McKinney ISD officials address concerns about diversity, religion


Correction: The religion graphic associated with this article has been updated to include Catholic Church with 111,182 adherents in Collin County as of 2010, the most recent data available.

For the past four months, many parents and students have spoken at McKinney ISD board meetings requesting the separation of church and state and enhanced diversity training for staff.

The outcry has led to one change already—moving the graduation ceremony from Prestonwood Baptist Church—and MISD board President Curtis Rippee said the board is working to pass other topics of concern to MISD administration to determine the best plan of action.

“There’s been discussions between myself and [Superintendent Rick] McDaniel and other board members about the particular topics,” he said. “The board as a whole has not had a public special discussion on these topics, but clearly individual board members are talking to McDaniel about these issues.”

The district is always in a “mode of self-improvement” and constantly evaluating programs and their adequacy, Rippee said. This includes teacher training and professional development, he said.

“I think the district and administration, specifically, and the board is interested in making sure that we have an environment where all of our students can get the best education possible,” Rippee said. “… Our goal is to keep working on an environment where all of our kids can get the best education possible.”

MISD is not the only district learning to handle diversity; rather it is a national topic, said Kimberly Quick, senior policy associate with the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank that studies education policy and school diversity, among other topics.

“I think you’ve seen in the past year that race, in particular, but race, gender, sexual orientation, religion—these elements are part of our national discourse in a much more robust way than they have been in the past or at least in the recent past,” she said. “These issues are particularly salient now, and we’ve seen throughout the country increasing concern about the role that diversity and justice play in schools.”

District response

On Feb. 8 MISD officials announced that the 2018 graduation for all three high schools will be moved to the Allen Event Center from Prestonwood Baptist Church, where it had been held for many years.

“I think moving graduation is a positive,” said Kate Parker, an MISD parent. “It’s just better for kids to have graduation in an environment where all kids can feel comfortable, and not all kids feel comfortable in a church.”

According to district officials, graduation was moved for a variety of reasons, including availability, attendance capacity, convenience and proximity to McKinney.

“We also acknowledge there has been discussion in recent months regarding graduation venues, and it has been determined that the Allen Event Center affords the best opportunity to keep our focus on our graduates and their accomplishments,” the district said in a letter to MISD senior parents.

Some parents and community members say the district’s move to relocate graduation is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

“We are a big city now, and we have to think about including lots of different kinds of people in our community and especially in our schools,” Parker said.

Parker said she has met with Rippee, McDaniel, MISD board Vice President Amy Dankel and three other community members. These conversations focused on graduation, religious expressions from teachers and looking into a more extensive diversity training, she said.

Rippee said it is important to note that the district administration handles day-to-day operations, including the location of graduation, and the board establishes policies, hires the superintendent and approves the budget.

When community members speak at board meetings they are able to share their views on any given topic and the board can ask administration to look into the situation or evaluate the issue, Rippee said.

“I think overall this is not a necessarily a local issue,” Rippee said. “I think it’s something that’s being discussed nationally. We’re seeing discussion occur that may not have occurred previously, but we’re not that different from the national landscape as it relates to these particular topics.”

Measures in place at MISD

MISD has a diversity committee made up of principals, teachers and support staff. The committee, formed in 2015 by the human resources department, is composed of teachers, campus administrators and community members, said Cody Cunningham, chief communications and support services officer at MISD, in an email.

Committee members advise the superintendent, human resources department and other district staff members on issues related to diversity, Cunningham said.

The district also has diversity training for staff as part of the district’s overall professional development, Rippee said in an email.

“At this point in time we are evaluating our diversity training and possible options for next year,” Cunningham said in an email. “So we may not have much that we can talk about on the issue until the evaluation of options is complete.”

Other than what is written in the 2017-18 student handbook and student code of conduct, which defines terms such as discrimination and harassment, it is unclear if the district has any further policies related to diversity.

The district did not provide Community Impact Newspaper with more information about the diversity training or diversity policies in place.

Diversity at nearby schools

As the population in Collin County continues to grow and become more diverse, nearby school districts Frisco ISD and Plano ISD in recent years have responded with initiatives.

A diversity task force has been in place at FISD for at least eight years and consists of staff, parents and community members, said Charis Hunt, director of human resources at FISD.

FISD staff must also take an annual compliance training, said James Caldwell, student assistance coordinator at FISD. Staff may also attend an optional discussion lesson once a month, which focuses on topics ranging from stress to diversity and unity.

“One thing that we’ve recognized from the feedback of our diversity task force is that as our population shifted we also needed to shift to better understand our population,” Hunt said. “We went from a population that was very, almost homogenous, to a very heterogeneous population with people from all backgrounds. Not only did the ethnicities change, but [so did]religion [and]culture.”

The diversity advisory committee at PISD focuses its attention on any district program or current issue regarding ethnicity, race, religion or a disability-related situation, according to the district’s website.

“The committee may study the advisability of adding, deleting and changing various programs based on the needs of the community and student body of the district,” reads the district website. “The board or superintendent may direct the committee to study and make recommendations on specific issues.”

District and campus staff at PISD must also complete a mandatory “cultural competency training,” said Lesley Range-Stanton, executive director of communications at PISD.

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  1. Carolyn I Skei

    Congratulations to MISD on making these forward-looking, inclusive moves! I have found that my grandchildren are far ahead of adults in accepting friends of other cultures and races. We owe McKinney students every additional opportunity to understand our increasingly diverse community/society.

  2. Carol Alderete

    You say over the past months many parents and students have spoken, can you define many? I could only find record of 8 individuals who actually spoke at MISD board meetings during the 2017/2018 school year on separation of church and state. Please provide statistics and facts to support your claim of many. If 8 is indeed your definition of many then this article is highly sensationalized reporting, especially when you use words like outcry.

    • Cassidy Ritter

      Hi Carol,

      Thank you for your comment and reaching out. During the Oct. 24 meeting 10 speaker cards were presented, eight during the Nov. 14 meeting, seven during the Dec. 19 meeting and 10 during the Jan. 23 meeting. According to MISD, during board meetings, public comment is limited to 30 minutes with each speaker having three minutes to talk allowing for up to 10 speakers at each meeting. Hope this helps.

      Thanks for your readership,
      Cassidy Ritter

      • Carol Alderete

        According to school board minutes 35 people signed up to speak, however at least 2 of those individuals were not allowed to speak because they did not reside in McKinney, 6 of the individuals signed up to speak at 2 or more meetings and not everyone spoke on the separation of church and state. So again what is your definition of many? My issue is not with the topic of the article, but how it is portrayed. Even if 35 people spoke is this really a public outcry? Also it is my understanding that one of the key reasons for moving graduation ceremonies to Allen was proximity, however your article states “The outcry has led to one change already—moving the graduation ceremony from Prestonwood Baptist Church” Really?

  3. Of course, only mostly white, Christian nations need more diversity! Just because a handful of angry “heathens” complain does not mean you have to compromise the whole community. I’ll respect Muslims only when Muslim nations allow Christians the right to worship, build churches, and evangelize freely. I am so ashamed of the McKinney school board. Only white liberals celebrate diversity. I’d like to see Saudi Arabia, China, Guatemala, Somalia, Pakistan, the Sudan, etc. embrace and celebrate diversity.

  4. Looking at the Religions in Collin County as of 2010 graph, I noticed that Catholics were omitted. Compare this information with the source cited: The designations are different, grouping the Protestants under Evangelical and Mainline. Catholics are listed with a population of 111,182. Muslims are listed under “other” category, with a total of 54,475. It is confusing where the data in the article was acquired.

    • I just noticed that the graph was updated to include Catholics. I was referring to the print publication. Glad that part was corrected. Thank you.

  5. This is exactly why our family is leaving public school. You all are focused too highly on diversity and different cultures and too worried about offending someone for having to sit for a couple of hours in a church for a graduation, not a sermon! What’s in these diversity trainings? If you are a decent teacher and human being, there shouldn’t be a need for any special training. Does this say anything about our immigration policy in this country that we have so many students from different countries/cultures coming at once that we have the need to put teachers through special training? Please just do the job you were meant to do and teach the kids math, science, etc.

  6. PAUL Hamilton

    I strongly agree with Leslie. The progressive “liberal” takeover of public schools, expelling God and the moral values in ALL LEGITIMATE RELIGIONS is largely responsible for the outrageous behavioral problems, disrespect for authority in the classroom WE ALL CAN’T DENY IS EPIDEMIC. I, like thousands of parents are dismayed by the school’s ( government’s) losing sight of its responsibility to the PUBLIC IT SERVES at the graces of taxpayers. Responsibility is to educate, not indoctrinate. I urge taxpayers and parents to actively steer the school board back to the business of teaching reading, writing, math, science. In 1980, the USA’s public education system ranked 2nd in the world. Now, it’s 42nd in one recent study. Hold the school boards responsible. If they blame government bureaucratic directives, find out who they are talking about. By the way, how many parents know how to add using boxes? Just another example of nonsense.

  7. People, there is no such thing as separation of church and state! Show me in the Constitution where it says that? The Constitution says “Article (Amendment 1 – Freedom of expression and religion)

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It clearly says that Congress shall make no law establishing any religion and prohibiting the free exercise of religion. The school district is not Congress. There is no law anywhere stating people have to run from and be scared of these atheist parents that are falsely twisting the truth. I have lived in McKinney for about 16 years and I am ashamed of what is becoming of this city. When the Constitution was written, Christianity was the religion it was speaking of. MISD needs to grow a backbone and stand their ground on this issue. Contact Jay Sekulow at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) to get help to defeat this foe. His website is

  8. My suggestion is attend the board meetings and sign up to speak so the majority can be heard. Curtis Rippee says he wants quality education then maybe he needs to focus on hiring quality teachers so parents don’t have to hire tutors and use outside resources just to get a quality education for our children. Let’s start with the advanced placement classes and require that the teachers teaching AP classes, especially in the math department actually hold a degree in mathematics. If a college would not hire a non-math major to teach calculus then why does McKinney ISD allow teachers without math degrees to teach advanced placement classes that offer college credit opportunities to teach calculus. Since 2013 not one math teacher at MBHS who teaches AP or Pre-AP Calculus has held a degree in Mathematics, it is no wonder parents are spending hundreds of dollars a month out of their own pockets for math tutors. Let’s focus on quality education!

  9. Only about 10 percent of district voters cast ballots in local elections. This civic abandonment, together with the absence of term limits has allowed the MISD board significant freedom from public oversight. Texas has over 5 million public school children to educate, and that is a daunting mission in itself. Religion serves us best as a personal and private guiding light. There can be no consensus or wisdom in allowing school leadership to publicly parade the robes of their particular faith. I would prefer to invest our tax dollars on actual education and school leadership who understands their secular mission, and to introduce term limits to break up the 34 year empires of board members who have overstayed their offices.

  10. I recently read this article and logged on to make a comment. I am very very happy to see that others have spoken out against the “We need more diversity” crowd which is really what this article is about in my opinion. The premise that diversity equals success is nonsense. The continual open and honest debate of ideas is the path to success.

  11. Keith is exactly correct. People have distorted even the very words of the CONSTITUTION . There is nothing that says separation of church and state. Congress opens with prayer. References to God are on coins, the pledge of allegiance, patriotic songs, etc, etc. MISD SCHOOL BOARD PAY ATTENTION. CITIZENS GET ACTIVE. ASSERT CONTROL OVER YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS. YOU’VE BEEN A REP TOO LONG. ORGANIZE. PRESENT YOUR CASE. EVERY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER SHOULD HEAR THESE COMMENTS. MAIL IT TO EACH OF THE BOARD MEMBERS. DON’T STOP THERE. TAKE IT TO AUSTIN , YOUR LEGISLATORS, THE COMMISSIONER.

Cassidy Ritter
Cassidy graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 with a degree in Journalism and a double minor in business and global studies. She has worked as a reporter and editor for publications in Kansas, Colorado and Australia. She was hired as senior reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Plano edition in August 2016. Less than a year later, she took the role of editor for the McKinney edition.
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