Collin County Politics: Democracy Requires Action

November 23, 2021

Covid Update: Collin County has 131,507 confirmed Covid cases. That’s 690 more cases than I reported last week and 1,158 of our Collin residents have died (an increase of 7 people who died since last week). We’re not out of the woods yet, so please keep your masks on! Healthcare providers don’t grow on trees and aren’t an inexhaustible resource.

School Boards: Although my task is to provide information about Collin County, we cannot ignore what’s going on in areas close by. I’ve heard people say they hope what’s happening in other parts of Texas won’t come here. Sorry to burst your bubble but that’s not how this works. The white supremacist/fascist crowd intends on taking control everywhere they can and, quite frankly, Collin County is ripe for the picking. This is why we must, absolutely must, show up to these meetings and let our elected officials know there are more of us than there are of them. If you take away anything from my columns, let it be this: decisions are made by those who show up and WE MUST SHOW UP!!!!!!!!! Democracy isn’t a spectator sport.

James Whitfield, former principal of Colleyville Heritage High School – the first black principal at the majority-white school – knows this firsthand. After the murder of George Floyd, he was targeted by political activists wanting to block his attempts to make his school more inclusive. They claimed he was indoctrinating students in critical race theory (CRT) and embracing equity (the horror!). Although he denied the accusations and students rallied to defend him, the school board voted to suspend him and eventually refused to renew his contract.

Whitfield pointed out that “Those people gained momentum and instilled fear. I would love to see research of when people across the country knew what critical race theory was.” I would too. It’s worth noting that the man who initially targeted Whitfield said, “We got here through critical race theory, social-emotional learning, and equity, whatever you want to label it.” Take note, because these are the concepts the fascists are using to take over. What’s especially enraging is that all of these are good ideas, programs we absolutely should want in our schools. We cannot let the right-wingnuts take away our ideal future.

In DeSoto, another visionary black man is leaving public education. Superintendent D’Andre Weaver resigned and will take a job in the private sector. While we don’t know the real reasons for his mid-year departure, the whittling down of black leaders is discouraging. It’s especially upsetting when you consider what happened with Don Hooper, the white man chosen as acting superintendent of the majority-black district. A quick perusal of Hooper’s social media uncovered posts disparaging Colin Kaepernick and mocking Democrats on the day a summary of the Mueller report was released by saying they “haven’t been this mad at Republicans since we freed their slaves.” Hooper immediately apologized, claiming those things don’t reflect who he truly is (not buying it), and was reinstated within a week. So, a black man loses his job in Colleyville over the mere (inaccurate) perception of bias while a white man gets his job back despite clear evidence of it. Double standards are truly delightful.

And then there’s Southlake: a national embarrassment and crash course in where this is all headed. I can’t bear to listen but I’ve been told this podcast sums it up nicely. After George Floyd’s death, students urged leaders to confront the racism they see in the schools every day, including fellow students chanting the n-word. They formed a council – comprised of more than 60 students, parents, and staff – to recommend ways to boost cultural competency. Recommendations included scary suggestions like hiring a director of equity and inclusion, establishing a grievance system through which students can report discrimination; requiring cultural competency training; and reviewing the district curriculum through an equity lens.

All hell broke loose. The administration paused the plan’s implementation, saying they wanted more community feedback and time to address the concerns of those opposed to the recommendations. New members were added to the diversity council. None of this mattered because the racists had already filed a lawsuit claiming the school board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act in connection to the cultural competence action plan by holding “secret deliberations” on the proposals. The suit includes screenshots of text messages between board members. The racists also created Southlake Families PAC, a group that says it’s “unapologetically rooted in Judeo-Christian values” but they’re fooling themselves. The tenets of Christianity include love, kindness, and being non-judgmental. I don’t see members of that PAC exhibiting those values.

The PAC managed to elect two of their people – Hannah Smith and Cameron Bryan – to the school board in May. Since then, the board has reprimanded a 4th-grade teacher (who was a Southlake Teacher of the Year) after complaints about an anti-racist book and had to deal with a secret recording of a Carroll ISD administrator telling teachers that if they have a book about the Holocaust, they should also have materials that show an “opposing” perspective. The recording went viral. Now a number of teachers want to leave the district as they feel attacked by the community and the board. Who can blame them?

None of this slowed down the PAC. Andrew Yeager, who won the Nov. 2 special election, also was endorsed by the PAC, bringing the number of their people on the board up to three. The board unanimously voted in a new president, Eric Lannen, thus ending Michelle Moore’s tenure. Moore was one of two trustees indicted in April on charges of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. Lannen tried to name Moore as vice president but the board refused to support the motion. Moore, a board member since 2015, commented that “…it’s clear that politics rather than unity or teamwork is of greater value.” The trustees are currently considering a policy change that would prohibit employees from recording meetings. Good luck with that.

The most recent developments are the Carroll ISD Superintendent Lane Ledbetter apologizing to the school community for being distracted by the recent controversies. He vowed to maintain his focus on the schools. But the biggest whammy is that Carroll ISD is now facing three ongoing federal civil rights investigations. Both the Southlake mayor and Congress member Beth Van Duyne threw shade on the investigations but I think it’s time some semblance of sanity is restored.

I hope this summary of what’s going on in school districts around the Metroplex has convinced you of the danger of the craziness coming here. But if it hasn’t, keep reading.

Commissioner’s Court: Last week’s meeting was run by Duncan Webb since Chris Hill was absent. Public comments were moved back to the beginning of the meeting without explanation. We’ll see if it stays that way. The first four speakers were Republicans angry about vulnerabilities in our election system, the deaths caused by the electrical grid failure, the people poring over our border, and Anthony Fauci’s lies. One woman told the commissioners that unless they correct their failures, she will no longer submit to their governance and threatened to have them peaceably removed from office. Susan Fletcher’s response was to encourage her to speak with the government entities actually responsible for those issues as the commissioners haven’t done anything. Way to stand up and courageously shift the blame!

The other two Republican speakers claimed the USA is at war, a cyber digital war since we’ve been attacked by the Chinese Communist Party, that they have proof the ESS and Dominion voting machines have been compromised. One demanded only paper ballots. It was very weird to agree with these wackadoodles about anything but a broken clock is right twice a day. I too suspect our election “integrity” isn’t all it should be but I blame Republicans instead of the Chinese. As such, I agree that we need to return to only paper ballots.  

There was one item in the Consent Agenda that I found interesting. Per SB 476, the county must create and appoint members to the Sexual Assault Response Team. They’ve hired 5 members of the team: the program manager (with both medical and law enforcement backgrounds), the District Attorney, the Plano PD sexual assault investigator, the Collin County Sheriff’s Department representative, and the forensic sexual assault nurse examiner. The only position that’s still open is that of the mental healthcare provider. Leaving the mental health provider for last is indicative of the low regard they hold for mental health issues in Collin County. This team is a statutory creation, so it will be interesting to see what they end up doing.

Little Elm School Board: Technically, Little Elm is in Denton County but they’re close enough. Little Elm high school students got a harsh lesson last week in who will protect them and who won’t. A social media post about a girl who was repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted on the school bus made the rounds. According to the post, the girl reported it to the school and was rewarded for her courage by getting three days of ISS while the alleged perpetrator got a Rittenhouse (free pass). Disgusted by continued instances of the administration not taking sexual assault seriously (get used to that, kids, because hardly anyone does), the students planned a protest inside the school. Although the protest was peaceful, they still yelled and kicked at administrator doors and the police were called. That’s when it got violent.

Videos of the incident show that police had no idea what they were doing. At one point, they linked arms in an attempt to keep students contained. This didn’t work. In another video, they violently shoved a girl outside the school. The main video shows three police officers dragging around a black boy in handcuffs and pepper-spraying a hallway filled with kids. Another black boy attempted to break up the arrest and they tased him. He fell to the ground, initially convulsing, and then was still. A white boy tried to see if the black student on the ground was OK but was repeatedly pushed and tased but with a milder shock. A girl spit at the officers. An officer lost his temper, grabbed her by the hair, and threw her against the wall. Eventually, the officers dragged the body of the unconscious boy off by his leg. A police spokesperson said he was seen by medical professionals before being taken to the juvenile detention center but no one has mentioned how he’s doing now. Four students in total were arrested for assaulting police.

Little Elm ISD knows it’s in trouble. The incident made national news, parents are furious, and lawsuits will inevitably follow. The district quickly went from saying dismissively that the protest was over an inaccurate post on social media to offering solutions. Superintendent Daniel Gallagher promised to hold a “listening session” on November 30. He also said he’d create an independent committee to review the district’s sexual harassment reporting and investigation process; start an “after-action review of Friday’s incident” by the district’s Safety and Security Committee, and perform an independent investigation into the alleged sexual harassment incident that led to the demonstration. I mean, yay? It only took a traumatic protest and police brutality to get the school to take sexual assault seriously.

It’s good the district is taking responsibility but what about the Little Elm Police Department? They initially claimed they hadn’t used pepper spray or tasers on students but, when faced with video evidence, went silent. When are they going to take responsibility for what happened? Their officers clearly weren’t trained to deal with this type of situation and several lost their tempers. That isn’t acceptable and I’m beyond tired of them circling the wagons whenever things go wrong. At what point are police departments going to admit they need a foundational reimagining of their role in society, re-think who should be a police officer, improve their training, and consider what steps they’re going to take to police themselves?

I’m extremely proud of the Little Elm students though. They saw an injustice and took steps to be the change they wished to see in the world. I’m deeply sorry many were attacked and traumatized by the police and school personnel. Hopefully, they can take the lessons learned and put them to good use.

McKinney School Board: For those hoping the crazies would stay in other school districts, I have bad news for you. They’re here and were inundating the MISD board. The five speakers during public comments obviously are FOX News watchers because they hit all their major talking points: CRT, Socio-emotional Learning (SEL), and pornography in library books (are you noticing a pattern in their buzzwords?). Several of them were furious at having their motives questioned and at being labeled threats, all while practically yelling and making threats.

Mike McCurdy talked about blushing when looking into the over 600 books Governor Greg Abbott says are indoctrinating students. He clearly doesn’t get out much. Since he didn’t bother to say which books (all 600?) or why he blushed, I doubt he looked at any of them. He then contacted a school, demanding to know about their curriculum. He was sent to the Texas Education Agency website but given no information on textbooks or actual classroom talking points. McCurdy didn’t say which grade or subjects he was demanding information about, leading me to wonder what he thought he’d gain from such a call. He must believe school employees exist to give him exactly the information he needs to make decisions about public education, a topic it’s unlikely he gave a hoot about before the rightwing started turning school boards into battlegrounds.

Steven Kallus (who has unsuccessfully run for several public offices) also looked unhinged. He wanted to talk about fascism although he obviously has no idea what it really means or that it’s his party that’s moving us in that direction. He was upset about people questioning his motives in wanting to visit schools and is worried about being canceled. Uh dude, it’s actually your party that’s trying to “cancel” people you don’t agree with. He went on to threaten that if the board prevents people from engaging in peaceful means of protest, they don’t leave them much choice. Kallus also doesn’t understand irony given he was complaining about being labeled as a threat while in the midst of threatening people.

Serena Ashcroft (another one who has run for office) demanded the board remove BrainPop and the 7 Mindsets programs. She’s upset we have a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee and that teachers must attend bias training. Imagine wanting teachers to treat all students equitably! If we continue down this road, she’s worried MISD might end up like Richardson ISD which is solely focused on diversity (how terrible!). The last speaker started off big mad because sane people ignore her when she makes untrue statements, such as SEL is just CRT renamed. When she was told that kids like and do well with SEL programs, she replied that’s why they have parents. I sure feel sorry for her kids since, in her world, parents are there to prevent kids from participating in programs they like and help them grow.

I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous it is for those in power to hear from only the crazy voices on the right. If we want our children to grow up to be people with knowledge, integrity, and compassion, then we need to show up and speak out! If the crazies get away with terrorizing school board members, who do you think will run for school board positions? It’s no longer hyperbole to remind people that Nazis banned books, advocated strongly against equality, and quickly took over public education. This is how it starts. Are you going to stand up now while you still can or wait until it’s too late? If not you, who? If not now, when?

Plano City Council: The Planning and Zoning Commission voted in favor of a zoning change for the Haggard Farms project, the more than 142 acres on Spring Creek Parkway just east of the Dallas North Tollway. If passed by the city council, it will be a mixed-use project with office, retail, hotel, and residential construction. The heart of the development will be a destination food/beverage and event venue called The Almanac. It also will have 700 multifamily residential units, a 98-room hotel, a retail village, a senior housing community, and townhomes. More than two dozen acres will be set aside for a park and open space. The development firm had to meet multiple times with surrounding residents and went in front of the P&Z three separate times. There are still hurdles to jump as many of the residents are worried about traffic and dislike apartments.

The hostility against apartments is not new for Plano. It’s what drove the Plano Tomorrow debacle. However, by approving the 2021 Comprehensive Plan – which will guide future growth and redevelopment – the council hopes they finally put that chapter behind them. Plano Tomorrow, the city’s former plan, was approved in 2015. Many residents didn’t care for it because they believed dense development, specifically new apartment complexes, would undermine the city’s suburban character. They also wanted more community involvement, so they submitted a petition with more than 4,000 signatures asking the city council to repeal it. If they wouldn’t, then voters should be able to decide its fate.

The city secretary never forwarded the petition to the council though because leaders said development plans were not subject to petitions calling for elections. In response, five Plano residents filed a lawsuit. In 2020, the 5th District Court of Appeals rejected Plano’s argument and the secretary was ordered to present the petition within 14 days. City council members got ahead of the whole debacle and voted to strike Plano Tomorrow and use an interim plan dating back to 1986 until they could create something new. According to the city’s attorney, the legal battle cost Plano about half a million dollars.

The people behind these lawsuits (and I’ll throw in last year’s recall election in McKinney) only went forward with their bullying tactics because they were certain they’d win at the ballot box. Republicans vote and decisions are made by those who show up. Yes, I know I keep saying that. Are you listening? If Democrats want to quit watching progress halt, if we want to wield any kind of power, we need to start showing up, not just at the voting booth but also at these meetings. Only then will we start getting what we want.

Liberal Women’s Action Network (LWAN): If you enjoy reading these columns, please join LWAN (men welcome). I can’t write these columns without a lot of help! If we want true change, we must know what’s going on. That means monitoring every city council and school board in Collin County. This is something anyone can do and it’s interesting work. Please contact me at to let me know if you’re interested.

Comments 4

  1. Thanks for writing this column and educating us and founding LWAN. I totally agree with you that Democracy is not a spectator sport and we all need to show up more.

  2. This is the first I had heard about the Little Elm high school incident, and I was horrified. A few years ago, in Bastrop, Texas, east of Austin, a student sustained permanent brain damage when tased by police

    I moved to McKinney last year, and this is the first time in 50 years that I have not had a subscription to a daily local newspaper. I pick up tidbits from all kinds of online sources, and you are one of them. Does the Dallas Morning News provide comprehensive coverage of the northern suburbs? I really can’t afford it, but I’ll get a digital sub if I have to.

    Regarding the suburban opposition to apartments, McKinney City Council is losing its most vocal apartment opponent, Frederick Frazier, who is Vice President of the Dallas police union. Problem is, he has resigned in order to run for state representative in HD 61! He already has signs up all over the place.

    1. Post

      “Comprehensive” is relative but the DMN does report on some happenings in Collin County. I’ve been relying on them a lot more lately given how little information I’m getting from sources on the ground.

      Yes, people watching the McKinney City Council were pretty certain Frazier had larger ambitions. The good thing is that we have at least 1 fantastic candidate – Sheena King – who’s running for HD61 as well.

  3. Thank you for this long, detailed column. There is a LOT going wrong in our county (and outside, too, of course), and too many of us are not showing up or doing anything but reading these columns. It’s nice to be educated and know what’s happening, but what are people DOING ABOUT IT? I can tell you that Stephen Kallas and Serena Ashcroft are showing up. Is that who we want deciding what happens in our schools?

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