I always thought educational institutions were all about seeking the truth. Learning by asking questions. Being curious and satisfying that curiosity by delving into information and thinking for yourself. I still believe knowledge and skill-building are what the educational system is supposed to be driven by, and I think it probably still is – for the classroom. Unfortunately, that is not the way it seems to work at the Board level. Let me explain.
A previous blog covered what I thought was an interesting issue involving a rumor about the MISD Assistant Superintendent of Facilities suspected of having his residential house built by a major contractor that builds most of the MISD school buildings. The attorneys filed two letters to AG Paxton requesting that he side with MISD to withhold the information I was requesting pointing to legal language that included every excuse imaginable.
The AG said MISD had to give me the records that showed evaluations and and any documents that indicated both internal and external correspondence to support the purported abrupt departure of this person. This was after the then-superintendent confronted him with this not-so-cool discovery by a third party at that time, the rumor goes. When one of the most prominent MISD school officials practically disappears overnight, wouldn’t you think somebody in the organization would have been curious?
I finally received a response to my MISD ORR on April 24, 2016. There were four items. The resignation letter for Wyndoll Fry was dated August 27, 2002. However, Mr. Fry asked for it to become official on January 29, 2003. Was it because he had projects to finish? No, it was so that he could have adequate time to submit and obtain his official retirement from the school’s retirement system. There was also a handwritten note on the letter from the MISD Superintendent that says “accepted with regret.” There is then an official letter from the Superintendent accepting Mr. Fry’s resignation and agreeing to the dates. Those documents are followed by two decent performance evaluations. One is dated December 1, 1997 and the other is dated January 2002.
Hold on just a minute. The 1997 evaluation was from the then-superintendent that included some areas for improvement. Nothing serious, but a list of accomplishments accompanied by some areas where Mr. Fry needed to improve. Overwhelmingly positive. The 2002 evaluation, however, was all praise and packed with accomplishments. Not a single area he needed improvement. Oh wait, it is written FROM Mr. Fry To the superintendent. I have no reason to believe it would have anything damming, but then we wouldn’t know. It is not a true evaluation.
But there is something really weird here. The attorneys were falling all over themselves trying to keep my ORR request from being fulfilled. They even cited possible embarrassing information contained in the records. Either one of two things has happened here. 1) MISD was lying to the AG or 2) they didn’t comply with the AG’s directive to give me the information I asked to receive. Why would they work so hard to withhold praise documents?
What I asked for that didn’t come with the response is anything, just anything, that would indicate how Mr. Fry’s resignation was announced or explained to the public or to the internal staff. Did he get any kind of retirement reception? Was he actually even at work between August 27, 2002 and January 29, 2003? Something doesn’t add up here. Actually, it can’t add up, because the information is incomplete.
Yet there is another weird aspect of this entire episode. And this part bothers me most of all. Why isn’t the MISD Board even interested in following up on this story? Don’t they know that this is how organizations become tolerant and lower their standards? What else has happened that everybody knows is no worse than the standard-setters before them? If this story is true, how would a high official rationalize getting a house built at a discount (or free) was okay? I tried to answer that question in a previous blog.
I had been contacted by Trustee Rippee a few weeks ago wanting to ‘splain O&M and I&S tax rates to me. He was very courteous. I asked him what he thought about my email to the AG registering a concern about MISD’s refusal to give me the information I requested in my ORR back in January 2016. Mr. Rippee replied back on March 17, 2016 that he did not recall seeing the email I had sent to every Board member. Later that day he sent me another email saying that he had found it. He had received it but must have missed it. I believe Mr. Rippee. Everything I hear about him is good, and I have no reason to believe anything other than all of the Trustees are good people.
But now comes the strangest of things. My January 2016 email to the AG was sent to all MISD Board members. I had asked for a receipt of my email to the ISD Board members, which as you know can be denied. If the recipient chooses not to send back a receipt, then you never know if the email made it through. Fair enough. But let’s step into a MISD math class and ask the students about probability.
What is the probability that I would receive a notice that Trustee Kathi Livezey had deleted my January 2016 AG email copied to her without being read at 10:10 p.m. last night? No alarms at this point.
Then at 10:17 p.m, I got the same notice from Trustee Maria McKinzie. How interesting!
Then at 10:19 p.m. I got the same notice that Trustee Lynn Sperry deleted the January email. Red flag! Red flag!
Were they told by someone to delete their emails explaining my complaint to the AG for the MISD not responding and wanting to delay by going through the AG route? Mind you these deletions are from an email sent several months ago but then deleted just a few days after MISD gave me some information.
Or did the IT department or someone else within MISD delete the emails for them? Were they ever delivered? Mr. Rippee says he got his email after looking through his Inbox. Why would they have a generic email address for each Trustee if you can’t get through to them? Or do they even care? Are they a Sheep-Board that only gets information somebody thinks they need to know? Do they even have the level of curiosity of a 7th grader? Have they forgotten the most basic tool of education – asking questions?
These are perfectly legitimate concerns I have in light of my previous blogs on intellectual dishonesty. I am more convinced than ever that we have a Sheep-Board instead of a Board of Trustees at McKinney ISD. I don’t trust the Superintendent. Now I’m doubting my trust in the Trustees. LFM