Highland Park ISD place 4 trustee candidates – incumbent Jae Ellis and challenger Tyler Beeson – were recently interviewed on the Bubble Lounge podcast, where they discussed challenges facing the district and why each believes they’re the best candidate for the job.
Ellis, 50, and Beeson, 44, appeared on the podcast April 7 and Ellen Lee and Spencer Siino, who are vying for the place 5 seat on the board now held by Edward Herring, will appear on the show Thursday, April 14. For more information about the candidates, read our bios of each candidate below.
(READ: Pick Two)
Ellis, who was first elected to the school board in 2019, works in legal consulting and has a son who’s a junior at Highland Park High School and a daughter who’s a junior at the University of Texas who graduated from Highland Park.
A legal consultant by trade, he has served the Highland Park Education Foundation as a director and board secretary and in various other roles, including on its Finance/Investment and Strategic Planning committees. He also served the Highland Park Alumni Association as vice president, treasurer, membership chairman, director, and class representative. Ellis co-chaired the Highland Park ISD Centennial Celebration in 2014.
“I think something unique about Highland Park is the pride that the children and the families develop early on at their elementary schools – we now have five elementary schools and everybody has an identity at that school. It’s both competitive and inspiring, both on the athletic field, and in the classroom and in the neighborhoods,” Ellis said. “The second piece … is parental involvement. There’s no place in Texas and probably in the country that has parents who care more and invest their time more in the cafeteria, on the PTA, and in the Dads Clubs. The parents here really want their kids to succeed, and the way they make sure they do in the schools is they’re involved.”
Ellis identified teacher retention and pay, which he noted the district worked to improve with the ‘golden penny’ election that resulted in a 7% increase in teacher pay last November, as challenges facing the school district but said the district is still “the best school district in the state.”
Ellis also praised the decision by a subcommittee of the district’s board of trustees to ‘phase out’ the Lucy Calkins Units of Study materials for teaching reading and writing in kindergarten-eighth grade, and said the fact-finding process was important.
“To succeed in this role, you have to be able to work with the other six trustees, you have to be able to work with the administration, and you have to reserve judgment until the process plays out because this is a big ship and you can’t just U-turn every time there’s a popular trend,” Ellis said. “The good news is we made a great change, and we did it by following a process that works.”
Beeson works in wealth management and has five children – three in high school, a third-grader at Lamplighter, and a pre-K student. Beeson said he coaches local YMCA baseball, soccer, and other teams, and served on the board of Interfaith Family Services and as chairman of the agency’s annual Charity Golf Tournament.
“HPISD is just probably the most key component of Highland Park and University Park – Park Cities combined – which is just a wonderful community, and it’s a community that I chose to raise my children in,” Beeson said.
When asked about challenges facing the district, he pointed toward curriculum and teacher turnover.
“I often say that we’re running on our past success. There’s a level of complacency,” Beeson said. “We have huge issues in curriculum. Those are very well known. They go a lot broader and deeper than Lucy Calkins (Units of Study).”
Beeson also said the district has “to be more responsive.”
“We have to listen to our parents; we have to listen to our community,” he said. “Education is not something that needs to be changing on a dime, that I agree with Jae, but this is something that should have a steady hand, but traditional education, the foundation that our kids need to learn reading, writing, math spelling, and so forth, history – these are things that are not changing rapidly day to day, but the way that we’ve been delivering them – our kids have very much been experimented on, and I’m not OK with that.”
Watch the full podcast episode below:
Early voting begins April 25 and ends May 3, and election day is May 7.