Search

Katy ISD Board of Trustee Candidates Answer Questions Ahead of Crowded Race

KATY MAGAZINE NEWS

March 3, 2022

By Natalie Cook Clark


Eight candidates have filed to run for two seats on the Katy ISD Board of Trustees. The election is May 7. Why are they running? What topics are they passionate about? Do they have a hidden talent?



General Election Set For May 7

The Katy ISD Board of Trustees are made up by seven seats, all elected to serve the Katy ISD community of students, staff, and community members who pay taxes to the District. Katy ISD has 90,000 students and is the fifth largest public-school district in Texas and the fastest growing.




Two positions are up for election on May 7. Katy Magazine reached out to all candidates with questions.


Position 1


Donald T. “Duke” Keller Jr.


Duke Keller

Q: Tell me about you and your ties to KISD. Have you taught in the District, do you have children/grandchildren in the District?


A: I moved to Katy in 1978. I graduated from Katy High School in 1982. I Moved back to Katy in 2007, and all three of my kids have attended Katy ISD schools throughout their academic years. My son is still in school in Katy ISD. I am a Katy ISD kid, and a Katy ISD parent.

Q: What inspired you to run?

A: In 2019 I saw the turmoil in the community regarding Katy ISD matters, and I decided it was time to focus my volunteer efforts on giving back to our great school district. Q: What are you top 2 BIGGEST issues you want to tackle first in office?

A: I would like to continue to work with our district administration to address many matters, but I have been focusing on literacy concerns and how to increase teacher pay. Q: Tell me something about you that most don’t now. A hidden talent, favorite hobby, etc.

A: I was the first busboy at the Katy Landry’s.


 

Victor Perez


Victor Perez

Q: Tell me about you and your ties to KISD. Have you taught in the District, do you have children/grandchildren in the District?


A: I recently retired from a career as a public company CFO in the energy industry and former commercial banker. Karen and I have been married for 47 years. We have three children, all of which are products of Katy ISD, from K-12. I have deep ties to KISD as our kids were raised here and they were also very active in athletics and extracurricular activities. Now we have eight grandchildren, of which four are in Katy. We are very involved in their lives and can relate to families in Katy ISD on a very personal level.


I have a long history of volunteerism and work with local non-profits and churches. We are members of St Faustina Catholic Church and were previously active in various roles at St Bartholomew Catholic Church. We are founding and current board members of the Houston Coalition for Life. I am also a former board member of the Pregnancy Help Center of West Houston, which is located in Katy. I am a member of the Knights of Columbus. I am an Eagle Scout.


Q: What inspired you to run?


A: Several factors inspired me to run. With four grandchildren in Katy ISD, I feel I have “skin in the game” when it comes to the education and future of our children. I knew Katy ISD back when we raised our children and know Katy ISD now. I want to make Katy ISD better. I have the time and the drive to devote to the Katy ISD Board. I have no other ambition, motive or agenda but to improve Katy ISD.


Q: What are you top 2 BIGGEST issues you want to tackle first in office?


A: First I will be laser focused on what will make a difference for our children within the “four walls” of the classroom. This includes a multi-pronged approach to attract and retain quality teachers. We must improve the morale of our teachers. They are overloaded and frustrated. Our teachers are key to quality education. This also includes ensuring we are supporting our teachers by providing robust funding for Special Education. Teachers want to teach but they are stretched thin and bogged down with student discipline problems and redundant reporting and paperwork. We need to free up our teachers and campus leaders to do their jobs. I will always be asking how a certain expenditure, bottom line, is going to actually improve education in the classroom. I will look for opportunities to move funding to those on the front-line and reduce class sizes. I have already engaged with teachers and parents on how to improve Katy ISD, and I intend to continue to do that.


I also want to protect our children. Parents have the preeminent role to teach their children about morals and values, not the schools. We must recognize that they are our students, but they are the parents’ children first. I want to remove any political ideologies and social agendas from the classroom and get back to emphasizing academics and focus on the basics our children need to succeed. Graphic, vulgar materials have no place in our schools. I want to protect the impressionable, young minds of our children.


Q: Tell me something about you that most don’t now. A hidden talent, favorite hobby, etc.


A: I fled communist Cuba with my parents and brother when I was seven years old. I am fluent in Spanish. I was involved in athletics in high school and went to Virginia Tech on a football scholarship. Athletics and extracurricular activities has always been an important part of my education and those of my children. I am Eagle Scout.

 

Cecily Taylor



Cecily Taylor

Q: Tell me about you and your ties to KISD. Have you taught in the District, do you have children/grandchildren in the District?


A: I have lived in Katy for 16+ years. The excellent reputation of KATY ISD is what brought and kept my family here. Both of my children grew up in Katy ISD schools starting from elementary through High School. The high-quality education they received pushed them to excel academically. The great extracurricular programming helped pave the path for them to be college scholar-athletes. My children had Katy ISD teachers, counselors, and coaches who supported and cared about them. I want this experience to be the same for all students. An excellent education profoundly impacted my life choices as a professional, civic-minded person and parent. I want to work for the children and families of Katy so they can say the same. I want to make a difference!

Q: What inspired you to run?

A: I was raised to live a life of service. Since moving to Katy, I have been a Katy Key's Mentor, PTA member, A member of the National Charity League Star Chapter, and a Big Sister through Big Brother Big Sister (I have been with my amazing little brother/mentee for eight years!!). As a lifelong educator (classroom teacher and now administrator), I always knew I wanted to leverage my professional expertise to support the community I live in. The COVID pandemic has been brutal on our teachers, students, and families. I firmly believe my perspective as a Katy ISD parent and educator is needed on our Board now more than ever.

Q: What are your top 2 BIGGEST issues you want to tackle first in office?

A: Teacher engagement, recruitment, and retention are top of mind. We are still living in the year of the "great resignation," and the education field has taken an enormous hit. We need to look at innovative ways via compensation, development, and programming to recruit new teachers, keep our current teachers, and engage our teachers, so they feel cared for and supported.

Fiscal responsibility is a significant concern as well. School attendance is the primary funder of schools, and ADA has hit historically low numbers across the nation. The state has not told schools to make them whole financially, so just about every school district is running in a deficit. Additionally, inflation is outpacing typical cost-of-living increases. I want to know what steps our board is taking to keep the district secure while ensuring we can make it financially possible to keep our teachers and maintain quality programming for student excellence.

Q: Tell me something about you that most don’t know. A hidden talent, favorite hobby, etc.


A: I love spending time with my family, reading, and watching football. Additionally, I love to sing (badly), and when a great beat drops, I can't stop moving my feet.

 

Elizabeth “Eliz” Markowitz


Eliz Markowitz

Q: Tell me about you and your ties to KISD. Have you taught in the District, do you have children/grandchildren in the District?


A: I have lived in Katy off and on for over 20 years since I first attended Nottingham Country Elementary in 1994, eventually graduating from Taylor High School in 2002. After graduating from Trinity University and the University of Texas-San Antonio with my B.S. and M.S., respectively, I returned to Katy in 2009, following the passing of my mother, and began teaching students in Katy ISD through work at The Princeton Review. I have been teaching for nearly two decades, both helping students conquer the evils of standardized testing and in The College of Education at the University of Houston-Main Campus, where I received my doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction – Learning, Design, and Technology. While I do not have any children of my own in the district, I have been an active member of the community, and understand the concerns that students, parents, teachers, and staff have regarding the direction of the district. Q: What inspired you to run?


A: I believe that the best way that I can affect positive change in today's society is by using my educational and professional background to help shape the future of Texas education. Should I be elected to the board, I would have a voice on instruction, finance, and school initiatives within the district. Currently, the BOT is comprised of individuals who appear to support initiatives that narrow the curriculum, reduce access to a wide breadth and depth of materials, and are unwilling to implement evidence-based programs that would improve student outcomes. I would like to add a perspective, which counters those voices, that advocates for robust curriculum reform, improvement in the way we attract, train, and retain our educators, and creates an equitable learning environment for all students.

Q: What are you top 2 BIGGEST issues you want to tackle first in office?


A: I believe that the top two issues facing our district are those of transparency and accountability. Without both transparency and accountability, the district is unable to effectively tackle issues related to student learning loss experienced during COVID, the lack of evidence-based literacy programs used in the district, or teacher recruitment and retention. As we’ve seen, Katy ISD cannot seem to stay out of the national news—and such media attention has rarely been positive. We need a member of the BOT who is unwilling to sacrifice ethics and integrity, provide the public with concrete reasons for decisions, and be accountable to the public for their actions. Accordingly, I intend to serve with integrity and honesty in order to build trust and work with the community to solve the district’s most pressing education, staffing, and safety issues. Q: Tell me something about you that most don’t know. A hidden talent, favorite hobby, etc.


A: I can play multiple musical instruments, including saxophone, piano, guitar, trumpet, flute, and ukulele.


 

Position 2


Lance Redmon

Lance Redmon

Q: Tell me about you and your ties to KISD. Have you taught in the District, do you have children/grandchildren in the District?


A: I’m a life-long resident of Katy ISD. My road through Katy ISD started at Cimarron Elementary then West Memorial and Katy Junior High and finally, I graduated from Katy High School. After college, I married my date to the Senior Prom, Bradi, and she soon began teaching in Katy ISD. She taught for the district in several different roles during our 18 years of marriage. I currently have 3 children in Katy ISD, one in elementary and two in junior high.


I believe I’m relatable to families in this district because I have or my family has been in every role in the district. I’ve been a student, my wife has been a teacher, my mom has been a bus driver, other family members have coached, served on PTO/PTA boards, served in Booster clubs, etc. Katy ISD provided me and my family with many opportunities and has influenced me to become the man I am today. I’ve still got just under a decade to go before our kids are all out of the school system.

Q: What inspired you to run?


A: Service has always been modeled for me by my parents. They were always involved in our church, school organizations and later in life, and non-profit organizations. As I graduated from college and was serving in a ministry position at my church, I continued to see that our school district had a direct impact on so many people’s lives. You don’t have to drive very far in our district to see a real estate developer who is excited to advertise that their homes are zoned to a Katy ISD school. I hope that as a product of Katy ISD, I can continue to give back to the community that was a huge blessing to me. A key conversation that I had when deciding whether to run or not three years ago was with my dad. I can picture exactly where I was when he said to me “I just think that if you are going to do it, it should be about what you are for- not what you are against.” I’m for Katy ISD providing the best possible education opportunity to all of our children.

Q: What are you top 2 BIGGEST issues you want to tackle first in office?

I believe that this next term has the possibility to achieve some really big wish list items for our district and the state. I’ve noticed that many people in the district do not realize how much the state of Texas determines how things are done at the district level. They are not familiar with school finance or the requirements for testing placed upon the district. During my first term, House Bill 3 made some big changes in school finance. Those changes continue to be refined during each legislative session, but funding is not keeping up with inflation. Katy ISD does a great job managing finances. Because of the economies of scale, we can provide much more than districts of a smaller size. If elected to a 2nd term, I plan on focusing on influencing an improvement in school financing and addressing issues with testing and accountability at the state level.


A more immediate issue will be finding, hiring, and keeping the best teachers possible. It’s no secret…education is a hard job. Teachers are leaving the profession faster than they are coming in. More is expected of them, and they have less time to do it. Every opportunity that I have had to increase teacher salaries, I have voted for it. However, to make substantial moves forward with teacher salaries, an increase in funds from the state is needed. Another way is to continue increasing our teacher compensation is supporting our district’s participation in the Texas Teacher Incentive Allotment program, which provides additional funds to those teachers who excel at their craft. The incentive program potentially provides between $3,000 and $32,000 a year in addition to their district salary for each certified teacher!

Q: Tell me something about you that most don’t now. A hidden talent, favorite hobby, etc.


A: When I was 10 years old, I saved up all of my allowance and went to Space Camp in Alabama! I was a little disappointed that we didn’t accidentally get launched into space, but it was an awesome experience. My college roommates made fun of me incessantly calling me “space camp,” but I know the real reason they teased me was because they were jealous that they didn’t get to go!

 

Patricia Haggard


Patricia Haggard

Q: Tell me about you and your ties to KISD. Have you taught in the District, do you have children/grandchildren in the District?


A: I am a mom to 8 beautiful boys and girls. Some are in college, some are in preschool/homeschooled, and some are in Jr. High and High School. We have had children in KISD schools since 2014, the first year Randolph Elementary opened. I was involved in the PTA, volunteering in classrooms and work rooms and libraries. and my husband has been a proud and fantastic Watch Dog for years. I think, currently, I am able to relate to families with kids in the district because we all share a common concern regardless of political beliefs, and that is, the shared instinct to protect our children.


Q: What inspired you to run?


A: My number one inspiration to run for KISD Board of Trustees is my children. I have older children in Jr High and High School in the district and have been generally very pleased with KISD as a whole. The teachers and staff have been wonderful. However, it is my two littlest ones that are my inspiration. My daughter spent her kindergarten year homeschooling, as all the kids did, because of Covid. When the district reopened for in-person learning, I felt it was generally safe for my oldest kids to return as they had been fully vaccinated and were so willing to wear their masks. My youngest daughters were still unable to receive the vaccine and, yes, I was fearful to send them because I felt the district was abandoning them and putting politics and the agenda of a few over the safety of the entire student and staff population. So, my daughter is currently completing first grade at home. Her little sister has gone back to the small preschool she was in pre-covid because I felt completely comfortable and reassured by the staff that they were putting my 4 year old's safety before anything else. Meanwhile, my first grader wants to go to school so badly she cries at times. We as parents have all done our best and what we truly believe is the right thing for our kids and families. I felt it was the best thing for her if she homeschooled another year. It has broken my heart to hear her get so upset with longing to go. For all intents and purposes, it has not been fair. The kids have all had to suffer learning difficulties and delays, emotional upheaval, and so much more stress than any child should feel because of the chaotic and reckless decisions made by the current board upon reopening. I am inspired to make sure our children and teachers are better taken care of, better accommodated, and that a real response plan is developed and implemented in the event of an emergency including active shooters, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks.


Q: What are you top 2 BIGGEST issues you want to tackle first in office?


A: That's an incredibly tough question to answer considering everything the district has been going through in the last 2 years alone. While Covid, masks, and vaccine mandates were front and center for so long, and are still extremely important to me, they aren't as pressing as they once were. What very much concerns me right now is a board of 8 trustees making the huge, consequential decision for 90,000 kids about a handful of books and materials. Our kids' rights to make choices about reading material that they feel drawn to because they are experiencing the emotions, feelings, concerns, fears, even joys, that are the subject matter of the resources being taken away from them. While there absolutely are a few materials that elementary school kids should not be exposed to, it is vital for tweens and teens to be able to access so much of it. Our kids deserve to learn the truth about history, slavery, and of struggling to figure out their identities whether it's straight, gay, neither, or both. Kids need a safe place to go for information and conversation that doesn't judge them for who they are. Again, tough question with so many issues under many broad umbrellas. All that being said, I think honesty and truth in education is up there. On a different note, we absolutely must have better transparency, financial accountability, decision making accountability, honesty, integrity and respect on the board. Taxpayers should not be funding lawsuits brought against the district by BoT candidates! Taxpayers should not be funding internal investigations of unsubstantiated allegations against other trustees. The Texas Education Agency has the authority to launch and pay for such things so the tens of thousands of dollars can be redirected to fund resources and programs leading to better student outcomes, or go towards teacher and para pay increases, or almost anything else. The infighting, plotting, suing, book banning, wasteful spending, and the denial of critical information to so many kids, is unfair, unequal, and utterly unacceptable.


Q: Tell me something about you that most don’t know. A hidden talent, favorite hobby, etc.


A: Most people wouldn't be surprised that I love working in the garden, raising butterflies, sewing, watching my kids play, achieve, and succeed. No one, except my husband, knows that I love roller skating old school style in the white quads to some 80's music! No one knows this because I never do it thanks to a fall that was embarrassing, painful and quite hilarious. I am very proud to know every line of the Wizard of Oz by heart and to have nailed the role of audience character "Janice" from Friends in a local dinner theater murder mystery rendition of the TV show!


 

According to the Katy ISD Board of Trustees website, Saki Krishnamurthy is running for Position 1 and Bonnie Anderson is running for Position 2. Katy Magazine didn’t get responses back from these candidates to share.


Current State law requires that candidates are qualified voters in the Katy ISD area.


The General Election for these positions is May 7, 2022.


MORE KATY MAGAZINE


Follow Katy Magazine on Facebook for more current news.


#CentralGreenPark