Changes to GCISD school policies include limiting access to upper-level reading, restricting materials for college-level AP courses, limiting discussion around current events. Combine that with the increase in teacher resignations, and our students are facing new challenges in being college ready, and worse…possibly being labeled with a new not-so-flattering district reputation.
6 Panelists, 1.5 Hours All About GCISD Reputation + College Experience
You’ll find the entire 1.5 hour panel here, or skip down to scan some of the highlights.
We even got a few tips from the graduates for students to look to fill in the gaps for themselves.
We also heard from two GCISD graduates who offered the poignant comments for listeners.
Vivek Tanna, Stanford graduate, pointed out how insulted he would be as a student to have adults decide our students can’t handle more than the four basic subjects. Seattle Hickey, currently studying Womens’ Studies at Harvard, gave us another perspective to consider. Adults are being selfish to take the opportunities away from students to develop critical thinking skills and be able to learn how to manage through difficult discussions in a safe space.
Back to Basics is NOT What the World Wants Anymore
Study shows employers are prioritizing these three skills in the hiring process:
Analytics and critical thinking skills
And ability to work in a diverse team
Standing Out in College Applications, Despite a Tainted GCISD District Reputation
Keeping Up With the Conversation in College
Tips for Students to Prepare Themselves
Build Your Resilience, give yourself time to be a kid, and find ways to pace yourself.
Recognizing not all discussions are up for debate, not always a perspective, both in a person’s lived reality, as well as when we look at parts of history.
We can’t risk electing more Patriot Mobile PAC Trustees to GCISD!
Summary: All year, our experienced trustees were shut down by the Patriot Mobile PAC-backed Majority, and forbidden to comment on issues in their public meetings. We can’t risk having new Patriot Mobile PAC-backed trustees to continue what GCISD Board President Casey Ford started.
“The Chair does not recognize you” (21 seconds)
“Please refrain from asking other board members questions” (27 seconds)
Patriot Mobile PAC-backed Board ignores student voice (27 seconds)
“All four of you had prepared statements of less than 3 minutes; how did the attorney advise y’all?” (27 seconds)
“You’re out of order” (24 seconds)
Examples from the Board Minutes when the Patriot Mobile PAC-backed trustees limited discussion by suspending Robert’s Rules of order
The pink boxes give context to what is described in the Board Minutes.
The blue highlighter indicates when New Board Majority President Ford suspended Robert’s Rules of Order to limit discussion of each trustee.
The yellow highlighter indicates times when the vote was split 4 (Ford, Spradley, Braun, Nakamura) to 3 (Rodriguez, Canter, St. John).
May 23, 2022: First, the board voted 4-3 to elect the inexperienced trustee Shannon Braun as its vice president, over longtime trustee Becky St. John. Then, they voted 4-3 to nominate brand-new trustee Tammy Nakamura to run for a position on the statewide Texas Association of School Boards. To no one’s surprise, Mrs. Nakamura only received ONE VOTE for the TASB position — from another Patriot Mobile takeover district, of course. The TASB seat long-held by GCISD went to HEB ISD. Less than one month into their terms, the politics game played by Mrs. Braun and Mrs. Nakamura cost GCISD influence and connections on the state level.
June 20, 2022: The board voted 4-3 to adjust salaries and to pass the budget. Dissent from the 3 was because the budget did not reflect all contracted expenditures, including salaries. The 4 Majority henceforth incorrectly told the community that the budget was balanced; it was not. In addition, trustee St. John asked for a re-do of the vote for TASB nominee because it was done incorrectly last month.
July 25, 2022: The board voted 4-3 to contract legal services with Cantey-Hanger law firm. The Board President Casey Ford limited discussion about this contract (see video). The taxpayers still do not know how much GCISD has paid this lawyer; we know that the lawyer earns $400/hour from GCISD. With that money that went to the lawyer, classes, programs, and teachers may not have been cut.
August 22, 2022: The board voted 4-3 to pass a 9-page policy about library materials that goes well beyond state law. Almost 200 citizens spoke at the open forum; the majority asking for the policy to be tabled, since there was no community input. The 4-3 vote happened at midnight. This was the first time the New School Board Majority 4 suspended Robert’s Rules of Order to push through the vote without debate. “Keep debate, comments, questions and answers to 3 minutes per trustee and each trustee may only speak 1 time and proceed to vote without amendment.” The New School Board Majority 4 also nominated the two new trustees as TASB delegates using this suspension of debate.
September 26, 2022: Once again, the New School Board Majority 4 suspended Robert’s Rules of Order to push through a vote without debate to continue legal services with Cantey-Hanger law firm. The public has already discovered Cantey-Hanger’s other clients are the Patriot Mobile PAC school boards in Keller ISD and Carroll ISD.
November 14, 2022: Three highlights this month. The New School Board Majority 4 voted 4-3 against using fund balance as aligned with state law, and suspended Robert’s Rules of Order to censure the teaching certificate of a history teacher who quit mid-year under contract. [ Watch our College Impact Panel to find out why she felt she could no longer teach for GCISD! ] And finally, the New School Board Majority voted 4-3 to pass legislative priorities that were friendly to charter schools and taxpayer vouchers.
WE KNOW BETTER: The Patriot Mobile Trustee said she was “glad to hear [Advanced Placement (AP) classes] aren’t threatened in any way.”
Nope! GCISD cut the Director of Advanced Academics and AP Coordinator positions. They cut AP Mandarin, AP Latin, AP European History; high-level math students are teaching themselves; CHHS GT classes were eliminated or had 1 offering only; AP teachers are quitting & retiring; and 18 books are still banned from advanced secondary courses. All these changes are huge threats to the quality of GCISD‘s reputation. [ Watch: College Impact Panel ]
SAY WHAT NOW?: Next, in the same public meeting, Trustee Becky St. John asks for clarification on the instructional policy, wondering if a teacher could speak about breaking news during a US History, World History, or Government class?
At 25 seconds into the video, the response from district staff is NO. “That may be the course, but it may not be where they are in their Scope and Sequence.” The new policy is drastically limiting teachers to whatever is scripted in the boxed lesson plan for that day. It seems like a social studies teacher would be risking their job if they mentioned the day’s headlines.
GCISD deserves better than what Patriot Mobile PAC is offering!
Before the Board of Trustees meeting on April 24, Trustee Jorge Rodriguez requested several items to be added to the agenda. Board President Casey Ford did not add them. You can listen here to the meeting, when Rodriguez asks Ford why they are not on the agenda.
Click above to hear the voice of GCISD Board Member Jorge Rodriguez.
Below are the eight questions that Trustee Jorge Rodriguez asked Board President Casey Ford to add to the public meeting agenda on April 24, 2023. Ford did not add these items to the Board’s agenda, nor did Ford explain why.
Despite Rodriguez’ request for transparency from Ford, the public still does not know the following:
Update on the lawsuit by James Whitfield against Trustee Tammy Nakamura and GCISD (with specific request that the district’s counsel, Brackett & Ellis, be present at the meeting to answer questions)
The agreement reached in the lawsuit by Mitchell Ryan against GCISD and Jorge Rodriguez as the Board President including an update on the contents of the agreement reached by Casey Ford and his attorney Tim Davis with Mitchell Ryan and Mitchell Ryan’s attorney (along with a specific request that Brackett & Ellis also be present to answer questions)
Report on instructional materials and new books — including a list of books to be approved by the school board and, if any books had been removed from the libraries and the reason for removal.
The two-way dual language program — to continue the discussion from the March 2023 meeting along with a vote from the school board on whether to continue or eliminate the two-way dual language program.
Personnel Report — an update on the job openings and resignations (along with a comparison to the numbers of resignations from last year).
High school schedules — block scheduling versus an 8-period day (continuing discussion from March 2023 meeting and getting answers to questions that were not answered during March 2023 meeting)
Advanced Academics — a GCISD district comparison to surrounding districts.
GCISD evaluation for the previous year (2022) and the district’s 2023 goals.
Recently in candidate forums, the idea of “open enrollment” has been brought up by both Sergio Harris and Kimberly Phoenix as a way to increase revenue instead of cutting teachers, classes, and programs as our current board majority supports. The concept of “open enrollment” is not new in GCISD. We built amazing programs of choice and could continue to grow them by adding the right kids at the right time, rather than cutting programs and chasing away excellent teachers. Open enrollment is what currently allows Grapevine residents not zoned to GCISD to still attend GCISD schools. It also allowed Carrol ISD to recently open up to the families of first responders, just like GCISD teachers can bring their kids.
What is Open Enrollment?
In Texas, the state allows each district to decide its own open enrollment policies. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. It runs similarly to a voucher program in that the school can create its own parameters and is not required to take any child that applies. However, if accepted, the state’s funding for that child follows the child to the new campus. Unlike a voucher program, the accepting school is a Texas independent school district and is accountable for the funds in the same way the student’s home campus would be. It is a much more accountable version of school choice than vouchers and charter schools.
How is this good for GCISD?
Open enrollment allows a district to create greater efficiency of operations by determining in advance which programs, classes, or campuses have space in order to maximize their enrollment capacity in buildings that are already being heated, cooled, and cleaned. Adjusting in this way can save teaching positions, keep GCISD from having to apply for waivers when exceeding classroom capacity, and can generate additional revenue for the district depending on where the legislature sets target revenue and the number of students who apply.
Could we set admissions standards?
Yes! In the early days of ASPIRE, students who met the admission criteria were allowed to apply. A few years later, the program hit max capacity and that option closed. With our unique schools of choice, we could set different parameters for each program and even limit what grades we would accept. We could allow it for one year at a time and even make residency a requirement after a certain timeframe, which would allow families to move here after guaranteeing that their child would qualify for a particular program. In ASPIRE, for example, children are required to attain certain testing scores, which we currently do not charge for (but could!) In a tight housing market, it is hard for families to make the choice to move until they know if their student will qualify. This expands our potential applicant pool AND draws more families to our area.
How does this help with GCISD funding?
Districts that allow open enrollment are able to set admissions criteria based on seat availability at designated schools and can require that all students accepted provide his or her own transportation to and from school. In Texas the money follows the child so we would get funding for that student. Additionally, GCISD already loses residents to other specialized programs in other districts. Districts with magnet, academy, or vanguard programs often accept outside applications on a space available basis. We lose highly talented families of kids that qualify to Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts and Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy because we don’t have an arts focused high school academy. Perhaps instead of cutting our programs of choice, we should expand them!
There are many additional situations that would have to be discussed at a board level if this were to be explored, such as the impact on UIL rules, etc. But it is an excellent and creative way to keep our amazing programs strong for our community!
Pro-GCISD families need to be United for GCISD and support the best candidate that filed in each of the 3 school board races this year. Please show up for our teachers and students and tell others why you will VOTE for Sergio Harris for Place 5, Dianna Sager for Place 6, and Kimberly Phoenix for Place 7!
Harris, Sager, and Phoenix are also listed as the best candidates by Protect GCISD, The Book-Loving Texan’s Guide to the May 2023 School Board Elections, and yes, a PAC. But don’t worry, not all PACs are harmful in local elections. In order to raise money for political campaigns, various IRS structures are needed. Texas Nonpartisan PAC is truly local, GCISD focused, and only formed as a PAC to comply with election rules regarding coordinated election campaign efforts.
Why is the GCISD School Board election so important? The new school board majority eliminated run-offs, so the person with the most votes wins. This is different from prior years. There will only be one chance to vote. A split “non-Patriot Mobile” vote hurts our chances to restore Independence, Respect, and Excellence.
We have One Vote for a Better GCISD, Because Our Kids Deserve the Best!
E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One. Our founding fathers chose this original motto in 1776. It signifies the strength that comes from uniting diverse perspectives into a single voice.
We chose to use this purposefully in our logo because, when you are trying to support a district as unique as ours, it takes a strong variety of voices representing differing but equally passionate views to make the most educated decisions for our schools. That is how school board races used to be! Candidates ran because they cared about public education and once on the board, the seven elected trustees sworn to work on behalf of our students and teachers used their varying perspectives to decide what was BEST for GCISD. We strongly believe that City Council and School Board races should remain nonpartisan for that reason, so each elected trustee focuses solely on the district without taking political marching orders that follow a party platform or the desires of an important donor.
Unfortunately, some extremist organizations — defined as far from center and drastically narrower than the views of the majority of GCISD families — have decided to make school board races political across the country, and as a community we didn’t react quickly enough to fend them off. Last year, GCISD made national news as a Patriot Mobile “takeover district” when the candidates they identified, funded, and coached gained majority. Instead of a grassroots election of independent candidates, we instead have 4 trustees that vote as a block virtually every time. The district as we know it has suffered. We have seen a dramatic rise in teacher turnover, families are leaving, our community’s reputation is suffering, and we are losing academic opportunities that once drew families to our district – all due to irresponsible and short-sighted decisions made by an inexperienced board majority.
There are so many proof points of the negative effect in the past 12 months, here’s just a few highlights:
We lost our designation as a Top 100 Place to Work (determined based on workplace satisfaction surveys) after earning it annually since 2018.
Even more disappointing is that our new board majority is very proud of this destruction and they regularly share their “success” by speaking on the topic of taking over school boards.
Why We Formed a Local GCISD Voice
Many of these same anti-public school voices have been involved over the past decade or more, in various organizations with changing names and lead players based on partisan elections. In the past two years, several LOCAL grassroots organizations began forming to try and combat the damage and get the truth out about GCISD. Non-partisan, pro-public education organizations like Protect GCISD, Texas Bipartisan Alliance, United for GCISD and Texas Nonpartisan PAC all formed at different times, with different people, and under different tax structures, but all with a similar idea in mind: counter the misinformation being shared about GCISD, defend our teachers from unfair attacks, help our students feel safe and cared for, and educate the public about what was happening to the district we love.
Several Facebook groups also formed to discuss issues in GCISD, but they did not file as political organizations so they could not impact elections on the same scale, since that was not their stated intent. All of these groups grew out of a love for GCISD and each has an important role, but to truly beat such a well-funded attack requires all of us being on the same page. Sadly, that didn’t happen. A truly grassroots set of organizations organized bottom up by busy families on a volunteer basis is a far cry from a top down process with virtually unlimited funding and professional consultation down to their color coordinated signs. We tried for months to get as connected and organized as time, money, and volunteer commitment would allow but it unfortunately wasn’t enough to keep good candidates from filing against each other (or, later, reconsidering what was in the best interest of GCISD.)
With so many school districts under attack and requests coming in for help in other areas, volunteers decided to switch Texas Bipartisan Alliance to supporting any potential takeover district that needed help. Organizers of United for GCISD launched to focus exclusively on GCISD, beginning with the highly successful Scholastic Book Fair raising $10,000 in books for children served through GRACE Christmas Cottage. After that success, volunteers that felt passionately about speaking out against book bans and censorship wanted to keep the momentum going so that as candidates for school board filed, a support group would already exist.
United for GCISD was formed as an alliance of community members and organizations dedicated to restoring excellence, independence, and respect in the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District by electing board trustees who align with these core community values. We hoped to be a bridge and we reached out for support with that in mind. We knew it would be vitally important to get behind ONE candidate per place. We announced our plans and invited everyone to join us that aligned with our mission to Take Back GCISD in 2023.
Based on years of collective experience, we knew it would be catastrophic to pledge support to a candidate before the end of filing because you can’t control who files in a democracy! Unlike the anti-GCISD candidates, there was no vetting or interview process to decide who was allowed to file and where, despite lots of people having lots of opinions, in the end no one could make that decision but each candidate filing.
Looking for Candidates Who Speak for ALL Students
Despite that, we knew we had to UNITE behind ONE candidate for each race and find the ones with the strongest chance to beat the inevitable Patriot Mobile slate. At that time, it was unclear if any of the incumbents were even running. Since school board filings don’t even start until January, we focused on educating the public on issues relevant to the upcoming campaign through a series of Deep Dives. Many people talked to the candidates as they considered filing. Some candidates said they did not want help or that they did not want to campaign alongside any other candidate. Others agreed that a unified plan was our best chance. All of that was taken into consideration and in the end once filing closed we decided to invite all candidates publicly on our page to reach out to us if they felt their mission aligned with ours.
That brings us to today and our campaign going forward. We believe without question that in our 3-way races, Sergio Harris for Place 5 and Kimberly Phoenix for Place 7 stand with us in our desire to Take Back GCISD and Restore the Independence, Respect and Excellence, which at one point in time, we all took for granted.
How do we know Harris and Phoenix are pro-public education?
These two candidates understand the importance of aligning in a way that gives us the best chance of winning back our district.
They have the most recent and relevant experience to get us up to speed quickly and are vocally committed to undoing the damage of our current board majority.
They are parents of GCISD students, long time public education devotees, and have large community volunteer followings.
You will also see Dianna Sager on our materials for Place 6, which is a two person race. She did not reach out to us to show how her campaign goals align with ours, but she is the only non-Patriot Mobile candidate in that race.
Three Candidates Stand Out for Pro-Public Education Voices
We aren’t the only ones that noticed these admirable traits! Harris, Sager and Phoenix are also being listed as the best 3 candidates by Protect GCISD, The Book-Loving Texan’s Guide to the May 2023 School Board Elections, and yes, a PAC. But don’t worry, not all PACs are harmful in local elections. In order to raise money for political campaigns, various IRS structures are needed and a few local GCISD volunteers were willing to structure as a PAC so that we could all have that option for donors. TXNPac is truly local, GCISD focused, and only is formed as a PAC to comply with election rules regarding coordinated election campaign efforts. PACs have different rules than incorporated 501c4s, which are different than unincorporated 501c4s, and all allow more support for causes and candidates due to fundraising and endorsement rules than informational Facebook groups and substantially more than 501c3s.
To be clear, every well intended organization plays an important role, but the financial and legal structures are vital if we really are serious about trying to counter the takeover. We can no longer vote for our friends, a former classmate, the person who filed first, the parent of your child’s classmate, or the one who wants a do-over. Voting for someone because they’re “from here” has not served our community well in the last two elections. This election will require a much more disciplined and thoughtful vote. All eyes across the country are on GCISD, ever since Patriot Mobile made us their ground zero.
Why is the 2023 GCISD school board election so important?
We need more involvement and commitment from all pro-public school advocates in GCISD to make our vision a reality. Until then, outside forces will continue to overpower us. Sadly, as we said to anyone that would listen: school board elections from the days when you could run independently on your own merits and without a built-in support network are over. And anyone who naively thought otherwise before, is clearly seeing the light now, as we are seeing sets of three signs all over town and candidates endorsing other candidates on their campaign pages.
Regardless of how many well-intended candidates we have, in the end we can only support ONE candidate per place or risk EVERYTHING by splitting the vote, since runoffs were very purposefully eliminated.
Vouchers in the 2023 Texas Legislature: A Timeline
Newest headlines at the top
Monday, May 15: Texas Committee on Public Education invites speakers for new voucher bill SB 8:
Video: Vouchers/Educations Spending Accounts redistribute taxpayer dollars from public schools; yet private schools are not required to provide federal protections for special education students or accept all students:
Friday, April 7: Texas House comes out against school vouchers in initial vote. GCISD’s Texas Representative Giovanni Capriglione voted in favor of vouchers. The Representative for the Euless area of GCISD, Salman Bhojani, voted against school vouchers.Source: The Texas Standard
Tuesday, March 29th: Bill that would give parents state funds to pay for private schools moves to the full Senate for a vote. AUSTIN, Texas — (The Texas Tribune) A sweeping public education bill that would allow families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools and restrict classroom lessons on sexual orientation received initial approval Tuesday and will now go before the Senate for a full vote. … The bill would give parents who opt out of the public school system access to a savings account with up to $8,000 in taxpayer money, per student, which could be used to pay for a child’s private schooling and other educational expenses, such as textbooks or tutoring.” Source WFAA-TV
Vouchers in GCISD? A Deep Dive Summary:
Are vouchers for private schools a better alternative to “government schools” aka public schools? The answer is no.
Some in our community are friendly to vouchers or charter schools, including a former mayor now-school board candidate.
Breaking with PTA for the first time in history, the GCISD New School Board Majority removed the annual “no vouchers, no charter schools” statement from its legislative priorities this year.
What is the thread connecting the former Mayor of Colleyville with the GCISD school board decision to break from a long-standing PTA supported initiative with the Texas legislature‘s move to provide $8K for private schools?
The answer: School Vouchers to fund private charter schools.
And why should GCISD citizens care about these connections?
Families who value their public school education and the community at large should question why a charter school supporter like Newton is now running to be a trustee of a public school.
Jump to a Part of this Deep Dive, or keep scrolling to read it all.
Part I. As mayor, Richard Newton endorsed a charter school company called ResponsiveEd “that would like to get a school started in Colleyville.”
The scene is Spring 2021 at a Colleyville City Council Meeting. Mayor Richard Newton, who is a current candidate for GCISD School Board, spoke from the dais about his meeting with ResponsiveEd, a company that runs charter schools in Texas in collaboration with Hillsdale College. Newton says he is a “strong supporter” of Hillsdale College, especially its curriculum of Christian education and the Constitution.
In the video, Newton says the company’s representative has talked to a few pastors in town because the company would like to get a school started in Colleyville.
Watch the video and read the email between Newton and the rep, Kalese Whitehurst:
What is Classical Education? Do you notice that the document titled ResponsiveEd (above), there is no mention of “Christian education,” which is what then-Mayor Richard Newton stated that he liked about Hillsdale/ResponsiveEd bringing to Colleyville. Why does the document not state that a ResponsiveEd school is Christian — is this what “Classical education” means? Yes, according to a cover story by Christianity Today that provides insight into Classical Education and states “evangelicals are becoming the new champions of the pagan classics.” Read more documentation about the Classical education movement on Wikipedia. Several community speakers at the GCISD Board of Trustees’ open forum have begun promoting a return to Classical education. Why?
Part II. Texas Monthly exposes ResponsiveEd for voucher scheme that would divert public school funds to private companies
“Political operatives descended on the Hill Country town of Wimberley with a scheme to send taxpayer dollars to private schools. Now they’re shopping the same blueprint elsewhere. …”
“One of the authors of the plan was Aaron Harris, a Fort Worth–based GOP consultant … along with Monty Bennett, a wealthy Dallas hotelier who dabbles in what he regards as education reform. …”
“The other author was Kalese Whitehurst, an executive with the charter school chain Responsive Education Solutions, based in Lewisville, a half hour north of Dallas. …”
“The scheme was complex but it pursued a simple goal: turning taxpayer dollars intended for public education into funds for private schools. The kids would be counted as Wimberley ISD students enrolled at the Achievement Campus, thus drawing significant money to the district. (In Texas, public schools receive funding based in large part on how many students attend school each day.) But the tax dollars their “attendance” brought to the district would be redirected to private institutions across the state. …”
“The most transformative of a set of policies often described by proponents as “school choice,” vouchers allow students to attend private schools using taxpayer dollars. For more than sixty years, school-choice enthusiasts have tried, and failed, to create a voucher program in Texas. Texas’s first dalliance with vouchers came in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ordered desegregation of public schools.“
The Texas Monthly article concludes: “When I spoke to [Joe Basel, the self-styled “systemic disruption” consultant], he conceded that his reputation didn’t help his cause. But he hasn’t given up on passing the voucher program. “It’s still my goal,” he told me. “Other districts are considering it.” He declined to name which ones.”
Part III. For the first time in history, the GCISD New School Board Majority voted 4-3 to remove the annual “no vouchers, no charter schools” statement from its 2023 legislative priorities — signaling support for the state to take even more funding away from GCISD and abandoning their oath to GCISD families.
A voucher system gives money to private and religious schools without requiring them to follow the same accountability standards and open admission policy as public schools.
The Texas Legislature convenes every other year. The School Board creates a list of legislative priorities to communicate the district’s needs and goals to Texas Senators and Representatives as they write and pass laws. Independently, the PTA will create its own legislative priorities.
Two Years Ago February 2021
In 2021, the GCISD Board of Trustees opposed vouchers and charter school expansion in their legislative priorities.
Feb. 27, 2023 – The board reviewed a request from the PTA to support PTA’s legislative priorities.
The New School Board Majority — Casey Ford, Tammy Nakamura, Kathy Florence-Spradley, and Shannon Braun — voted to table the PTA’s request to support them.
Board President Ford said, “It’s still unclear who has been behind the scenes working on this request.”
GCISD Trustee Becky St. John in her dissenting vote reminded the board that knowingly allowing the state to take away funds from our district in this way violates their code of ethics to work against GCISD and supports diverting public funds.
Sometimes, seeing events on a timeline helps us understand the bigger picture. What do you see? What questions do you have so far?
Why are the extremists pretending they don’t know our Council of PTAs?
Why is our Public School Board of Trustees refusing to collaborate with PTA on a pro-public school stance?
Historically, only communities with low-performing public schools get charter school approval. Is this why they are cutting funding and creating chaos?
Would someone trying to bring a charter school to Colleyville be someone we should elect to serve on our public school board of trustees?
Who is eyeing our community for voucher/charter schools — and whose pockets will benefit from the payout potential?
Part IV. GCISD citizens should ask, as communities all over the country are asking: Can a private school serve students better than a publicly funded school?
We need to be aware that the same organization and people who wanted to take over Wimberly ISD “would like to get a school started in Colleyville,” said then-Mayor Richard Newton.
Will private schools be accountable to taxpayers? Currently the State does not require private/charters to administer the STAAR student performance test, to provide financial reporting or accountability, or to comply with Special Education rules.
Private schools may exclude students because of a diagnosis that the private school is not equipped to serve, such as dyslexia or diabetes.
Did you know: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination. However, the ADA contains an exemption for religious institutions, including religious schools. Therefore, the ADA does not apply to religious schools or offer students attending these schools protection from discrimination.” Source: American Diabetes Association
What if a family is suddenly unable to afford tuition, if a parent dies or loses a lucrative job? How soon would the student need to transfer to the free, under-funded public school? Private schools also rely heavily on private donations from families instead of fully rolling the cost of service into tuition, likely eliminating families who can only afford to attend due to the government subsidized education voucher.
Private schools may reject students who do not adhere to the religious code of the school. It’s already happened in a Colleyville private school. In 2020, a longtime student was expelled from the private religious school after coming out as gay.
A takeover of our public school system by private schools will create an underclass of under-educated people in a single generation.
Vouchers don’t add up for Texas children. It is a sneaky move to privatize education, will immediately harm our local schools, and in the end, dismantle the right to a public education in America.
Don’t give up on public schools. Everyone belongs in a public school. We are GCISD!
March 30 update: What to watch for: The current bill states that current private school students are not eligible, so what is the harm? As in many policy roll-outs, a bill is reduced to what is most likely to be accepted and seems innocuous, but then once the ball gets rolling, it is more easily updated in future sessions. And before you know it, voila, a completely privatized system of education, no longer public schools for public good.
We’re sorry in advance for how long this is, but here are eight new points to consider.
It’s time for the board majority to be transparent about their goals.
If they believe the public wants to rewind to the 80s and 90s and get a basic education just so they can limit costs, they should say that.
If they think parents should be responsible for paying for extracurriculars and not taxpayers, they should say that.
If they want to support privatization through vouchers and charter schools, they should say that.
If they want to run students away from GCISD so they can consolidate campuses to give a property tax cut to people who already got what they needed out of GCISD, they should say that.
Why are they not saying that? Because our community supports GCISD and we know how important it is to our cities and property values to restore the reputation of GCISD and voters would never knowingly elect trustees who admitted to these truths.
8 truths about GCISD you need to know before you vote May 6
1. Academic Decline: The decline in GCISD’s recent student STAAR scores is largely due to the changing nature of education throughout the world during an unprecedented pandemic and was not an exclusively GCISD issue. The State did not give school districts autonomy in managing their own districts and disallowed any extension of online or hybrid learning. We know from colleges that hybrid in-person/remote learning would have allowed students in quarantine to keep up from home and still be counted present. GCISD had the technology available for interested students, but instead, those students had to miss weeks of instruction.
In addition, demographic information from TEA shows huge shifts in GCISD’s enrolled students in dyslexia, special education, gifted & talented over the past 10 years. Our Title I enrollment decreased, while our Economically Disadvantaged students remained about the same percentage. GCISD now receives less federal money to serve our students with some of the greatest needs. The added pressures of the pandemic only compounded that impact.
2. Programs: It’s false of our New School Board Majority to say “it doesn’t cost more to challenge our students”. Differentiated learning does require specialized and tiered rigor (on-level, advanced, accelerated, STEM, ASPIRE), which in turn require more class sections and likely more teachers. GCISD’s ability to meet all levels of learners combined with our variety of interest areas is attractive to home buyers, because parents know students are most challenged when they are in an environment for which they are uniquely suited. But the New School Board Majority is now standardizing GCISD’s education offerings and focusing just on core content and test scores.
Follow up question:
Is the NSBM planning to max out class size? That leads to reducing and constraining flexibility in the schedule, which leads to less specialized programs, less variables to support and ultimately less opportunities for students to excel in their differentiated strengths.
An example of this reduced flexibility by our New School Board Majority: Despite claims that nothing is at risk of being cut, this week the high school principals announced that they were eliminating Block Scheduling, which gives kids an academic advantage in college admissions. Parents got an email without the Board of Trustees offering discussion or explanation. What will be cut next? ASPIRE? STEM at Colleyville Heritage? Will CHHS get back GT sections of AP classes? Answer: We don’t know what’s next on the chopping block — but we do know it’s not acceptable to assume all kids in the same grade can learn on the same level in all subjects. We should not expect our teachers to appropriately challenge a packed room of students on varying levels, just so the New School Board Majority can report they are streamlining costs. Our New School Board Majority gloats that they’re getting back to basics, and that it’s just common budgeting sense to have all kids on the same instructional level and learn at the same pace. Except we all know kids aren’t cookie cutter, and GCISD knows it, too! Or has, in the past.
2021-22 Staff Information (TAPR) GRAPEVINE-COLLEYVILLE ISD (220906) – TARRANT COUNTY
For reference, this chart from TEA shows how our district supports several programs, meeting the needs of all different kinds of learners.
3. Block Schedule: A “Straight Eight” school day of eight 45-minute periods that meet daily offers the same number of instructional minutes as a Block Schedule of 90-minute periods that meet every other day. GCISD has tried Straight Eight before and switched back to Block Schedule within two years. The drawbacks to the Straight Eight schedule are many.
First, teachers’ daily planning periods will not perfectly align with other teachers in their academic subject or department. It’s possible two Algebra teachers in the same building won’t ever meet unless it’s during their personal time.
Second, the only way to “offer more” through a Straight Eight schedule is to extend the double-blocked courses (Athletics, Fine Arts or Career & Technical Education) into before or after school time. Would GCISD compensate teachers for that time that is usually built into the school day?
Third, changing to Straight Eight requires a review of all students who have extended time on assignments or tests with 504 plans or IEPs (8% of district or 1,152 students). How do they fit in their extracurriculars and their class work, and have the right support (including paraprofessionals) to be successful? There simply will not be enough classroom time to allow those students to finish, which will cause more before and after school time for those students, as well. Typically, those students have been supported by paraprofessionals, a staffing category GCISD underpays and is at most risk for remaining unfilled. If a student whose IEP allows them extra time, will they have enough time before and after school to finish work in multiple classes each day? We are concerned the Straight Eight plan could keep our students with 504 plans out of extracurriculars entirely.
4. Curriculum: We’ll say it slowly: GCISD. Has. Always. Had. A. Curriculum. The district has maintained a written curriculum for its core content areas for a long time. It’s false to mix up “curriculum,” “lesson plans,” and “teaching resources.” GCISD has always had a curriculum. It was just different for different student programs and levels.
The district has adopted comprehensive instructional materials for every content area on the schedule set forth by the state. Our old curriculum from 10 years ago used a print textbook and followed it in order, regardless of how well it addressed the standards or demonstrated a logical progression of learning. For about 2 years, GCISD has used the TEKS Resource System from the State of Texas, which weaves the state’s teaching guide into GCISD’s curriculum documents. GCISD has renewed its contract for the TEKS instructional materials in math, science, social studies, and English. The “new reading curriculum” that the New School Board Majority recently purchased is not curriculum; it is materials (books) used by some populations of students.
5. Finances: Let’s start with the New School Board Majority’s decision –“26 high school teachers that leave will not be replaced.” What if those teachers have a special skill set? Will we force a teacher without appropriate background to teach that class?
If you have attended past school board meetings you have witnessed Human Resources reports where staffing studies are discussed. So, the fact is this was NOT the first study. The facts we should be hearing about are if the latest audit took into account the unique nature of GCISD and our special programs. There is no evidence to support this.
Follow up questions:
Did it account for the highly skilled staff that support these programs? It’s unclear if the audit results were even helpful. To “absorb” 26 teaching positions and say elsewhere that class sizes will be lowered without losing academic offerings is insulting, and definitely not factual.
How many teachers can we find to teach Multivariable Calculus to high schoolers? (Currently, zero; those students are teaching themselves.) What about AP Research and AP Seminar?
How many teachers are licensed to work with our special needs students?
Before the attack on public schools brought on by partisan politics during the pandemic, our teacher retention rate was exceptional, and every opening attracted tons of applicants. What we are experiencing now is not normal. In a quest to appease their anti-public school supporters, the New School Board Majority announced a (fake) balanced budget, implemented a tax cut, continued to tie the hands of teachers, administration, and support staff and make their lives more difficult when they could have been focusing purely on learning gaps.
The nature of public school finances and budgeting doesn’t support a “fluid” budget. When you have set costs, you can’t pretend like they don’t exist and then modify them monthly.
If you know Gas costs $400 a month for your family, you can’t budget $50 and call it balanced when you know you have to add to it every month! Why do you think our longtime Chief Financial Officer left? Did she know the task being asked of her was impossible? Was she being asked to present a budget that violated her duty to the district?
6. Teacher Attrition & Teacher Pay: Since our school district was taken over by the New School Board Majority in May 2022, we have seen a dramatic increase in turnover. So much so that it is now being considered “normal!” The turnover in positions in ‘20-’21 and ‘21-’22 is not the same as we saw pre-takeover. WFAA reported that resignations/retirements were 40% higher this year. It is indicative of a shift in culture in GCISD.
Regarding pay, past School Boards ALSO voted to approve multiple teacher pay raises and attempted to close gaps in pay relative to other districts.
More follow-up questions:
Is the New School Board Majority committed to adding $5 million to the budget annually? Or are they calling for a balanced budget that requires cutting teaching positions in addition to the administrative positions and support personnel that have already been cut?
Have we asked our teachers if a 4% raise is worth the toxic environment that the new board majority has created? Is it worth losing block scheduling? Losing Programs of Choice? Losing our bench of administrative staff and paraprofessionals? Being forced to teach multiple students on varying levels in the same class? Being forced to accept teaching classes outside of their expertise or resign?
7. Strategic Plan: Of course GCISD has a strategic plan. A plan that developed award-winning programs, and created an award-winning work environment. A plan that prioritizes public education for all learners.
LEAD 2021 and LEAD 2.0 involved dozens of community volunteers, parents, teachers and students and led to Dr. Ryan getting 2018 Superintendent of the Year, our Board getting Board of the Year, the development of STEM, AVID, ASPIRE, iUniversity Prep, Collegiate Academy, TECC Center, tuition based pre-K programs, and 1:1 device rollout. Those programs improved standings in Advanced Placement, Dual Credit, and Lone Star Cup, increased identification of students with dyslexia, etc. and allowed students to excel in areas that are most important to them. That was not by accident!
The “Top 100 Places to Work in DFW” award was a very important indicator of how happy employees were in GCISD and is now being falsely called a “fake award that the district paid for!” The only thing the Dallas Morning News charges for is a detailed copy of the survey results, upon request, after the winners were announced. Read the details from the Dallas Morning News. GCISD used the free survey but did not pay to see the survey results. It is completely misleading for a GCISD Trustee to say in a public meeting that it was an award we paid for, when in fact, GCISD is no longer a recipient of the award due to tanked ratings submitted by the 1800 employees who took the workplace culture survey.
Speaking of strategy, it doesn’t seem strategic of the State of Texas or of the GCISD New School Board Majority to underfund our schools and court private schools to take over. State-level decisions contribute to local funding. We need pro-public education trustees to influence our State Legislators. It doesn’t seem innovative for the New School Board Majority to spend a year writing and implementing a new Board policy requiring Board approval (really) to reorder a lost library book. It doesn’t seem strategic or thoughtful that the New School Board Majority didn’t mention it was cutting Programs of Choice and eliminating block scheduling at their board meeting less than 48 hours prior.
8. Innovation: It is not innovative for a trustee to further divide the community by referring to “my side” and make the speaker rounds bragging about the destruction of GCISD and how the board majority has purposely not advocated for the entire GCISD population as a whole. It is not innovative to give everyone the same standard education by eliminating programs students find meaningful. That is the factory school model we fought to replace over a decade ago when faced with declining enrollment. Our Special Programs saved us from having to close campuses. Our Special Programs brought new families into GCISD. If we allow trustees to get elected who are pushing us backwards, our students will never be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. It is not innovative to force our students into daily “speed dating” running through eight 45-minute classes a day.
Follow up questions:
If it’s true that bussing will still be offered, how will those kids get to one campus and back without missing half of class? Interestingly, it might have been more innovative to actually consider a 4-day a week schedule, or a hybrid schedule like colleges offer. Seeking input from stakeholders on the dozens of options in between block scheduling and 8-period days would have at least demonstrated innovation through community involvement.
It’s also not innovative to falsely claim not to cut important Special Programs but then make changes that so severely harm them they eventually lose support.
Follow up questions:
When students decide they can’t realistically change campus under the 45-minute class schedule, will they then eliminate bussing for lack of interest?
When kids have to pick between extracurriculars and extra electives, will they start removing classes with low participation? And add another fact, currently, our district is maxed out in our ability to seat kids in CTE classes.
When the board majority claims they are looking to “benefit everyone” does that include people that learn, look, or think differently from them? Their track record to date proves that isn’t the case.
Elect candidates who put excellence over extremism
If you’ve read this far, you are probably tired. We are so, so, so tired of spending our time rebutting the stretttttchhhhhedddd facts shared by the New School Board Majority and those that have run for previous elections backed by the same extremists. But we are doing this to get out the truth. We can take back GCISD in the May 6th school board election if we help our neighbors see the truth and choose candidates who will stand up against the extremist New School Board Majority. We must band together and elect candidates who are committed to Excellence, Independence, and Respect in GCISD.