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Op-Ed: How to be in the Minority and Still Make a Difference
Round Rock ISD Trustee, Danielle Weston on the state of their schools and how you can help
Note from Current Revolt: Though outnumbered 5-2, school board trustees, Danielle Weston and Mary Bone, still positively impact 46,000 children in the Round Rock ISD, one of the largest school districts in Texas, located just north of Austin. Their story offers hope. Through their hard work, they will inspire others to step forward and join them in their fight to hold their schools accountable to families that fill the hallways and the taxpayers who pay for them.
Get involved: Round Rock One Family
Support Danielle: WestonForRoundRock
Support Mary: DrMaryBone4RoundRock
How to be in the Minority and Still Make a Difference
By Danielle Weston
I speak only for myself and not for the school board or Round Rock ISD (RRISD). In many cases today, elected and unelected leaders in school districts prioritize the political and economic objectives of adults over their sacred obligation to teach our children math, science, how to read, and to become good citizens.
The solution is for citizens to get involved, organize and work to return our schools to their core mission of educating all students for a bright future as they enter the most competitive workforce in human history.
Trustee Mary Bone and I are two moms who worked very hard to win four-year terms on our local school board in November 2020. Mary is an aerospace engineer and I am a former US Air Force officer.
One year ago this month, we walked out of a school board meeting in protest just a few minutes after it began because police officers from the school district’s police department were physically preventing members of the public (including many parents) from entering the public meeting. We were concerned that the Texas Open Meetings Act was possibly being violated and our only recourse to distance ourselves from the chaotic scene was to peacefully depart.
That decision kicked off a tumultuous, year-long battle between Mary and I and the five-member board majority. Our fight has featured multiple lawsuits, including the board majority being slapped with a court issued temporary restraining order, six censure/sanction attempts against us, a taxpayer funded investigation into my e-mails and now a heated campaign season that will commence in November of this year.
Our departure from that September 2021 board meeting came just a month after Mary and I published a press release in which we alerted the community to the fact that the school board president and vice president were in violation of the Operating Procedures by denying our request to hold a Special Meeting regarding accusations of assault against the superintendent that came to the board from a credible accuser.
Two weeks after our press release (but before the problematic September 2021 meeting) members of the board majority successfully called their own Special Meeting to impose a mask mandate on children as young as age 4 on the night before the first day of school after publicly messaging all summer that masks would be optional when school started in August 2021.
By mid-September 2021, there was no shortage of controversies that diverted resources (taxpayer money, staff manpower, time in board meetings, etc.) intended for the education of students away from our classrooms and instead to lawyers.
Mary and I were the only board members opposed to preventing parents from entering the September 2021 board meeting, the only ones who believed the board needed to take the accusations against the superintendent seriously and the only ones who respected the rights of parents and thus opposed a mask mandate in August 2021.
Not only did we believe these things, we ACTED on our beliefs with our “no” votes and we exercised our First Amendment rights relentlessly. We shared our concerns in the media, in board meetings and on social media.
In response, the board majority abandoned their sacred duty to students and instead weaponized their majority in numerous censure/sanction attempts, began a taxpayer funded investigation into my emails and with the media as their allies, engaged in a public smear campaign with bizarre accusations in an effort to damage our reputations. We had to retain a lawyer at our own expense to navigate the rogue board drunk on power and tax payer money.
Sacrifice Pays Off for Students
We believed then and now that children and families are worth all that we endured at the hands of the out-of-control majority.
That is not to say that standing up to the board majority was easy. It was NOT easy. But our sacrifice did pay off in meaningful ways for students.
First, in August 2021 we (accurately) predicated in our public board meetings that the mask mandate would not withstand legal scrutiny and we modeled opposition ourselves by refusing to comply with their mandate. This empowered parents who felt strongly about the mask issue to be able to assert that their children would not wear a mask in school.
Second, after we walked out of the September 2021 board meeting and publicly shared our concerns about the use of the police in that meeting, no parent or citizen has ever again been denied access to a RRISD school board meeting.
Third, under pressure from the public and eventually the Texas Education Agency, the board was essentially forced to place the superintendent on administrative leave in January 2022 and hired a third-party investigator to investigate “the underlying conduct found in a Travis County protective order.” That investigation ended in March 2022 when the investigator provided multiple findings including behavior from the superintendent that led her to conclude that she “did not believe the superintendent could return to his position and be effective.” Though the board majority reinstated the superintendent to duty anyway (Mary and I voted “no”), their controversial decision to do so has awakened many in our community who have had enough of this board majority and are now working to make change.
Looking up and Ahead
Much work remains to be done for students. Though RRISD is one of the wealthiest school districts in Texas, many of our students are being left behind in my view.
Only 40% of economically disadvantaged 3rd graders can read on or above grade level. Only 31% of Black 3rd graders can do math on or above grade level. Only 31% of Hispanic 5th graders can do science on or above grade level. Algebra 1 is the gateway to higher math and almost half of all of our students do not pass the Algebra 1 end of course exam. When will the futures of these children be a priority for the school board?
The November RRISD school board elections. Mary and I are the only trustees NOT up for reelection. All five of the others ARE up for reelection.
The community is on the cusp of a rare opportunity to make meaningful change for students and families in our schools.
Local parents have organized and formed the Round Rock One Family political action committee (PAC) and have endorsed five student-centered, pro-parent, fiscally responsibly and law abiding candidates.
Mary and I have also endorsed these five candidates along with Matt Rinaldi, Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.
You can read a short bio of all five candidates and HELP by donating to the PAC to help get them elected here:
Inquiries to the author can be sent via the contact link below:
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