Grapevine-Colleyville ISD board members heard from staff members of Texans for Excellence in Education—an alternative organization to Texas Association of School Boards—during their regular meeting Sept. 25.

The presentation comes on the heels of TEE staff members giving a presentation to Carroll ISD’s board of trustees at their Sept. 19 meeting.

What happened

John Petree, president of TEE, and Executive Director Hava Armstrong presented information about the various services that TEE can provide to school districts. In a news release dated June 1, TEE announced the formal launch of a suite of services for Texas public school boards and trustees. TEE’s services include:
  • Model policy drafting
  • Legal guidance and advisory
  • Group insurance
  • Electric co-op & energy savings
  • Purchasing co-op
  • Model board book
The backstory

TASB is a voluntary, statewide education program that serves and represents local Texas school boards. According to a TASB webpage, the organization states: “TASB is proud to have all 1,025 Texas school boards as active members of the association. TASB has maintained this 100% membership for more than 30 continuous years. The association represents the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state (more than 7,000 school board members) that serves more than 5.4 million Texas students.”

Carroll ISD board members voted 5-1 to end its membership with TASB on March 27. According to the resolution submitted by Board President Cameron Bryan, this decision was due to the TASB promoting “divisive political ideologies” through its training and conferences.

Sorting out the details

During Petree’s presentation, Place 2 trustee Becky St. John asked several questions of Petree concerning TEE’s influence in local school board elections.

“Will TEE interfere, will TEE advocate, will TEE make campaign contributions [and] influence elections for any school board in the state of Texas?” St. John asked.

“That is not in my scope or my budget,” Petree responded. “That’s not in my realm of what I would be doing.”

When St. John pressed Petree and asked again about if TEE would be influencing any school board elections in the state of Texas, Petree replied, “absolutely not.”

When St. John asked more questions about the organization including the identity of TEE board members and how TEE selects board members, Petree responded that the information would be “released when it is ready to be released” on TEE’s website.

St. John attempted to ask Petree more questions, but then was told by Board President Shannon Braun that there was a three-minute time limit and that her time was up. When St. John pushed back stating that she wasn’t made aware of time limits, she further questioned Petree.

“If you are scared to answer my questions, then that right there is a big red flag,” St. John told Petree.

After being admonished by other board members, including Kathy Spradley, who told St. John that her tone of her questioning was “embarrassing,” St. John didn't back down.

“These are simple questions,” St. John said. “I’ve got a responsibility to the taxpayers, and I’m going to ask the questions. [Petree] should know who the board of directors are, and he should be transparent about letting us know who they are.”

Place 3 trustee Tammy Nakamura then read from a prepared statement noting the negatives of TASB policy.

“Recall that it was TASB who just last year issued a policy saying schools must let boys go into girls bathrooms,” Nakamura said. “TASB also promotes a culture of staff being in charge. As good as our staff is here at GCISD, the board, not the staff, has the final say, and we are the accountable party to the parents and community.”

Long story short

TEE’s presentation to the board was for information only, and no action was taken. Place 7 trustee Mary Humphrey reminded the audience that GCISD is still in a relationship with TASB for the next year, after the board voted to spend over $1 million on insurance with TASB at their August meeting.