Image: The Star Chamber takes many forms in which political or social oppression of an individual occurs. The Conroe Independent School District has determined to oppress Trustee Dale Inman who has revoked his agreement to the district’s “Code of Conduct” which requires Trustees to delegate their non-delegable duties under the Texas Education Code to the Superintendent so that the Board of Trustees cannot conduct true oversight of school district management and operations.
Conroe, March 19 – Conroe Independent School District (“CISD”) Trustee Dale Inman has begun to fight the willingness of the CISD Board to act as a mere “rubber stamp” of school district actions and policies. CISD’s administration doesn’t like Inman’s efforts one iota.
The CISD administration and their in-house legal counsel have placed an agenda item for its Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 6 p.m., Board of Trustees meeting to conduct a “Star Chamber” type of proceeding with respect to Trustee Dale Inman, who revoked his agreement to the district’s Code of Conduct a couple of weeks ago. The agenda item reads “Legal. A. Board Member Code of Conduct” but contains no action item or further description in order to make the true nature of the item as obtuse as possible. It’s not the first attempt by CISD’s administration, legal counsel, and other Trustees to intimidate Inman into acquiescing to the policy of keeping the Board of Trustees quiet.
Inman declined to speak with The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper about this story. Nevertheless, two high-level administrators inside of CISD spoke with this newspaper on condition of anonymity for fear of the same type of reprisal – or worse – which the administration and Board of Trustees currently plan for Inman.
The Board of Trustees and school district administration seem to regularly violate the Texas Open Meetings Act (“TOMA”) by conducting Board business and deliberations during so-called “executive sessions” which are really just secret meetings outside of the provisions of the statute. Under the TOMA, a governmental body may receive information from an attorney or from other sources during “executive sessions” under certain exceptions to the “open meetings” provisions under Texas law. The Board may not, however, debate or deliberate, which the CISD’s Board does regularly in executive sessions.
Already, on at least two occasions, the Board “ganged up” on Inman during “executive sessions” to criticize his willingness to voice objections to CISD policies, including the unpopular $807 million bond package set for voter referendum on May 4 and the disclosure to this newspaper (which did not involve Inman although Board members accused him otherwise) about a basketball coach who had improper sexual relations with a female basketball player at The Woodlands High School.
After those two incidents, according to the two administrators who spoke with this newspaper, Inman informed CISD that he was revoking his agreement to CISD’s Code of Conduct, which purports to restrict the ability of CISD Trustees to oversee and investigate school district operations and management. The Texas Education Code explicitly requires the Board of Trustees to investigate and oversee school district operations.
Outside of public view, Superintendent (and licensed massage therapist) Curtis Null, in-house legal counsel Carrie Galatas, and at least four of the Trustees have made clear they’re furious that Inman has begun to dissent from the seemingly herd-like Board even in open meetings and in public. Clearly, questioning the school administration, providing oversight, or investigating facts constitute unacceptable behavior.
The duties of a member of the CISD Board of Trustees
Texas state law controls the duties of an independent school district’s Board of Trustees as set forth in Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton summarized the position of a school district’s Board as follows:
“Chapter 11 of the Education Code requires that boards of trustees adopt policies for the district, while superintendents implement those policies by developing administrative regulations. While a superintendent is authorized to recommend policies to be adopted by the board, chapter 11 requires that policy decisions…be addressed by the board of trustees prior to the development of any related administrative regulations.”
The Board of Trustees “shall…oversee the management of the district; and…ensure that the superintendent implements and monitors plans, procedures, programs, and systems to achieve appropriate, clearly defined, and desired results…,” as Section 11.051 of the Education Code mandates.
Under Texas corporation law, a Board of Directors has an absolute and unfettered right to all information, documents, and business records of a corporation.
Similarly, a member of the Board of Trustees of CISD “has an inherent right of access to information, documents, and records maintained by the district, and the district shall provide the information…to the member without requiring the member to submit a public information request” under the Texas Public Information Act/Open Records Act. Texas Education Code Section 11.1512(c).
If an individual wins election to CISD’s Board of Trustees and takes the oath of office, the other trustees of the school district have no power whatsoever to remove that Trustee nor to prohibit or bar other Trustees form attempting to participate and participating in meetings and proceedings of the school board.
How the CISD administration tricks Board of Trustees’ members into sacrificing their duties
During the first meeting at which any new Board member of the CISD Board of Trustees attends, the CISD administration tricks school board members into giving up their inherent right to perform their duties to oversee the management of CISD.
As several current and former members of the Board of Trustees have confirmed, the CISD administration places a “Conroe Independent School District Board Board Member Rules of Conduct” agreement before each new Board member to ask them to sign those items as an “agreement.” The full Code of Conduct is at the bottom of this article.
The Code of Conduct carefully restricts the ability of the members of the Board of Trustees to perform the precise duties they’re require to perform under the Texas Education Code:
- In CISD rather than managing and overseeing the school district, the CISD administration has turned Texas law on its head, “Board members shall respect the role of the administration and will not encroach on administrative duties or attempt to micromanage the affairs of the School District.”
- Board members agree that they will not try to solve parent or citizens complaints but will only refer all of such complaints to the Superintendent, even though the Board, not the Superintendent, has the “exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district,” under Section 11.151(b) of the Texas Education Code.
- Incredibly, Board members have ceded their power of investigations on their own into complaints by citizens, parents, employees, and students. Instead, Board members have agreed they may only refer such complaints to the Superintendent.
- Board members may not meet with CISD personnel during work hours with first notifying the Board, the Superintendent, or the building Principal. In other words, the administration wants to limit Board member investigations.
- Board members “shall channel all requests for information through the Superintendent.”
- Board members “will not individually undertake to observe the performance of employees, including classroom teachers, for the purposes of ‘evaluating’ their performance.
Board of Trustees members of CISD have agreed not to exercise their management and oversight of the school district without the permission of the Superintendent.
There is an additional Board Members Ethics policy, which CISD adopted, which requires Board members to “work…for consensus,” “base decisions on fact rather than supposition, opinion, or public favor,” and “uphold all…policies and governance procedures.”
Ironically, the Board of Trustees has a written policy also requiring them to “encourage expression of different opinion and listen with an open mind to others’ ideas.” Clearly, six of the seven members of the Board of Trustees violated that written policy on January 15 when they refused even to consider Inman’s substitute bond package.
For many years, citizens have observed a CISD Board of Trustees largely out of touch with the sentiment of the community. Rather than addressing parental or citizen concerns, the Board has followed the direction of the CISD administration.
The $807 million bond package is an excellent example of a critically-significant situation where the Board needed to exercise independent judgment separate and apart from the wish list of the CISD administration but failed. As a result, the bond package includes:
- More than $131 million of maintenance expenditures, which are in the proposed $807 million bond illegally;
- The CISD bureaucracy’s transportation wish list which will age out long before taxpayers would ever finish paying for the proposed 25-year bond;
- $39 million of “contingency,”;
- $20 million of unrestricted “land purchase”;
- $36 million of “technology” will lose its useful life long before the end of the 25-year bond’s amortization;
- The extremely unpopular proposal radically to alter the campus and appearance of historic Conroe High School;
- A questionable “overhaul” of Creighton Elementary School’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems;
- More than $23 million for turf;
- Unnecessary renovations;
- A wasteful Teaching Training Facility, which would cost taxpayers more than $17 million, when facilities are already more than adequate for the same purpose across the District;
- Questionable agricultural facilities and vocational facilities which are more appropriate for a junior college or technical school; and
- $404 million of unnecessary items which are “wants” rather than school district “needs.”
The CISD administration has gotten the $807 million bond package they wanted the FPC and the Board of Trustees to approve. When Null and the other bureaucrats issued orders, the Board of Trustees listened.
Clearly, the voters of CISD will need to approach the bond package independently of the propaganda and “groupthink” Null’s administration has demanded.