Concerned Parent’s Open Letter to Grapevine Colleyville ISD Trustees
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 and accountability 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 it’s 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.
Janet Hoffman Yeaney