'That's not fair, folks': Clear Creek ISD board members respond to community concerns over Eric Williams as superintendent

Eric Williams would come to the district from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. (Screenshot of Nov. 9 board meeting livestream)
Eric Williams would come to the district from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. (Screenshot of Nov. 9 board meeting livestream)

Eric Williams would come to the district from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. (Screenshot of Nov. 9 board meeting livestream)

In the wake of parents and community members airing their concerns over Eric Williams’ selection as superintendent finalist, two leaders of Clear Creek ISD’s board of trustees appeared on the district’s "Car Rider Line" podcast Nov. 12 to discuss the candidate search process.

Williams would come to the district from Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, roughly an hour west of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Parents from LCPS and CCISD alike took to social media in the days following his appointment to express dissatisfaction with Williams, citing his use of critical race theory in schools along with his back-to-school plans amid COVID-19.

A petition started by parents to “Say no to Eric Williams as CCISD Superintendent” garnered nearly 400 signatures as of midday Nov. 13. Criticisms of Williams from the LCPS community, which CCISD parents brought to light on social media, include his “perceived lack of sufficient progress in developing a plan to return students to an in-person classroom setting,” the Loudoun Times-Mirror reported.

During Black History Month in 2019, LCPS came under fire over a physical education activity involving portrayal of runaway enslaved people according to Loudoun Times-Mirror coverage. Following the incident, the district created a 16-step framework to address systemic racism and the overall culture that led to the incident; efforts to create the framework started in spring 2019, per LCPS board documents.

Critical race theory involves the view that law and legal institutions are inherently racist, and that race itself is a socially constructed concept used by white people to further their interests at the expense of people of color. The LCPS board documents do not overtly mention critical race theory.

CCISD will hold 45-minute meet and greet sessions in person with Williams on Nov. 18 and 19 as well as future virtual meet and greet sessions. Click here to register for a session.

Board President Laura DuPont and Vice President Jay Cunningham joined Chief Communications Officer Elaina Polsen on a Nov. 12 episode of the "Car Rider Line" podcast, when they further articulated the search process and the information they gleaned about Williams while vetting him.

Trustees did their own individual research on semifinalists before reconvening to discuss what they found, DuPont said. This included looking over videos from old school board meetings and researching Williams’ record at LCPS and other districts at which he worked. Candidates also submitted 30-40 pages of an application for review.

“I know that the public is going to get a chance to engage him, and I don’t want to sound flippant, but our internet works, too,” Cunningham said on the podcast, addressing parents and community members who took to the internet after Williams was announced as the finalist.

Based on conversations Cunningham had with board members who worked with Williams, the superintendent candidate appeared to be a key player for advancing equity in schools while serving in prior positions, Cunningham added.

“It’s vital that if you’re going to look, you’re going to do thorough research and figure out what the situation was, what the issues were, et cetera before you just flippantly say, ‘This is what I think is going on,’” Cunningham said. “You need to actually dig in and do some research on what those issues are, and that’s how you can effectively evaluate a person’s performance.”

Other CCISD parents expressed concern over whether Williams would move to shut down campuses once in the position. District officials emphasized the COVID-19 situation in Virginia is vastly different than it is in League City, and Cunningham—who has a high school-aged son learning in person at CCISD—said the district has no plans to close schools and move exclusively to the online Clear Connections platform.

The LCPS structure of governance is very different from that of CCISD, so the problems and solutions applied in the district are not applicable at CCISD, DuPont said. In terms of Williams’ employment of critical race theory, that specific issue has nothing to do with why he was selected by the board, DuPont added.

“That’s not something we look to go out and get ... and it’s not something that’s going to happen,” she continued. “It’s not even in the curriculum in Loudoun County the way that some people have said it is.”

Critical race theory is not a part of any approved educational system within the state of Texas, DuPont said, but some materials related to the theory are considered acceptable in Virginia public schools. Those concerned about specific materials being taught in CCISD can engage with the district through an established process and have their concerns heard, she added.

As an African American man, Cunningham said, he would not have voted to nominate Williams if he felt he were racist.

“You have to put into context a person's situation and what they're dealing with and the community that they’re involved in at that particular time,” he said, encouraging community members to interact with Williams and have a conversation with him via the upcoming sessions. “I think it's always dangerous to judge somebody before you’ve had a chance to talk to them and interact with them. That’s not fair, folks.”

Board members are taxpayers, and often parents, like every other local resident, he said. DuPont emphasized the board of trustees is just as invested in students’ futures as parents and community members are.

“All seven of the trustees ... we care about this district. Our heart and soul is in this district, too, and about the students in this district and doing the right thing for them,” she said. “We want to see this district continue on into the future.”

The board will convene for its monthly regular meeting
Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. A meeting agenda was not available online as of midday Nov. 13.

By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.



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