Collin County Politics: Be Extraordinary

January 18, 2022

Covid Update: Collin County has 171,234 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 12,978 more cases than I reported last week and 1,246 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 19 people). We’re in a dangerous phase. Although omicron may be milder, it’s also wildly more contagious and the sheer numbers are overwhelming our healthcare systems again. It’s also affecting restaurants, schools, the supply chain, and other aspects of our society because so many employees are out sick. Although you may be tired of living in pandemic conditions, please stay home as much as possible, test whenever you’re exposed, wear high-quality masks, and avoid large gatherings. You may also want to avoid Republicans since they’re intent on infecting all of us.

There is a little good news though. Testing is about to get easier. Due to a federal mandate (thanks, Biden administration!), insurance companies must pay for 8 at-home COVID tests per month for each individual. You can be reimbursed for the tests or get them free at your in-network pharmacies. In addition, everyone can request four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household at, with kits shipping within seven to twelve days.

Commissioner’s Court: Chris Hill was absent, so Susan Fletcher led in his place. Interestingly, public comments were back at the start of the meeting. I guess we now know who’s the most afraid of citizen comments. During the last meeting, the commissioners talked a lot about their turnover problems. Since they voted to hire recruiters, they seem to think they’ve solved the issue. However, they’re not considering (shocker) some long-term issues, especially with the jail and mental health treatment.

The commissioners – never ones to let a bad idea keep them from doing something – refused to let employee retention issues keep them from hiring Lifepath (the program they’re underfunding) to establish the Collin County Mental Health Diversion Program, an effort to ensure those suffering from mental health issues have “access to evidence-based mental health services in the community.” I wonder just how they’re going to do that since people don’t have access to mental health services NOW. Perhaps those with higher incomes can find care but everyone else is scrambling to find mental health treatment, sometimes looking for months. But somehow Lifepath is going to magically find mental health services that adequately treat those in the legal system? Sure.

This week’s meeting lasted 15 minutes in which they listened to public speakers and re-appointed people to boards. I’ve long been frustrated by the boards and commissions situation because it’s just so shady. First of all, finding information about who serves on these boards and for how long is very difficult. My sense is that, especially for the Lifepath Board and Heath Care Foundation Advisory Board (HCFAB), members have been there for long periods of time (some possibly for decades) because they keep getting re-appointed. Shouldn’t we want different voices and an array of talent serving? Many current members have experience in finance (and 20% of the Lifepath board are police officers) but I haven’t seen a lot with healthcare expertise.

Another problem is the boards’ lack of diversity. Lifepath has 2 women and 1 man of color. The HCFAB has 50% women but I can’t tell anything about ethnic or racial diversity. The Parks Advisory Board has 1 woman and the Planning Board has no women members. I can’t tell anything about the racial makeup of any board except Lifepath’s but, if I had to guess, I’d say they’re mostly white. Shouldn’t membership on our boards reflect the demographics of our county?

I also wonder just what it is these boards are doing. The commissioners keep passing consent agendas for the HCFAB but I have no idea what it is they’re agreeing to. The HCFAB page on the county website says all meetings are canceled through May 31st. I’m sure the indigent people HCFAB is supposed to be serving are thrilled with how little the board members seem to prioritize their care. The board can conduct meetings in person or online if the need arises but that doesn’t appear to be happening. The minutes listed on the page have their last meeting in August of 2021 which makes me wonder just when the consent agenda the commissioners passed last week was put together. The board should’ve had at least 1 more meeting in October of 2021 but, apparently, they didn’t. All that happened at the August meeting was that board members received an update on Covid numbers and the (minimal) services offered. Helpful. In contrast, the Parks Foundation Advisory Board meets quite a bit, almost monthly.

The main takeaway? We have minimal transparency from our commissioners. This needs to change.

School Boards: If you have kids in local schools, then you know what school boards and even the press aren’t telling you: things are a mess. All across Collin County, so many teachers are out sick with Covid that administrators, staff members, and even a school board member have been forced into classrooms. Teachers are teaching during their break periods (which they badly need, especially now) and kids are corralled into other classrooms because there aren’t any substitutes. And the problems don’t stop there. There aren’t enough school nurses, janitorial staff, or bus drivers either. Some schools are recommending parents drive their kids to school because buses are either late or won’t come at all.

Instead of directly addressing safety and health needs, many of the school boards are offering piddly things. Plano ISD is the best because they’re increasing the pay of paraprofessionals and substitutes (long overdue) while also giving a $750 bonus to all full-time employees who were active as of January 5th. I’m not sure what that caveat means, if teachers out sick with Covid are eligible or not. It sure would be nice for reporters to actually ask questions and provide context to these stories instead of just telling us what the ISDs want us to know! While I’m delighted PISD is offering more money, they should’ve recognized the worth of teachers long ago. Of course, PISD’s increased monetary incentives are way better than what Allen ISD offered: wearing jeans. Yes, you read that right. Teachers now get to WEAR JEANS until the end of the semester. That almost makes me want to risk my life and deal with traumatized children if I can wear comfortable clothes while doing it. Come on, AISD. Do better.

Students are missing school in droves as well. No one knows the actual percentage of students out sick because school boards aren’t being transparent about this number. But the evidence is there for anyone wanting to look. For example, testing centers are overwhelmed. In Frisco, one testing site closed early because they planned for 400-500 people but 12,000 ended up making appointments. In Richardson ISD, the number of Covid positive students doing remote learning is so large that it’s overloading the system. But hey, good for RISD for even providing that option. A lot of schools aren’t. That schools are completely overwhelmed is such an open secret that I have no idea why they’re even trying to hide it.

Want to know who else is missing? Superintendents! Across the metroplex, 8 superintendents have announced they’re quitting or retiring. This includes superintendents of major school districts like Dallas and Fort Worth. Only one (extremely popular Richardson Superintendent Jeannie Stone) is in Collin County. Although none are being specific about their reasons for leaving, we can certainly guess. They care about students and public education, so they’ve been battling for masks, remote learning, and diversity and inclusion programs but likely haven’t been getting much support from their school boards. The same doesn’t hold true for most of the superintendents in Collin County. Many of them have been leading the charge against masks and other ways to effectively battle the pandemic. Few have promoted programs that encourage diversity. That’s why they’re still around. Yay.

“Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Allen School Board: Believe it or not (I’m having a hard time believing it myself), Allen ISD is a finalist for the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award which could, if won, bring $25,000 to the district. Awards are based on academic progress (which is where Allen excels), creative community engagement methods (does preventing parents you disagree with from speaking at board meetings count?), and – this is the best – identification of community needs coupled with actions taken to address those needs. Huh. This is another instance in which the reporter shouldn’t have just reported the story blindly but should’ve asked questions, especially of community members and AISD staff. Because either the people responsible for giving the award aren’t paying attention or they don’t include being responsive to the public health and safety needs of the community as engagement.

Let’s just review, shall we? They’ve cut students with disabilities and medical conditions off at the knees by refusing to allow them accommodations to keep them safe, have kept parents desperate to keep their children safe from speaking out, and have refused to provide a mask mandate which led to them getting sued in federal court. AISD has even moved the goalposts for such a mandate. Last year, they said if 3% of the community tested positive for Covid, they’d require masks. Now it’s 3% of students and staff who have to be positive. And we all know they’re manipulating the data to ensure the 3% threshold is never reached.

Lest you believe the school board is just clueless, let me point you towards a tweet from Trustee Vatsa Ramanathan. He said, “It’s an honor to be on the school board with a bunch of wonderful people who have nothing but the student achievement as their priority” and included a tweet mentioning the H-E-B finalist information. He probably didn’t realize he was saying the quiet part out loud but he made it clear Allen Trustees care only about achievement. Of course, it’s incredibly short-sighted to believe allowing a dangerous virus to run rampant will promote student achievement but no one expects Republicans to be critical thinkers. If any of you out there want to let AISD know your disgust, consider contacting the H-E-B award people. They might be interested in your thoughts.

Frisco City Council: Frisco’s special election for City Council Place 5 is ongoing. Last week, I opined about how municipal races are where we can have the most impact (and the ones which impact us the most), so Democrats must vote in large numbers. Apparently, few are listening since, as of the 17th, only 738 people have voted in this race. Please go vote for Tracie Shipman, who has the experience and leadership Frisco needs. Early voting is available until January 25th with Election Day on January 29th.

Frisco School Board: At their regular meeting on the 11th, the board continued to keep their heads in the sand about Covid. They summarily denied a parent’s request (and community petition) for a temporary online option during omicron. Superintendent Mike Waldrip said there won’t be an online option until the fall because they just can’t switch up on a dime. That’s a crock. When they don’t have enough staff to teach, I bet they’ll get creative very quickly. Kelly Karthik (who’s running for school board) asked the board to have every school update their Covid Dashboard on a daily basis. Instead of just agreeing to this reasonable request, they directed everyone to their daily graph which is basically meaningless. As usual for this year, parents and students are on their own. But I’ve got news for the board: no one is fooled by their subterfuge. We all know it’s much worse than anyone is letting on.

The trustees also voted to do an end-run around public comments by creating a “community input night” for public comments. They tried to spin this as a positive step in that the board will host a dedicated night to take comments from the community and provide answers to any questions online at a later date. It sounds good until you realize that citizens now can only speak to agenda items at regular school board meetings. If you have a non-agenda item, you have to attend the community input night. Thus, if you want to speak on a non-agenda item, like say Covid dashboards, online schooling, or safety concerns, you must attend two different meetings. This puts more of a burden on the average citizen to stay informed.

McKinney City Council: Thanks in part to our efforts, Patrick Cloutier won the special election to fill the At Large seat left by Frederick Frazier (who’s running for HD61 – yikes! Be sure to support Democrat Sheena King who’s running for that seat too). He won with close to 60% of the vote. While that may sound impressive, there was a 3.54% voter turnout. Only 4,220 people (out of 119,223 registered voters) took the time to vote. That’s why I keep hammering home the idea that municipal races are where we can shine! If we can get out our voters, we can win!!!

Liberal Women’s Action Network (LWAN): Unless you can get the governor or senators to listen to you, local government officials are where you have the most impact. These are the new battlegrounds (especially school boards) and if we want to save our democracy, this is where we must fight. That means showing up and paying attention. I can’t write these columns without a lot of help! So, if you want to save our democracy, please join LWAN (men welcome) by contacting me at

Comments 10

  1. Truly remarkable how poorly our state is handling multiple crises (mental health, COVID, labor shortages). And yet, Republican voters don’t seem about what those in charge do or do NOT do with their tax dollars. It’s mind-boggling.

    Thank you for your stellar reporting.

    1. Post
  2. From Princeton ISD’s website – “Because of the rising number of COVID cases in the district and a shortage of staff, Princeton ISD schools and offices will be closed Friday-Tuesday, Jan. 21-25. Students and staff will return to campus Wednesday, Jan. 26.”

    1. Post
  3. Thank you for writing your article, and keeping us informed on the importance of municipal politics. It is sad that we are losing the battle in education, improving mental health and our democracy. We are losing good people with integrity in all areas.

  4. Thanks for the information on Cloutier’s win. Two of my minimal online sources of information seem to have dropped me from their email lists, and I hadn’t gotten around to searching for the results. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve lived in a media desert, and I hate it.

Share Your Thoughts