To Mindy McClure and Becky St. John;I am writing to you as a concerned parent and grandparent in the GCISD school system. I have been involved as a PTA board member, active member of the PTA and proud supporter of my local public schools, teachers and fellow parents in efforts to make GCISD the best. But I am now seeing something happening within the schools that disturbs me. I have spoken about it on the website “GCISD Parents for Strong Schools” and asked for your response but have gotten no response from either of you.The district decided to initiate something called ‘Culture of Voting Resolution” (COV) The supporters of this resolution for “culture of voting” claim that it is simply a “get out the vote” measure and that it is nonpartisan in nature. “We just want people to vote. What could be wrong with that I was asked? Are they unaware of the right to vote? I think they are aware. I find most of them do, in fact, have an opinion on candidates. For example,in this last election cycle, I stopped by the school office to ask when the kids would see the coverage of the inauguration. Typically the schools have covered the inauguration ceremonies at some point during the day. The office staff and the Vice Principal wouldn’t look at me as they told me the decision had been made not to cover any of the inauguration at school. These are folks I know, that I support in large and small ways. I asked why the inauguration wouldn’t be covered. The Vice Principal responded that the decision was made at the district level and apologized as I left the office to do my “volunteer duty”. Later I called the district office and they told me that the decision was made at each individual school. Which is the truth? I don’t know. But it does spark a question in my mind: “have I been supporting the school all this time and simply assuming that they are supporting me as well?” Are there other ways in which the schools are pursuing their own agenda and using well-intentioned, though maybe naive parents to push their political platform? I recall during the bond election that the PTA board was presented with the proposals of the bond. The Principal stated that she cannot present her own political views on it. It is against official policy. But we, as PTA board members, can pass along the information and encourage fellow citizens to vote for these “needed” items (that quite honestly come at a huge cost and some of which will be obsolete before we’ve finished paying for it). Even so, we supported it and it passed.Why do I go into such detail about something seemingly unrelated? Because it is not unrelated. I’ve realized that there is a process and a method to their ways: first sell the plan to the most visible stakeholders within the school: the most involved families and the teachers. Then take it to the polls and vote it in. I see now there is a definite problem with the way these issues are handled. The “Culture of Voting” resolution is the latest example of the lack of transparency andaccountability on the part of the school board and administration. While the public messaging states they are simply encouraging the act of voting, they fail to mention that the teachers who sign on to this resolution are then pointed to an Austin based web site which claims the title of a parent PAC. This web site specifically states that they have vetted the candidates running to find out in advance who will support their political agenda and they have contributed monetarily to those candidates. It also specifically states “they will vote out” those candidates who don’t meet their criteria. When the teachers sign this resolution, they are given purple wrist bands and sign an oath to support the candidates that this Austin based PAC is supporting. Just encouraging voting? No. The purpose of the wrist band alone is to pressure those teachers who feel like they are damned if they do sign on to the platform or damned if they don’t. “Do I vote my personal beliefs and convictions and risk alienation from the teachers and co-workers who support it? What will that do to the quality of my work life AND my personal life, because naturally many of my closest friends are my fellow teachers.” Then the purpose of the oath is to lock them into voting for the candidates that have been vetted and chosen by Austin. And I haven’t even mentioned yet that legally, as you both know, electioneering such as described above is illegal. Teachers, administrators, school board members and students cannot use public funds to accomplish political agendas. I could point you to all of these links for you to read for yourself, but I’m pretty certain you already know its illegal, thus the efforts at reframing what “Culture of Voting” is about. On January 17, 2018, Ken Paxton, at the request of Texas Public Policy Foundation, issued an Attorney General Opinion that the “Culture of Voting Resolution” recently adopted by a number of Texas Independent School Districts would likely violate the Texas Constitution.Along with this COV resolution, GCISD has presented scripted talking points. I see it over and over in the messaging: “we just want people to vote” and “if you don’t have a child in public school, then you shouldn’t have a voice in what goes on here.” (Need I mention that parents who send their children to private school or “homeschool” still pay property taxes that go to support our GCISD and that those parents struggle to pay private school tuition while still supporting public school efforts?). Further, it is even inferred (by supporters of the COV–some of whom do not have students in the district and seemed to have links only to Austin) that if you aren’t willing to go along with the scripted talking points, you must be in favor of vouchers and wrecking the public school system. Well, I’m not in favor of wrecking the public school system. But I am in favor of accountability and transparency in all school related finance issues and I am most definitely against those in Austin who would seek to pit teachers and school board trustees against the very parents that have supported the Trustees and GCISD. I’m asking you both, as my elected school board Trustees,to stand up against this publicly. I am asking GCISD administration to do the same. The political powers in Austin who are pushing to turn Grapevine and Colleyville “blue” don’t live here. You do. Stand up for the citizens of GCISD instead of the politicians in Austin.Respectfully,Janet Hoffman Yeaney
Direct Action Texas (DAT) has now filed an official election complaint with the Texas Secretary of State (SoS) concerning Jay Harris of Denton County. DAT recently reported on his problematic application for Precinct Chair of precinct 4006. On his application Harris lists his address as 900 Bluebonnet, but Harris actually lives in precinct 1015, at 2221 Hollyhill.
Not only are the two precincts on opposites sides of the city, they also have different representation. For instance, while Harris should be voting in Senate District 12, he will be voting in Senate District 30, potentially illegally. The people he currently represents are not his neighbors. He doesn’t live in their community. He has to drive almost 20 minutes to get there from his actual residence.
He could run against the current precinct chair in 1015, but that would unseat his daughter, Jennifer Harris, who lives with her parents. Jay Harris’s wife and daughter are both registered to vote at 2221 Hollyhill. His driver license even says he lives at 2221 Hollyhill. Are the voters to believe he lives separately from his family and just hasn’t had time to update his license? Doubtful.
As of today, it is up to the SoS to decide if they will refer the case to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for investigation. DAT has alleged two violations: Penal Code 37.10, tampering with a governmental record, and Election Code 64.012, illegal voting.
Even if the SoS and OAG fail to act, the voters of precinct 4006 should. Find someone to run for Precinct Chair in 2020. Find someone that truly represents your neighborhood, not someone misrepresenting himself to gain a title.
The results of the race for Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 could be determined by the failures of a County Chair and his staff. A judge will now decide which of the candidates in this race will remain on the ballot.
Precinct 3 incumbent, Justice of the Peace Russell Casey, filed suit against Tarrant County Republican Chairman Tim O’Hare, claiming O’Hare violated Election Law when he denied Casey’s petition to have his challengers removed from the ballot. According to Casey, the Tarrant County GOP (TCGOP) did not properly complete William “Bill” Brandt’s and Leonard “Lenny” Lopez’s petition signature paperwork for ballot access.
Direct Action Texas (DAT) called out the Fort Worth ISD School Board for ditching their ethics policy just before voting on a $750 million bond package. We opined that certain Board Trustees made the decision because they may be unable to adhere to the new policy and cash in on the massive bond. So, they buried its repeal in a long, vaguely worded consent agenda.
Other Trustees were outraged when they discovered the subterfuge, feeling tricked into voting out the merely three-month-old policy. Even the liberal Fort Worth Star Telegram weighed in against the removal of the policy with a serious of articles including this scathing rebuke from the Editorial Board. As outlined in another FWST piece, the Board is still in turmoil over what “ethics” means in Fort Worth.
Ethics and transparency aren’t just an issue for the Fort Worth ISD Board. The trouble extends to district staff, struggling with even the most basic of open records requests. DAT filed a request with Fort Worth ISD for Campaign Finance Reports (CFRs) filed by Political Action Committees (PACs). Now, almost 3 months later, the PACs’ reports have still not been produced.
DAT has followed the rules. We sent our request in writing. We received confirmation. We waited the full 10 business days, as required by law. We took the only next step and sent a violation letter to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The OAG then sent Fort Worth ISD a demand letter telling them to produce the information. Yet still we wait. Why? What are they hiding? Is the Fort Worth ISD trying to hide information or are they simply inept?
Jay Harris is the Republican Precinct Chair of Precinct 4006 in Denton County. However, Mr. Harris doesn’t actually live in Precinct 4006.
Harris owns a property in 4006, where he is also registered to vote, but he actually lives in Precinct 1015. Precinct Chair is not a government position, and is certainly low on the totem pole of party officials, but the precinct chair is supposed to represent their neighbors in the area where they live.
Why should Jay Harris “represent” his precinct, when he lives on the other side of the city?