Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the El Paso Independent School District to attain emails, contracts, and invoices between the school district and the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). In an email that PDE received that the TASB sent to the district’s school board, a document was attached that has the results of surveys the TASB provided to staff and students in the district. This document is dated August 19, 2021, and appears to be related to a search for a new superintendent at the time.
In a section for principals to explain what they are seeking in a new superintendent, one response was a superintendent who “understands diversity and equity.” The TASB had the surveys accessible to people from teachers to members of the local community. Participants could explain what they found important in the district or were looking for in a superintendent. The names and identification of the participants were not shown in the document PDE received. However, some of the comments are concerning. One response states about the district:
I appreciate that the work is being done to move toward an anti-racist, anti-biased program that is inclusive of all people including lgbtq. I just hope the work continues. I appreciate that the district is moving more and more toward a robust dual language education for students. I also appreciate the move toward a more student-centered, project based, authentic learning framework.
Another comment states: “The anti-racist, anti-biased work needs to continue. Dr. Jose Medina is a start, but I would love to see many more teachers/faculty and staff attending his trainings.” One comment appears to be from a teacher who is unhappy with the current direction of the school district:
Constant conflicts of interest with board members/central office admin with “education companies” that the teachers DON’T like and DON’T WANT to use, but keep getting pushed on us from central office. And once you figure out that the district has had to pay these companies to come and bother us with useless stuff the teachers don’t want and never asked for, and each company has their specific point *person* (not a department!!!!) it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. Stop spending money on the lady who sends me useless “SEL Monday” text messages. I’m a music teacher, and I don’t have enough instruments for my students because there isn’t money in the budget to buy more. Band directors are tearing their hair out over stress because they’re swamped with kids and not enough directors because there isn’t money for the position (yet….. there’s money for ALLs, who don’t teach any classes and have yet to give fine arts teachers useful PD???).
PDE also received an email that the district’s board received from TASB executive director Dan Troxell dated January 31, 2023. The email discusses the TASB document “Legal Issues Related to Transgender Students” that several school districts in Texas appear to have. He explains that “nine Texas representatives sent a letter to all school board presidents that grossly misrepresents the content of the legal FAQ.” He added that “this same group of lawmakers is unfortunately using both misinformation and disinformation to call on Texas school boards to leave TASB.”
Dan Troxell explained in the email that a version of the document has existed since 2015. He then added: “Divisive, Washington-style politics has no place in Texas public schools. As your executive director, I will always correct and clarify false information so that you have all the facts.”
PDE also received the district’s contracts and invoices with the Texas Association of School Boards from 2018 to 2023. The school district paid the TASB for services, such as updating district policies, $11,000 for membership status, paying for members to participate in the TASB’s “Summer Leadership Institute,” and $18,000 to carry out surveys.
The “Summer Leadership Institute” is an event held by the TASB each year. The TASB provides the following description for the event: “The annual Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) is not only TASB’s flagship training conference, but it is also our learning laboratory. SLI is designed to offer new and experienced school trustees a place to create their own learning journey and to ask bold questions.”
In a public records request to the Fort Bend Independent School District, PDE received the program for the 2020 Summer Leadership Institute. Sessions for participants to join at the conference were “Avoiding the Value Gap: Ensuring Equity is Embedded in Resource and Policy-Making Decisions,” “Why and How Latinx Leaders Are Addressing Educational Equity,” “Learning to Talk About Challenging Issues: Race, Ethnicity, Class, and the Gender Spectrum,” and “Why Can’t You See My Culture?”
PDE also received the program for the 2021 Summer Leadership Institute from a public records request to the Fort Bend Independent School District. Sessions for participants to join at the conference were “Let’s Talk about Race and Diversity in a Safe Environment,” “Hair Length, Earrings, and the New Culture Wars: The Liability of Gender-Specific Dress Codes,” “Promoting Equity: Five Strategies for Addressing Microaggressions and Bias in Schools,” and “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: What Does This Mean, Exactly?”
The TASB conference document states for the “Hair Length, Earrings, and the New Culture Wars: The Liability of Gender-Specific Dress Codes” session: “As the concept of gender has become more fluid in society, those standards are being challenged. This presentation will update trustees on trends in the law in Texas and across the nation regarding gender-based dress codes and grooming standards and provide practice guidance on adopting dress and grooming standards.”
For the “Promoting Equity: Five Strategies for Addressing Microaggressions and Bias in Schools” session, the TASB states: “Racial and gender bias, whether implicit or explicit, and microaggressions contribute to discrimination and create an inequitable educational and work environment. You are responsible for helping your organization recognize and combat intolerant attitudes and behaviors that negatively affect your employees and students and create the risk of liability.”