Five candidates seeking Katy ISD trustee position 1

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 4/6/22

Duke Keller, an attorney, is seeking his second term on the Katy Independent School District Board of Trustees, position 1.

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Five candidates seeking Katy ISD trustee position 1

Posted

Duke Keller, an attorney, is seeking his second term on the Katy Independent School District Board of Trustees, position 1.

He has drawn four challengers. All are seeking their first term on the board. Saki Krishamurthy is an engineer and executive. Eliz Markowitz is an educator. Victor Perez is retired. Cicely Taylor is an educator.

April 7 is the last day to register to vote in the election. To check voter registration, or to register, visit the website https://bit.ly/3vf2bEL.

April 25 is the first day to vote early in person. May 3 is the last day to vote early in person.

May 7 is election day.

Why do you want this job?

Keller: I sought to serve on the Katy ISD Board of Trustees to give back to the school district that I am a product of and the community where I spent my formative years. My children have attended or do attend Katy ISD schools. I believe my successes, and our students’ successes, are the result of the academic excellence of Katy ISD and the experiences gained as a member of the Katy community. I want to give back to my community and serve Katy ISD in its efforts to provide those experiences and a quality education to our students.

Krishnamurthy: A quote that has stuck with me is “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill. I believe it my turn to give back to the community and society that has always been kind and there for me and my family. As a mother, I am very grateful to Katy ISD that makes bringing up my son a lot easier because of the fantastic schools and ecosystems that it provides. By being part of the board, I can contribute towards the workings of Katy ISD and influence decisions for its continual improvement. I also hope that with years of technical and industry experience, I can bring a fresh perspective and lessons learned to implement any issues and projects that come under the board’s purview.

Markowitz: As an educator of nearly two decades and graduate of Katy ISD, I’m running for the Katy ISD Board of Trustees because I believe education is the foundation of our society, affecting all aspects of our lives and community, and I believe that we can do better than the status quo. We must work together to improve the educational outcomes of our students, provide teachers with greater support and resources, and ensure parents are active participants in the educational process. I want this job because I believe that I can work with the existing board members to create an inclusive culture that meets the needs of all who are impacted by the board’s decisions.

Perez: Karen, my wife of 47 years, and I have three children. They are all products of Katy ISD, from K-12. We now have four grandkids in Katy. We are very involved in their lives and can relate to families raising their children in Katy ISD. I recently retired and have the time to devote to the board. I am passionate about improving the education for all children at Katy ISD and protecting our young children. Parents have the preeminent role to teach their children about morals and values.

Taylor: As a mom, I understand the importance of an excellent, well-balanced education for our children. Great schools lead to college, career, and ultimately great citizens. As a lifelong educator, first as a teacher and now as an administrator, I have seen how policies focused on students, families, and teachers create an educational environment that allows all children to succeed. My children had amazingly supportive, firm, yet loving teachers and school staff during their time in Katy ISD schools. Their success as collegiate scholar-athletes is a testament to this. I want this experience for “all” Katy ISD students; the band kid, the bookworm, the theater enthusiast and every student in between. I want every student to experience the same excellent education my children received, regardless of the path they choose following high school graduation—college, career and beyond.

Briefly discuss your professional background, and how that will help you if elected.

Keller: I served in leadership positions during my service in the Army and National Guard, and worked and paid my way through college and law school. I have practiced real estate and business law for almost 24 years. I have served on the Katy ISD Board of Trustees for the last three years. The experiences, knowledge and leadership I have gained through those experiences provides me with the tools to be an insightful, knowledgeable and successful school board trustee.

Krishamurthy: My professional experience has given me the leadership skills, adaptability, people skills and the strength to take on challenges. Katy has a diverse group of people and because I have worked across five continents, I can communicate and interact very well with people. Also, leading and working with teams comes naturally for me as I have had the opportunity to manage many projects in the course of my career. Adapting to changing situations and dealing with issues has been a big part of the last 20+ years. My understanding is that my professional career has given me a comprehensive set of tools and techniques to manage various situations confidently.

Markowitz: I currently work as an instructor, corporate trainer, and author with the Princeton Review, where I’ve worked for the past 18 years helping students conquer the evils of standardized testing, and as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston, where I teach in the College of Education. I have previously worked for both the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on efforts to reduce adverse medical events.

I earned my bachelor's in Computer Science and Studio Art from Trinity University, two master’s degrees in Business and Healthcare from UT-San Antonio and UT Health Science Center at Houston, and my doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction-Learning, Design, and Technology from the University of Houston. I’m also currently pursuing my Master of Public Administration at the University of Houston to better understand the intricacies of policy implementation and public service agencies. I believe that I can offer a fresh perspective that incorporates  student, teacher, and management views to address issues that currently plague the district.

Perez: My career includes 12 years as a banker in the international and energy departments of a large bank. I also have 25 years’ experience as a CFO for publicly-listed oilfield service companies. I have extensive experience in financial analysis, budgets and the capital markets. I also have experience as a board member on several non-profit boards. I think my financial background would be an asset to the board and Katy ISD. I am fluent in Spanish.

Taylor: My entire career has been in the education field. I started as a classroom teacher with my first two years as a Teach for America Corps member. I taught for several more years and later spent about five years as a kindergarten teacher. After being a stay-at-home mom, I began working back in the education field as a project manager, and now I am serving as the Chief of Staff for a large public charter school system. I believe I will be able to leverage my 20+ years as an educator, both as a classroom teacher and administrator, to make sound policy decisions. I have extensive knowledge of curriculum, academic accountability, and school finance.

If elected, what would your top three priorities for the district be, and why?

Keller: If elected, I will continue to work and dedicate my time to address all matters that are within a trustee’s role or that can benefit the students, parents, teachers, and Katy ISD. In my three years on the school board, I have focused my efforts on increasing teacher compensation and the quality of our teachers’ experience, addressing literacy concerns, and continuing open communication and dialogue with our community. Katy ISD has taken measures during my service on the school board to address those matters and continues to do so. Those are the three matters which I want to remain a priority as I continue my service on the Katy ISD school board.

Krishamurthy: My top three priorities for the district will be:

Immediate Goal: Improve teacher motivation, pay and retention. As we are all aware, through the tough Pandemic times, our teachers stepped up and adapted to all the changes and challenges given to them. It is of utmost importance that we give them a listening ear and understand their current needs to avoid burn out and encourage continued loyalty.

Intermediate Goal: I would like to make Katy ISD a 100% Green Energy school district. This entails that all energy consumption is renewable. I am encouraged that Haskett Junior High is the first Katy school to be run completely on Solar Power. My hope is to set up a plan and timeline to convert all our existing school and any new schools in the same direction. Texas is already proud to be the largest producer of renewable energy, I want to see Katy ISD as the first to use 100% green energy and become a role model for other school districts around Texas and the country.

Stretch Goal: During the pandemic I saw a lot of frustration generated amongst students, teachers and parents by the various online tools, software’s, websites and devices that were used throughout the district for remote lessons. I could see it was challenging to come up with a unified solution at that time because we were right in the middle of the issue and needed immediate fixes. Going forward, I would like to evaluate which of these tools worked the best and if any other improvements can be made to the software and hardware to entail smooth transition from classroom to online education. We should be prepared for the time we might have to use online tools again; this is a good time to reflect and set forth a comprehensive and user-friendly system.

Markowitz: 1.) Increase teacher and staff morale by at least 50% within one year, as measured by anonymous surveys, through programming that provides high-quality professional development, access to support resources and materials to aid in curriculum development, and mental health support and resources at no cost to the teacher, staff, or faculty. 

2.) Improve literacy rates among elementary-age and students with dyslexia by 20% within one year through the adoption and implementation of programs that replace the current, flawed Units of Study and Balanced Literacy programs utilized by KISD with evidence-based Science of Reading programs that incorporate comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, phonics, and phonemic awareness into the literacy process.

3.) Reduce the incidence of bullying and violence by 10% within one year, as measured by anonymized reporting, by providing at least two methods for students, parents, teachers, staff, and faculty to discuss legitimate mental health or safety concerns with licensed professionals and receive timely, appropriate responses.

Perez: 1.) Emphasize academics. Let’s focus on basic education that will give our children the tools to compete. I want to enact solutions to help underperforming segments of our student population and underperforming schools.

2.) Support our teachers. Our front-line teachers and campus leaders are the key to delivering a quality education. Our teachers are underpaid and overworked. We need to also need to ensure we are providing strong support for Special Education. Campus leaders need to be focused on helping the teacher with discipline issues.

3.) An important function of the board is to be good stewards of district resources and finances. The emphasis needs to be on what will make a difference within the four walls of the classroom to make a difference for our children.

Taylor: My top three priorities include trust and support of our teachers—the war on teachers must stop. We must provide professional development that meets their needs, fair compensation, and a professional environment that demonstrates care and respect for these amazing professionals.

Next, we must have student-centered and research-based decision-making. If a policy is not suitable for students, why should we even consider it?

And third, we must have an appropriate platform for parental voice. Parents and schools can work together in very constructive ways when given the opportunity. Along with these priorities, financial stewardship and board transparency are also important. The board of trustees works for Katy's students, teachers, staff, parents, and community and should always be held to the highest level of accountability.

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