk about the 4 myths we believe are eroding the spirit and unity of EISD.
Episode 4: EISD Mission Statement of Mediocrity
The longstanding mission statement for Eanes was focused on one word above all else … EXCELLENCE! The results have spoken for themselves – a high achieving school district that consistently produces sharp academic minds, world-class athletes, and bold innovators. Why then, we ask on today’s episode, has the school board decided to water down the mission statement from a striving message of excellence to an updated message of mediocrity and ambiguity? We explore how these lower standards can be measured – if at all. This episode is about analyzing what a mission statement is supposed to do and asking how this new direction might affect the coursework, rigor, and trajectory of our kids’ futures.
Eanes Parents Unite has been a very successful and engaging podcast in its first season – everyone is talking about it! As we approach the midpoint in our open and honest discussions, a preview for our listeners of what’s to come in March and April.
Getting Involved Part 1: Influencing Parental Rights and Better Two-Way Communication
Getting involved as a parent and Influencing the educational and development outcomes of your child is the focus of this three part series which will cover hot topic issues including parental rights, Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) training and how school library books may be inappropriately exposing elementary and middle school children to sexually explicit materials.
Getting Involved Part 2: Keeping Our Libraries Safe from Sexually Charged Material
In this second episode, meet Jackie Besinger, the local chapter president of Moms For Liberty. Recently, Jackie’s chapter released an eye-popping list of more than 333 books that they individually researched one-by-one that contain sexually explicit adult-level content which can be found in nearly every EISD library. Parents are pushing for these books to be purged from all elementary and middle school libraries and left to the option of parents to read with their children when they feel their child has reached the proper level of sexual maturity and sophistication – not when the district believes it the right time. Jackie is a sophisticated and well-studied parent on these issues with a masters degree in business administration.
Candid Coffee Conversation with EISD Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Arnett
We sit down with our newest superintendent to get to know him better personally and understand the challenges that lay ahead for our schools, teachers and students. Leaving no subject off limits, Dr. Arnett opens up and candidly discusses with Aaron Silva some of the hottest topics on many parents’ minds including: Past mistakes (and learnings); Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) training / CRT; inappropriate school library books; parental rights; the budget deficit and future financial issues; staff retention and attrition; leadership development and the vision he has to bring us all together again for the benefit of our children. If you have never met Dr. Arnett and heard him speak publicly on these matters this episode is a must listen.
How Parents Can Get Involved in EISD (Part 3/3): Providing our Children with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Education
One of the hottest topics affecting many school districts across the country is a sweeping trend of implementing DEI into the staff development and training rigor for teachers that, in turn, incorporate these concepts into teaching materials and program development. While many parents support the social and moral values that DEI represents, other parents believe such program content is an infringement on their parental rights and that such discussions should be reserved to them. Joining us in this episode is the co-founder and leader of the Eanes for Equity parental group here in Westlake, Darshana Kalikstein. Darshana joins Aaron Silva for a candid and thoughtful discussion on why E4E parents support these initiatives.
Episode 10 - Ellen Balthazar Candidate Interview EISD Board of Trustees
Hear now from Mrs. Ellen Balthazar an incumbent member of the EISD Board of Trustees defending her place #7 against Jay Lamy and David Barrutia. Mrs. Balthazar has served EISD for 21 years and seeks re-election to continue many of the policies that were previously implemented under her watch that she believes will stem teacher attrition, improve the budget situation and bring clarity to issues facing voters such as DEI policies and Library Books. This candid interview with Mrs. Balthazar is a great education for parents on the inner workings of the EISD board leadership. Note: Each candidate interviewed has full editorial control over the content of each episode and final approval before publishing.
Episode 11 - David Barrutia Candidate Interview EISD Board of Trustees
Meet David Barrutia as he is challenging incumbent Ellen Balthazar and challenger Jay Lamy for EISD Board of Trustee place #7. Mr. Barrutia is a current substitute teacher at EISD and a leader on the Envision Eanes sub-committee. David has a strong international and domestic background in education. A native of Texas, he wants to bring the community back together by adding a common sense and consensus building style to the EISD Board of Directors if elected by voters. This interview is very detailed and gets into all of the main issues facing voters including budget, EISD, library books and communication between administration and parents. Note: Each candidate interviewed has full editorial control over the content of each episode and final approval before publishing.
Episode 12 - Jim Withers Candidate Interview EISD Board of Trustees
Listen to challenger Jim Withers discuss why he believes that his experience, expertise and creativity will unite the community over what we have in common rather than dwelling on our differences. Mr. Withers challenges incumbent Heather Sheffield for place #6. Jim believes he is a better choice in this election because he will remain hyper-focused on EISD issues for our kids rather dividing his time with the educational matters facing rural schools that don’t impact EISD as his opponent currently does over the last few years. Note: Mrs. Sheffield has declined to provide an open interview for the Eanes Parents Unite podcast. Each candidate interviewed has full editorial control over the content of each episode and final approval before publishing.
Episode 13 - Jay Lamy Candidate Interview EISD Board of Trustees
Meet Jay Lamy a challenger to incumbent Ellen Balthazar for place #7 on the EISD Board of Trustees. Mr. Lamy is a native Texan and has grown up in Westlake. His children attend EISD and he is a successful local businessman who believes he can bring a positive energy and level of fiscal responsibility and creativity to the board that it needs to solve the teacher attrition problem and over-dependence on charitable fundraising. His campaign slogan “Come together right now!” communicates his passion for re-uniting the community after a few tough years and getting back to focusing on our kids’ education and keeping EISD excellent. Note: Each candidate interviewed has full editorial control over the content of each episode and final approval before publishing.
Now Hear from the Students of Eanes - Mark Sayegh
For nearly the entirety of this podcast season we have been focusing on what EISD administrators, leaders and parents believe is best for their kiddos – what WE THINK, THEY NEED. Now, hear a perspective from one of the brightest and most accomplished students in our entire school district – the Senior Class President of Westlake High School, Mr. Mark Sayegh. Mr. Sayegh has an incredible sense of what the student body of WLHS wants and needs and you’ll be surprised to hear how little students and their collective opinions are actually included in the initiatives and programs contemplated by EISD leadership and implemented at WLHS. Mark weighs in on all of our seaon topics including the Mission Statement, Communication, Library Books, DEI, racism, student leadership and traditions of Eanes.
Open Mic Night
Join the Eanes Parents Unite Podcast as we take the show on the road. Setting up outside of EISD Headquarters in advance of a Board of Trustees meeting, Aaron Silva has impromptu sit downs with various parents who wish to share what is on their mind about Eanes, its teachers, students and leadership.