You won’t see this headline in the DMN, but this incident from the recent DISD Board of Trustees meeting deserves to be exposed on the front page:
DISD Trustee Mike Morath casts the lone vote against the First Amendment rights of DISD employees, voting against provisions spelled out in the Texas Education Code.
The April 25, 2013 Board meeting started out innocently enough. The public was treated to an inspirational moment delivered by Trustee Mike Morath. Mr. Morath extolled the virtues of the DISD teachers in lofty terms, saying “Teaching as a profession is just about the highest calling of man.” He went on to equate the job of teaching with that of a neurosurgeon. He stated that, “This is a job that requires cognitive skill of the absolute highest order… and we have about 11,000 teachers that execute this with rigor and patience.” He ended his silvery speech by saying, “I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to all of our teachers for your valiant work. You fight like lions and you will be rewarded in heaven.”
Who could possibly not be happy with that? It’s not every day that a sitting trustee speaks so highly of all 11,000 teachers in DISD.
For those who stayed for the entire meeting, it soon became crystal clear just why Trustee Morath figured he’d better have something on tape which would make for good sound bites in order to offset his upcoming vote against the civil rights of all DISD employees.
DISD employees, especially teachers, have long been afraid to speak to the trustees about issues occurring at their schools for fear that the administration would retaliate. In September 2012, Mike Miles issued a memo directed at principals in order to prevent them from freely speaking to trustees as well.
The memo stated: “…it is an expectation for principals, executives, Core Team members, and Cabinet members to let their supervisor know when they have a conversation with a Trustee regarding a significant concern or interest of the District that should be addressed by a decision of the Administration.”
This memo and its stifling effects, as well as the fact that it violated the Texas Education Code, were brought to the attention of several trustees. Therefore the revision to DGB (local) was brought forward for a vote by the trustees to be added to the policy in order to protect the free speech rights of DISD employees:
“As such, no rules, regulations, and agreements shall be made to require employees to report their consultation with trustees.”
This would bring the policy in line with the law in Texas, contained in the Texas Education Code, Section 11.1513 (j), which states:
(j) The employment policy may not restrict the ability of a school district employee to communicate directly with a member of the board of trustees regarding a matter relating to the operation of the district, except that the policy may prohibit ex parte communication relating to:
(1) a hearing under Subchapter E or F, Chapter 21; and
(2) another appeal or hearing in which ex parte communication would be inappropriate pending a final decision by a school district board of trustees.
Trustee Morath initially sought to add an amendment which would have required that an employee report the conversation if the trustee “asked them to do anything.” The other trustees correctly realized that this language was too vague. In addition, this section dealt with employee policies, not trustee behavior which is covered elsewhere in DISD policy.
His amendment was voted down, 6-3 with only Nancy Bingham and Adam Medrano supporting it.
When the main motion was brought for the vote, Trustee Mike Morath cast the solitary “no” vote. Nancy Bingham abstained rather than go on record as voting against the provisions in the Texas Education Code and against the First Amendment rights of employees.
So much for all the flowery flattery aimed toward the teachers from Trustee Morath at the beginning of the meeting. Teachers, Mike Morath is NOT your friend. He is NOT the friend of liberty and justice and the American way, either. His actions speak louder than his words. Mike Morath has just become the poster boy to illustrate the meaning of “speaking with a forked tongue”: intent to mislead or deceive. In other words, saying one thing and doing quite another.
Thanking teachers on the one hand and slapping a muzzle on them with the other? Save your breath, Trustee Morath. Teachers don’t need that kind of gratitude.