Friday 31 October 2014

Katy ISD Asks Attorney General’s Opinion On Withholding Golbow Complaint Documents

Katy ISD has requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General on whether the district is legally required to release records related to complaints about Golbow Elementary Principal Ann Smith and her administrative staff.

Earlier this month, InstantNewsKaty requested the district release documents related to any such complaints filed by staff, teachers, residents or parents.

The request was filed following a school board meeting during which teachers and parents complained they had been “bullied” and “intimidated” by Smith and her assistant principals.

“This request is intended to include any and all internal communications in any format between Katy ISD administrative staff member and school board members regarding complaints and allegations of ‘bullying,’ ‘intimidation’ or related activities at Golbow Elementary,” the request said.

On Monday, Katy ISD Public Information Specialist Tricia McKinney sent an e-mail message to InstantNewsKaty saying the district was asking the Attorney General if the documents are “within an exception to public disclosure.”

“It is necessary for Katy ISD to ask for a decision from the Attorney General’s Office about whether the information is within an exception to public disclosure,” McKinney said in the e-mail.

The message also included a copy of the letter sent to the Attorney General’s Office. The letter was dated April 18 – the same day as the e-mail message – which was also the final day of the ten days given the school district by law to respond to an open records request.

In the letter, McKinney told Amanda Crawford, chief of the Attorney General’s Open Records Section, the district believes the documents should not be released due to the material being “confidential by law” and related to litigation and legal matters.

“The district believes that the information contained within those documents would be excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.103 and 552.107 of the Texas Public Information Act including, but not limited to, the following exceptions:

  • 552.101 – Information Confidential by Law
  • 552.103 – Information Relating to Litigation
  • 552.107 – Certain Legal Matters,”

McKinney said in the letter.

More than 50 teachers, parents and former educators appeared before Katy ISD trustees last month to say they had been bullied, belittled, disrespected and forced out by Smith and her assistants, Cece Perez and Felicia Sheedy. They also asked the school board to investigate the situation at the campus.

The speakers said the current campus administration had created an atmosphere of fear among teachers and parents with tactics of intimidation and retaliation.

Possibly the most compelling remarks came from retired Golbow principal Terri Majors. She told trustees “there is an unhealthy, psychologically damaging work and learning environment at Golbow that has been created and fueled by the current administration.”

“Behaviors and actions of Golbow’s three administrators injure the staff’s self-esteem, cause anguish during work hours, are perceived as hostile, unwanted and unwarranted. These actions defeat the goal of providing a happy, positive learning environmental for the students,” Majors said.

She also said the school district’s human resources department was complicit in the retaliation against teachers.

“There is documented ongoing support for Golbow’s current administration by the district’s human resources department despite the large volume of teacher resignations, transfers and non-renewals that far exceed the norm,” Majors said. “At the end of the school year, 68 percent of the teaching staff at Golbow when the new administration was hired will be gone.”

Board members did not respond to any of the comments and no action was taken.

Katy ISD administrators later announced Smith and her staff had the district’s full support.

9 Comments

  1. westsidebill says:

    My guess is that if the complaints become public record the district’s and BOT’s “strong support” of an “outstanding administrator” will disappear faster than you can say LOOK OUT BELOW!

    Of course, is everything remains confidential, then Smith and cronies will go on about their business with the full support of KISD.

  2. Just Wondering2 says:

    You are probably right, but another possible course of action would be for a few of the affected persons, staff, parents, etc., to hire an attorney and file suit and demand the disclosure of all this information and more in the due course of “discovery.”

    At that point any attempt to hide the data, emails, etc., would be a violation of law in its own right and I doubt the ESC will want to walk that road. Maybe someone who lives near the school and is an attorney will at least take the case at face value and file a couple of papers for free to get the ball rolling?

  3. Mary McGarr says:

    Waiting until the tenth day to file a request for an AG opinion is the standard way for governements (school districts) to put off having to give the requestor the information.

    In this case the District is trying to hide that information until after the school board election.

    Knowing their intent, everyone should just imagine the worst possible scenario and substitute that thought for what could have been a true picture of the problem.

  4. Appalled says:

    OR..they’re delaying releasing the documents because it will offer irrefutable proof that the employees’ complaints/concerns were brushed under the rug and Goldbow’s administration was allowed to continue the bullying of their teachers. All I keep reading about is how teachers are AFRAID to step out of line at other schools. THey claim the same at Goldbow, right? HMMMMMM…do I see a pattern here? Perhaps they learned from those at the ESC?

  5. robroy says:

    I don’t know if any staff have hired attorneys over any of the Golbow allegations. I don’t believe they can legitimately complain about it being related to litigation, or pending litigation. If it was, those specifically related emails and letters would be the only correspondence redacted.

    Usually, the “by law” exception in intra-company / intra-school priviledged and confidential legal communications. That apparently is not the case. I doubt an in-house counsel was involved in the complaints.

    It’s definitely not a situation involving “certain legal matters” – this was no more than an HR issue.

  6. katymom3 says:

    As a Golbow mom, everything currently going on at the school saddens me. The school is losing some outstanding teachers and unfortunately not because of budget cuts but because of the trouble at the school. Katy ISD needs to release the information so everyone can make decisions about what actually happened instead of what the parties are saying.

    • mominkaty says:

      Your comments took me by surprise as my children attended MCJH several years ago when Rick Hull was principal. We have nothing but good things to say about the school and the teachers we encountered. It saddens me if what you say is actually happening there.

  7. teacherinfbisd says:

    Wow…I’m really shocked this is going on at Katy ISD. Katy ISD has such a great reputation even amoung Fort Bend ISD Personnel and teachers. I’m shocked..Thanks for making all of this public knowledge. I wonder why this district has not become like this with certain campuses doing this to their teachers. There has to be a legitimate reason. If it was sucky TAKS scores, then that was why. Just “cleaning house,” I guess, but that isn’t reason enough to be bullied. Actually, no reason would suffice for this treatment.

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