A Voice of Reason

Although he has lived in Friendswood all his life, more football fans in town probably know Tony Hopkins by sound than by sight, and that number grows every season.

When the Class of ‘94 grad goes to Cline Elementary to have lunch with his son, more often he’s asked to perform his signature football team intro than, “What’s up Cooper’s dad?”

Being the Henry Winston Stadium P.A. announcer on Friday nights is a hobby Hopkins enjoys. “I hope I make it a fun experience for the crowd, the kids on the field, in the band and the cheerleaders,” he said.

For many, being a husband, father of two, volunteering as the stadium “voice” on home football Friday nights, serving in lay leadership at his church and oh yes, his day job as Director of Principal Investments in the Global Commodities group for J.P. Morgan, would be enough. Not for Hopkins.

He is now in his second term on the FISD Board of Trustees, first elected in 2008.

Hopkins’ Friendswood education, followed by a finance degree at Lamar and a Rice University MBA gave him a solid foundation to effectively serve on the Board. His professional finance background has given him additional ability to understand the District’s record keeping and fiscal management.

“In audits conducted over the last two years, there has not been a ‘correcting’ entry in one of our audits, which is unheard of in a public, government environment,” Hopkins said.

No “corrected entries?” In layman’s terms it could compare to scoring a perfect 1600 on the SAT exam, then doing it again for fun and scoring 1600 again.

“It shows us what good personnel we have in that department. It helps me as a Board member feel very comfortable about where we are going, in terms of the finances,” Hopkins said.

“FISD’s financial staff has been recognized for maintaining excellent fiscal practices for many years. We should never lose sight of how accurate we require them to be in budgeting revenue and expenses, then how exact they are accounting for incoming and outgoing funds,” said Trish Hanks, FISD Superintendent.

“We are fortunate to have Tony and others on the Board who bring a high-level, outside perspective to FISD. Tony is never shy about asking questions on behalf of the public regarding how the District is using its’ financial resources. He has also proven to be a valuable part of a policy-making team which is responsible for making sure the finances, facilities and most importantly, the best people are in place to provide an excellent education to all Friendswood students,” Hanks added.

Hopkins thinks being an FISD alumnus is a “huge benefit” to being on the Board. “The School District is such a central tenet of the community. Understanding what the community expects from its’ school district, because I have seen it for my entire life, allows me to comprehend the expectations of the community,” Hopkins said.

Not only has he climbed a steep learning curve that goes with serving on the Board, Hopkins has become adept at helping his friends, neighbors and fellow citizens grasp some of the more complex equations of school finance.

For example, “Most people believe that we get a larger percentage of our revenues from the state and federal government than we actually do. Additionally, most people think as property values increase, FISD receives more revenue for operations,” he said.

Hopkins couples that with a Friendswood characteristic which differs from much of the rest of Texas school districts.

“For Friendswood specifically, a small percentage of our property tax value is generated from commercial or oil and gas properties. Roughly ninety percent of FISD’s value is from residential property. That is the opposite of many other districts in the state. So our constituents pay for more of the education of our students with less money from the State of Texas as property taxes increase,” Hopkins explained.

While he and other Board members usually only meet once a month, they spend a lot of time in between reading, researching and as is currently the case of Hopkins, visiting other Texas school districts to see how to improve FISD as part of “Leadership TASB.” It is a diverse network of 36 school board members from across the state, organized by the Texas Association of School Boards, “TASB.”

“We explore topics related to school district leadership, and this year especially, focusing on change in public education,” Hopkins said.

He contributes to the group and also brings back nuggets of information and ideas that are shared with other board members and district leaders. Like his other district-related activities, Leadership TASB is also volunteer work.

If you ever wonder if Hopkins has spread himself too thin, positive reassurance will come not by sight, but by the energy he transmits through the mic on football Friday’s at Henry Winston Stadium.