Endorsement Letter Raises Eyebrows in HPISD Board Race

University Park Elementary PTA can’t endorse political candidates, but a recent letter posted on Facebook left some scratching their heads – until it was replaced.

University Park Elementary PTA president Julie Melihercik said an unofficial school letterhead and her name were removed recently from a post of a letter signed by some past presidents of the PTA endorsing Highland Park ISD Place 1 trustee candidate Doug Woodward within a day of their being aware of the post.

The PTA, as a nonprofit, isn’t able to endorse political candidates, according to the IRS website.

“While the original letter did not violate any regulations, out of an abundance of caution, I asked that it be removed from Facebook,” Melihercik said. “Both the unofficial letterhead and my name were eliminated in my hope to avoid any confusion about the opinions of the organization versus my individual support as a volunteer and parent in the district.  This matter was addressed swiftly (within 24 hours of being aware of the post).”

Woodward likewise said the signers of the letter felt it was clear the endorsement was made by individuals, rather than from the organization. Woodward’s letter featured nine signatures after Melihercik’s was removed. A post on his campaign Facebook page says he’s endorsed by more than 21 past PTA presidents as of March 26.

“The community leaders that signed the original letter felt that it was clear that the endorsement was made by individuals who had served the school rather than any statement from the organization,” Woodward said. “However, out of an abundance of caution, the picture of the school was removed and the text adjusted to make it even more clear that these are individuals sharing their personal endorsement of the candidate.”

Dedicated PTA and Dad’s Club parents are the everyday heroes of our district. The amount of time, energy and resources…

Posted by Doug Woodward For HPISD on Friday, March 26, 2021

Eric Swanson emailed People Newspapers with concerns about the endorsement letter. An Eric Swanson is listed as a donor to Woodward’s opponent, Kelli Macatee on her campaign finance report.

“I have several concerns, the most fundamental of which asks the following question: What business does the PTA, an organization that exists for the benefit of all students, have endorsing a candidate for school board, and why would Woodward seek and accept this endorsement?” Swanson wrote the paper.

We previously reported that Macatee said she returned a $10,000 campaign donation from the Rowling Foundation, a nonprofit. Since the donation was first reported, Macatee filed an amended campaign finance report noting that the check was mistakenly written from the foundation’s account rather than a personal one and that the donation was refunded.

Macatee received a total of $42,030 in political contributions from Feb. 16 until March 22, the largest of which was the $10,000 Rowling Foundation donation. 

Woodward received a total of $15,005.55 in total contributions from Jan. 16 until March 31, according to his report.

Macatee works in real estate and Woodward is Crossmark vice president of sales strategy and operations.

The election for the place 1 seat now held by Highland Park ISD board president Jim Hitzelberger in the only contested HPISD school board race is May 1.

Both Macatee and Woodward will answer questions on the Bubble Lounge podcast at 8 p.m. tonight.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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