Spooky as Hell: Christian Nationalist School Board Candidates in Tomball ISD

Bryan James Henry
8 min readOct 11, 2022

It’s October, which means it’s time for post-season Astros baseball, Oktoberfest beer, and early voting! While most Harris County voters are likely focused on the governor’s race between Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke or the Harris County Judge race between Lina Hidalgo and Alexandra Mealer, there are also some very important school board elections. For example, Tomball ISD in northwest Harris County has four seats up for election this year and the stakes are higher than many residents may realize. Will Tomball ISD residents re-elect school board trustees that have served the growing district well or jeopardize the district’s success by empowering extremists with a political and religious agenda?

School board elections, and often school board meetings, have been highly competitive and emotionally charged affairs the last couple of years. Motivated by controversies like the “threat” of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and “pornographic” books in school libraries, many voters have been casting ballots for candidates claiming to care about “parental rights” and ousting long-time incumbents. Last year, three incumbents in Cy-Fair ISD lost to a slate of extremist challengers who openly ran as conservative Christians in what are supposed to be non-partisan local races. Since then, no “woke” educators teaching CRT have been found and the only books a loud minority of residents seem identify as “porn” are a few young adult novels depicting same-sex romantic relationships.

Meanwhile, the new trustees have made their share of offensive comments and further divided the community. Though currently outnumbered 4–3 by a coalition of pro-public education trustees, they only need to win one more seat next year to take over the Cy-Fair board and start implementing an extremist agenda that matches their extremist worldview. What is their extremist agenda? A Christian Nationalism at odds with the diversity and pluralism of our society and republic. A desire to deny the truth of American history, ignore present injustice, and hijack the public school system to promote their own conservative evangelical worldview. Will Tomball ISD be the next domino to fall in the political and religious extremists’ crusade to take over public schools? Or will a coalition of residents, ranging from conservatives to moderates to progressives, unite to hold the line against the Christian Nationalist offensive?

Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with conservative evangelicals or patriotic Republicans. What makes an individual a Christian Nationalist is the belief that their worldview should be imposed on everyone else. That the separation of church and state no longer needs to be maintained. That diversity is not a strength, but an inconvenience or threat. These extremists have a political and religious agenda to use the public schools as a local weapon to fight national political battles. Opposing such extremists is not about conservatives vs. liberals, Republicans vs. Democrats, Christians vs. non-Christians. It is about a non-partisan concern for kids vs. a hyper-partisan obsession with ideology. It is about local coalitions of parents uniting the community vs. outside partisan groups dividing the community.

The residents of Tomball ISD have an important choice to make. Will they unite with their neighbors to conserve the gains of a fast-growing, high-performing, and diversifying school district, or allow dishonest and self-interested partisans bent on disruption to divide them? In Cy-Fair ISD, too many voters were disengaged because the election took place in an off-year and only 11% of residents voted. In Tomball ISD, many are already motivated to cast ballots in important state-wide and county races. A crucial conversation must begin now to educate residents about what is at stake if they don’t vote in school board races or fail to do their homework on candidates. Voters in Tomball ISD who care about public schools need to understand that supporters of Beto O’Rourke and Alexandra Mealer should be allies when casting ballots for school board candidates. Again, a coalition of pro-public education residents must unite across party lines to support non-partisan candidates and prevent extremists from infiltrating Tomball ISD.

Who are these extremists? Stephanie Lopez, Jennifer Kratky, and Billy Moore. I learned about their campaigns in an article in Community Impact. Why do I say they are extremists? Their campaign websites have what scholars identify as Christian Nationalist language. For example, Lopez’s website, summarizing her top goals as a trustee, states that “maintaining moral, godly values and upholding the United States Constitution as we educate our students requires people that are willing to be gatekeepers.” What does she want to keep out of Tomball ISD as a gatekeeper? She doesn’t specify, but her website also says she “was willing to be a gatekeeper for her own two children by choosing to homeschool, in order to give them a Christian education.” So, to clarify, someone who believed that Tomball ISD public schools weren’t overtly Christian enough for her children decided to homeschool them and now wants to govern Tomball ISD as a school board trustee. Red flag, anyone? Lopez’s website further states that she wants “to protect the Tomball ISD students from the cultural attacks that have taken a political pathway to infiltrate the school system.” Like any effective fear-mongering tactic, no specific “cultural attacks” are mentioned, and the reader can just assume the worst.

Jennifer Kratky’s website states that her “faith, and her deep appreciation for the Christian heritage of our nation, are the foundation of her passion for education and service to future generations.” Christian Nationalists believe that Christianity should be given preference in the public sphere and that Christians are entitled to public positions of power. They believe that the separation of church and state is a myth, and that Christians should control public institutions to spread Christianity. Kratky appears to be the most overtly and self-consciously Christian Nationalist candidate. Her website includes the ominous statement that “our school board is duty-bound to assert the wishes and values of the local community.” Duty-bound to whom? God? Assert the values of the local community? Does that mean if the local community has a conservative Christian majority, then they can rightfully promote their values through the public school system? What about Tomball ISD’s non-Christian students and families?

Billy Moore’s website includes more of the same Christian Nationalist rhetoric. It states that he “believes that God comes first in all he does…he wants to ensure that his spot on the School Board would be to back the importance of a Christian Texan family.” I honestly don’t know what that means. I also don’t want to know. Let me be clear, the problem with these candidates isn’t their conservative values or Christian faith. The problem is their political and religious worldview, based on their own statements, is their sole motivation to serve on the Tomball ISD school board. They are not motivated to serve the entire community in all its diversity. They are motivated to bring their personal political and religious ideology to the governing body of a public school system. School board races are supposed to be non-partisan, but all three have accepted the endorsement of the Harris County Republican Party. School board trustees, while personally informed by their faith, are not supposed to advertise their religious identity as a reason to vote for them or imply that they will promote their religious worldview as a public official. Lopez, Kratky, and Moore are all running openly as conservative Christians and asking for residents to vote for them based on their conservative Christian identity. What happened to non-partisan public service on behalf of the entire community? What happened to the separation of church and state?

It is ironic that in many recent school board elections, conservative Christians are running against conservative Christian incumbents by accusing them of being “woke” or somehow implicated in the liberal “indoctrination” of students. These political and religious extremists are forced to literally make stuff up about their opponents because too often the incumbents already reflect the political and religious values of the community. For example, based on what I have read online, all three of the Tomball ISD incumbents seem like conservative Christians who have served the district well. So, why is there an urgent need to replace them and move what is already a conservative school board even further to the right? Why is the Harris County Republican Party endorsing Republican challengers trying to unseat experienced Republican leaders? Voters do not have to support political and religious extremists just because the Harris County GOP tells them to. Voters need to remember that they have the power to choose the school board they want.

While it may be confusing or frustrating for the average Republican voter to ponder why the Harris County Republican Party is interfering in local non-partisan elections, it is important for them to do their homework by consulting local teachers, parents, and administrators. If voters only listen to social media gossip, then they may vote for someone masquerading as a savior of Tomball public schools who doesn’t really have the district’s students or well-being at heart. Every candidate has an agenda. Vote for the candidates whose agenda includes strong public schools that serve all Tomball families regardless of their politics or religion. Vote for the candidates whose only agenda is to support and empower all Tomball students regardless of their race or sexual orientation. There are plenty of qualified candidates to choose from, many of them on the conservative and Republican side of the political spectrum. For example, the three incumbents are Michael Pratt, John McStravick, and Mark Lewandowski. Voters can think for themselves and decide who is most qualified to lead Tomball ISD.

It wasn’t long ago that Republicans were still inspired by the conservative philosophy of Edmund Burke, who cautioned against radical plans to reform society and abandon time-proven traditions. Conservatism, according to Burke, was about preserving what works and embracing incremental change. A school district is a fragile ecosystem that contains years of accumulated wisdom that nonetheless is constantly evolving to utilize new research and best practices. As a voter, if you desire to conserve what is good about the public schools where you live, then beware of the reactionary or radical candidate calling for sweeping changes that will reestablish a golden past or usher in a utopian future. Respect for experience, collective wisdom, and a healthy balance between maintaining what works and experimenting with new ideas is a truly conservative approach.

Faced with the prospect of a group of political and religious extremists promising to shake things up, Republican and Democratic voters alike need to ask themselves whether it is wiser to proceed with care and caution. School board politics can remain non-partisan if voters unite to support non-partisan candidates. For voters in Tomball ISD unsure if they can support a school board candidate whose political values differ from theirs (looking at you Democrats), I suggest contemplating what President Biden recently tweeted about the choice voters face in November: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.” Some of the alternatives to the incumbents seeking re-election to the Tomball ISD school board seem spooky as hell.