ROUND ROCK — Amid a troubling series of events in their local school district, Central Texans in a north Austin suburb continue to expose corruption—and demand action—from their school officials.
On Wednesday evening, a group of parents and statewide political candidates gathered at the Round Rock Independent School District administration building for a press conference, speaking out against their school board’s recent “shameful” behaviors.
“I would say that these five board members and this superintendent who have committed all these acts are unfit to be leaders in this district and should resign immediately,” said district parent Jeremy Story.
What’s Going On?
Over the past few months, the school board has been engulfed in numerous troubling stories, including abuse of power, domestic assault allegations against Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez, offering pornographic material to children, allowing boys in girls’ private rooms, blocking parents from public meetings, and even arresting concerned citizens who simply testified about the allegations during their allotted time at a public meeting. Texas Scorecard has detailed these issues in previous reports, and some of them sparked citizen lawsuits and made national headlines.
This week—after nearly four months of public outcry over the assault allegations, a state government investigation notice into the superintendent and a flag of his license, and failed attempts to get the board to meet on the claims—the board finally scheduled a meeting “in consultation with legal counsel to discuss the employment and performance of the Superintendent.”
However, the board scheduled it as a closed session meeting—behind closed doors and not allowing any public comment.
Hence, Wednesday’s parent-led press conference.
“We’re Sick of It”
“We’ve organized a number of parents to come together tonight because tonight, there’s a called board meeting to discuss the superintendent’s employment. … However, they’re not allowing the community to speak,” said district parent Dustin Clark, a veteran and one of the fathers the board arrested in September.
“We have a right to have access to our schools, to have access to the curriculum, and to have transparency with the government that is governing our school district.”
“Recently, parents have uncovered more than they bargained for and realize a lot goes on behind the scenes that affects their children’s education and well being,” said local citizen Bonnie with Wilco We the People. “These parents have reached out respectfully to have open discussions regarding these concerning issues to board members—only to be met with hostility and attacks. Parents have the right and the responsibility to know about every aspect that affects their child.”
“This is a public school; the board members in there and every employee in the school district is given authority by the people,” Clark continued. “The elected board members are not in authority over us; we are in authority over them.”
“Five [out of seven] members of the Round Rock ISD school board, in collaboration with our recently voted for superintendent, have abused their power,” said Jeremy Story, the other father arrested in September. “They have oppressed and threatened parents. They have violated the law in order to hide their actions and cover up credible allegations of actual crimes to protect their own political positions.”
“School board overreach is something we should all be able to agree on—we shouldn’t be arresting parents for simply speaking in a school board meeting,” he added.
“I’ve been watching what’s been going on in Round Rock, and it has been shameful,” said Trayce Bradford, current Republican candidate for Texas lieutenant governor. “[The board is] weaponizing a service. They are supposed to be in a role as a service, and they have weaponized that against you the parents.”
“For some odd reason, this scourge, this cancer is not just in Virginia. It’s not just in California or some other place. It’s right here, just up the road from the capital of the Lone Star State,” said Lt. Col. Allen West, current Republican candidate for governor. “And I would have never thought that we would be in Texas concerned about authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and tyranny from elected officials against parents.”
“We’ve got grievances right now against this school district, against this school board, and we need to get it corrected,” West added. “And I will guarantee you this: If I am the governor of the state of Texas, you will not have any school district, any school board that tries to rule over you. I will make sure that they don’t have the funding and the resources. And I will make sure that they’re removed.”
Notably, the majority of the school board—recently dubbed the “Bad Faith Five” by some local parents—already faced criticism earlier this summer for their recent hiring process of Superintendent Azaiez. Community members said the board rushed their decision and did the “entire superintendent search in closed session,” without providing reasons for choosing Azaiez as the sole finalist in May.
“We’re sick of it. We’re tired of it, and we’re not going to stand for it anymore,” Clark said.
Regarding the assault allegations against Azaiez, the board has not yet announced any action, and it is unclear whether they will or what will be the result of the TEA investigation.
“No matter how many times that two of our school board members Danielle Weston and Mary Bone have asked for this to be put on the agenda, [the rest of the board] still hides secretly behind doors in closed discussions when they could be allowing public comments even today,” said Story. “We are going to act legally, politically and through public discourse to expose their actions in this matter.”