Highland Park High School Class of 1997. Look in this yearbook and you’ll find a Park Cities local who went to school with the same kids from kindergarten to graduation, played soccer, was a cheerleader and bleeds gold and dark blue. Kelli Macatee has a history in Highland Park and knew that she wanted to to raise her family in the community.
“When I was growing up here, we were kind of a hidden gem,” says Kelli of her childhood. “There was no such thing as traffic in the park cities.” She grew up on the east side of the area and frequently rode her bike to Snider Plaza.
“Others will remember Eno Moses(?), Steve’s Ice Cream and Pat’s Sandwich Shop,” says Kelli. “They are no longer there, but they were total treasures. I worked a summer as a waitress at Half Shells. Kuby’s has long been a favorite of our family.”
Kelli and her sisters enjoyed time outside, playing in the creek and riding bikes all over the neighborhood, which is something you can still see now. Then, after graduating high school, Kelli went to the University of Georgia.
“When you get out, it gives you the perspective of how special it is,” says Kelli of her out-of-state years. “I’m thankful for my time out of the city and the state. It helped me not take it for granted. Experiencing other things and other parts of the world rounds you out.”
Back in Texas after school, she met Mark, her husband and HPHS Class of 1986, and they lived in Lake Highlands for a while, but their whole world was in the Park Cities. Mark’s family was also deeply rooted in the community. Mark’s dad even remembers watching the dome being put on the top of the new (at the time) Highland Park Village.
The young couple loved the school district, and was super nostalgic when their daughter started at Armstrong Elementary School - the same place Kelli spent her early years. In fact, her daughter’s science teacher at Armstrong, Mrs. Webb, was Kelli’s third grade teacher.
“Almost all of the guys I grew up with still live here,” she says. “A lot of the girls married guys that didn’t live here, but they come back to visit because their families are here. My daughter is really good friends with the daughter of one of my very best friends from 1st grade.”
Schools are one of the major draws for people moving into, and back to, the neighborhood. Great private schools in the area make the stakes higher for keeping the HPISD schools great, and keeping up the academic rigor. Not to mention the extracurricular activities.
““One of the things that I love is how the community rallies around the high school sports,” says Kelli. “I have such fond memories of going to the Scots games every single Friday night. I always really enjoy the pep rallies. Yeah - the local sports scene, it’s always really really fun.”
Another draw is the simplicity that has stayed true since the days Kelli and Mark were kids. Residents want their kids to have some of the same experiences that they had and the safety and neighbors looking out for one another ensure that that can happen. Kids roaming the neighborhood to play with friends is unique compared to other, larger cities. Not only are these neighborhoods safe, they are beautiful.
“One of the treasures of Park Cities is the fact that the towns have really put the effort into maintaining the public spaces in order to cultivate this lifestyle and this culture,” says Kelli. “We want our community out walking their dogs and taking their kids to the park.”
The community is so special to Kelli that she loves giving back, and her favorite place to do that is in HPISD. She has volunteered at the school in many roles; room parent, parent reader, working in the garden. Kelli just loves to be with the teachers, staff and students as much as possible. Which has guided her to this year and her run for a spot on the HPISD School Board.
“It has been a decision that we have poured a lot of time, effort and energy into,” says Kelli of her campaign. “We’re all feeling a little on edge and helpless when it comes to our country at the moment. I can’t do a lot about what is going on in Austin - but I can offer myself to my neighbors. I can offer my gifts and my skills to the teachers. As we feel the condition of our country, we need people with certain gifts and skills to engage locally. Our local leaders affect our daily lives.”
“I genuinely care about humans and their welfare,” she says. “And I am really passionate about education and learning. Our whole culture relies on the next generation. Today’s student is tomorrow’s workforce and we need to instill independence in our kids.”