ROUND ROCK — The contentious months-long story continues in the “safe and suburban” Central Texas school district.
On Thursday, the Round Rock Independent School District board of trustees met behind closed doors to respond to the state government investigation into recently hired superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez, who has been accused of domestic violence.
Specifically, the board voted 6-1 to place Azaiez on paid administrative leave for the present, hire an external investigator to look into the allegations against him, and appoint an interim superintendent.
The Tumultuous Saga
The story began last summer, when five of the seven board trustees controversially hired Azaiez despite objections from the community. Soon after, accusations surfaced that Azaiez had demanded his pregnant mistress abort their child. When she refused, Azaiez reportedly threatened her with violence, and after she approached RRISD trustees about the matter in July, Azaiez allegedly assaulted her.
In early August, board trustees Mary Bone and Danielle Weston called for an immediate special meeting to discuss the claims, but they were denied by the other five members.
“Criminal accusations against the superintendent that came to the entire board in a 7/23/2021 e-mail are worrisome,” the trustees wrote in a press release. “First, all persons in our country are innocent until proven guilty. Second, the well-being of our students, staff and community are more important than anything else. Third, given the credibility of the accuser, these accusations cannot be ignored.”
They added, “In our view, the failure to promptly schedule and hold a board of trustees meeting to discuss and address this matter can only mean that our high level of concern and sense of urgency is not universally shared among all seven trustees.”
The allegations then sparked months of public outcry and incidents that made national headlines, which Texas Scorecard chronicled in a recent special report and exclusive podcast series. The saga included a temporary restraining order against Azaiez, ongoing investigations by the Texas Education Agency and Travis County Sheriff’s Office, and the board blocking parents from public meetings and arresting concerned citizens.
Finally, after more than five turbulent months, the board met on Monday to “review the Texas Education Agency monitor’s letter” on the situation (which recommended placing Azaiez on paid administrative leave and hiring an external investigator), then met again on Thursday to actually implement it.
Parents Speak Out
District parents packed both meetings this week to again testify to the trustees—and Azaiez—on the troubling series of events.
“This community has been asking for this for several months now, and you ignored our repeated concerns. And sadly, you also ignored the allegations from the victim as well,” said Shauna Kinningham. “And here we are now finally, after it’s made national news and tarnished the district’s reputation.”
“If the accusations are true, [Azaiez] has to resign. And I don’t know what the truth is, so I’m here to ask for that,” said Don Zimmerman. “You know, either refute the charges or investigate it. Find out if it’s true or not. Don’t leave it hanging there.”
“I need you to amend your scope of investigation to include investigating any and all trustees that played a part in interfering with the superintendent search and any and all trustees that benefited from such,” said Terri Romere, a former RRISD board member and current candidate for county commissioner.
Several parents added the board’s refusal to simply investigate the matter harmed the community, caused a myriad of costly problems, and distracted from the main purpose of their job: educating children.
“I’m not here to judge him and say he should go to jail or not. That’s up to the police,” said Matt Kepler. “But what we have is an issue that he needs to step aside for, and let us get back to doing the business that we’re here to do—which is educating kids right?”
“I ask you Dr. Azaiez to walk back the threats of legal peril against our already financially strapped district,” said Michelle Evans. “If you are so confident in the investigation’s outcome, accept your $30,000 a month and help pull us out of the hole you have helped dig.”
Azaiez’s Lawyer Responds
Azaiez’s attorney, Mary Goodrich Nix, released a statement after Thursday’s decision:
“As is his duty, Dr. Azaiez will honor and follow the directive of the Board of Trustees of the Round Rock ISD. He very much looks forward to his return from administrative leave to continue his service as Superintendent to the Round Rock ISD community.”
Additionally, Nix released a longer statement earlier this week on the entire matter, saying she was “appalled that the TEA and the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees would allow themselves to be hijacked, coerced, and forced by two renegade members of the Round Rock ISD Board to pursue the ouster of Dr. Azaiez based upon an alleged assault that, in their heart of hearts, each member of the Board knows never occurred.”
Nix added: “Succinctly stated, as counsel for Dr. Azaiez, we have objective evidence, which we believe to be incontrovertible, demonstrating that the alleged assault, which is the genesis of this controversy, did not occur.”
However, Dr. Azaiez and his legal team have not yet released any evidence refuting the claims in the six months of the controversy, and Nix recognized the superintendent did enter into a civil restraining order.
Meanwhile, the results of the investigations remain to be seen.
“Moving forward, I hope you will learn from the scandal and realize that your community is watching your actions, and we are going to be holding you accountable,” added district parent Kinningham. “We deserve better than this.”