Originally, I planned to write more about the District of Innovation designation this week; however, that has been postponed for a week. Next week, I will share with you my conversation with Dr. Art Cavazos, superintendent of Harlingen CISD, regarding HCISD’s DOI plan. I will also discuss other things I have learned about DOI, so don’t miss it.
Today, I want to address the legacy of McAllen ISD. I decided to do this because lately, almost everywhere I go, someone asks, “What’s going on in McAllen ISD?” And as of late, when I talk to friends of mine employed by the district, most of them express their frustration and embarrassment over recent events.
I moved to McAllen from Illinois in 1983 to teach in the district’s Regional School for the Deaf program. For years, when I met teachers who worked in other districts and I told them I worked in MISD, they would inevitably say something like, “Wow! McAllen ISD? How’d you get so lucky?” It was a matter of pride for me and for all of my friends who taught in the district. McAllen ISD—the district of choice for academics, for sports, and for employee morale. That is our legacy.
I started to write a recap of the events that took place during the January 16 board meeting when “complaint against superintendent” was addressed and then during the February 3 grievance hearing that ended up being aired in open session following a 4-3 board vote. But the video and board minutes of the January 16 meeting are online, and both KGBT Channel 4 and The Monitor reported on the grievance hearing, so I deleted what I had written and started over. Instead, I decided to address where we go from here:
1. Years ago, when I first heard that Mike Perez, former city manager for the City of McAllen, instructed all city department heads not to get involved in mayoral, city commission, and PUB races, I didn’t get it. I thought if they did so on their own time, they had the “right” to get involved. Now I get it. They do have the right, but it is not advised. Roy Rodriguez, our current city manager, advises the same thing. Now, more than ever, I would advise all administrators in McAllen ISD to follow this excellent advice regarding school board campaigns.
2. While watching this district fiasco unravel, I couldn’t help but think of all of the teachers I have known over the years who have been suspended while allegations against them were investigated. They had no choice about an investigation being pursued, and some were even asked to resign, despite the fact that no evidence against them was discovered during the investigation. McAllen ISD officials should take a hard look at this and develop a policy so when accusations are made against any district employee, an equitable process is followed. Are investigations needed for all accusations? If not, when are they and when aren’t they? Why are employees asked to resign when no evidence is found? All of this should be addressed.
3. Board members shouldn’t need to sign resolutions to treat each other with respect, whether they are in public or in closed session. It is a basic principle we teach our students every day in the classroom and that most parents/guardians teach their children in the home. The same goes for interactions with district employees, students, and the public.
4. McAllen citizens aren’t big fans of candidate “slates.” By the same token, we expect our elected officials to do their research, ask critical questions, and vote, not according to a slate but according to what is best for their constituents, or, in this case, what is best for our students, then district employees and the community. We don’t vote for slates. We vote for individuals.
5. On the Texas Association of School Board’s website under “Good Governance,” it reads: TASB believes in the importance of board service. More than that, we believe in the power of good governance: trustees and boards who not only know what to do, but know what's right. Who take extra steps to be as effective as they possibly can, and who encourage their fellow trustees to do the same, by networking, mentoring, and embodying the principles of effective board service. (Note: The last sentence is an incomplete sentence, but that is how it is typed on the TASB page. It is the overall message that is important.)
6. In order to restore McAllen ISD’s legacy, it is critical that everyone involved in the running and oversight of the district move forward from here. For the elected officials—citizens elected you to do what is best for our students, our district employees, and our community. Always. For our district administrators—although you were not elected, you were entrusted with the same responsibilities when you accepted your current position. Let’s move on. Together. With respect.
Our students, our district employees, and our community deserve it. It’s high time we restore McAllen ISD’s legacy.
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.