Six candidates are vying for three contested seats on the Elysian Fields ISD Board of Trustees.

Candidates running in this election are: Incumbent Stevie Mathews and challenger Sean Swank for Place 1; incumbent Tena Tiller and challenger Bradley Lewis for Place 2; and incumbent Brad Ellis and Matt Parker for Place 3.

Place 4 trustee Ashley Caudle drew no opponent and will serve another term.

Early voting runs through Oct. 30, and Election Day is Nov. 3.

The Elysian Fields ISD school district is split between Panola and Harrison Counties, so voters who want to vote early will need to know which county they live in.

Early voting for Panola County residents takes place at the Panola County courthouse, in the first floor room immediately to the left of the doors as you walk through the Wellington Street entrance. Dates and hours of early voting at the courthouse are:

  • Oct. 17: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Oct. 18: noon to 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 19: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 20-23: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Oct. 24: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Oct. 25: noon to 4 p.m.
  • Oct. 26: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 27-30: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you need to vote at the courthouse by curbside, call (903) 693-0370 and the Panola County Elections Office says it will be happy to help you do this.

Early voting for Harrison County voters is taking place at the seven early voting polling sites: Waskom sub-courthouse, 165 W. Texas Ave.; Harleton Community Center, 4335 Community St.; Hallsville’s Gold Hall Community Center, 101 E. Elm St.; ESD No. 9 in Elysian Fields, 130 FM 451; Woodland Hills Baptist Church, 2105 E. Loop 281 in Longview; Karnack’s T.J. Taylor Community Center, 15642 FM 134; and the Harrison County Main Elections Office in Marshall.

Early voting will take place at all of the early voting sites from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 13-Oct. 16, Oct. 19-Oct. 22 and Oct. 26-Oct. 29. Extended early voting hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, which are both on a Friday. Weekend voting at the Elections Office will be Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Election Day voting takes place at voters’ individual polling places.

Below are interviews with the Elysian Fields candidates running in contest races. Stevie Mathews and Bradley Lewis did not respond to multiple interview requests.

Sean Swank

Sean Swank works at ArkLaTex Mechanical Service and says he’s running to bring new ideas and growth to the school. He has two students currently enrolled within the district and is himself an alumni.

“I feel that it is important to have elected board members that have children that are currently enrolled and will be there to support all of the students, staff and administration,” he said.

Swank has been active in the Elysian Fields community for the last 12 years, serving as a past board member of the Elysian Fields Youth Association as well as a volunteer coach for Little Stingers football and Little Dribblers basketball.

“During my time as a volunteer coach and board member, I developed long lasting relationships with many of the kids and their parents,” Swank said. “These relationships along with having my two sons in the district are what drives me to want the best for all of the kids in Elysian Fields ISD.”

If elected, Swank said he wanted to focus on making sure the school district’s budget will allow the district to “continue to grow and excel so that we can remain competitive on all fronts in academics, athletics and teacher salaries.”

“I want to ensure that our students and staff have the best and most effective technology and educational resources available,” he said. “I want to ensure that we are utilizing the resources that we have to the best of our ability. I want Elysian Fields ISD to be the best it can possibly be.”

Tena Tiller

Tena Tiller was elected to the Elysian Fields ISD school board in 2016. She has lived in Elysian Fields for 31 years, and her family has a “very, very long history” within the district — as she notes her husband and other family members have taught there and her children and grandchildren are graduates of the district.

She’s running to continue the district’s excellence, noting both she and her husband love to go to every event and program the schools have.

“We like to see the kids in our community have every opportunity they can to have the best education that they can and have the best opportunities for success in life after they graduate,” she said.

Both Tiller and her husband are retired, although they also still raise cattle on their farm. Before her retirement, she worked as a registered nurse and was director of infection prevention and control at what is now Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport. Tiller is also a licensed pastor within the United Methodist Church and serves a church at Crossroads.

When Tiller looks back at her time on the board, she says she is proud the Team of 8 has come together to work for the betterment of the district.

“We have really made a commitment over the past four years to be a very highly-functional board, and to do that you have to learn to cooperate and get along with each other very well,” she said. “Our board has accomplished that. Our board is a very cooperative board. We don’t always see things exactly the same, but we learn to compromise and come up with a solution that’s best for everyone in our district and especially best for our kids.”

Tiller included several items when talking about the accomplishments of the board in the past few years, including facilities improvements, fiscal responsibility, increased technology and teacher raises.

“I want to see that our budget is administered appropriately so that all of those programs that our kids need and want and that our community wants to provide to our students that we’re able to provide as many of those as we possibly can to satisfy the needs and wishes of our community,” she said.

Brad Ellis

Current trustee Brad Ellis says he’s running for re-election because he believes in the purpose, focus and sense of unity shared by current trustees.

“We work very well together and have no hidden agendas, just a love for the students of our district,” he said.

If elected, Ellis says he and the board will continue to prioritize staff and facilities.

“Budget limitations for an unincorporated community like ours are a serious issue year after year, and we have and will continue to maintain and upgrade facilities as far as that budget allows,” he said. “Should I win re-election, one of my priorities will be to establish a civics curriculum that upholds and reinforces our traditional American values, culture and history.”

Ellis says there have been many great accomplishments while he’s served on the school board, including hiring and keeping the best teachers by approving pay raises. He also said the district’s UIL participation has grown significantly, and the district has been able to hire and retain superb administrators “who are aligned with our vision and execute it flawlessly.

“Our test scores and student performance equal or exceed comparable districts around us,” Ellis said. “We have achieved all of this while also reducing our tax burden and maintaining the financial solvency of our district.”

Matt Parker

Matt Parker decided to run for the school board because he wants what’s best for the district’s students, teachers and administration.

“I want to be a part of the continued success of the Elysian Fields school district,” he said. “The students at Elysian Fields Schools are second to none and I want to serve them and help provide them with all the tools necessary to be successful. I feel like my education and work experience can be an asset to the district as a school board member.”

Parker, his wife and three children moved into the Elysian Fields district in 2011, and his teacher taught at the high school between 2014 and 2019. He works with SWEPCO as a supervisor in the Distribution Dispatch Center and has been with that company for 18 years.

“During my time at SWEPCO, I have been a part of many training opportunities and worked on numerous teams that has given me tools that I can use to be a successful school board member,” he said. “Some of those teams and training include leadership, diversity, community outreach and financial responsibility.”

He has an associate’s degree in computer information systems and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

If elected, Parker said his priority would be the students, teachers/faculty, and administrators.

“I want positive things for the school and the community,” he said. “If elected, my job is to serve the school district and the above-mentioned positions. I am committed to making Elysian Fields outstanding in all areas. Elysian Fields Schools already excels in many areas, I would like to help improve and nurture more positive changes.”

Reporter

Carthage native Meredith Shamburger has worked for the Panola Watchman since 2018. Before that, she worked at sister papers in Longview and Marshall; the Dallas Morning News; and The Daily Voice, a hyperlocal news company in Westchester County, New York.