Editorial: Have we reached the tipping point with CISD?

Kelli Cook, Publisher, The Golden Hammer

“So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”
― Malcolm Muggeridge, “Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society” 

Conroe Independent School District (CISD) may have successfully passed the tipping point at which citizens no longer can influence school district decisions. CISD has made clear that it will deploy its governmental resources, at public expense, to drown out any dissent from the decisions the administration has made.

Anyone who follows CISD’s decision process understands the reality that the Board of Trustees doesn’t participate in school district decisions. The process is quite different. The administration, especially Superintendent Curtis Null, Deputy Superintendent Chris Hines, and Chief Financial Officer Darren Rice, “present” through PowerPoint presentations at Board meetings. In response, the Board approves those presentations.  The Board has agreed not to engage in independent investigation, analysis, or thought in CISD’s so-called “Code of Conduct,” which CISD’s General Counsel presents to them as soon as they take office.

With respect to the $677 Million Bond package, Null, Hines, and Rice presented the PowerPoint slides and the Board followed the slides by rote and ordered the November 5 bond election on August 13.

Almost immediately after approval of the bond package, CISD began a political campaign, using public funds in the form of maintenance and operations tax dollars collected from private individuals and businesses. Like a carefully trained trial lawyer, CISD’s campaign presents partial facts, only those facts which support approval of the bond, while CISD has not presented all of the facts, especially those which reveal how unwise and unnecessary the bond package is.

CISD’s pro-bond political campaign consists of:

  • At least two mailers to voters’ homes to advocate for the bond (likely cost in the range of $150,000);
  • Newspaper stickers, advertisements, and stickers (likely cost in the range of $50,000);
  • Hundreds of political signs (without legally-required disclaimers) (likely cost in the range of $10,000);
  • Marquee advertisements at each school campus to support the bond (likely cost in manpower in the range of $5,000);
  • Deployment of teachers to distribute flyers advocating for the bond in children’s weekly work packages (likely cost in the range of $10,000);
  • Deployment of administrators and teachers to argue for the bond and to criticize individuals who oppose the bond (likely cost unknown);
  • Deployment of administrators and teachers to urge for passage of the bond during parent open houses (likely cost unknown);
  • Deployment of ROTC instructors to argue for the bond’s passage (likely cost unknown).

Remember, however, that we’re only halfway through the time period for the bond referendum campaign and the vast majority of spending usually occurs in the final three so weeks.

In other words, it’s likely that CISD will take at least $500,000 of public funds earmarked for the education of our community’s children and, instead, spend those funds on a political campaign to advocate for a bond referendum.

The reason it appears we’ve reached a tipping point is two-fold. Despite Section 11.169 of the Texas Education Code and Section 255.003, which legally prohibit CISD from spending public funds to advocate for the bond, CISD has done it anyway. There is no one who will stop them.

The tipping point comes when regular citizens can’t afford to fight the school district. The CISD sees far too much money involved – in administrators’ jobs, administrators’ salaries, and contractor profits – to allow the will of citizens to interfere with something as large as a $677 million bond election.

No citizen can afford to spend or raise $500,000 to fight the school district. No citizen has access to the parents, through open houses, private email lists, or direct teacher contact, which CISD does.

Any citizen who could afford to spend $500,000 or her or his money to fight the school district would have no incentive to do so, other than what would seem an almost inhuman desire to do what is right.



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