Meet The Candidates For The HPISD Board Election

School board will have three trustee places up for election on May 1

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Photo Courtesy of Doug Woodward and Kelli Macatee

Pictured are the two candidates for Place One election, Doug Woodward and Kelli Macatee. The HPISD School Board consists of seven members who serve a three-year term with three places up for election on Saturday, May 1. “The candidates need to stand for what the community needs, and we need a trustee who doesn’t have an agenda so they put the interest of the school first,” HPISD Mom Amy Ingrum said.

The Highland Park ISD Board of Trustees is electing three new members to the board, with a tight election between real estate mogul Kelli Macatee and Crossmark vice president of sales strategy and operations Doug Woodward on Saturday, May 1.

The two candidates are running for the Place 1 seat to replace school board president Jim Hitzelberger, who is not seeking reelection.

Board secretary Lee Michaels, who also isn’t seeking reelection, will be replaced by Maryjane Bonfield, the only person to file for the Place 2 seat. Also, attorney Bryce Benson, the only candidate to file for Place 3, will replace former trustee Kelly Walker, who left the board in December.

The board contains seven members, each of whom has been elected to serve a three-year term. School board members are entrusted with the responsibility of setting policy and promoting educational excellence for the district, and receive no compensation. While candidates run for specific places, they do not represent specific geographical areas.

We talked to Macatee and Woodward to find out more about their platforms. Check out our Q&A with each candidate before tomorrow’s election.

Q: Why are you running for trustee for the school board?

A: Macatee: “So my ‘why’ is pretty simple. I’m a servant, and that is where my heart always is, and the way I am going to give back is through activating local service and understanding how our local community and local leadership works. I’m a workhorse. I like to roll up my sleeves and get in the trenches and get to work.”

A: Woodward: “I am running simply for the desire to serve the community and volunteer like I have in so many other volunteer opportunities. I think it’s the pinnacle of wanting to give back to the school system and help my kids and all kids and hopefully the next generation’s kids someday.”

Q: Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board?

A: Macatee: “I’m a gifts and abilities person, so I love championing humans because every human has unique gifts and abilities that the world needs. I’m energized and excited about educating the next generation. So I would say that probably one of my top loves is curriculum, and I feel like our curriculum world has shifted from preparing our students for life. If we don’t stay on top of that and make sure that there isn’t this major disconnect between the education world and the real world, we’re doing the next generation a real disservice to where they could be brilliant all day long but not know how to function out in the real world. What I have learned is that what goes on in HPISD affects the entire state. So, what if we could go after every single Texas school child and start slowly making little shifts in our curriculum and in the education system to begin preparing them for life.”

A: Woodward: “One of the priorities I have mentioned is finances and is always the top priority for us with recapture and what Robinhood does to all of our finances. I’ve mentioned other priorities like mental health, facing mental health issues, resources and awareness and all of the different things. Mental health was a big issue before the coronavirus and has been difficult on students with disruption of schedule and social circles. Another top priority mentioned is special needs. With special programs families, there is a big disconnect for many families struggling to manage that complex system and get the resources they need. The last thing I have mentioned is diversity and inclusion to make sure that we are providing a safe, nurturing welcoming environment for all students to be, to do the rest of the schools.”

Q: How can the board be accessible to the community? To specific community groups?

A: Macatee: “Transparency is one of my big things. I’m interested in transparency and trying to bridge the gap between what goes on on the board and the community. One of the things that I feel is that there is a little bit of a disconnect there. What happens is that leaves room for a lot of misunderstanding. Communication is always challenging, especially as our district grows and you’ve got more and more people. If elected, one of the things that I would love to do is maybe write these small papers. If I vote no on a particular issue, I would like to write a short report that lets people know why I voted. But I liked the idea of letting people and letting the public know why I voted in the way that I did. So I’m a big advocate of context, we have to have context if you’re going to understand anything.”

A: Woodward: “I think one of the major responsibilities of the board is to be the eyes and ears for the parents and the families and as a connector between the administration. So, I do think board members should make themselves accessible and should be out meeting with the different parent advocacy groups and different families. I know they do that today, but I think it’s even more important that if people feel fractured or angry about something it’s really important for a lot of people to feel like they’re heard. So I think that’s the biggest thing to work to do is make themselves available and accessible for it.”

Q: In what school district or community activities/organizations have you been involved that have prepared you to serve as a board member?

A: Macatee: “I have served all over this city in various ways and have been on several boards. I’ve been heavily involved in the homeless ministry and the prison ministry which is significant to me. As far as in the district, I have a middle-schooler and I work full time, so my volunteer capacity has been somewhat limited in the past. When I have volunteered, I’ve wanted to be with the students, with the teachers and with the staff because that’s where I enjoy being on campus. I tend to fill in where help is needed. But like I said, my husband and I felt like my gifts and abilities now are needed in this capacity, so we chose as a family to adjust my volunteer work for this time to focus on the trustee role.”

A: Woodward: “I started in dad’s club back when my high schoolers were little, and I’ve been involved in a lot of work in the school committees and worked with lots of different parents on many various programs like drama and choir. I assisted with set build during my son’s first play in 2015 and then assumed the full lead for building stage sets for the next five years. In 2017, we built the biggest set that the middle school has seen for “Beauty and the Beast.” The reward was seeing how excited the kids were to have the set serve as a platform for their performances. I think my preparation to serve on the board was when we as a community redrew the boundaries of our elementary schools two years ago. I was highly involved with that, and that was a contentious and very dynamic process that taught me to listen and have tough skin. Additionally, it led me ultimately to figure out not to do what was best for me or do what was best for my elementary school that my kids went through, but to step out and do what was best for the community and the district as a whole, and that was a good lesson.”

Q: What attributes and behaviors are essential for school board members?

A: Macatee: “I feel strongly that my gifts and abilities to be a workhorse and problem-solving were needed at this time. I have been focused on my positive message for the district, and I’ll get screenshots or glimpses of some of the more negative things going on, but that’s not where I spend my time. I’m just positive and optimistic and excited about the future.”

A: Woodward: “My background and skills have prepared me well as I have held a number of executive positions in sales, finance and strategy throughout my career and currently serve as vice president, sales strategy & operations for a large consumer goods firm based in DFW. My responsibilities include assessing opportunity and strategic options, partnering with multiple stakeholders operating with differing priorities, building consensus and ensuring effective communication among all. I strongly believe these skills, along with my extensive knowledge of the district make me an ideal candidate to assume a role as HPISD Trustee.”

Q: What issues do you believe your district needs to address in its academic program and offerings? What changes would you recommend?

A: Macatee: “Curriculum is critical because today’s student is tomorrow’s workforce and culture leader. The minds of our students and academic rigor when it comes to reading, writing, grammar and STEM are of utmost importance. There are a lot of moving parts and entities involved in curricula like the State Board of Education, Texas Education Agency and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, so understanding all the players and working together is a vital piece of the role.”

A: Woodward: “We are building on a legacy of pretty impressive accomplishments for all the graduates that come out of here. I am continually impressed every year by each graduating class. So my objective is how do I enable that for the following classes? How do I help? How do I help make sure that the kids have what they need? Things are different now than when your parents and I graduated from our high school, and it’s a different world and different communities. So we, therefore, have to have the outlook that our schools are evolving with society, we can’t just be the same school we were 30 years ago. So I hope that we figure out a way to do that to make it work for every student, not just the general audience. It used to be one size fits all, and I think we’ve all grown and evolved beyond that. We need to figure out how to get more individualized programs and more individualized situations so that every kid can be successful and benefit from them.”

Q: What are your best hopes for the future of this school district? How would your aspirations help our students?

A: Macatee: “One of my top aspirations really is curriculum, and I feel like our curriculum world has kind of shifted from preparing our students for life. If we don’t stay on top of that and make sure that there isn’t this major disconnect between the education world and the real world, we’re doing the next generation a real disservice to where they could be brilliant all day long, but really not know how to function out in the real world. Luckily in a community like ours, we have unbelievable resources available to us. We got some hands-on parents and friends that are always so happy to help and come alongside us. So for our community, it’s not as big of a deal, but for other communities, it’s a huge deal.”

A: Woodward: “One aspiration is to address diversity, and I want more open communication channels where students can share their experiences. I was at the board working board meeting a couple of weeks ago when there were about 15 to 20 students of Asian American, Hindu, and African-American that stood up and talked about their experiences. They were very clear in their love for Highland park and everything they gave to it, but they also shared some problematic experiences for them to go through. There should be more training and formalized opportunities for all faculty and staff to be aware of it. We have to make sure that our teachers and our faculty, and staff have enough awareness and sensitivity training to deal with those situations and make them teaching modes for the kids. Going back to Robinhood, Robinhood is significant to our district. We should be working with Morgan Meyer. We should be looking for long-term opportunities to be lobbying, partner up with other groups like Austin Westlake and Plano groups with similar interests. I think we have to advocate for figuring out if we can relieve the pressure because while I think the concept of helping each other in Texas is good, I don’t know that it’s delivering your money to the right place that it goes. I will tell you that in a situation where we get back almost 70% of our money, it just seems overwhelming. But if we could, if we could even make a change in that 70%, when we give it would make a fantastic amount of difference, all that.”

HPISD Election Day vote centers include:

HPISD Administration Building Board Room, 7015 Westchester Drive, 75205
Armstrong Elementary School, Gym 2, 3600 Cornell, 75205
Bradfield Elementary School, Gym, 4300 Southern, 75205
Highland Park Middle School, South Gym Foyer, 3555 Granada, 75205
University Park Elementary School, Gym, 3505 Amherst, 75225