Allegations of racism plague LISD Trustee talks

Allegations of racism plague LISD Trustee talks

By Miranda Rogers

POST-REGISTER

After a bitter accusation about the statements of an LISD Boardmember during the  Jan. 9, 2012, meeting of the Board was leaked on Facebook, several of Lockhart citizens showed up in front of the School Board on Jan. 23, up in arms.

The comment, referencing the board’s continuing failure to appoint a seventh trustee to fill the seat vacated last summer by Chip Pittman, alleged that racism was at work in the board’s inability to come to an agreement, and that one trustee had said “one black person on the board is enough.”

Lasheryl Hall, addressing this comment that had been made, said that while she considered the School Board to be comprised of responsible people, the comment had been highly irresponsible.

“I feel someone on this board needs to apologize to [Trustee Tom] Guyton for having to endure that comment,” she said.

Other citizens, such as Rick Johnson and Edward Flemming were no doubt fueled by the side of the story that had been revealed, but their speeches were aimed more at the effect that the vacant position was having on the community and the schools. The witnessing crowd gasped as Johnson announced that he wasn’t there to compliment any of the board members, as so many students had just minutes before.

“I’ve come to realize that this board, all six of you, are an embarrassment to students, teachers, staff and tax payers,” he said. Johnson had previously asked to be considered for the vacant position, said he believed his application was thrown out because he is ‘an angry white man,’ and accused the board of singularly aiming to hire a Hispanic. He also said the racial prejudice of some of the board members was quite obvious and “disgusting.”

While someone from the crowd asked if he thought his application would still be considered after his outburst, he had already mentioned that he would have withdrawn his request for the position had it still been in consideration, and that the board had no concern for the children when they spent one third of their time in executive session yet could accomplish nothing.

Likewise, Flemming asked the board members how they got into their current position where they had a vacancy with qualified candidates, yet were refusing them the opportunity, based on color.

He said more diversity will bring greater and better ideas.

“We are too educated to allow old systems to dominate the way we think,” he said. “We have to shape the future by equal representation.”

Homer Williams reminded the board that they needed to do the right thing and let the school progress, and if they did not do the right thing, nobody would vote to keep them in position.

Yet despite the earlier complaints that for the time the executive sessions took, there were no results, that night ended like many others. After three executive sessions, the only action passed was an announcement of a specially called meeting on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m., to address the election for the filling of trustee vacancy, and to consider or approve actions relating to superintendent’s evaluation and contract and to double check all legal matters.

Although the open forum led to a tense meeting, students and parents gathered at the beginning to celebrate the School Board Recognition Month of January, titled “Helping Our Kids Shine.” Each trustee received a special certificate to honor their dedicated leadership and continued service to Lockhart students.

Board President Timoteo “Tim” Juarez, Jr., received a scrapbook of pictures and mementos from over the year, a jacket and various posters and goodies. Vice President Susan Brooks received gifts from the Navarro elementary including a Dr. Suess-like poem that was read aloud, and a gift basket from Pride High School. A hand-crafted paper wreath was placed around Trustee Juan Alvarez’s neck as he was presented with gift baskets from Bluebonnet Elementary and Lockhart High School. Lockhart Junior High School had a couple of pieces of artwork, a t-shirt, kaleidoscope collage and a spirit stick from the cheerleading squad for Trustee Brenda Spillman. Guyton received a “Guyton Family” art decal made on a large tile, a bag of gift cards and posters, and students from Plum Creek Elementary sang a song. Lastly, Trustee Alfredo Munoz was given a t-shirt, staff picture, box of goodies and a shadowbox with the letter “M” made out of crayons.

Also presented with recognitions was the First Christian Church for making life better for kids in the school district with their “Coats for Kids.”

Lockhart Junior High School Principal John Henk presented the District Champion LJHS Seventh Grade “A” Team Lions, recognizing their outstanding performance on the athletic fields, as well as recognizing the Eighth Grade Lady Lion Volleyball Team, and the Seventh Grade Cross Country team.

Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra then gave a District Assessment Report, comparing Completion and Dropout rates from 2008 to 2011. The report showed a phenomenal growth in just a few years with an increase of 14.8 percent in completion rate and a decrease of 2.2 percent in drop out rate. College-ready graduates also increased from 22 percent to 50 percent.

Parra said district administrators have been aggressively seeking ways to keep or recover students, and a team approach will be continued between parents, students, teachers, counselors and administration.

Personnel and Finance has reduced expenditures by 1.1 million, due to having no layoffs in 2011-12, and absorbed positions through attrition. These solid finances are actually seeing increased state funding due to enrollment increase and formula funding.

Facilities will move forward on several deferred projects and continue to address numerous facility needs through regular maintenance budget. Parra reminded the Board that facilities are in good condition but age will become a factor, and suggested it may be necessary in the near future to revisit the facilities plan and look toward the possibility of construction or other improvements to campus facilities.

The LISD Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on Feb. 2, 2012, at 7 p.m. They routinely meet on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Conference Center at Lockhart High School. The meetings are open to the public and webcast at www.lockhartisd.org.

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