New position at Eanes ISD aims to help rectify what many recall as legacy of racism

Eanes ISD trustees approved Dr. Mark Gooden's contract during a July 21 board meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)
Eanes ISD trustees approved Dr. Mark Gooden's contract during a July 21 board meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Eanes ISD trustees approved Dr. Mark Gooden's contract during a July 21 board meeting. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

A culmination of troubling and racist behavior from recent Westlake High School graduates, former students testifying to Eanes ISD’s racially problematic past and an international movement have resulted in officials adding a new position to the district.

Board members unanimously voted during a July 21 board meeting to approve a contract to employ Mark Gooden as a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant for the 2020-21 school year.

Over the last month, several EISD community members have publicly shed light on a long history of problematic behavior and racial impropriety within the district. In June, Westlake High School alumni rallied to form a grassroots initiative petitioning for action called Chaps for Black Lives Matter, now renamed Chaps for an Anti-Racist Eanes.

The advocacy group has since swelled to more than 1,000 supporters, who have called upon EISD to hire a third-party specialist focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, also referred to as a DEI consultant.

Under Gooden’s guidance, EISD has committed to promoting social justice and racial awareness within the community, in part through an examination of student handbook policies, staff development, school traditions and curricula.


Gooden has worked with districts throughout the country and locally at Austin ISD. He currently serves as the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor professor of education leadership and is the director of the Endeavor Antiracist and Restorative Leadership Initiative at Columbia University.

He will begin working with the administrative team as early as July 30 to refine staff professional development prior to the 2020-21 school year, according to EISD information.

Several dozen former and current students publicly advocated for the addition of a DEI consultant during the meeting’s open forum session, when individuals continued to share powerful testimonials recounting experiences with racism at EISD.

“People used to ask me if my father was the janitor and if I was Mexican just because my skin was darker,” alumna Isabel Horne said. “When I was in middle school I watched some of the most popular kids in my grade say the n-word. In the sixth grade, a girl screamed 'white power' at me while I begged her to leave me alone.”

Others highlighted a need for teachings against anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism, and other forms of discrimination and harassment perpetuated by current and former students.

During the July 21 board meeting, Gooden addressed community members who have publicly recounted difficult memories to district officials over the last couple of months.

“I do want to acknowledge and say thanks to the alumni and current Eanes ISD students who are courageously speaking their truth,” Gooden said. “You are courageously showing your love to this community by saying that it is time to engage in meaningful anti-racist work.”

Gooden and EISD will continue to prioritize public feedback in the development of a new community advisory group as well as a district equity team.

Superintendent Tom Leonard called this a unique moment in history for the district and stated EISD is lucky to have a community so committed to meaningful change.

“I have been in schools for a long time. I have never seen high school kids and middle school kids as socially conscious as they are at this point in time,” Leonard said. “They want to change the world, and we need to be ready.”

Following the approval of Gooden’s contract, trustee and 20-year Westlake resident Christie Bybee concluded the meeting with an emotional statement to the community.

“I want to offer my apologies to all the students that have been victims of racism over the years. I feel like I failed you as a trustee. I feel like I failed you as a woman of white privilege,” Bybee said. “But what I do know is that we can do better, and we will do better.”


MOST RECENT

Retailer Harbor Freight Tools will open a Georgetown location Aug. 11. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harbor Freight Tools coming to Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest Central Texas business and community news.

Sewell Jaguar Land Rover North Austin is now open. (Courtesy Sewell Automotive Companies)
Texas-based automotive company acquires newly built Jaguar Land Rover North Austin

Sewell Jaguar Land Rover North Austin is now open after acquiring the dealership from Park Place Dealerships in July.

(Community Impact Newspaper file photo)
Bee Cave to discuss preliminary budget Aug. 11

Bee Cave City Council will begin discussion of the city’s preliminary budget at its Aug. 11 meeting.

Capital Metro and the City of Austin are preparing to ask voters in November to fund $7.1 billion of a $10 billion plan to expand public transportation across the city. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Project Connect one step away from officially heading to Austin voters

Austin City Council and the Capital Metro board of directors approved a contract with the voters Aug. 7 laying out details of the plan and set up the rules for a board that will make funding decisions.

Beginning at noon Aug. 10, Lake Pflugerville trail will reopen for public use. (Courtesy city of Pflugerville)
Lake Pflugerville trail to reopen and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas.

Lakeway Mayor Sandy Cox updated the community through a live Facebook broadcast Aug 7. (Courtesy city of Lakeway)
Lakeway mayor reports fewer local COVID-19 cases

The growth in new coronavirus cases has appeared to subside in the Lake Travis region as a result of the use of face masks and social distancing measures.

Rapid nasal swab antigen tests are recommended as options for individuals who were potentially exposed to a confirmed positive carrier, as well as for people traveling, returning to work or undergoing a medical procedure. (Courtesy Total Primary Care)
Find out where to get a 15-minute COVID-19 test in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth metros

Rapid nasal swab antigen tests are recommended as options for individuals who were potentially exposed to a confirmed positive carrier, as well as for people traveling, returning to work or undergoing a medical procedure.

The Texas Education Agency released its preliminary FIRST ratings Aug. 6. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
Eanes, Lake Travis ISDs maintain A accountability ratings from TEA

Eanes ISD and Lake Travis ISD will hold onto their A accountability ratings from the Texas Education Agency.

A mother and daughter visit at Seasons Assisted Living & Memory Care in Conroe earlier in the pandemic. (Courtesy Seasons Assisted Living & Memory Care)
Texas allows limited visitations to nursing homes, long-term care facilities

Facilities that meet the requirements will allow limited visitations, but you still will not be able to hug or kiss your loved one.

(Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper)
50% of Leander ISD families choose virtual learning

Half of all Leander ISD families will continue with virtual learning when campuses reopen Sept. 8