Teachers, parents, and Ray McMurray, treasurer/secretary of Texas AFT who came down from Austin to attend tonight’s Edinburg CISD board meeting, delivered impassioned speeches about the district’s District of Innovation process and how it stifled the democratic process and caused teachers to be treated with incredible disrespect and fear of retaliation. When the speeches ended, the agenda was rearranged so the vote on whether or not to pursue a DOI designation could be taken. Once the item was read, Board Vice President Juan ‘Sonny’ Palacios immediately made a motion. First saying there were possible violations of both board policy and the Texas Education Code, in addition to “undue influence,” Trustee Palacios thenmoved that the board reject the adoption of DOI to cheers from teachers, parents, and community members who filled the boardroom.
After the motion was seconded, Board President Oscar Salinas asked if there was any discussion. Board Secretary Xavier Salinas indicated he would like to speak. “Teachers are the heart and soul of our district,” Trustee Salinas began. He said he found it “disheartening” that teachers had been treated with such disrespect yesterday at the District-Level Site-Based-Decision-Making Council meeting. Trustee (X.) Salinas then recommended that Superintendent Dr. Rene Gutierrez bring in the administrators responsible for this behavior and reprimand them, write them up, or take whatever disciplinary action was necessary. “This type of behavior from administration will not be tolerated by this board, EVER!” he told Dr. Gutierrez. Again, the crowd broke out in uproarious cheers.
The vote was called, and all six (Trustee Robert Pena was absent) trustees raised their hands to reject the adoption of DOI. More cheers.
Just as the board was preparing to move on to the next item and the relieved and grateful crowd began to disperse, Trustee Carmen Gonzalez said, “Does that mean we will never talk about this item again?” Trustee (O.) Salinas responded, “Yes. That means we will not bring it up EVER again!” The crowd broke out in cheers yet again.
As I left, I looked at the facial expressions of the teachers, parents, community members, and OWLS (Objective Watchers of the Legal System) walking out with me, and I couldn’t get over the stark contrast between these expressions and the ones I saw as I left the boardroom yesterday after the SBDM council meeting. From hopeless to hopeful. From disrespected to respected. From deeply saddened to joyful.
I also thought about the McAllen ISD board meeting last month when the pursuit of a DOI designation was stopped, and, once again, I felt that same, overwhelming sense of community. It took every phone call to board members, every email, everyshare on social media, every speech, every conversation, and every piece of research to get to this point. It took Edinburg AFT and Edinburg ATPE, the OWLS, teachers, parents, community members, and even people from McAllen to come together and work toward a common goal. Also just like in McAllen, in the end, it took school board members who listened and did the right thing. Unanimously.
Finally, I feel compelled to respond to Trustee (X.) Salinas’ heartfelt comment at tonight’s meeting. I sincerely trust he was serious when he said, “This type of behavior from administration will not be tolerated by this board, EVER,” and I urge him and the rest of the board to start at the top. From my perspective, a lot of directives were given to administrators at the campus and at the district level. That does not excuse any of them who showed district teachers such disrespect, but how employees are to be treated starts at the top. It is an expectation. It is a culture. I am hopeful that many lessons have been learned in this process.
It’s a beautiful night in Edinburg and in the Rio Grande Valley!