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Katy ISD leadership dominates headlines in 2018

January 1, 2019

In a year marked with many highs and surprises, 2018 in Katy was dominated by the Katy ISD school board. It all started with a seemingly normal public comment period at a school board meeting.

The March 19 Katy ISD school board meeting began a string of events which led to the eventual resignation of Superintendent Lance Hindt.

At the meeting, Greg Barrett, a Katy-area businessman, spoke publicly and claimed that Hindt beat him up in the restroom at the middle school the two attended more than 30 years ago. The next day, Hindt released a statement saying: “As superintendent in three school districts in Texas, I have always tried to create an environment where every student is safe — physically and emotionally. But when an individual impugns my character and reputation as the instigator of those actions, I am disappointed because it simply is not true.”

Barrett’s claims still attracted national attention, including stories in the Washington Post.

On March 29, Circuit Judge David Carpenter of Alabama’s 10th district recalled attending Taylor High School with Hindt in 1982. “He was physically threatening some of my teammates, just menacing them, standing over them and eventually started throwing weight plates at them, 25-pound weight plates at them,” Carpenter told Fox 26. “He liked to brag about beating up other people and at one point he even bragged about beating up a police officer.”

On April 2, Hindt sent a letter a letter to all Katy ISD employees, apologizing to the district for all the attention these accusations have created. “It is unfortunate that half-truths, viral videos, edited tape, false statements, and gotcha moments are a part of our modern mainstream news and social media culture,” Hindt wrote.

Hindt announced his resignation on May 10 during a special board meeting, citing a “smear campaign” that has been waged against him. He decided to step down in January 2019. On his last day of work, Hindt will receive $750,000, an amount equal to two years of his base pay.

Board shakeup

In the wake of Superintendent Lance Hindt being called out for bullying and his resignation on May 10, Katy ISD school board president Ashley Vann announced she was stepping down on May 21.

“To put it simply, I’m tired y’all,” said Vann. “My family’s tired. The past two months have shown me a lot about myself and the one thing that I know is that the wind is out of my sails.”

Vann remains a member of the board.

Gina Calanni wins seat

Political newcomer Gina Calanni edged out State Rep. Mike Schofield, formerly a longtime advisor to former Gov. Rick Perry, in the November election for the District 132 seat.

Calanni beat Schofield by .17 percent or 113 votes.

The district covers parts of Katy up to the Cypress area along State Highway 290.

Calanni credited her victory to her willingness to work with politicians on the other side of the political aisle.

“I didn’t run on party politics. I ran on issues,” she said. “School finance reform, property taxes and sex trafficking. Those are the issues that people care about. I don’t represent only Democrats in 132, I also represent Republicans. I will be more moderate than not.”

Gary Joseph 200th win

Fittingly it was a playoff game when Katy Tiger football coach Gary Joseph earned a milestone 200th career victory.

The Katy football team kept its bi-district championship streak intact Nov. 16 at Legacy Stadium. The Tigers defeated Travis 52-7 for their 25th consecutive victory in a playoff opener.

The victory made Joseph the fastest in Texas history to reach 200 victories in high school football.

Katy has averaged 13.3 victories in 15 seasons with Joseph. The Tigers have never won fewer than 10 games in a season during that span, including this year’s 11-2 mark.

Joseph has led Katy to four state championships — 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2015 — and four other state finals. The Tigers have finished 16-0 four times, three with Joseph.

Katy Mills Mall

In March, Simon Property Group and city officials turned out to announce a top to bottom renovation of the two-decade-old shopping mall. Renovations were scheduled to begin at the end of April and wrap up by year’s end. Announced upgrades will include a completely redesigned food court at the center point of the mall, along with adding more seating spaces for tired shoppers who need to take a breather.

Officials said the upgrade will feature energy-efficient lighting and new tiling throughout the facility. The mall and the 175 or so stores will remain open during the renovation. The renovation work will be done at night and company officials said the construction materials will be put away by the time shoppers arrive in the morning.

Katy ISD enrollment

In November, Katy ISD celebrated reaching the milestone of reaching its 80,000th student.

An elementary transfer student was identified as the district’s milestone student and received balloons and trinkets from Katy ISD Superintendent Lance Hindt and Board President President Courtney Doyle in his classroom at Davidson Elementary School, 26906 Pine Mill Ranch Drive.

Clint Black gives back

Katy-raised Clint Black helped raise funds for his hometown’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey a year before.

Fort Worth billionaire businessman Ed Bass helped set up “Helping Texans: A Hurricane Harvey Benefit Concert” on Nov. 28, 2017, at Bass Hall in Fort Worth. Performers besides Black included were fellow Texas-reared singers Lyle Lovett and Don Henley, and Black’s wife of more than 26 years, singer-actress Lisa Hartman Black.

After consulting with Katy Mayor Chuck Brawner in September 2018, Black donated his cut of the concert proceeds — more than $328,000 — to Katy Christian Ministries. The charitable organization was the sole recipient.

The money means Katy Christian Ministries will be able to assist more than 100 households, including offering rent and mortgage assistance for displaced families; replacing damaged furniture and appliances; and helping with home repair among other projects.

A year after Harvey

More than 230 infrastructure projects are part of the $2.5 billion bond passed by Harris County voters a year to the day after Hurricane Harvey dumped 27 trillion gallons of water on southeast Texas — killing 50 people in the area and swamping more than 200,000 homes.

The list won’t be completed anytime soon, then-Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.

Some of the effort, like buying out homes in the flood plain, are already ongoing while other flood control projects, such as widening Brays Bayou, are more of a challenge, Emmett said.

The plan for the $2.5 billion bond began after Emmett saw piles of debris on the streets in front of homes gutted by Hurricane Harvey.

rkent@hcnonline.com

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