Wednesday, March 30, 2022

RISD Election Reduced to One Question

Sherry Clemens, Eron Linn, Vanessa Pacheco

The Berkner High School PTA hosted a forum of Richardson ISD District 2 school board candidates Sherry Clemens, Vanessa Pacheco, and Eron Linn (incumbent). There were many good questions, but one audience question in particular distilled the whole election down to its essential question. It was a yes/no question. The three candidates answered, in effect, yes, no, and don't blame me.

The question was, "Do you believe that the former superintendent resigning in December was best for Richardson ISD?"

Sherry Clemens's answer: "... I think at the beginning, when we hired her she had those teacher eyes. People that work for her, love her. Many of my teachers that I respect and love, my friends, they thought that it was detrimental to the district when she left. So I understand that side of things. I do, however, feel that the last few years because of COVID and before and after COVID, it was so divisive, that it is time for a new leader to unify our district."

So put her down for a yes, Dr. Stone resigning was good for RISD, because "it was so divisive."

As if divisiveness was just something that happened, an accident best dealt with by replacing the superintendent. How convenient for Clemens's own agenda. Prefacing that with compliments of Dr. Stone, crocodile tears about "how hard her job was," and Clemens's desire to "unify our district" are disingenuous. Clemens doesn't say that it was her own supporters showing up outside board meetings with "Fire Stone" signs, wearing automobile tire company "Firestone" T-shirts inside board meetings, waving supportive jazz hands whenever something critical of Dr. Stone was said, and shaking their heads no vociferously whenever Dr. Stone herself spoke. Because divisiveness, like shit, happens.

Eron Linn's answer: "... I think it's important that I say first of all that I supported Dr. Stone from the first day I hired her to when we unanimously accepted her resignation in December. The board unanimously accepted her resignation. She also said last week, Dr. Stone did, said last week in a forum with the Texas Tribune that her resignation was her decision."

Notice that Linn says, "I" hired her, but it was "we" that unanimously accepted her resignation. And he emphasized that her resignation was "her" decision. So put him down for a "Don't blame me."

I can confirm that Dr. Stone did indeed say that her resignation was her decision, but that hardly exonerates Linn in the whole affair. Despite what I said above about the harrassment that Dr. Stone faced from the public, that wasn't what led to Dr. Stone's resignation. Former school board president Karen Clardy is the only person in the board room with the other trustees during this tumultuous period to have gone on record. After interviewing her, Sharon Grigsby of The Dallas Morning News wrote: " “When I left, I feared where the board was going,” Clardy said. “I tried to be hopeful and thought, maybe if I step down, maybe the dynamics would change. I was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt.” Instead, things deteriorated into the “voluntary separation” action that the school board unanimously approved [December 13]. Underneath all the legal language, you’ve got a superintendent who had no choice but to resign because she lost the backing and trust of her board."

So when Linn says "I supported Dr. Stone from the first day I hired her to when we unanimously accepted her resignation in December," take it with a large grain of salt. He, too, is being disingenuous.

Vanessa Pacheco's answer: "... I know that our teachers felt the extreme loss. I think our district felt the extreme loss. A lot of our students felt the same way. I was and am a strong supporter of Dr. Stone, her ideas and creativity and policy and that's why we miss her."

Pacheco described the resignation as "leaving the ship without a captain." So put her down as a no, Dr. Stone resigning was not good for RISD. Pacheco also mentioned Dr. Stone's support for policies like EDI and SEL and, something I wasn't aware of, removing "barriers to programs that generally excluded many students of color, for example, the GT program." Neither Clemens nor Linn, in their answers, spoke of appreciation of Dr. Stone's legacy. Of the three answers, Pacheco's seemed least political, and most heartfelt.

RISD voters could do worse than treat this election as a referendum on Dr. Stone's departure. Vanessa Pacheco feels an extreme loss. Sherry Clemens thinks the RISD is better off without her. And Eron Linn, well, Eron Linn tries to have it both ways, saying he always supported Dr. Stone despite reports to the contrary, while in fact carefully failing to answer the question, is RISD better off without her? How voters themselves answer that question could decide this election.

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

Video of the whole forum has been posted by the Berkner PTA on YouTube.