Friday, December 14, 2012

Powerful Voices Speak at Round Rock School Board Meeting: Updated 12/15

While I was unable to attend last night's Round Rock ISD board meeting, one nationally-known activist did:  Texas Americans For Prosperity Director Peggy Venable.  Venable presented an open letter to the Round Rock School Board on behalf of Americans For Prosperity, in which she reminds the trustees that they work for the taxpayers and citizens and have no right to censure elected officials with whom they disagree. 

She also noted that similar behavior on the part of the El Paso ISD Superintendent prevented that board from gaining information about illegal activities that eventually led to jail time for Superintendent Garcia.  Venable correctly stated that public records belong to everyone, including elected members of the board.

Regarding the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC,) it seems the Superintendent finally got around to reading the state's education law code and created a new presentation that includes detailed information.  The new document is in stark contrast with the sloppy and unprofessional work submitted by Superintendent Jesus Chavez' administration for 2011-2012.  Of course this battle is far from over; Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards' group, "Texas Freedom Network," has been trying to use local SHAC's to impose radically leftist sex education programs in Texas schools.  Watch for the RRISD Superintendent and the liberal-progressive members of the school board to try to stack the district's SHAC with TFN activists.

If you are not too busy with those Christmas preparations and would like to send a note of support to Peggy Venable and the two board members who are standing up for transparency in government, here is their contact information:

Texas AFP Director Peggy Venable:  Comment on her Open Letter here.
RRISD Elected Trustee Terri Romere:
RRISD Elected Trustee Pauline Law:

Update:  It seems I missed another powerful message that was delivered to the RRISD Board of Trustees on December 13.  A Round Rock citizen by the name of Scott Campbell addressed the board and circulated a copy of his comments.  Campbell's well-written letter reminds me of the scare-mongering perpetuated by RRISD Superintendent Jesus Chavez during the 2011 Legislative session, and the erroneous information he put forth.  Regarding recent board conduct, Mr. Campbell notes that five board of trustee members "have fallen short" of our trust.

Scott Campbell's letter to the RRISD Board of Trustees.

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees.

Our message this evening is about "trust", the root of the word "trustee", the trust we as parents and community members placed in you when electing you to make decisions maximizing our children's quality of education while optimizing the use of funds financed by the taxes we pay. Recent decisions by five board of trustee members have fallen short of this trust.

The board member these board members have censured on multiple occasions represents a minority viewpoint within the board of trustees. The legitimate concerns she raises on behalf of the community stakeholders are being marginalized. She asks questions and digs deeper for data in the interest of making informed decisions. This due diligence is met by resistance from other board members with statements such asI/we don't or can't ask those types of questions". While community input is solicited, these board members generally vote with the administration's recommendation.

During the 2011state legislative session, as the state budget proposal was becoming clearer, an error in calculating the remaining RRISD budget impact, including the benefit of $7m additional federal funding, forecasted a $33m deficit rather than a $13m deficit, a $20m error. The board approved a tentative action allocating $15m from the available fund balance to reduce the $33m deficit, while continuing to communicate fear and anxiety to the employees, students and parents. I brought this error to the attention of the board president and superintendent. Rather than examine the numbers more closely, the board president's only response was that the state hadn't finalized the budget. Ms. Occhiuzzi called me at the superintendent's request and after I explained the error, she had Mr. Flores call me who confirmed the error in the district calculations. That day, the incorrect information was pulled from the district website, thereby reducing stakeholder anxiety.  At the time the board of trustees acted on this data, a basic ''gut check" should have exposed the magnitude of the error. In the course of this process, I contacted Ms. Romere. She took the time to understand the data in the interest of making informed future decisions.

We further know that incorrect data was presented during the boundary alignment process and that the recent Student Health Advisory Committee was not formed according to state education law. The Student Health Advisory Committee is only one example where the RRISD Board of Trustees and persons at various levels in the administration are unaware of state and federal law that should be guiding the decision process.

Data is "hard". This is why it is incumbent on each board member to ask questions to ensure they are    making informed decisions based on correct information.  

The recent censure of Ms. Romere resulted from her quest to ensure valid data. Based on data provided after the August vote allocating $25m for the Success High School, I calculated the cost per student to be 2-3 times that of the recently built Cedar Ridge High School. With more recent data, the cost per student appears to be on the order of 4-5 times. While we believe it is critically important to meet the education needs of the Success students, a more affordable option meeting these education needs would be  to allocate funding from this $25m to complete the final phase of Round Rock High School without the need for an additional bond election; and rather than tearing down building 100, remodel this facility to house the Success program. This will save taxpayers millions of dollars. Thus, Ms. Romere's request for more accurate data was justified. I have requested analysis of this approach from Mr. Albers and Dr. Chavez. I first shared this approach with Dr. Chavez at the August community meeting with the superintendent and more recently during the December community meeting with the superintendent.

In closing, we ask the five board members who represent a majority on the board to reevaluate their actions and ensure they are acting with the 11trust" placed in them by their stakeholders starting with a reevaluation of the plan for the Success High School, including community input.

Thank you for your time.

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