Meet the candidates: Position 5, Katy ISD Board of Trustees

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 4/11/23

Two candidates are seeking the position 5 seat on the Katy ISD Board of Trustees. They are Mary Ellen Cuzela, a Katy ISD substitute teacher, and Shana Peterson, who is retired.

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Meet the candidates: Position 5, Katy ISD Board of Trustees


Two candidates are seeking the position 5 seat on the Katy ISD Board of Trustees. They are Mary Ellen Cuzela, a Katy ISD substitute teacher, and Shana Peterson, who is retired.

The winner will succeed incumbent Greg Schulte, who is not seeking re-election.

The winner needs only a plurality of votes to win the seat. Early voting begins April 24 and runs through May 2. Election Day is May 6.

About you

1. Describe your professional background and how that will help you if elected.

Cuzela: I have classroom experience as an active substitute teacher in all different parts of Katy ISD (north and south of I-10, east, west and in between). I have actively participated in school board meetings advocating for parents, students and teachers. I am fluent in Spanish. I was a software consultant.

Peterson: I have 31 years of educational experience in Texas public schools. I have taught general and special education, worked as an educational diagnostician, and held leadership roles in the departments of dyslexia and special education. I participated in the development of the special education operating guidelines, created various training documents, and served on campus advisory boards.

2. Do you have children enrolled in Katy ISD schools? If you have children that are not enrolled in Katy ISD schools, where are they enrolled and why not Katy ISD?

Cuzela: Yes. We have two children enrolled in Katy ISD schools and one child who graduated from Katy ISD schools.

Peterson: We do not have school-aged children; however, we chose to raise our five children in Katy because of the high quality of education Katy ISD could provide. Our children all graduated from Katy ISD ready and prepared for the future.

About your positions

3. What would your top three priorities be if elected, and why?

Cuzela: I want to see a consistently applied discipline policy. With consistent discipline comes consistent teaching and learning. I want to attract and retain great teachers by improving their job satisfaction. I want to ensure a smooth rollout of the new phonics-based reading curriculum, to continue to address online learning/testing issues and review and enhance our math curriculum.

Peterson: Retaining and recruiting of teachers and school staff is a priority. These individuals have the most direct impact on our students.  My second priority is the physical and emotional well-being of our students. When students are emotionally healthy, they experience fewer disciplinary incidents, and can concentrate better on academics. Another priority is community engagement. Strong communities foster strong schools and student success.

4. Did you support the recent Katy ISD tax ratification election? Why or why not?

Cuzela: I’m in favor of allocating limited resources to teachers and frontline staff. It is critical to address the teacher shortage as a top priority.

Peterson: The school board indicated if the TRE passed the funds would be invested in salaries. Being aware of the issues regarding unfilled positions and retaining current employees I supported the TRE. I felt the teachers were deserving and worthy of this increase.

5. What measures would you support to improve teacher retention and recruitment?

Cuzela: Teachers rarely enter the teaching profession because of pay; ensuring their job satisfaction is critical. Addressing discipline issues, decreasing their administrative workload, and adhering to classroom size limits are ideas to help retain and attract great teachers. They should be paid at the top of the salary range compared to surrounding districts.

Peterson: I support retention bonuses, teacher incentive allotments, and competitive compensation packages. When recruiting, we need to start the hiring process early, attend job fairs to secure incoming graduates, and work to develop cohorts for education. I want to prioritize ways to reduce workloads and provide resources, so teachers can focus on what they do best: teach.

6. Do you support vouchers under consideration by the Legislature? If vouchers are adopted, how would you keep the district from losing that funding?

Cuzela: School board members cannot legislate for or against school vouchers. I’m in favor of maximizing funding from the state such as with the basic allotment per student to ensure we can appropriately compensate our teachers and provide robust funding for safety and security. I look forward to keeping Katy ISD a desired education destination for students and teachers regardless of whether vouchers are adopted.

Peterson: I’ve worked in public education, my children attended public schools, and I’m running for a public-school board position. I support and have confidence in the public education system. However, if school choice is passed, I believe Katy ISD will step up to the challenge and continue with excellence to educate our students. The district can certainly communicate the concerns regarding the loss of funding but ultimately the state will make this determination.

7. Do you agree with the district’s policy on removing certain books from school library shelves? If not, would you repeal the policy, or how would you change it?

Cuzela: Yes. Sexually explicit, vulgar books of any sort should be removed from campus libraries. If the book cannot be read aloud in the classroom, it should not be in schools. If reading a book aloud on radio or TV broadcasts violates FCC regulations, it should not be in schools.

Peterson: It is important to review the content and appropriateness of books. Not all subject matter is fitting for all ages and maturity levels. I believe the district has an acceptable policy in place, which includes procedures for reviewing and ordering books.

8. Do you, or would you, accept campaign donations from interest groups from outside the district?

Cuzela: I have not accepted any campaign donations from interest groups outside of the district.

Peterson: I have not accepted campaign donations from interest groups outside the district. Accepting donations from groups not affiliated would be a clear conflict of interest. This is a local nonpartisan election, and the position is to serve the community of Katy.

election, Katy ISD Board of Trustees