This week, we spend a few minutes with Ken Donnell, president and member of the Deer Park ISD Board of Trustees.
InsideDP.com: Where are you from?
Ken Donnell: I'm from Angleton, grew up there and graduated from high school there.
What did you do after graduation?
I moved to Nacogdoches and was going to go to Stephen F. Austin as a business major. I think I made a mistake of majors. I chose business, which in those days was logical for a young guy. It was not my cup of tea and so I ended up coming back home to Angleton.
How did you end up in this area?
While I was still living in Nacogdoches, I met my wife. She was just visiting at the time. She was from Pasadena. When I moved back to Angleton got a job at Dow Chemical, I was coming up to visit her. I decided to move closer, so I got a job with the phone company and have been here ever since. That was in 1970.
How did you start getting involved with the community?
When our older daughter was in school, we decided to start getting involved with the PTO. It was my wife's idea. She and a friend from church recruited me. After a few years, I was asked to be president of the PTO. That was the beginning of my real involvement. I was already involved at church, so I was fine with it. I got to know Harry Fuller really well and he convinced me to run for school board, so that's how I became involved with that. I was elected in 1993 and I ran for Reggie Knowles unexpired term.
Are you still active with your church?
Yes. I attend Faithbridge Church and have been going there since about 1976. It was Deer Park Assembly of God where San Jacinto Baptist is now. We bought the old Food Lion building in 1998 or 1999 and it's been exciting. We have a Spanish Church now and we are growing. I teach Sunday school and am always excited about that. I also play in the praise band. It's a major part of my life.
What endeared you to the service you were doing?
I did it because I was asked to and that was all. At first, I thought it was just a good thing to do. When I got there, something clicked inside that made me believe that I could actually be helpful and do something worthwhile. That's what I tried to do. I would lead while I learned and helped.
What have you learned about the public school system over your tenure on the school board?
Deer Park is different than the general school district out there in several ways. There is a sense of community unlike most other places. There's a sense of unity of purpose on the Board unlike other places that I've heard about. That doesn't mean we all agree on everything. But, we don't have hidden agendas or axes to grind. We have liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. But we all have the same goal of making Deer Park the best district it can be. Around that concept, we rally. I think that the administration has always, in my memory, has always had leadership that was completely focused on the right things. The ugly disagreements, internal fighting and the stuff that becomes public in other places, we don't have that in Deer Park.
Why do you think that it is that way here in Deer Park?
I truly believe, some somebodies somewhere for years, have fervently and effectually prayed for this city and this district. It's opinion and I believe it with all my heart. I don't think there's any other way to explain the uniqueness of this community.
What is your role as president of the school board?
It is to simply to preside over the school board meetings. I'm just one of seven persons elected. With the superintendent, we are a team of eight. The president is also the point of connection for the administration to the rest of the board. I don't and can't speak for the whole board. It's just a positional thing.
How did you become involved with Deer Park Rotary?
I had recently been elected to the school board and was working for the phone company. Barry Beasley, who also worked for the phone company and Jim Kite got me involved. Jim told Barry that someone from the phone company should join Rotary, so Barry came to me and I've been in ever since. It gave me an opportunity to meet people who love Deer Park just like I do and work with them as a team. It increases the ability to do and help. Rotary for me has been an agency of challenge. There are people who are phenomenal people – leaders, givers and motivators. It's been a good challenge.
You were also president of the Rotary club. How was that for you?
For me, it was disappointing. It was a lot of fun and I had a good time. But, it was disappointing personally because I didn't manage to generate community involvement like I wanted to. I tried to come up with a community project to do, but couldn't get it done. To me, it was disappointing for that reason. Other than that, it was a fine year and lots of fun.
What do you do today?
I retired from the phone company in April 2006 and took two days off and then came here to Grisham and Associates. I couldn't envision myself not working. I had been interested in real estate for some time. I worked to get my license and fell in love with it. I really like it because it's real people-oriented business.
What do you like best about what you do?
People. I love people and always have. I tell my wife that I don't, but I do.