Eleven candidates are running for four open seats on the Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees this November. Over the next four years, the winners will decide on issues such as teacher pay and bond elections, affecting the state’s third-largest district, its $1.2 billion budget and nearly 119,000 students.

Despite Texas school boards being nonpartisan, elections have become more political in recent years. Three candidates who ran on political platforms in 2021 unseated longtime incumbents, but most prior races were uncontested and nonpartisan, based on previous reporting by Community Impact.

In a nutshell

There will be 11 candidates on the ballot Nov. 7 competing for one of four open seats on the Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees.

Local experts said school board races have become more competitive and politicized in recent years.

“Of course, as we all know, they’re [supposed to be] nonpartisan elections, but they have become politicized in part because of issues dealing with ... gender equity, critical race theory and efforts ... to return to a more traditional educational content,” said Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University.

Stein said the increased politicization of school boards has included calls for review and banning of library materials, bills in support of vouchers, and little interest from the Texas Legislature to adequately fund the state’s public school system.

Board President Tom Jackson, who is not seeking re-election, said he saw this shift begin at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit and the ensuing but predictable social unrest, trustees became buffeted by political pressures from both political parties in a way never seen before,” he said.

Issues covered at recent CFISD candidate forums include parental rights, school safety, mental health, diversity and inclusion, student discipline, teacher retention and pay, standardized test scores, state funding, library books, school choice, and unity on the board.

Community Impact conducted Q&As with each candidate. Click the following links to get to know the candidates: Position 1, Position 2, Position 3 and Position 4.

Looking back

Local school board races have historically been marked by low voter turnout, and fewer votes means the value of each ballot cast increases.

The Harris County Clerk’s Office reports countywide voter turnout since 2015 was as high as 68.14% in national and state races, but only 4.44%-16.41% of registered voters in CFISD voted in their school board races during that time.
Marlene Lobberecht heads the Cy-Fair chapter of the League of Women Voters, a nonprofit spreading the message that “democracy is not a spectator sport” by informing the public about candidates and registering voters.

“We’ve worked really hard to increase the vote,” Lobberecht said. “Our goal has been not just registering people, but to get them ... to the polls.”

Regarding recent trends in school board elections, Lobberecht said she believes the biggest change in the intensity and focus on school board elections has been how much money it now requires to run school board campaigns.

“It really started in the last two years. That’s when you really saw outside underwriting of campaigns, but it’s also [part of] a national campaign that’s going on. If you look at the best way to change the direction of things, it starts in the local elections,” Lobberecht said.

Put in perspective

While school board trustees have multiple duties in the oversight of school districts and they share a complementary role with the superintendent, the responsibility for the implementation and execution of board policy belongs solely to the superintendent and his administration, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.

Board members can pass policy by a majority vote but are not involved in the day-to-day operations of the district. A trustee's role includes:
  • Adopting goals and monitoring success
  • Adopting policies and reviewing for effectiveness
  • Hiring and evaluating the superintendent with input from the community
  • Adopting a budget, setting a tax rate and relaying the financial needs of the district to state legislators
  • Communicating and engaging with the community to build a consensus for district policymaking
What they’re saying

“Elections closer to where we live have a greater impact on our lives. I encourage you to research the candidates and express your constitutional right to vote for the person you choose.” —Mark Henry, Cy-Fair ISD superintendent

“Most new trustees feel that they have been given a mandate from the voters to effectuate change and be bold. CFISD succeeds because it uses an incremental approach. Programs are in place to serve a need, and the district is good about changing course when expectations are not reached.” —Tom Jackson, Cy-Fair ISD board president
Cy-Fair ISD Superintendent Mark Henry (left) and Board President Tom Jackson exchange a fist bump at a Sept. 11 board meeting. (Tony Bullard/Community Impact)
Cy-Fair ISD Superintendent Mark Henry (left) and Board President Tom Jackson exchange a fist bump at a Sept. 11 board meeting. (Tony Bullard/Community Impact)
What’s next

While Texas does not have online voter registration, the state allows voter registration information updates, such as name and address changes, to be made online. Confirm your voter registration status and learn more about how to register to vote at www.harrisvotes.com.
  • Oct. 10: voter registration deadline
  • Oct. 17: CFISD board candidate forum, 7-9 p.m. at the Berry Center
  • Oct. 23-Nov. 3: early voting in Harris County
  • Nov. 7: Election Day