Friday, November 30, 2012

RRISD Spending Your Tax Dollars To Lobby Against Education Reform?

On November 27, the Round Rock ISD Administration hosted a Board "workshop" designed to turn Trustees against parental choices in education.  The workshop materials were provided by 'Raise Your Hand Texas', the anti-school choice group founded by Charles Butt (who advocates for other Left-wing issues )

Although the stated goals of the workshop presentation are to equip listeners with "information" to "educate parents and community leaders," only the RYHT agenda was presented.  No word on whether the district will allow the Trustees to hear both sides of this issue. 

The workshop presentation includes the usual scare tactics about allowing parents to choose schools, and omits important data about the various proposals.  For example, RYHT does not mention that the Taxpayer Savings Grant proposal allows school districts to keep a portion of funds for students who volunteer for the grants.  So districts would have fewer students and a net increase of approximately $473 in per pupil spending.

The RYHT goes on to bash Tax Credit Scholarships and "School of Last Resort" programs, the latter being the Texas Families First proposal to allow students to escape failing and dangerous schools.   They express no sympathy for students stuck in unacceptable schools, only imply that the public education monopoly just needs more money.   

This attack on parental choice in education is just a follow up to Superintendent Chavez' inappropriate comments at a September 2012 PTA Luncheon.  There he not only took it upon himself to speak for the district on legislative issues not yet approved by the Board, but also stated that he had recently met with Texas Senator-elect Charles Schwertner, and that he wanted everyone to "understand who (they had) elected to state office."*

Apparently Superintendent Chavez believes that if parents are given a choice there will be a mass exodus from his school district, and thus he is quite determined to steer the board toward a predetermined policy stance.  

If it is in fact the elected trustees who are running this school district, perhaps they should invite in experts to present a balanced view of these education reform issues.  There are expert advocates available from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, and The Justice Foundation who would be more than happy to make a presentation.

If you think it would be more appropriate for the board to hear both sides of this issue, please send a courteous and respectful request stating so.

Pauline Law:
Brian Sellers:
Diane Cox:
Catherine Hanna:
Chad Chadwell:
Glen Colby:
Terri Romere:

 *I have been allowed to listen to a recording of Chavez' comments that day, but since PTA officials have issued thinly veiled legal threats to the owner of that recording, I cannot share.  Four other eyewitnesses have also confirmed these comments to me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RRISD Tries to Silence Whistle Blowers?

At the Tuesday, November 27 meeting of the Round Rock ISD Board, 5 of 7 members voted to censure Trustee Terri Romere, apparently for asking too many questions. 

It seems that Terri Romere has been asking Superintendent Jesus Chavez to provide attendance data for the RRISD “Success High School” program for at-risk students. Success High School plans have been much in the news since the RRISD Board voted to spend $25 million from the general fund to construct an entirely new campus for the program. Taxpayers have questioned the fiscal soundness of the decision when the district is in dire need of new middle and elementary schools. At issue is how many students will attend the $25 million campus?

When Trustee Terri Romere initially requested the attendance data from the Superintendent, he refused to comply.  She then asked RRISD Board President Chad Chadwell for the data, who told her that even though she was an elected official, she would have to file (and pay for) an open records request. Ms. Romere did as Chadwell suggested and filed the request. In the meantime, someone from within the district anonymously left copies of RRISD documents on Romere’s doorstep containing the relevant data, which Romere then showed to Superintendent Chavez on November 15.  (Chavez had been claiming the documentation did not exist.)

The documents revealed that daily attendance at the Success High School program ran between 37 and 43 students per day. This is very much at odds with RRISD Administration's statements suggesting the new campus would serve more than 300 students.

Rather than address the very disturbing revelation that the Superintendent had pushed the board to spend $25 million in precious education dollars for a facility that would serve an average of 40 students per day, some board members decided to “kill the messenger.” In an obviously prepared statement, trustee Glen Colby accused Romere of conducting her own investigation, violating procedures, and “violating the Superintendent’s contract.” (Huh?) Colby, et al, claim that no one would have given Romere those documents unless she had ‘inappropriately’ asked for them- never mind that the topic has been much discussed since May 2012 and has prompted numerous letters to the editors of local newspapers.  Romere maintained her innocence and continued to ask the single question, "What is the daily attendance at Success High School?"

This whole new RRISD kangaroo court seems to be an attempt to distract the public from some very disturbing developments within the school district. Not only did the Board vote to stifle voter influence over the governance of the district last August, but during Tuesday’s proceedings the RRISD Superintendent stated that he had the right to decide what information the elected trustees could have about the district. And some of us were under the impression that public schools were governed by a local, democratic process! We elect trustees to the school board, and the superintendent should serve the voters via the trustees. Somehow, in the RRISD, we seem to have an unelected king running local public ed.

Just wondering out loud here: considering Superintendent Chavez’ peculiar statement during the witch hunt censure proceeding, is he refusing to comply with Terri Romere’s open records requests? If so, that is a clear violation of the Public Information Act. The Williamson County Attorney’s office has already admonished the ISD once this year, and just two weeks ago Superintendent Chavez admitted that they probably had not followed the law regarding the School Health Advisory Council. But perhaps there are more serious violations taking place here?

Which begs the question: what is the RRISD trying to hide?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RRISD Board to Take Up Sex Ed on Thursday UPDATED: District Drops Discussion...For Now

According to the posted agenda for the November 15 meeting, the Round Rock ISD board will include the district's sex education curriculum as a "Discussion Item."  (As opposed to an "Action Item.")  The agenda also includes a 20-minute public communications period, but only for "items not on the agenda."  I did make a few inquiries yesterday, and was told that the public would be able to comment on the proposed sex education curriculum changes at "some point" during the meeting. 

It appears the only opportunity parents will have to voice any concerns or opinions will be at the November 15 meeting.  Despite the marked importance of this topic, the RRISD has made little effort to include parents or invite input.  The proposed changes are allegedly the result of a formal recommendation from the RRISD SHAC (School Health Advisory Council,) but scant information has been made available on the composition or activities of the SHAC.  (Even though Texas Education Code requires a "detailed explanation of the council's activities.) Furthermore, according to one SHAC member, it is possible that neither the creation nor the proceedings of the RRISD SHAC are in compliance with state law.

Sadly, my guess is that moving the RRISD sex education curriculum towards a 'comprehensive' program was a forgone conclusion from the beginning.  The education establishment has long taken the elitist view that they alone know what's best for children, even in the area of sex education.

There are those who really believe that condoms allow 'safe sex,' (even though they do not prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases like HPV and Herpes, and are unreliable for preventing pregnancy.)  The argument is that kids, being just biological animals, are going to "do it anyway," and so we need to make it easy and 'safe.'  Unfortunately, our culture is engaged in a hyper-sexualization of children from a very early age.  (Just take a look at the 'prosti-toddler' wear available for your little girls at the local department store.)  Teaching kids 'safe sex' is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.

If you would like to provide input to the Round Rock Independent School District on the direction of the sex education curriculum, I suggest that you attend the November 15 meeting.  (7:00 PM at the Round Rock High School Lecture Hall, 300 Lake Creek Drive.)  I also strongly encourage you to email or call your elected school board members.

Please remember to be courteous and respectful in communicating any concerns.

UPDATE:  Late yesterday afternoon, the Round Rock Independent School District sent out an E-newsletter which casually included the following:

At the Nov. 15 Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees meeting, the district will pull the discussion item on the "Sex Education Curriculum and Implementation Plan." District officials learned recently that the process used to form the district's School Health Advisory Council may not have followed proper procedures and policies. The community is encouraged to still attend and sign up to speak at tonight's 7 p.m. Board Meeting located at the Round Rock High School Lecture Hall, 300 Lake Creek Drive, Round Rock, TX 78681. In the future, community members will be given additional opportunities to speak on this topic...

The full statement may be read on the RRISD website here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wins and Losses

Good news:  Republicans in Williamson County won every race.  Congratulations are in order for State Rep-elects Tony Dale and Marsha Farney, State Rep Larry Gonzales, and our new State Senator Charles Schwertner.

Also in the good news column are wins for Tom Maynard (State Board of Education, District 10) and the four Republicans elected and/or reelected to the Third Court of Appeals:  Bob Pemberton, Jeff Rose, David Puryear, and Scott Field.

In the Round Rock School Board races the results were mixed:  Pauline Law won handily, but Tere McCann lost to Chad Chadwell.  Both Law and Chadwell were first in ballot order, and both have good "candidate names."  Considering that most likely voters went into the polls to vote for president without much knowledge about the local races, those factors probably played the most significant role in the ISD campaigns.

In the ACC races, winners were Barbara Mink and Allan Kaplan, although Libertarian candidate Caldwell actually won the vote in Williamson County.  As I've pointed out previously, the layout of the ACC district effectively neutralizes the voice of Williamson County and other more conservative areas. 

Sadly, a great Texas Congressman, Quico Canseco, lost to Democrat Pete Gallego, and of course we are looking at four more dark years of Barack Obama.   I can't be angry, however; I know full well that Obama and every other politician will go the way of Ozymandias, and in the end the Creator will have the last say.

In the meantime, I'll be praying for my country, for my enemies, and for my beloved family and friends.  


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wilco Early Voting Results

The Williamson County Elections Department has posted Early Voting totals.  Keep in mind that totals can shift significantly once all the votes are counted, but often EV totals are pretty good indicators.

Here's a few snapshots:

House District 136:

Tony Dale:  55.40%
Matt Stillwell:  39.86%
Matt Whittington:  4.74%

Round Rock ISD will include votes from both Travis and Williamson County, so don't get too worked up here.

Round Rock ISD, Place 2:

Williamson County:  Tere McCann:  45.13%
                                  Chad Chadwell:  54.87%
Travis County:          McCann: 43.9%
                                  Chadwell: 56.10%

Round Rock ISD, Place 7:

Williamson County:  Pauline Law:  65.56%
                                  Eric Pav:  34.44%

Travis County:          Pauline Law: 62.69%
                                  Eric Pav: 37.31%

Other Early Vote leaders in Williamson County include Tom Maynard, Jana Duty, and Daniel Caldwell (ACC). 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day 2012

Well, tomorrow is the big day!  Remember that in order to vote on Election Day, you must go to your assigned precinct polling location.

Find your precinct location in Williamson County here.

Find your precinct location in Travis County here.

For other Texas counties, check the Secretary of State website here.

Polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm, but give yourself plenty of time.

As always, political campaigns get pretty heated in the final days; tempers flare and sometimes folks say and do some rather shocking things.  Remember to keep things in perspective and always, always pray for your enemies. 

If it's all getting to you, I suggest you read Erik Erickson's 50,000 Feet Looking Down.  (H/T Michele Samuelson at Blue Dot Blues.)


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bias Alert: Local Newspapers To Readers: "Hey, Don't Be Quoting Our Quotes!"

Apparently our local media doesn't like it when Conservatives quote them verbatim.

In an October 17, 2012 story, the Round Rock Leader newspaper quoted school board president Chad Chadwell as saying:
"I would rather risk making a few students and teachers feel uncomfortable and show them condom use and prevent some teen pregnancies..."
 This morning the same paper has a retraction that states:  "Chadwell did not say the district's sex education curriculum should show students condom use."

This begs some interesting questions:  Why did the Round Rock Leader report the statement as an exact quote if it wasn't true?  Does the Leader just make up quotes that sound good?  So what did Chadwell say?  And why are they so upset that readers believed what they wrote and used it? 

Can we trust anything printed in the Round Rock Leader?

In addition, the Round Rock Leader's parent newspaper, the Austin American Statesman reports that:
On Oct. 20, 2012, the Statesman published a summary of the Leader story stating Hanna and Chadwell had said they supported showing students how to effectively use a condom.
Ironically, even thought both the Round Rock Leader and the AAS have reported these statements, both have condemned conservative Tere McCann for using these quotes!  Oddly enough, the Statesman even notes that:
In reaction, Chadwell emailed a statement to reporters that does not directly contradict McCann’s description of his remarks.
So did Chadwell support condom demonstrations or not?  And why is the local media covering for him?  And now, despite all of these fine stories put out by our local newspapers, the same newspapers are claiming anyone who quotes them is lying?  Wow, I'd say Orwell is alive and well.

I guess this is just more evidence that the Main Stream Media cannot be trusted.  Ever.

As Bernard Goldberg wrote:
With such a glaring lack of integrity that we witness from the news outlets each and every day, it’s sometimes hard to hold out hope that things will ever change for the better.