Cy-Fair ISD board President Tom Jackson has served as a trustee since 2011 and is completing his third four-year term. He did not run for re-election in November.

A certified public accountant by trade, Jackson said he devoted hundreds of hours of annual service for the district while still serving as president of Green River Oil. Additionally, he has served as a member of the Harris County Municipal Utility District No. 163 board, the CFISD Community Leadership Committee, the Copperfield Joint Operations Board, the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce and Bear Creek United Methodist Church. All three of his children attended CFISD schools.

This September interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What led to your decision not to seek re-election?

When I first ran as a trustee, I had already predetermined in my mind that I would serve either two or three terms, if the voters wanted me to serve. Three terms—or 12 years—is the academic cycle of a student.

Then there’s always the question of health, and I still have cancer.

What are some of the accomplishments of the board during your tenure for which you are most proud?

For the entire 12 years that I’ve been on the board, this district has been identified by an independent third party as among the top three districts in the state for being both effective and efficient ... based on funding provided over that time period [and] given its demographic makeup.

In addition, the district—when compared to its peer group of very large districts, the state and the region—has outperformed in graduation and testing categories in every grade and every demographic sub-population. There are several other areas:
  • Language immersion
  • Summer academic camps
  • Layers of safety
  • Board monitoring system
  • Higher salaries for teachers and staff
  • Enhanced technology capabilities of the district
  • Attractive and functional security fencing
  • Enhanced academic focus for athletes
Is there anything you would have changed about your time on the board?

If I had more time to give, I would spend even more time cultivating relationships with elected officials to advocate for appropriate funding for the district.
Cy-Fair ISD Trustee Tom Jackson participates in Read Across America Day 2022. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair ISD trustee Tom Jackson participates in Read Across America Day 2022. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
What do you feel sets CFISD apart from other districts in the state?

Like all schools, we believe in opportunity for all. The difference is how you implement the concept. We are somewhat unique in that we believe in asset protection, which translates into renovations at older campuses so that facilities provide similar benefits irrespective of where you live.

For example, we have librarians and professional nurses at all campuses in addition to reading and math specialists. The large campus footprint means we have no need for specialty campuses. For example, every high school has well developed [career and technical education] offerings [including] welding shop, culinary department and cosmetology department. Every high school offers advanced placement and dual-credit opportunities for students.

We have a corporate culture of a small town infused with the concept of family. Few districts and few companies have a well-defined corporate culture and fewer still actively seek to promote and nurture that culture. This district does exactly that. This is manifested in greater academic attainment beyond what a demographic review would forecast.
Board President Tom Jackson speaks with Jersey Village High School graduates in May 2023. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Board President Tom Jackson speaks with Jersey Village High School graduates in May. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
What are the pros and cons of having newer faces on the board following the Nov. 7 election?

A benefit is you have a completely fresh view. In my experience, it takes at least two years for a trustee to understand their job, and the scope of their job is much larger than their talking points on the campaign trail.

Across the state, new board members are challenged by the concept that they’re part of a team with the superintendent. This takes time.

What challenges do you foresee new board members facing after the election?

The biggest challenge new board members face is to understand they are not charged with running the schools or the day-to-day operations. Both of those are the responsibility of management.

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.

There are numerous laws impacting education, and it takes time to understand the impact. A good example is the approach to reading has changed dramatically by law.

The size of the district means that upgrades and renovations can not be done at once but must be phased in. An example of this is the addition of vestibules to all campuses as well as security fences.
Tom Jackson (center) votes on agenda items at a Sept. 11 board meeting. (Tony Bullard/Community Impact)
Tom Jackson (center) votes on agenda items at a Sept. 11 board meeting. (Tony Bullard/Community Impact)
What are your impressions of how the position of trustee has changed during your tenure?

When I was first elected to trustee, there was a substantive change in the role of trustees across the state of Texas. Trustees were expected to become advocates for public education and their specific district with public officials in Austin.

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.

What led to your calling to serve in so many important capacities in the Cy-Fair community?

As a child, I observed my parents and grandparents helping others and being active in the community. They never said, “This is what you should do.” But since they were active, I understood that this was a path that was appropriate for me to walk.

My father-in-law was both a MUD board director as well as a school board trustee, and in talking with him, I learned that was an opportunity to serve others.

And so, in due course ... I was invited to join the CFISD Community Leadership Committee and learned about gross disparities in funding of my district and served on a leader group to recommend budget cuts for approximately 20%, and I felt the injustice of it.