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Q&A: School Board Candidates Share Visions For District

Jae Ellis, Tyler Beeson share campaign motivations
Photo by Matteo Winandy
To signal their support for board of trustees candidates Tyler Beeson and Jae Ellis, residents install signs in their lawns. The two candidates are running against each other for Place Four on the board.

Candidates for the district Board of Trustees are preparing their campaigns ahead of the May election.

Tyler Beeson and the incumbent Jae Ellis are both running for Place Four on the board. The unopposed candidates are Bryce Benson, who is running for Place Three, and Ellen Lee, who is running for Place Five. 

The board consists of seven representatives who serve three-year terms. These board members serve as a voice for the community, shaping policy and standards for the entire school district. 

Reelections always occur in the spring, though which year these elections occur depends on when trustees’ three-year terms expire. Voters have approximately two weeks before the official election to vote early, as well as the official election day of May 7.

Beeson and Elli shared their views and mission for the future of the board.

Q: In general, how are you involved with the school district?

Beeson: I’ve had kids in the district for 12 years and have lived here since 2003. I have three high schoolers right now, and then all the way down to my youngest son, who’s just going into kindergarten in the fall. I’ve been a part of Dad’s club, volunteering at University Park Elementary School and the middle school. I’ve coached kids sports every year through the YMCA or other [places], as the kids are what I’m passionate about. I’m often called Coach Tyler, as that’s what many of the kids know me as. Both of my boys play on various sports teams for the school and we find ways to support programs like choir. But my business acumen and MBA in finance is what I honestly feel will be the most helpful, because it’s my skillful analysis, lifelong education and real life experiences that will be so beneficial to the board and to help make this district all it can be for every single student every year. 

Ellis: I’m currently on the school board. I’m one of the trustees and have been for two-and-a-half years. Previously, I was a member of the Education Foundation that privately raises money to help supplement teacher salaries and other costs for the school district. You may be familiar with Mad for Plaid, the annual fundraising campaign that the Education Foundation sponsors. I spent several years as a volunteer on the board of the Education Foundation, and prior to that, I spent several years on the board of directors of the Highland Park High School Alumni Association. For the last nine years, I have been the sideline reporter for the Highland Park varsity football games radio broadcast, and I’ve been involved in many other capacities including several years on the high school principal’s roundtable advisory committee. Those are the main and most recent ways. I think it’s also important to note that I was a school teacher at Highland Park High School. I was also a coach at Highland Park High School, and my wife was a teacher at Bradfield Elementary and McCulloch Intermediate School.

Past success does not guarantee future success unfortunately, and we’re living with a degree of complacency based on past successes right now.

— Tyler Beeson

Q: How and why do you think the board is important to the community?

Beeson: Our community, our property values and the HPISD schools are what ties everything together. It’s not just important, but rather vital that we get it right and keep it right. I would argue that the school board might be the most important position in our community to help oversee the educational ship, and keep it guided to excellence, which is no slight on our wonderful police force or fire department or city services. That’s not something any taxpayer or resident should take lightly. Past success does not guarantee future success unfortunately, and we’re living with a degree of complacency based on past successes right now.

Ellis: The school board operates a lot like a board of directors for a corporation. The seven elected members of the board set policy and they guide the district administration in making critical decisions and they also set the tone for civility and collaboration and unity in our community even in times when sometimes there’s dissension or division. I think it’s critical that we have seven trustees that are committed to working together that are above divisive tactics because ultimately, we all have the same goal and that is excellent education for every student.

Q: What inspired you to run for the board?

 Beeson: My children, and all the other children in the district. They need a voice, and that voice is me. I’m not into the political tug of war that has been going on, and don’t think the school board should be the place for divisive politics. Kids are our most prized treasure and they deserve the very best we can give them as a community. Instead of fighting and arguing as a community, we need to be in the business of providing the very best education humanly possible to every HPISD student, and right now I’ll just say that there’s room for us all to do better.

Ellis: As a former Highland Park ISD classroom teacher, I know that educational excellence depends heavily on the school district’s ability to attract, hire, train, support and retain excellent teachers. When I first ran for the school board in 2019, my primary inspiration was my passion for finding a way to pay our teachers better. I am proud that HPISD accomplished this goal in November 2021 when we raised average teacher pay by approximately 7%. One of the most important lessons I have learned during my almost three years of service on the school board is that we can never know what unexpected, demanding and urgent issues may arise next. I am inspired to run for reelection because our district needs thoughtful and open-minded leaders who have experience serving the school district in multiple capacities, who know how the school district operates, who respect and love our community and our traditions and who are willing to work with others to make the difficult decisions to ensure the delivery of excellent education for every student.

I am inspired to run for reelection because our district needs thoughtful and open-minded leaders who have experience serving the school district in multiple capacities.

— Jae Ellis

Q: Is there a particular issue that you hope to address on the board?

Beeson: I’m really trying to focus on a lot of academics. There’s academic issues that are really important to me, as well [as issues] related to kids with different learning differences and learning challenges. I’m actually really passionate about the curriculum issues, conceptual issues and some other learning differences and the things that the school does around that group of students. I think that the board and the administration perhaps have not had their eye on the ball on some things as good as they could have been the last several years. I think that first and foremost it starts with our curriculum, and there’s an issue there that’s pretty widely debated. There needs to be some changes in terms of the curriculum and also teacher support. We are struggling to pay and retain good teachers. I think teachers are the backbone of what we do, and I think that good teachers need to be retained and other teachers need to be attracted to the district, as a great place to work and teach.

Ellis: Number one, I hope that we will continue to provide excellent education for every student, and that includes our current examination of the literacy program at the elementary and middle schools. It also includes an examination of the texts and methods for assignments of texts in English classes at the middle school and high school. I also think it is critical that we retain and attract the best teachers in the state, and in order to do so, we need to do a great job of training teachers and compensating them well and demonstrating how much we appreciate the hard work and sometimes thankless job that they serve, because they wake up every morning and their number one goal is to provide great education for these students at Highland Park Independent School District.

Q: What are your best hopes for the school district?

Beeson: My aspirations for the school district is for Highland Park Independent School District to be the most admired school district in the state of Texas. I do think that we have been there before and I think that we can be there again, and I think that should serve every student well. Students who live in the district should get the best education that we can deliver.

Ellis: My best hopes for the district are that Highland Park will continue to be the No. 1 open enrollment public high school in the state of Texas, as evidenced by graduation rates, college admissions, SAT and ACT scores, National Merit recognition, AP tests—both the number of tests and the scores on the tests. I think those are the best indicators of how our system as a whole is doing, but I think it’s really important that we not rest on our laurels and we need to continue to examine at all levels, prekindergarten through 12th grade, ways that we can improve the education that we are delivering to our students. 


About the Contributor
Katherine Harrell
Katherine Harrell, Reporter
If she was stuck on a tropical island, what celebrity would she want to have stuck with her? She would want Sebastian Stan.  What is her favorite dessert? Her favorite dessert is brownies. What are her top three favorite bands/artists? Her favorites are Chase Atlantic, Kanye West and Doja Cat.