Category Archives: education news

Define ‘CRT,’ please

I need someone to offer a definition of “critical race theory.” From all I have been able to discern, I have determined it is made up, fiction, something created from nothing.

And yet … culture warriors on the right wing of the political divide keep tossing CRT out there as some sort of “enemy” of what they perceive to be “normal.”

What the hell is it?

I get that it’s become a target of the likes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is banning it in public schools there. Same for Texas, where another Republican governor — Greg Abbott — with possible White House ambitions is furthering the debate against CRT. He’s got a mostly Republican elected State Board of Education on his side to aid in the fight against an unseen and unknown adversary.

CRT is seen by some as a method to denigrate the nation’s history. What? They don’t like discussing such issues as, oh, slavery, which — yep! — existed in this country until we went to war with ourselves in 1861. Remember what you learned? White slaveowners held Blacks in bondage, owned human beings like property; Blacks were considered to be three-fifths human.

Our children aren’t supposed to learn about that? Teachers are instructed to avoid talking about it? Ridiculous! It’s part of our nation’s mostly glorious history.

Still, I am waiting for someone to define CRT to me in a manner that I can grasp.

I’m all ears.

Farmersville ISD: ahead of curve

I am chuckling just a little as I watch the news reports of North Texas school districts considering and then approving new school calendars resulting in four-day school weeks.

Why, they just can’t believe how cool it is to give teachers an extra day off from the rigors of the classroom; it enables the districts to attract quality educators who are enamored of the four-day school week idea. Hey, not to mention the children loving the extra day off each week from school.

Well, I’ve been covering a local school district that implemented a four-day school week during the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmersville Independent School District liked it so much the school board recently approved a policy that stays with the new calendar. I see no signs of the school district turning back.

Just recently I spoke with an FISD administrator about all the hoopla surrounding other districts’ decision to follow Farmersville’s lead. She joked that it’s nice to be ahead of the curve. Indeed, the four-day week has worked well for Farmersville, as it has been able to do the very things that other districts aim to do for themselves.

I am equally impressed that a school district with which I have become familiar can hold itself up as a model for progressive education.

Bond issue to prompt big debate

Princeton school district officials want their constituents — such as my wife and me — to spend a lot of money to build schools and perhaps add some more venues that officials deem are necessary to serve a growing district.

The price tag is $797 million, which is the biggest bond issue I’ve ever been asked to approve. For the record, I am going to vote “yes” on May 6 when the issue comes up for a decision.

What fascinates me about this, though, is a reality I didn’t think was possible. The bond issue will not affect the school district tax rate. It will remain the same, even if voters approve the amount of spending that is headed for the ballot.

That doesn’t mean, however, that voters’ tax bills won’t increase. Why? Because the Collin County Appraisal District is going to assess increases in property valuation in the years ahead. It’s a normal occurrence, given the growth that is occurring in this North Texas county … and is damn sure occurring in Princeton.

The tax rate is likely, as I see it, to spur considerable debate among residents. That’s a good thing, to be sure.

As for the total tax bill that Princeton ISD residents could face, that issue is beyond the scope of the school district. PISD officials will need to make it clear that it controls only the rate that residents are charged, but that the total bill remains the purview of the other independent entities.

I was privileged to watch this bond issue take shape from the beginning almost to its conclusion. The PISD long-range planning committee did its job in good faith and given the district’s explosive growth, presented a reasonable proposal to cope with it.

The tax rate will not be an issue going forward.

Taking a gamble with building names?

Princeton’s public school system is in the midst of presenting a bond issue to voters in this North Texas community that they hope will result in the addition of several new campuses to the burgeoning school district.

What’s more, a citizens committee charged with working out the details of the $797 million bond package has come up with names for all the campuses under consideration.

That leads me to this point: The Princeton school district is going to name the buildings after living, breathing individuals. Why is that kinda strange? Because I believe it’s a bit of a risk any governing entity takes when they name permanent structures after fallible, living human beings.

You see, the district is going to hope that individuals being honored in this manner do not mess up and make the district regret inscribing the individuals’ names on the walls of these structures.

For many years I have taken a dim view of this practice. I’ve actually seen it backfire. For example, the Beaumont Independent School District put the name of a former superintendent on a football stadium, only to take it down after it was revealed that the superintendent had run the school system into financial ruin.

I know of some school systems that name buildings after long-deceased historic figures, or even after physical characteristics within the community, you know, names like Mesquite, or Evergreen, or Canyons … get it?

I am not predicting anything of the sort that occurred in Beaumont will occur in Princeton ISD. The names being proposed belong to stellar individuals who have contributed much to the life of the community.

I am just saying, though, that no one is perfect … you know?

Growth brings more demands

Princeton’s public school system has made it official. It is going to ask voters to approve a bond issue to build more schools throughout a district that is growing … rapidly.

The price tag is a mind-blower: $797 million.

Don’t spit out your coffee on that number. It is a realistic assessment of where the district foresees its short- and medium-term growth. The Princeton Independent School District seeks to stay ahead of the crowd that is moving into the Collin County community each day.

I happen to witness the growth that’s occurring in Princeton because I am part of the growth. Granted, my wife and I — who moved to Princeton four years ago — don’t have school-age children; our sons are now middle-aged men.

But we do pay taxes to fund the school system. Having made that declaration, I intend to vote in favor of the bond issue when it shows up on our May 6 ballot.

I had a ringside seat when a long-range planning committee met over the course of several weeks to assess how the district should cope with the growth that is occurring here. I attended meetings and reported on them for the Princeton Herald newspaper. I have stepped away from my reporting duties, so I feel empowered to express an opinion on the proposal the citizens panel presented.

It is a reasonable request that Princeton ISD constituents ought to endorse at the ballot box. The money will pay for construction of new elementary, middle and a high school over the course of several years. The school district might have to delay construction of some of the campuses because of limited bond capacity.

However, the district has promised to accommodate the growth through this bond package … and it intends to remain faithful to the promise it has made.

If the school district cannot progress with building these campuses, its constituents will feel the pain of watching the school system struggle to keep pace with the inexorable tide of residents demanding space to enroll their children.

School politics gets overly nasty

I fear a storm might be brewing in the community where my wife and I live and — to be candid it — makes me queasy to think of Princeton, Texas, as a place that could produce a serious culture battle.

The Princeton Independent School District is considering whether to ban all outside groups from using school venues for things such as, oh, rallies, fundraisers, luncheons.

It’s not that the school system wants to ban all of ’em. It appears the actual aim is to keep a certain group of constituents from using the venues: the LGBT community.

The PISD school board considered the item the other day, went into executive session, then came out and decided to send the matter to its legal counsel for advice on how to proceed.

I am just one voice in the community. I have no children or grandchildren enrolled in the school system. I just pay my taxes that help fund the school district. Thus, my conscience tells me to urge the school district to move away from banning all groups.

It is a ham-handed tactic that some on the school board apparently want to become part of an overall Princeton ISD strategy to keep certain people from using public property. We see this drama played out all over the country.

Some folks within the gay community want to use space in Princeton HIgh School to hold a gay pride event later this year. Some in the community object to it. They have friends on the school board who are willing to echo their objections. Two of their PISD school board friends were just elected to the panel and I sense they are moving this item toward some conclusion.

What is troubling to me is the idea that banning all groups means, well, all groups. That means church groups, Scout groups, veterans groups, homeowners association groups. They all would be denied use of public property — their property — for any purpose. Is that fair? No. It isn’t!

The school district, though, well might get advice from legal counsel that suggests it’s OK to ban them all. They can cite liability concerns or other safety-related matters. Except that any group also could be asked to sign documents that waive the school district from responsibility in case of an accident on school grounds.

Let’s not lose sight of what appears to be the cause of this discussion: foes of those who promote gay pride and want to express their pride on public property.

An outright ban on all outside use of that property is a slap in the face of those who pay for the right to use what is rightfully theirs.

Culture war is brewing?

Well now, might there be a culture war brewing in the school district where my wife and I reside and where we pay taxes?

If it erupts into what I fear, then we are heading for some mighty rough times in a growing public education system.

The Princeton (Texas) Independent School District board met last night to discuss whether to prohibit all outside groups from using school venues for activities not related to the school system. The board voted unanimously, as I understand it, to refer the matter to legal counsel for guidance.

The catalyst for this discussion appears to be a request from a local gay group to stage an LGBT Pride event this summer at Princeton High School. So, what did the school do in reaction? It came up with a notion to ban all outside groups from using school facilities.

Princeton ISD school board considers not letting public rent facilities (

Hmm. Let’s ponder that for a brief moment. If the school board opposes using the high school to play host to an LGBT event, why does it want to punish, say, the local Scout organization, or a 4-H club, or even a veterans’ group by denying them use of the school system’s venues?

Is that fair? Doesn’t it punish all taxpayers who, after all, finance these structures with their hard-earned income?

To be clear, I don’t have any children enrolled in Princeton ISD. So, by all rights, my voice is muted a bit. However, our property taxes do pay for these facilities. Therefore, I have some proverbial “skin in the game.”

Oh, brother. Princeton ISD needs to tread very carefully around this matter. I am one red-blooded, patriotic American taxpayer who does not want to see my school district torn apart by a culture war.

Learning the details of school finance

Working as I did for nearly 37 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I learned long ago never to presume I knew all there is to know about anything.

I am learning that truism in real time covering a school district’s effort to wrap its arms around the stupendous growth it is experiencing.

These days I am a freelance reporter for the Princeton Herald. My bosses at the paper have assigned me the task of covering the Princeton (Texas) Independent School District’s long-term planning committee’s work in crafting a growth-management strategy for the district.

The committee has its hands full trying to grasp the myriad complexities surrounding the issue. It met again tonight to start to unravel it. The group is making progress.

So do I as a reporter assigned to tell the committee’s story to the public that needs to know what is going on. It met again tonight to start to unravel it. The group is making progress.

Therefore, this old man who spent a lot of years learning about communities where he worked — in Oregon, the Golden Triangle of Texas and the Texas Panhandle — is now learning a truckload of new things about this Collin County community.

It’s a challenge I accept gladly.

I just need now to wrap my noggin around the complexities of school finance, the implications of a possible pending bond issue and how the district intends to prioritize a very long wish list of needs it has identified.

It makes me dizzy just thinking about it now. Don’t fear for me, though. A good night’s sleep will enable me to clear my head in the morning. Then I’ll be able to make sense of it.

The learning curve awaits.

No bullying allowed

Southard Middle School in Princeton, Texas, is no place for bullies … if the signs I saw on the walls of the library and in the hallways are any indicator.

I believe they are. Thus, I want to applaud the school system for sending out the message to the students who might fancy themselves as tough guys or girls.

I went to meeting at Southard the other evening where I saw the posters. Now, to be sure I am acutely aware that Princeton Independent School District is far from alone in promoting the no bullying allowed message. Such messaging has become almost an essential part of public schools’ doctrine … as it should.

Indeed, I recall when former first lady Melania Trump decided to take on cyber bullying as her signature issue. That was a noble endeavor, although her work on that project too often became buried under the reporting of the nonsense occurring elsewhere during her husband’s administration.

Public school systems have taken that message, though, and are sprinting with it.

I’ll be attending another meeting next week down the street where I live; the meeting will occur at Lowe Elementary School. To be sure I will look for more messages on the walls at Lowe. I hope to see them.

The school system here has earned a high-five from me on its efforts at reminding students that bullying has no place.

Be careful with Open Meetings Law

You run into this once in a while: a governing body will convene an executive (or closed) meeting to discuss something that in the strictest sense of the word doesn’t qualify as an item worthy of such secrecy.

It happened the other evening at a Princeton (Texas) school board meeting that I happened to be attending.

The Princeton Independent School District board of trustees met in regular session to discuss school business. During the course of the meeting, the board convened three executive sessions to discuss employee grievances; it’s all according to the Open Meetings Law that governs public governing bodies’ conduct. The board convened an executive session then reconvened its public meeting to vote on what it had discussed in secret. Then it went back into private session. This happened three times.

Then the board welcomed two new members who were elected in Nov. 8 school district trustee election. They swore them in and bid goodbye to two outgoing trustees.

The board then convened a fourth secret session. Why? To discuss election of its officers for the coming term. I believe that fourth session was an inappropriate reason to convene an executive session. Trustees cited personnel matters as their reason for speaking out of public earshot. That’s not right.

Personnel matters, as I interpret the Open Meetings Law, deal with paid employees. They do not cover elected officials’ duties. A better way for the board to handle it would have been to keep meeting in public and then go through the motions of selecting a board president, vice president and secretary.

Now, in the grand scheme this isn’t a scandalous breach of transparency. It was a routine process that boards such as the Princeton ISD board go through every year.

Taking this routine matter into the closet, though, was an unnecessary attempt to shroud it in secrecy.