The Let’s Talk School event in Fairview was very informative. Board members Beth Burgos, Candy Emerson, Bobby Hullett, PJ Mezera, Ken Peterson, and Rick Wimberly were in attendance. The format was the same as Tuesday night at Centennial: there was a brief presentation by Dr. Looney, and then each board member (with accompanying staff from central office) answered questions for about fifteen minutes. There were three 15-minute sessions. As with Tuesday night, after the fifteen minutes, some people switched rooms while some remained in the same room.
Beth Burgos: There was some talk about Williamson Strong itself, how unfair she thought the Williamson Strong engagement on the election was. County Commissioner Barb Sturgeon—who represents District 8 but may want a seat on the school board herself as she talked quite a bit, especially about textbooks—stayed in Dr. Burgos’ room for the whole session.
Dr. Burgos said she definitely would not support getting rid of Dr. Looney.
She said that the question asked during the campaign (at the Clapham forum) regarding vouchers was absent context. Tonight, Dr. Burgos clearly stated that she would never approve vouchers in Williamson County!
Dr. Burgos discussed her relationship with Americans for Prosperity. She said she did not know anything about the flyers that AFP dropped in her district right before the election. She said she did not know how AFP got her high-resolution photo and said she was very surprised to see the flyers. She acknowledged it was notable for a national group to spend such a great deal of money on a local school board race and acknowledged parent concerns that the perceived association might mean she shares AFP’s agenda regarding public schools (vouchers). She said she felt “used” by AFP. When a parent noted that she had gone to an AFP summit in Dallas after the election, she said it was just a nice time away with her family, and she got to hear Dr. Ben Carson and other presidential candidates speak.
When asked why she had not responded to constituent emails regarding Susan Curlee’s FOIA request that included parents, Burgos said that Chairman Mezera had asked that he speak on behalf of the board on that topic.
When Dr. Burgos began talking about textbook selection and bias, she deferred to County Commissioner Barb Sturgeon who served on the state textbook committee over the summer. Commissioner Sturgeon spoke for five minutes about her review of social studies textbooks particularly 6th and 7th grade world history where Islam “got a whole chapter.” She felt that Christianity was not “given a fair shake” because Jesus wasn’t discussed from a Christian point of view. Dr. Burgos said she wants to make sure that everything is presented “fair and equal” and for our children to be “taught truth.”
A parent asked about fairness and equality regarding prayer at School Board meetings. Dr. Burgos had said previously that this was merely a question and not something she seriously considered and that it had been dropped. However, Dr. Burgos spoke for more than five minutes about Supreme Court and appellate court cases regarding prayer as well as her conversation with Alliance Defending Freedom.
Candace Emerson: One parent in her session reported that Ms. Emerson said she would not support vouchers in Williamson County.
PJ Mezera: He talked some about AP US History and textbooks. A parent requested that—as chair—he make sure not to let political activists drive curriculum changes. Chairman Mezera stated that the WCS teachers are amazing professionals and that professional educators should be trusted with curriculum decisions.