Teachers' union calls for AISD board president to resign immediately over insulting text
The AISD teachers' union wants a major change -- after a text written by the school board president comes to light. Education Austin says the message in the text is insulting, referring to people as "crazy ignorant activists" and now the union wants AISD Board of Trustees President Kendall Pace to resign entirely from the board, right now.
At a press conference at AISD headquarters Wednesday morning, Education Austin president Ken Zarifis demanded Pace's resignation "in light of a very troubling text message between Kendall Pace and another trustee."
"If a teacher did that in a classroom, they would no longer be teaching," Zarifis said.
The text centered around the AISD Transformation Zone -- which includes 6 east and northeast Austin schools, like Barrington and JJ Pickle elementary schools -- in a $446,000 planning grant from TEA. In the texts, Pace says she wants it to be a charter-like takeover of the schools. Pace texted another board member to call the opposition "crazy ignorant activists and poverty pimps" and naming two people connected to a local education consulting group to run the transformation zone plan. "When someone refers to community as crazy community activists, and poverty pimps, this is unacceptable language," Zarifis said.
Zarifis says Pace was trying to broker a backroom deal. "It's supposed to be very teacher and community driven but what we're seeing, it's anything but, and particularly with this type of language and what we saw in the text," he said.
Pace wrote this letter to AISD:
"A private text to a Board colleague was shared publicly. I will not make excuses for it, and I do acknowledge that it was unpolished. It was written in a passionate haste born out of frustration that we are not doing enough to close our equity gaps. I know it will create the appearance that is not representative of who I am as a leader in this community. If I could do it over again I would choose my words differently.
HOWEVER, it was from the heart and that stays true. I have been consistent on the dias [sic], in social media, in public and in private meetings speaking about my driving passion around academic excellence, and specifically how we can eliminate the achievement gaps that plague primarily our students of color from low income families. I have enough of a track record that my record speaks for itself. I understand my comments will come under scrutiny. I want to be judged by my leadership and my work, my inquisitiveness, my pushiness to get results and better outcomes. I have devoted my years on the Board and in my leadership role to this unwaveringly. I realize my willingness to push for this meets resistance in many areas, but also gives a voice to many who go unheard and have long been ignored.
I am in out of town with one of my children who has special needs that I am tending to. I regret that I can't be there in person to answer to allegations and statements. So I want to clearly state my position now. I challenge anyone who knows me as a person committed to public education improvement and specifically about bringing equity for our students, that I have different motives. I am a problem solver and as such, I believe we must review our programs, curriculum, pedagogy, staff, partnerships, and parent/staff/student feedback to ensure we are delivering effective work and excellent customer service for our students and staff. I am deeply troubled that so many of our economically disadvantaged and black and brown students far underperform their whiter, wealthier peers on standardized and benchmark assessments, and are disproportionally represented in suspension data. I do not accept that zip code or family income or skin color or inadequate funding as an excuse for continued achievement gaps. We can and must to better to scale our successes.
I have never wavered in this focus and that was the reason my colleagues elected me President three times in the past two years. I promised to push us to focus our work around student outcomes, to have courage to take on special interests, to review our data alongside the stories and to give voice to the majority who are not represented. When we do that well, as I think we did, we support our Superintendent to do the right, heart and hard work for the benefit of our students. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to listen to the stories of our Title 1 teachers and principals and community members across the district on what they believe works and what doesn't in their schools. I'm a problem solver. Without blaming the inequities on things outside our control, we can solve many of our challenges with the limited resources that public education has to make our schools better places for our students and staff. I will continue this work.
I reached out to Pace, but her statement said she is out of town right now. AISD meantime says Pace's decision is personal and the district respects that. A phone call to the local education consulting group was not returned.