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For MISD Board Members, Serving is a Labor of Love

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Friday, January 24, 2020
McKinney ISD Board of Trustees President Curtis Rippee at the 2019 McKinney ISD Convocation on Aug. 9, 2019, at McKinney ISD Stadium and Community Event Center

McKinney ISD Board of Trustees President Curtis Rippee at the 2019 McKinney ISD Convocation on Aug. 9, 2019, at McKinney ISD Stadium and Community Event Center

McKinney, Texas – Governor Greg Abbott has declared January 2020 School Board Recognition Month to honor the more than 7,200 locally elected trustees across the state—and rightfully so.

But, there are seven trustees in particular that McKinney ISD is keenly appreciative of: Curtis Rippee, President—Place 7 (At-Large); Stephanie O’Dell, Vice President—Place 6 (At-Large); Maria McKinzie, Secretary—Place 1; Kenneth Ussery—Place 2 (who on Tuesday, Jan. 21, officially stepped down from his seat on the board due to a change in residence that moved him beyond the boundary of his elected zone.); Kathi Livezey—Place 3; Amy Dankel—Place 4; and Lynn Sperry—Place 5.

MISD board members put in many, many hours attending to the needs of the district. But, beyond the official duties that they take on, board members can be spotted frequently around the district at campus celebrations, service projects, musicals, banquets—and a host of other events.

The McKinney ISD Board of Trustees (front row, l-r) Vice President Stephanie O’Dell, Kathi Livezey, Secretary Maria McKinzie, Lynn Sperry, Kenneth Ussery (back row, l-r) Amy Dankel, President Curtis Rippee, McKinney ISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel

They can be found serving as student mentors and reading to kindergarteners. Or teaching middle school boys how to navigate the intricacies of a proper necktie knot. They provide accompaniment on stage with student choirs and deliver crape myrtles to fifth graders.

They are there each August to welcome new staff at the New Teacher Breakfast and at convocation to officially kick off each new school year. Ten months later, they officiate graduation for all three of our high schools and shake the hands of some 1,800 graduates as they cross the stage.

They have a heart for the students of McKinney ISD and for the people who serve those students.

“The students, no matter what their age, motivate me to strive to do what is best for all of our McKinney kids,” said Board Vice President Stephanie O’Dell. “Students and teachers are always ready to brag on what they are doing in their classrooms whether it is art, band, English or debate. We have exciting opportunities for all McKinney students.”

McKinney ISD Board of Trustees Vice President Stephanie O’Dell finds a familiar face among the 2019 McKinney North High School graduates.

“The most effective school boards have one common characteristic, and that is that they have a heart and love for kids and the community that they serve,” said MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel. “That continues to be the focal point for our board, and there is no greater evidence of that than the fact that they are at so many different events and that they consistently support the efforts of the district so that we can continually improve our programs and academic endeavors.”

At a reception in honor of MISD board members held Tuesday, Jan. 21, MISD Director of Fine Arts Dr. Dan White, pointed out that the degree of involvement displayed by our trustees is a step above.

“I appreciate how visible and active our board members are at campuses and different events,” White said. “For those of you who have been in the school business for a long time, you know that’s not always the case [with school boards].”

Press Elementary Principal Rachel Constantinescu said that when she began her teaching career in another state, board members there did not provide the kind of support that MISD board members offer. “[That support] is one of the reasons I came to Texas,” she said.

Mike Forsyth, principal of Vega Elementary spoke of the inspiration that Maria McKinzie brought to his students when she visited the campus. “We had Mrs. McKinzie come visit,” he said, “and she came to our pep rally at the end of December. So, we wanted her to talk about who she is and get to know her a little bit better. She talked about her years at Raytheon, and she spoke [to our students] in Spanish also. One of our fourth grade kids went back to their classroom and told the teacher, ‘Wow, that could be me someday.’”

McKinney ISD Board of Trustees Secretary Maria McKinzie greets students during the 2019 Senior Tour.

Trustees are elected by the general public to serve for overlapping terms of four years each, and elections for board seats are conducted annually each May. The candidates run for specific places on the board (Place 1, Place 2, etc.), but they represent McKinney ISD as a whole. Once elections are finalized, the board elects a president, vice-president and secretary for one-year terms.

Board members are tasked with providing the best educational opportunity possible for the students in McKinney ISD and for making all final decisions regarding school district priorities, policies, personnel, textbooks, expenditures and growth management.

They are responsible for adopting a budget that will properly maintain and operate all schools in the district, levying taxes to support the budget and determining and submitting bond issues to the voting citizens of McKinney when there is a need to finance specific construction projects.

To effectively accomplish all of that, board members invest their time in training, researching issues and following up with district leadership.

It’s a tremendous responsibility; their decisions affect well over 24,000 students and a community of more than 185,000 people.

They certainly don’t do it for the pay. There is none.

In honor of School Board Recognition Month, we’d like to take a few moments to spotlight each of our MISD trustees, to say thank you for the investment they make in our students and the way that they lead McKinney ISD.

Curtis Rippee, President (Place 7—At-Large)
Curtis Rippee and his family moved to McKinney to be part of a dynamic community where families live, work, attend school and attend church all in the same city. Serving on the Board is Rippee’s way to give back, serve and enhance one of the most important foundations of our community, the school system.

MISD Board President Curtis Rippee poses for a photo during a recent visit to Dowell Middle School. (Courtesy of Dowell Middle School)

Rippee has more than 30 years of financial and operational management experience. He is the CFO of ACIS, Inc. a commercial HVAC and Plumbing service company. Before joining ACIS in 2012, he was the Founder and Principal of StratiFi Partners, LLC, a CFO and consulting services firm. Prior to starting StratiFi Partners, his leadership roles included serving as the Chief Financial Officer of several small to mid-sized private companies and as the Chief Accounting Officer and Vice President of Finance and Administration for a publicly traded company.

Rippee has served as chair of the Executive and Finance Committees of First Baptist Church as well as Treasurer of the Avenues Counseling Center Board of Trustees and the McKinney Education Foundation Board. He has been a Junior Achievement volunteer and is a past participant in McKinney CAN (Community Action Network), a program involving parents and community leaders in a yearlong dialogue with the school district.

He began his professional career with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, has a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from the University of Missouri and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant.
Rippee and wife, Deeann, are active members of First Baptist Church of McKinney and have three girls: Emma Grace, Abigail and Ellie.

“McKinney ISD is well known for its excellence and innovation,” said Rippee. “My family came to McKinney specifically because of its heritage and reputation as a community and its outstanding school system. McKinney has been everything we could have hoped for and more.

“I believe my background and experience as a financial professional and business owner, as well as my perspective as a parent, give me the tools needed to serve as a member of the MISD Board of Trustees.”

Stephanie O’Dell, Vice President—Place 6 (At-Large)
Stephanie O’Dell has been actively involved in McKinney schools for 14 years. Serving with PTO and PTA in various roles has given her the opportunity to develop relationships with teachers and principals.

MISD Board Vice President Stephanie O’Dell participates in an activity simulating the experience of coping with dyslexia during Wolford Elementary’s Diversity Days event in 2018.

She currently serves on the McKinney Education Foundation Board (MEF) and the Baylor Hospital Board. She is also a mentor in the REACH program and active in her church.

O’Dell graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and she worked in sales for eight years. She and her husband have two daughters. The oldest is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the youngest is a graduate of McKinney High School.

Serving as a trustee, O’Dell has the opportunity to visit campuses and see the students in action. As McKinney grows, she seeks to pursue excellence for MISD.

Maria McKinzie, Secretary—Place 1
Maria McKinzie has deep roots in McKinney ISD. She and her husband Johnny, have raised three children in the district over the course of their 33 years of marriage: Johnny Ray, who was a member of the first graduating class of McKinney North High School, Thomas (MHS) and Deanna (MNHS). In addition, three of her seven grandchildren live in McKinney and attend Webb Elementary and Scott Johnson Middle School.

MISD Board Secretary Maria McKinzie congratulates graduates as they cross the stage during the 2019 McKinney North commencement.

McKinzie graduated from McKinney High School in 1977 and has spent the past 40 years working for Raytheon Company in McKinney. She is currently employed with Logistics Supply Chain and is active in a number of volunteer organizations throughout the community.

“It has been an honor to serve on the MISD Board of Trustees since 2006. I’m bilingual, and I feel it is one of my greatest assets,” said McKinzie. “I will continue to strive for opportunities to increase our community involvement to ensure our children can accomplish each of their individual dreams and goals. I am proud to serve with my fellow Board members and to know that we do not represent just our single districts—I am proud to say we represent McKinney ISD as a whole.”

En Español
María McKinzie nació y se crió en McKinney. Ella ha participado activamente en el sistema escolar y en la comunidad por más de 20 años.

Ella y su esposo, Johnny, han estado casados por 33 años y tienen un hijo que se graduó de la primera clase de McKinney North High School. Ella también ha criado a Deanna y Thomas que se gradúan de McKinney North High School y de McKinney High. Además, tres de sus nietos viven en McKinney y atenden Webb Elementary y Scott Johnson Middle School.

McKinzie se graduó de McKinney High School en 1977 y pasó los últimos 40 años de su carrera profesional trabajando para la compañía Raytheon en McKinney. Actualmente ella trabaja como Especialista de Cadena de Suministro y participa activamente en varias organizaciones de voluntarios en la comunidad.

“Ha sido un honor para servir en McKinney ISD Board of Trustees desde 2006. Puedo hablar ingles y español y siento que es uno de mi mayores razónes de pueder ayudar en el distrito” dice McKinzie “ Continuare buscando oportunidades para aumentar la participación de nuestra comunidad para asegurar que nuestros estudiantes puedan lograr cada uno de sus sueños y ambiciones. Estoy orgullosa de servir con mis compañeros en McKinney Board of Trustees y saber que no solo representamos a solo un distrito ……. Representamos a McKinney ISD todos distritos juntos como uno.”

Kenneth Ussery—Place 2
Fifth-generation McKinney native Kenneth Ussery is proud to make his home in the city where he spent many of his formative years. Much has changed since his childhood, but the “one-horse town” he remembers from the mid-1960’s that now sprawls with industry and luxury has managed to remain fundamentally the same at heart.

MISD Board of Trustees member Kenneth Ussery congratulates graduates at the 2019 McKinney North commencement.

“While we have experienced growing pains over the years, I am proud of our city and how we have maintained a wonderful community atmosphere along with an exemplary school system. To me, we have the best of both worlds,” Kenneth says.

He has approached his passion for education and higher learning with a willingness to tackle each new challenge and direction with fervor. While he began his college career with scholarships to pursue music, he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting. Later, he went on to attend Dallas Theological Seminary to study theology and finished his master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family counseling.

After more than 30 years of leading worship and family ministries, Ussery earned his realtor license and thoroughly enjoys helping families in the community find their perfect McKinney home.

He is no stranger to MISD. In 1983, Ussery began providing accompaniment for MISD band students’ competitions, and thirty-five years later, he can still be found behind the piano. Over the years, he has played for band, choir and orchestra students at all three MISD high schools, all five middle schools and has accompanied some of the district’s elementary school choirs.

He currently serves as treasurer for the McKinney Boyd Band Boosters. He also enjoys Friday night lights and can always be found on the football field loading and unloading for half-time shows. His involvement in the district is not limited to fine arts programs, however. He also spent several years tutoring math at the middle school level and has served as a substitute teacher. “I have such an appreciation for our teachers and wanted to help them however I could,” he said.

Ussery has also served on CAN (Community Action Network) and has been involved in McKinney ISD school bond elections. When McClure Elementary School opened, Ussery served on the Strategic and Planning Committee to assist in launching the school’s environmental infrastructure.

As stated previously, Ussery officially concluded his time on the board at the monthly board meeting held Tuesday, Jan. 21 because his recent move in residence to another location in McKinney moved him beyond the boundaries of the zone in which he was elected. The board will choose a replacement from the community who will complete the remainder of Ussery’s term, which concludes in 2021.

Kathi Livezey—Place 3
Kathi Livezey taught fourth and fifth grade at J.W. Webb Elementary School for seven years, and served as an elementary library media specialist. In addition, she spent over 23 years as the library media specialist at McKinney High School. She has also worked as an office manager and software trainer.

MISD Board of Trustees member Kathi Livezey was inducted into the McKinney High School Distinguished Lions hall of fame in 2018.

Livezey received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Southern Methodist University and a Master of Library and Information Science from Texas Woman’s University. She has been married to her husband, Mike Livezey, for 30 years and has two daughters, Kara and Katie.

She is a graduate of McKinney High School and a member of the McKinney Ex-Students Association Board (2003-2009). She is an active member of First Christian Church of McKinney.

“I am honored to have been elected to the MISD Board of Trustees, and I look forward to working with the community, MISD administration, and other members of the Board to effectively implement the mission and goals of the district,” said Livezey.

Amy Dankel—Place 4
Dankel moved to McKinney in 1997 and has served as a public school educator for 22 years—the last 10 at Finch Elementary School and Eddins Elementary School.

She and her husband Roger have been married for 29 years and are active members of Stonebridge United Methodist Church. Roger works for Simpson Strong-Tie.

MISD Board of Trustees member Amy Dankel at the Chamber of Commerce New Teacher Breakfast in 2018

Their two children were educated in MISD. Nick graduated from McKinney North High School in 2008 and later graduated from the University of Colorado, majoring in Astrophysics. Stephanie graduated from McKinney Boyd in 2010 and and went on to earn a degree from Clemson University in International Health and Spanish.

Dankel earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Virginia Tech and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Millsaps College.

Dankel said that her primary motivation for serving on the board is a deep sense of responsibility to give back to a school system and community that has given so much to her.

Lynn Sperry—Place 5
Lynn Sperry has served on the MISD Board of Trustees for 34 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from The Ohio State University and taught public school vocal and instrumental music for grades 1 – 8.

Sperry served 12 years as a Director of the Texas Association of School Boards. She is a graduate of the Texas Association of School Boards Leadership TASB program, “Class of 2000” with the designation of “Master Trustee.”

At the ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the new McKinney High School Performing Arts Center, longtime MISD Board of Trustees member Lynn Sperry and her husband Neil react to the news that the new performance hall was named in their honor.

Sperry cites her experience in education along with her years of involvement as a parent and current involvement as a grandparent as assets to the MISD School Board.

She is proud to set goals for the district that raise the bar academically and is extremely proud of how the board and district administration have handled bonded indebtedness over the years. The result is a very stable financial future for MISD.

McKinney ISD has the earned reputation of a quality district, and Sperry is very excited to see students representing many different disciplines excel in district, state and national competitions. MISD has truly become an outstanding organization, and she is proud to work with a board of trustees that makes students its priority.

Sperry received the Carey Cox Award – The Outstanding McKinney Citizen 2006. She was awarded the Kim Hoffman Volunteer of the Year for McKinney 1997 (co-recipients Lynn and Neil Sperry).

Sperry’s community involvement includes: Founding and current Board Member Emeritus of McKinney Education Foundation; Board Member, McKinney Baylor Scott and White Hospital; Past President, Avenues Counseling Center Board; Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney, Board Member; Founding Member and MISD liaison to Serenity High Advisory Board.
Currently, Lynn serves on the Executive Committee of the North Texas Area Association of School Boards.

Her three children attended MISD schools and she is proud that the education they received prepared them for success in college and in their careers. Lynn has seven grandchildren. The oldest is a 2016 graduate of McKinney North High School and the other six are enrolled in four MISD campuses (MNHS, Dowell, Eddins and Webb Elementary). Lynn and her husband Neil own Neil Sperry’s GARDENS. She and her family are members of the first United Methodist Church of McKinney.

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