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.