In a statement April 22, Fort Bend ISD trustee Kristen Malone confirmed she filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency in December regarding her concerns about the board’s decision to accept Superintendent Christie Whitbeck’s letter of intent to retire on Dec. 4.

FBISD’s board voted 5-2 in favor of accepting the letter, with Malone being one of two dissenting votes. She expressed concerns about the board’s actions during her comments at the December meeting prior to the vote.

In her TEA complaint, she said she believes there were breaches in the board's handling of the leadership change in regard to the Texas Open Meetings Act.


Malone claimed board President Judy Dae began discussing a possible leadership change with her starting in August, according to Malone’s complaint to the TEA.

The FBISD board officers publicly addressed Malone’s complaint regarding the violation of TOMA in an April 5 emailed statement.

“For several months, trustee Malone has falsely accused her fellow trustees of violating the Open Meetings Act in connection with its decisions to make a leadership change,” Dae said in the statement. “I had hoped that I would not have to publicly address her false allegation, but because she continues to make it and filed a formal complaint to TEA that the district was obligated to respond to, I feel compelled to provide information to the public except the information about a personnel matter, the discussion from the executive session and attorney/client privileged information that can't be shared.”

The board executives issued the statement to the public refuting Malone’s claims and posted it to the FBISD website, which Malone said went against normal board procedure.

“What's noteworthy is that this response was issued without a formal board vote, utilizing district resources and social media channels—an unprecedented action,” Malone said in the statement April 22. “I trust the TEA to handle this complaint with the utmost diligence and fidelity, ensuring that justice is served and the interests of the public are protected.”

What they’re saying

Dae’s email included a joint statement dated April 8, after the statement was sent, from the board’s executive team, including board Vice President Shirley Rose-Gilliam and Board Secretary David Hamilton.

Board leadership denied they had broken any rules governing board actions in the matter.

“Our response is simple: Our trustees did not violate the Open Meetings Act, and trustee Malone has never provided any proof to support her allegations,” the statement said. “For many months, trustee Malone has alleged that [board] President Judy Dae told our former superintendent that she ‘had’ the votes to terminate the superintendent’s contract. Apparently aware this did not happen, trustee Malone now only alleges that President Dae 'implied' there were enough votes to support separation.”

Instead, the April 5 statement said Dae only said she believed the board’s majority would support a decision to change superintendents.

What else?

The email from the board’s executive team to the community also included a letter to the TEA from board Attorney Jonathan Brush of the firm Rogers, Morris & Glover.

In the conclusion of the letter to the TEA regarding the complaint, Brush recommended no further action be taken against Dae and the board.

“Because the complainant disclosed privileged, confidential communications to the Compliance Review Unit without the consent of the board, we respectfully ask, on behalf of the client, that the disclosed email be purged from the record,” Brush said.

However, in its Feb. 13 emailed response to Malone, the TEA complaints division referred the allegations to its Office of Governance, Compliance Review Unit for further review, according to information provided to Community Impact through a public information request.

Remember this?

In comments to the board on Dec. 4, Malone said Whitbeck’s severance amount will be $491,000 and expressed surprise that the decision had been made, in addition to cautioning that the board had moved too hastily.

“During the public meeting on Dec. 4, 2023, I expressed my concerns regarding the manner in which the forced resignation was conducted. Unfortunately, my attempt to share more information was abruptly halted when the board called the question and ended the discussion prematurely,” Malone said in her April 22 statement.

Community Impact submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to FBISD for electronic communication regarding Whitbeck's retirement and Smith’s hiring; however, district officials said Jan. 31 they believed the information may be exempt from disclosure and requested an opinion from the attorney general’s office, which has yet to respond with information regarding the board’s actions.