Colored drawing by Anthony Jensen

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Del Valle ISD: Let the Healing Begin...?


The huge swath of a district that exists between Austin ISD and Bastrop ISD, Del Valle ISD, has gone unnoticed by many Austinites for quite some time. With nearly 50,000 residents and 11,000 students spread across 14 schools, it's often ignored by entities from HEB, who still hasn't built a grocery store, to law enforcement, who can't decide which entity should respond to many calls.

Del Valle is built off of historically rural communities now incorporating those gentrified out of east Austin or families related to jail residents (some languishing in County lock up for years at a time). Most are working class, lower-income and minorities.

DVISD is the only governmental structure covering this territory, shy of the Travis County Commissioners Court who hasn't exactly funneled our share of resources eastwardly. There are small community local government entities, like Creedmore, but as a whole, DVISD has long been the sole entity looking out for the entire region.

With no real oversight as overarching governmental entities pay little attention and until the last two years, there was only a small cadre of community activists since many families are working two to three jobs to make ends meet and many parents in the district don't speak English...the board has been ripe with issues, spawning complaints filed with the County, State and Feds (none of which have been acted on to date). Then came the board denying the community formation of a PTA. Well, that did it. If you ever want to organize a community quickly, deny them a PTA. Many were pleased when some major housecleaning was conducted.


Dr. Kelly K. Crook. She's smart as a whip...cute as a bug...inspiring in her work ethic...savvy politically and administratively. I already consider her a trusted colleague, even a friend, but can I be sure she's the best choice for leading the 5-A district of 11,000 students that I just became the newest board member of?

I wish I could say I am...but by no fault of her own, I can't be entirely sure since I don't know what the competition looks like.

Following is a statement I sent out to the community explaining my position on this.

Trustee statement on Dr. Kelly Crook's appointment as DVISD Superintendent

Thursday night at the DVISD Board meeting, a split board named Dr. Kelly Crook our new superintendent (or the effective "lone candidate" to which we wait 21 days for formal appointment), after failing to pass a motion to conduct a superintendent search. The board voted against a search, 5-4, and voted for Dr. Crook to be appointed 5-3-1 (I was the abstention).

Several of us thought we owed the community & the students a search, despite the positive gains made under Dr. Crook's leadership since last June. A search would cost less than $1/student (around $9,500) and is the most important decision a Board of Trustees makes - and could have served to bring both the board and community together in light of recent issues. While experts over at the Texas Association of School Boards say that many districts choose not to conduct a search, but hire within the ranks, they say that's usually smaller, less-accredited districts, not 5A districts like Del Valle.

Some individuals and groups, like LULAC, contend that because our district is heavily minority-based (+/- 93%), we had a duty to open the search to people of color.

Some in the district are concerned about some past problems not being resolved by someone who was part of the "old" administration. Some are concerned about continuing on too much longer in "limbo" and that the search would undermine the positive changes in the works under our interim. We are all ready for healing to begin, but some question that the lack of a search, a lack of looking at other qualified candidates, in and of itself, will negatively impact that.

Personally, I wanted the search, but abstained to appoint Dr. Crook, not because I don't have faith in her abilities, but because I don't know if she is or isn't the best person for the job for lack of a search. Despite this, I offer my congratulations and want to publicly state she will have my full support as we move forward. I expect she will continue, as she has proven to date, to bring more transparency to the district, make structural improvements and build trust and cohesiveness amongst board, staff, students and community alike.

In community,

Debbie Russell,

member, SMD2, Del Valle ISD Board of Trustees

No comments:

Post a Comment