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?

1 comment:

dragonmomof3 said...

Oh Holly you are so right on the mark. I hope everyone will share this with all of their friends that live in this district and whether you have kids in school or not, the decisions that are being made affect every single resident within the RRISD boundaries.
It's time for everyone to wake up and pay attention to this pattern Chevez and company have established of snubbing their noses at their bosses-the taxpayers of RRISD. I've had enough, and I hope more people come to that conclusion too! In the meantime everyone needs to keep writing the trustees, stay ON RECORD with your disapproval, continue to write letters to the editor and comment on the online posts.

Thanks for being such a gifted writer and for being honest about the shenanigans going on!