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EduLege Tracker 5-10-18

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EduLege Update Volume VI, Number 29
May 10, 2018
By Andy Welch
A Service of the Texas School Public Relations Association

More opposition to charter take-overs…

A San Antonio school employee association is trying to block the contract that would transfer operations of a local elementary school to a New York-based charter school network.

The San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel is suing the San Antonio school district to try to block a contract that transfers Stewart Elementary School’s operations to Democracy Prep. 

The opposition to the charter take-over in San Antonio is similar to the campaign that the Houston Federation of Teachers, and others, waged to stop the Houston school board from turning over operation of 10 low-achieving campuses to another charter operator. 

The San Antonio Alliance is a joint local affiliate of the Texas State Teacher’s Association and the Texas Federation of Teachers. The union has vehemently fought the San Antonio school district’s partnership with Democracy Prep since January, when it was first publicly announced as a way to prevent the elementary school from closing.

Under the charter network, the school’s teachers become “at-will” employees and would lose certain benefits. The Alliance also objects to Democracy Prep’s discipline policies and the English as a Second Language program that is slated to replace the school’s bilingual education program.

“School teachers, staff, our students’ parents and the community were ignored in the district’s haste to turn over a neighborhood campus to a New York charter company with no ties to our community,” Alliance president Shelley Potter said.

The lawsuit names San Antonio superintendent Pedro Martinez and each of the district’s seven trustees as defendants.

Trustees approved the contract with Democracy Prep in March, citing a desire to improve academics at Stewart, which has a primarily low-income student body that has failed to meet state academic standards for five years in a row. If Stewart fails again this year, the state could close it down or appoint a Board of Managers to run the entire school district. 

The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Bexar County.

The union is asking for a temporary injunction to prevent hiring and other actions related to Democracy Prep’s contract to operate the elementary school, followed by the contract’s nullification, and a permanent injunction against implementation of the school’s takeover by the charter.

Looking for teachers with passion and concern…

The Fort Worth school district is hoping to recruit Oklahoma teachers with billboards in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman and Stillwater.

“Your future is in a Fort Worth classroom,” reads each of the 10 billboards. “Teacher starting salary $52,000.”

The billboards were posted after thousands of Oklahoma teachers rallied for more than a week in April at the State Capitol, demanding higher pay and more support from the state Legislature.

The minimum starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree in Oklahoma is $31,600—or about $20,000 less than the starting salary in Fort Worth. A teacher with 25 years' experience and a doctoral degree has a minimum salary of $46,000 in Oklahoma.

Fort Worth superintendent Kent P. Scribner says that the “passion and concern for children recently demonstrated by thousands of Oklahoma teachers” are characteristics that he values in the district’s classroom educators.

“If you want to work where your dedication is appreciated and where you will have the tools needed to improve student achievement, then we want to talk with you,” Superintendent Scribner told Oklahoma educators.

Reassign, discipline or dismiss…

A special meeting of the Katy School Board has been scheduled for tonight (Thursday, May 10) to discuss the employment contract of Superintendent Lance Hindt.

Controversies surrounding Superintendent Hindt have been festering for weeks.

First, there were accusations that he bullied a fellow male student some 40 years ago, as a middle school student. Then allegations surfaced on a website that has been critical of the superintendent that Mr. Hindt plagiarized his college dissertation.

Katy has since blocked access to that website from district computers. 

According to the meeting agenda, board members will discuss amendments to Superintendent Hindt's contract. While the agenda does not specify what amendments might be made, they could include reassignment, discipline or dismissal. 

Neither Katy school board members nor district officials have provided any additional information about the agenda item.

Take note…

A College Station school board member is apologizing for notes that he scribbled during a heated community forum—and which were provided to the news media under the state’s Public Information Act.

The notes, written by board member Michael Wesson, were written as parents were voicing their frustrations with the high school rezoning process.

Trustee Wesson’s notes include line after line of parent’s names, and notes about what each of them was saying as they spoke to the board. Each note detailed parent concerns and suggestions.

But in some instances, Mr. Wesson added more personal comments. In one instance he adds the phrase, “suck it.” Others, he calls a “crazy lady” and a “hypocrite.”

After the notes were obtained and disseminated to the news media, Mr. Wesson apologized: “Out of dozens of speakers, I made a couple of snide comments; the rest were completely factual. … If what I wrote offends anyone, I apologize.” 

Accidents can get you fired…

A Texas City teacher—whose name has not yet been made public—is out of a job after calling a mother to complain about her son’s behavior, while, at the same time accidentally sending some inappropriate text messages about the boy to her.

The messages read, in part, “This lil (expletive) is crying like a baby for mommy because he wants to go home,” and “Omg I just want to omggggggg pull all my damn hair out.”

Making matters worse is the fact that Tiffany Elfstrom’s 13-year-old son has autism, as well as other health problems.

Ms. Elfstrom posted screenshots of the inadvertently-sent text messages on Facebook, and they quickly went viral.

District officials say after being made aware of the texts, they immediately removed the teacher from her classroom at a Texas City intermediate school and terminated her contract. 

Seeking damages…and an apology…

The Mansfield elementary school art teacher who was suspended after discussing her sexual orientation with students has now sued the district, alleging discrimination. 

Stacy Bailey filed the federal lawsuit earlier this week, accusing the Mansfield school district, Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas and Associate Superintendent Kimberley Cantu of violating her rights under federal and state equal protection laws and the Texas Equal Rights Amendment.

Ms. Bailey alleges that she has “suffered in the past, and in all reasonable likelihood, will suffer in the future, damages including lost earning capacity, mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, lost employment benefits, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life [and] damage to professional reputation.”

In addition to seeking attorney and court fees, the lawsuit asks that Ms. Bailey be reinstated as an art teacher, and says she wants the school district and administrators to acknowledge that they “illegally discriminated against” her because of her sexual orientation.

The Mansfield school district, which has already renewed Ms. Bailey’s employment contract, says that it "categorically" denies the allegations, and contends that the lawsuit has no merit.

Back to Jerry’s World…

The University Interscholastic League’s state championship football games are staying at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for both the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The 11-man and six-man football championship games this year will be played over a four-day span, taking place from December 19-22.

AT&T Stadium, the home field for the Dallas Cowboys, hosted all 11-man championship games from 2011-2014 and in 2016-2017. The six-man championship games were first hosted at AT&T Stadium 2016-2017.

Houston’s NRG Stadium last hosted the 2015 games after a scheduling conflict with the NFL and the Cowboys made AT&T Stadium unavailable for the UIL championship games.

It wasn’t around the bases that they were running…

More than 100 of the students, parents and coaches who attended a recent fajita banquet for the Round Rock High School baseball team became sick with norovirus, which can cause stomach cramping, vomiting and fever.

All of those who became ill have since recovered, and no one was hospitalized.

Williamson County health officials believe the norovirus infection came from one of the restaurant employees who were serving fajitas at the banquet. The infection can be spread not only if someone with it touches food, but also if that person touches paper plates or utensils, he said.

Health officials closed the restaurant following the outbreak, and it went through a deep cleaning that included throwing away all the food and using chemical disinfectant on the floors, walls and tables.

EduLege is provided by the Texas School Public Relations Association as a service to its members.

Long-time TSPRA member Andy Welch, the retired Communication Director for the Austin School District, compiles and writes EduLege.  Questions or comments may be directed to him at andywelch1@gmail.com.

For more updates on education news from throughout the state, visit the TSPRA website.