Meet the candidates: Position 4, Katy ISD Board of Trustees

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

Three candidates are seeking the position 4 seat on the Katy ISD Board of Trustees. They are Erica Brettell, a stay-at-home mom; Morgan Calhoun, a stay-at-home mom, and Cicely Taylor, an education administrator.

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Meet the candidates: Position 4, Katy ISD Board of Trustees


Three candidates are seeking the position 4 seat on the Katy ISD Board of Trustees. They are Erica Brettell, a stay-at-home mom; Morgan Calhoun, a stay-at-home mom, and Cicely Taylor, an education administrator.

The winner will succeed incumbent Leah Wilson, 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.

Brettell: My background in governance, business and the non-profit sector would add value to the board and district.

Working in the U.S. Senate in healthcare and education policy, while getting my M.B.A., yielded experience in budgeting, data analysis, advocacy, building consensus and shaping policies.

Since 2014, I helped develop the Lindsay’s Light Dating Violence Prevention Program, in honor of my sister. I have spoken to over 6,000 students, parents and educators about avoiding dating violence.

Calhoun: I’ve held roles in leadership, volunteer service, and community work both in my postgraduate work and at church. I served as an anti-sex trafficking advocate partnering with local outreaches as well as nonprofit organizations in the community. My leadership background, connectivity with the community and being a parent will prove beneficial as a board member.

Taylor: I have been an educator for 25+ years. The depth and breadth of my experiences as a classroom teacher and now as an education senior-level administrator enables me to understand the pain points of the classroom teacher and the constraints of an administrator. With my vast experience in education, I know when to push back, what tough questions to ask, and how to seek stakeholder input and innovation when problem-solving. 

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?

Brettell: I currently have four children attending Katy ISD. We never entertained the idea of sending our children anywhere else. We believe in Katy schools, teachers and community.

Calhoun: My children are within the Katy system of schools and attend a local charter school that receives Katy ISD funding. I look forward to leaning in as a school board member to provide my children what I had—a great Katy ISD experience.

Taylor: Both of my children are graduates of Katy ISD schools.

About your positions

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

Brettell: My top priority will always be our kids, equipping each of the 93,000+ students in our district with the tools and resources needed to excel.

We also need to find ways to lighten and streamline teachers’ workload—improving communication with our educators to ensure we provide what they need.

We need to encourage parents to be engaged and involved, from open communication to volunteer opportunities and easy access to the materials their students are being taught.

Calhoun: First, I look forward to standing in the gap for all Katy ISD families. I want to make sure partnering with parents is more than a statement and that we can collectively work on solutions. Second, I want to drive policies that minimize distractions in the classroom that cause deviation from curriculum delivery. Finally, ensuring the district is providing a safe learning environment for all students and staff is paramount.

Taylor: There are three urgent needs for Katy ISD. First is teacher recruitment and retention, which includes strong support for our 400+ new to-the-classroom teachers, increased teacher pay and a strategic plan to incentivize our highest-performing teachers to remain in the classroom. Second is academic performance—especially as we see students nationally are struggling to recover from pandemic-related challenges in math and reading. Third, and related to timing, is our vision for growth, especially given that a bond package will come up for a public vote in November 2023.

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

Brettell: Katy ISD is not immune to inflation. The per child allotment the district receives from the state has been stagnant for years. The TRE would have provided a pay raise for all employees and an additional 10 police officers, while maintaining the existing tax rate.

Calhoun: The voters decided against TRE. I believe in maximizing funding to create the best education outcome for all students and a competitive pay and benefit package for all staff.

Taylor: I support paying our teachers at the highest level possible in Texas—not just local market rate. When considering large teacher increases, I would like to look into our current budget to see what is fiscally responsible, what trade-offs can realistically be made, and how we can ensure the taxpayer is unaffected.

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

Brettell: Outside of pay increases, we can better support our teachers by incentivizing targeted professional development in high demand areas and examining other compensatory measures, like pay structure and benefits.

Our teachers are the experts on what they need because each classroom has its own culture and needs, and they are in the trenches every day.

Calhoun: Teachers and support staff require a healthy, safe and supported work environment. The focus should be on lessening the distractions that impact delivery of the TEKS curriculum while providing the necessary tools to do their job well. A competitive compensation and benefit package is key for retention as well.

No board trustee can make or influence district-wide change alone. My strategy for both retention and recruitment would start with working in collaboration with fellow trustees, district leadership, and teachers. A strong retention strategy would be a multi-pronged effort of listening and responding to what teachers need in the form of support (i.e., access to materials and processes that help them to focus on teaching, removal of distractions, and, high quality and differentiated professional development), leveraging the experience of master teachers and financially incentivizing them to stay in the classroom, and strong instructional and classroom support for new to the classroom teachers. Increasing teacher pay is also necessary; however, investing resources for performance-based compensation such as the Teacher Incentive Allotment is also critical.

Taylor: A strong retention strategy must include listening and responding to what teachers need, leveraging the experience of master teachers and providing support for new teachers. Increasing teacher pay is also necessary and we must seek innovative and financially responsible ways to do this.

For recruitment, we must continue to develop the “grow your own” programs to support teacher certification. We must tap into our alums, who major in education in college, as a pipeline. Additionally, we must partner with local universities and colleges' teacher prep programs, including those at HBCUs, to identify potential new teacher recruits.

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

Brettell: While I believe parents have the right to choose the best educational environment for their kids, I do not support current proposals. It is important to note, any voucher program would be the responsibility of the state. As a trustee, my obligation is to the public school system.

Calhoun: Vouchers is a legislative decision that board members will have to abide by regardless of opinion. Our job is to follow the law. Striving to make Katy ISD the best choice is the only way we can safeguard our district from losing students to possible voucher and ESA programs.

Taylor: I am not pro-vouchers. If vouchers were adopted Katy ISD must be the district of choice with strong academics and programs that support every child and family.

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?

Brettell: The current policy includes various points of review and audit, in addition to the option for parents to be notified any time a child checks out a book. The district should always be vigilant about the influences on its students and review policy as needed.

Calhoun: I agree with the revised board policy on instructional and library materials, which is a legal process, intended to remove harmful, age-inappropriate material that does not align with Texas law. Sexually explicit material does not increase student achievement and is beneath the dignity of all children.

Taylor: I do not believe in broad book-banning policies. Katy ISD acknowledges a parent's right to choose for their own child by having notifications and opt-out protocols. There is no need to revise the current policy if used to fidelity.

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

Brettell: No. Coming into office, carrying the agenda of an outside political interest group undermines decision-making, transparency and objectivity.

Calhoun: Special interest groups have not approached my campaign. I have, however, received many verbal endorsements from groups that align with my platform. I am blessed to have generous campaign support from the Katy ISD community at large.

Taylor: I will not accept endorsements or funds from political parties or partisan organizations. I have received funds from Leadership for Educational Equity, a non-partisan organization that works towards ensuring every child has the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On question 2, candidate Morgan Calhoun wrote that her children attended a charter school that received Katy ISD funding. Since this questionnaire was published, Calhoun wrote to say that this charter school received state, and not Katy ISD, funding. “I apologize for this mistake,” Calhoun wrote.

election, Katy ISD Board of Trustees