- Written by Sarah Mertins
Saturday, May 4 is Election Day, which will determine who the next mayor of Humble will be as well as who will take two seats with the Humble ISD school board of trustees. Early voting runs from Monday, April 22 to Tuesday, May 2. The hours are from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily except for Sunday, April 30; voting on that day is from 1-6 p.m.
In the City of Humble election, Mayor Merle Aaron is being challenged for his position by Humble resident Arliss Bentley. Aaron has held the position for four years and served on city council for 10 years prior to that. Bentley has served on the city’s Beautification Committee for more than 10 years.
Incumbent Charles Curry is running unopposed for Humble City Council Position 1 and Glenn Redmon is running unopposed for Position 2, currently held by long-time councilmember Ray Calfee, who is not seeking re-election.
As far as Humble ISD, four candidates will compete for the Position 2 seat being vacated by long-serving board member Keith Lapeze. Ryan Engolio is a Humble High School graduate and has lived in the district 14 years. Nikki Roux is a Fall Creek resident who has children in the district. Robert Scarfo has previously served on the board and has decided to run again because he has three grandchildren in the district. Janie Branham is a former teacher who has twins who attend an Humble ISD school.
CPA Colin Carney was appointed to Position 6 with the board after Heath Rushing departed the seat and is seeking election so that he can continue to serve the community. Hoping to unseat him is Lori Twomey, who has two children in the district.
Nancy Morrison has served in Position 7 for the last four years and will run unopposed.
Voting takes place at Humble City Hall, 114 W. Higgins.
- Written by Community Reports
Gayle Sampley, left, and Dr. Elizabeth Fagen, superintendent of Humble ISD, met recently to discuss encouraging the community to attend the school board candidate forum hosted by the local chapter of the Association of Texas Professional Educators. The forum is planned for Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m. at Atascocita High School.
- Written by Tom Broad
Humble ISD Trustee Nancy Morrison summarized the evening best when, at the end of a 90-minute Humble ISD candidate forum, she declared, “I have learned something from each candidate and each question that was asked tonight.”
Morrison is the incumbent running unopposed for Position 7. She was one of six Humble ISD trustee candidates who attended a forum hosted by the Kingwood Area Democrats (KAD) on March 6 at Los Cucos Restaurant in Kingwood.
Two candidates are vying for Position 6, Colin Carney, the current incumbent, and Lori Twomey.
- Kingwood Area Democrats host Humble ISD trustee candidate forum -
Position 2 is held by Keith Lapeze who is not seeking re-election. Pursuing his position are Dr. Janie Branham, Nikki Roux and Robert Scarfo. A fourth candidate, Ryan Engolio, did not attend the forum due to a previous commitment, according to KAD President Charlotte Reinemeyer.
Candidates introduced themselves then were asked a series of questions.
Branham is a bilingual teacher and principal who opened Crespo Elementary School. Roux is a nurse, attorney and currently chief nursing officer for Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital. Scarfo has grandchildren currently in the district, one with special needs. He emphasized his previous two terms as an Humble ISD trustee. Twomey is an attorney who has experience working with the needs of special needs students. Carney, a CPA with a finance background, outlined his experience as a newly appointed trustee just as Hurricane Harvey hit the Lake Houston area. Morrison wants to serve another four years to see the recently passed bond issue come to fruition.
The candidates outlined their volunteer work.
Roux talked about her blended family of five currently attending four different schools and emphasized the relationship of her employer, Memorial Hermann, with the school district. Scarfo was co-chair of previous bond committees, was selected to present the community bond proposal to the board, and recently helped organize a local Down’s Syndrome networking group.
Twomey was also a member of the citizen bond committee and provides pro bono work for special education cases. Carney honed his volunteer experience after Harvey when he and his wife helped establish a shelter at a nearby school. Branham raises funds for veterans and various Lake Houston charities, including FamilyTime.
“Look at the people running for school board,” Morrison told KAD. “This is service above self, giving our hearts to our kids. This is what we do.”
Regarding changing attendance zones, Carney, Morrison and Roux all emphasized the need for community input before board decisions are made and boundaries are set.
“Attendance zones are a big deal,” Twomey said while Scarfo called them a “…necessary evil. We can’t have students in one school in portable buildings while another school sits empty.”
“Changing attendance zones is very painful,” Scarfo added, “and it seems to be the end of the world, yet, a year later, everything is fine. Kids are more resilient than their parents.”
Candidates showed off their financial prowess when asked about House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2, known as the “tax cap bills.”
“By the end of session, the bills will be much more distilled,” Roux said. “We’re going to see lots of changes from what we’re looking at now.”
Scarfo encouraged voters to focus on House Bill 3, introduced by Lake Houston’s state Rep. Dan Huberty, which increases the state’s per-student contributions to school districts. “I am encouraged by that bill,” Scarfo said. “Support Dan. Call your representatives.”
Candidates agreed that there is no need to establish a dedicated school for special needs students. “What we have in place is working,” Branham said. “What we need is more services.” Scarfo favors clustering programs, if necessary, but said a special school would be segregation. “Meet their needs where they live,” Twomey said.
As a final question, candidates were asked to name the last book that they read, then summarize why they were running. Branham said she had just finished reading a book to a fourth-grade class while Twomey wanted to know if reading Senate Bill 3 would qualify. As a tax and accounting consultant, Carney said he had read the new IRS regulations. Scarfo’s last book was “Behavioral Economics.” Roux just finished Jane Austin’s “Persuasion” and Morrison’s choice was “A Gentleman in Moscow.”
Early voting takes place April 22-30. Election Day is May 4.
- Written by Community Reports
Janie Branham has announced her candidacy for Position 2 of the Humble Independent School District Board of Trustees. Branham, a career educator, retired from teaching in 2010 to raise her children Ruth and David Jr. who are currently 8th graders at Humble ISD’s Atascocita Middle School.
Branham, an Humble ISD resident since 2002, has a long history of community engagement which includes extensive volunteering for her church, Humble ISD public school students, and military veterans. She and her teenaged twins teach AWANA Bible study classes at Second Baptist North in Kingwood where she and her family are members. In 2015 she was honored as a “Women of Achievement” as a community activist by Humble’s FamilyTime Crisis and Counseling Center. Branham also served as President of the Kingwood Area Republican Women in 2016 and 2017. In addition, Branham has served on the Maplebrook Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, and as vice president of the PTO at Atascocita Middle School in 2017-18.
“Our public school children are my only priority in running for this position. Outside interests and partisan politics will not sway my decision making. We must provide a first class education for every child, challenge every child, and prioritize every child. As a school board member the only reward I seek is success in educating our children.” said Branham. Branham notes a recent research presentation at the Greater Houston Partnership Annual Meeting by HEB President Scott McClelland which shows that if educational attainment for minority students stays at its current pace that the Houston area will be a huge economic deficit in the next generation. “We must build a culture that expects educational success for all children. If such a culture is not built, and student achievement is not attained, we will leave our children with a community inferior to the one we inherited.”
Branham is a former teacher, principal, television talk show host, and business manager in the Houston Independent School District. While principal of Crespo Elementary the school attained an exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency. As a TV talk show host she raised millions of dollars for underprivileged students and created over 100 business-school partnerships. She retired as an educator to set aside more time on raising her twins.
Branham earned her Bachelor of Science in Education and Master’s in Education from the University of Houston. She attained her doctorate in education with a specialty in management from Texas Southern University. Her dissertation, The Effect of Selected Variables on the Motivation and Attitudes of Urban Secondary Students in a Large Metropolitan School District, focused on the education outlook and incentive levels of public school children from diverse populations.
Janie Branham married David Branham in 2001. David is a professor of political science and chair of the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Houston-Downtown.
- Written by Jacqueline Havelka
As the dust settled at the end of the Feb. 15 Humble ISD school board of trustees candidacy declaration deadline, seven names emerged for the May 2019 ballot.
Four candidates will compete for the Position 2 seat being left vacant by long-serving board member Keith Lapeze. Ryan Engolio is a Humble High School graduate and has lived in the district 14 years.
He has children in the district and is an engineering supervisor at Superior Energy Services. He also serves on his community HOA and wants to be more involved in the district, bringing his engineering and manufacturing expertise to the board.
Nikki Roux is a Fall Creek resident who has children in the district. She has enjoyed seeing the area develop over the last decade she has resided here. Roux said that she has contemplated running for the board over the last several years, and that this year is good timing to potentially serve at a greater level in the community. Roux is a hospital administrator and said that there are many similarities between health care and education in that both focus on caring for vulnerable populations. Roux said that “cost-effective care has been her focus for many years” and she hopes to continue using that skill set to contribute to the board’s success of providing cost-effective high quality education.
Robert Scarfo has previously served on the board and has decided to run again because he has three grandchildren in the district. Scarfo said that the board is losing the “services of a very experienced and competent board member” with Lapeze’s departure, and that his own proven track record makes him “uniquely qualified to fill this void because I will not be faced with the typical learning curve.” Scarfo also touted his financial skills and overall business acumen as a benefit to the fast-growing district. The candidate said it will be important to continue to carefully manage district construction and to provide game-changing professional development to attract and retain district employees. “The district should never continue a program that does not drive the desired qualitative or quantitative return on investment,” he said.
Janie Branham is a former teacher who has twins who attend an Humble ISD school. She is running because she has always been dedicated to education and wants to benefit the district’s children. Branham has considered running for several years, and said that one strength she brings is the time to devote to a board position without competing priorities or conflicts. She ran for Position 2 because there is no incumbent and the voters have the ability to choose from several candidates. She looks forward to presenting her platform and letting voters decide. In particular, Branham wants to work on the district’s tremendous growth to minimize absentee and drop-out rates, which she said research shows occurs more frequently in large, overcrowded schools.
CPA Colin Carney was appointed to Position 6 after Heath Rushing departed the seat. He will seek his first elected school board position in May. Carney said he originally applied for the open seat in 2017 because he wanted to give back to the community in a meaningful way, and felt that his tax experience would fill an unrepresented skill on the board. In particular, Carney said he was keenly aware of the challenges facing the district, and he wanted to be involved in helping them make responsible decisions to expand area appeal to greater Houston.
Carney said that he is running again to “continue the work I've been doing on the board to address our challenges and do important work like passing the largest bond in Humble ISD history with overwhelming public support and helping the district to address the myriad of issues relating to Hurricane Harvey.” Carney suspects that the next four years will present new challenges, such as the impact of impending reform of the Texas public education finance system, and feels that his finance background will be especially important.
Carney is not concerned about this year’s race becoming politically heated because he feels that the community has rallied behind the district as reflected after Hurricane Harvey and by support for the bond referendum.
Carney does not know his opponent Lori Twomey, but remembers her serving on the Citizens Bond Advisory Committee and also remembers her speaking during board meeting public comment sessions. Carney said that he recently spoke with Twomey “as she was evaluating whether to run in this election.”
Lori Twomey is also running for Position 6. She has two children in the district and has lived in several communities over the last 20-plus years. Twomey graduated from the University of Houston Law Center and served as a full-time professor there for nearly 10 years where she developed a love of teaching. For the last three years, she has run a small civil law practice advocating for special-needs children, abused children and families in crisis. Twomey also has experience managing multi-million commercial construction budgets in both commercial and residential real estate.
Twomey has been actively involved with school district issues like zoning options and is running to take an even more active role serving alongside “a tremendously talented group of existing school board trustees.” Twomey said that she has nothing against Carney, who seems very intelligent and skilled, but her concern is his “self-professed lack of involvement with the district prior to being appointed to his current trustee position.”
Twomey also stated that Carney has never been through the public scrutiny associated with running for office and that she personally has not witnessed him being a strong voice on the board, so “I decided to run against him for Position 6, using my long-held passion for the district and my expertise to have a positive impact.”
Twomey stated that she is not concerned about the race becoming heated and political, and feels that “respectful disagreement and debate often leads to greatness. My hope is that the entire community can be open to conversations, be free to ask questions, and be interested enough to have healthy debates. We should always question the status quo, never be satisfied with good enough, and always strive for educational excellence.”
Nancy Morrison has served in Position 7 for the last four years and will run unopposed, a status about which she is “shocked but happy.” Morrison thought there would be at least one opponent in every race, but the former Humble ISD teacher and principal feels very fortunate and hopes this is a signal from the community that she has been doing a good job.
Morrison is active in the community, and while she said that she will always have a love of curriculum, the incumbent has developed a particular niche for legislative advocacy while serving on the board. She earned the Master Trustee designation from Leadership TASB and serves on TASB's Legislative Advisory Council.
Going forward, she stated that one of the state legislature’s continuing focus topics will be school safety, an issue that hits close to home in Humble ISD given the recent shooting at Atascocita High School. Morrison praised the district’s quick response time and masterful coordination, working with several law enforcement agencies to address the incident.
Morrison also stated that it takes a good two years or more to get fully up to speed on board roles, and that she is not ready to leave yet because she wants to see all the good things started by Humble ISD come to fruition. In particular, Morrison mentioned seeing the progress on remodeled older schools like Lakeland, Northbelt and some of the Kingwood schools, all of which were funded by the $575 million bond approved by voters in May 2018.
When asked to comment on her past opponent Robert Scarfo entering the race, Morrison said that she is not surprised to see it, given that he is a very active community member who works hard.
The 2017 non-partisan election became partisan and heated, a phenomenon Morrison said she hopes does not repeat itself in this election. She surmises that the contention is just part of today’s political environment, and that the community came together after the 2017 election because “in the end, we’re all here for our kids.”
Election Day is Saturday, May 4.
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