A classical education advocate in North Texas is calling for his local school district to fire the “woke” search firm hired to select a new superintendent and instead form a search committee composed of community members with a history of advocating for traditional academic learning.

Highland Park parent Spencer Siino says Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates—which  specializes in candidates focused on social justice rather than academics—is “the worst possible search firm” for the conservative community.

Highland Park Independent School District, a high-performing district of about 7,000 students in Dallas’ wealthy Park Cities enclave, hired the firm after Superintendent Tom Trigg announced in October he would be resigning at the end of the school year.

“In hiring HYA, you have made clear your intention to select an ultra-Progressive Superintendent to continue HPISD down the path of technology led, highly politicized schools,” Siino said in a November 28 letter to the district’s board of trustees.

He said the HYA website is “littered with woke, social justice platitudes” and “makes no mention of academic achievement, college placement, parental rights, or teacher empowerment.”

Front and center on the HYA website is a requirement that “candidates … must have recent, relevant, and demonstrated experience in successfully addressing opportunity gaps, leading with an equity lens, and advancing equity initiatives.

Siino ran for a seat on the Highland Park school board in May.

“I campaigned on replacing HPISD’s superintendent with a traditional educator as opposed to the progressive educators with PhDs in ‘Educational Leadership’ that populate 99 percent of the superintendent seats in the United States,” Siino told Texas Scorecard following the news of Trigg’s departure.

The news was welcome to many parents who have said the district is increasingly focused on critical race theory, radical gender theory, and other leftist ideology at the expense of core academics.

However, Siino was concerned trustees would bow to pressure from the “highly politicized” Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) and Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), as well as superintendent search firms that exclusively guide school districts to hire candidates with the same background as Trigg, “ensuring increasingly woke curriculum.”

Siino’s letter to trustees said it is “nearly impossible that an outside search firm would select the kind of traditional educator demanded by our community.”

The letter was co-signed by Tyler Beeson, who also ran for the school board in May, and Robert T. Rowling. The three agreed to pay any fees incurred for terminating HYA’s contract.

Leo Whelan, another Highland Park resident who has conducted significant research on the hiring firm, raised issues with HYA’s past recommendations in other districts. In his own letter to the school board, Whelan highlighted a 2018 investigation by The Daily Herald that found the firm had “mishandled several high-profile searches in recent years,” after a superintendent in Des Plaines, Illinois, resigned following sexual assault allegations.

“The unanimous approval of a contract with HYA may be the single worst decision in HPISD school board history, but it wasn’t unexpected given the long slide into mediocrity the parents and taxpayers of HPISD have witnessed over the last 10 years,” said Whelan.

Siino also started an online petition calling for HPISD trustees to fire the woke superintendent search firm and form a citizen search committee.

Highland Park families can contact board members for more information about the superintendent search process.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.