At a May 23 meeting, Leander ISD trustees reinforced policies around when a trustee can visit a campus, following concerns that Place 7 board member Paul Gauthier created fear and disorder through surprise visits.

District officials said Gauthier visited several campuses and facilities without going through the proper channel of Superintendent Bruce Gearing's office, requested to participate in staff meetings and frightened district employees.

What happened

On May 17, Gauthier visited the district’s transportation department; Vandegrift High School; Henry Middle School; and Cox, North and Larkspur elementaries “unannounced [and] without appointments,” school board President Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia said. This violated the LISD board operating procedures that require board members to schedule campus visits through the superintendent’s office, which coordinates visits with principals or other staff members, Gonzales-Dholakia said.

In April, Gonzales-Dholakia sent a memo to Gauthier reminding him of the board operating procedures after he visited the LISD transportation department and “insisted on attending the director’s staff meeting without first notifying the superintendent,” she said. Days later, Gauthier attended a high school dance performance in which he “accosted the dance director in front of students and parents about school funding issues," Gonzales-Dholakia said.

While the board's policy is to initially respond to procedure violations through one-on-one conversations with the trustee, Gauthier requested that the matter be addressed in open session, she said.

In response to Gauthier’s “continued willful disregard of the Leander ISD board operating procedures,” the board voted to do the following on May 23:
  • Remove Gauthier from all district and board committees
  • Authorize Gearing or other administrators to file criminal trespass complaints against Gauthier if he continues to enter school facilities without authorization
  • Direct Gearing to notify all district administrators that Gauthier cannot attend staff meetings, or enter classrooms or buildings unless having made prior arrangements through the superintendent’s office
  • Amend board policy to include language from the board operating procedures about trustee visits to district facilities
  • Send messaging to staff on the appropriate role of board members by working with the district’s communication team
What they’re saying

After touring several campuses with Gearing, Gauthier said he wanted to visit campuses alone as the superintendent’s presence gave a "chilled effect" on district employees and expressed concerns about the district losing teachers.

“The only way we can do a proper evaluation of the building, the facilities is by getting that unchilled and that unvarnished look. ... ” Gauthier said. “I didn’t feel like I was getting the full scope of everything.”

Gonzales-Dholakia said Gauthier's presence on campuses May 17 caused chaos as Gearing and other district officials received calls from principals and staff members who were fearful.

“I certainly got concerned calls on Friday based on these visits. ... ” Gearing said. “We don’t mind board members being on campus. ... It’s only fair to our staff that if we’re going to show up that they understand what we’re doing [and] why we’re there.”

Several board members said Gauthier's visits to campuses poised safety concerns.

“This conversation is not only about you accessing these buildings. It is about campus safety [and] campus security because people are not feeling safe when this happens," Gonzales-Dholakia said.

Gauthier said he requested to speak with campus principals if they were available and left anytime he was asked to.

"My presence is nothing more to help the kids and the employees of the district. ..." Gauthier said. "I am trying to do my best role as a trustee, which is to try to find what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong."