What Everyone Must Know About School Board
Election Controversy at DeSoto ISD:
Problems alleged in the district- AGAIN!
DeSoto ISD School Board Candidate Voices Concerns
DeSoto ISD is a school district in crisis, and Terrence Gore wants to help the district make a turn towards a positive direction, making it academically strong for all students-again! Gore believes the best way to achieve academic success is to campaign for trustee of DeSoto ISD School Board Place 2, get elected, and work for the next three years to craft policies, making DeSoto ISD a better entity for students and the two communities it serves.
Gore is a retired educator with experience cultivated in Dallas ISD, Cedar Hill ISD and DeSoto ISD. His experience is from the entire spectrum of K-12, as he has worked on all levels- elementary, middle, and high school.
Gore is a divorced father of three. Michelle, a second grader who attends Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy is the driving force that made him put his name in this election. He feels being a current parent of a student in DeSoto ISD is a particularly important key to being an effective and efficient Trustee. Currently, there are seven trustees on the board, and only one board member has a child enrolled in the district. Of the two board seats open this election season, Gore hopes that a current parent will win the seat, and he hopes that parent is him. It’s a three- year commitment, he is retired, and he is ready to serve the community! He has also stated that service in this capacity is a necessity, and he takes no pleasure in the challenge that lies ahead. “I’m retired and serving on the school board was not part of my retirement dreams, but I have to pitch in and serve for my daughter, her classmates, all the other children in the district and for the communities whose tax dollars are being wasted and mismanaged,” said Gore.
Incorrect Candidate Ballot Application?
Gore’s road to trustee has not been an easy one. On March 3 Gore sent an email to Carla Venters-Griffin, Senior Executive Assistant at DeSoto ISD which read: “After reviewing the posting of the candidates’ applications, I couldn’t help but notice that my application was different from all the other candidates. I am just wondering if I filled out the wrong application for a place on the ballot. Everyone indicated a place on the ballot for the Democratic General Primary Election. I also realized that all the other districts are using a general election application that is different from what I downloaded. If I was supposed to use that form, is there any way I can submit the correct form? Does this void my candidacy? and What is the remedy for correcting this? Your insight and direction are much appreciated. Thank you.”
Gore reflected on his quest to apply for a position on the ballot, stating, “I downloaded the application to run for the school board from the DeSoto ISD website, filled it out, and hand delivered it to the admin. building.” he says, “I took the sworn oath that I had not been convicted of a felony, was not mental incapacitated or unable to vote that would make me unable to serve on the board, understood the nepotism laws, and swore to the uphold the constitutions of both the US and Texas.” In addition to making the sworn oath, Gore wrote the statement on the application he completed and filed on February 18.
On March 9, he discovered through his own researching that the discrepancy was due to the school district placing the wrong application in the candidates’ application packets. When reported to board president, DeAndrea Fleming, she displayed an initial response of shock. From there, she pushed back against the question of validity regarding the incorrect applications, alleging that an incorrect application was not a problem. Even so, she stated that the error would not be the district’s responsibility, and the board secretary, Carla Venters-Griffin, agreed with that. Still, Gore challenged his opponent’s application as being incorrectly submitted due to his opponent indicating a partisan party preference in a nonpartisan election. Additionally, it was not signed by the school district’s designated elections’ person, Mrs. Venters-Griffin. Initially, in response to Gore’s complaint, the district simply refused to perform its legal duty and obligation in accordance to state election laws to investigate Gore’s challenge regarding the erroneous application. However, a month later and beyond the challenge deadline, he received an email stating that (in fact) his application was being challenged by his opponent in the Place 2 election. The reason given was “because I didn’t inform myself that it would be a misdemeanor if I fail to report a felony conviction on my application. The application was updated in year 2021 with a small box that an applicant checks to guarantee that he or she is not a felon or has diminished mental capacity.” Instead of using the updated (2021) application, Gore used the 2017 form, previously used in past school board elections-which had no “boxes” to check, but instead had a written sworn oath to each averment attesting to the same. After receiving the challenge, Gore exchanged a round of email communication with Shon Joseph before being told that the matter was out of his jurisdiction. Joseph concluded the matter by referring him to the Secretary of State or the Texas Ethics Commission, but Gore had already spoken to the Secretary of State and confirmed that all the requirements of a written application were met, and his application was okay. Furthermore, at the time that DeSoto ISD sent him the notice of a challenge, it was beyond the deadline for any challenges to be made. (Note-Gore found that the use of the 2017 form was a common mistake in other districts. Due to other district’s having a screening process, their candidates were able to correct the mistake prior to deadlines by submitting the 2021 form.)
Even so, Gore continues to trudge along. This is Gore’s first time running for School Board and he is motivated by his daughter, her classmates, and all students of DeSoto ISD receiving a quality education. Gore says, “Enough is enough. No More of the same! No more failed DeSoto ISD administrators leaving the district and returning to do the same on the school board.”
Frustration While Seeking Answers
Gore continued saying “This began a frustrating quest to get a solid answer.”
He has dozens of emails between the district claiming his application to run for District 2 was not valid, and even official documents on DeSoto ISD letterhead sent to him. Gore however had something unique in his background, he knows the law, knows how to articulate a legal argument, and cite legal precedents. Gore explains that he has been published for legal arguments in law journal reviews, and is often cited in legal briefs by attorneys and court opinions. So, when Gore responded to the question of his legitimacy to be on the ballot, the school district relented and dropped the entire matter without comment or explanation. But, what about the original challenged by Mckissic. Gore says the two statutes she cited as her challenge had nothing to do with him or his application; but what laws instructing the school district of their legal responsibility to inform candidates of their rights. This is something they failed to do, by making available their official webpage the outdated application. One thing that is not amidst is the removal of all filed applications from the district’s election website page. Gore says, this directly contravenes state open record and elections laws which requires the district to immediately make available those applications to the public and publish such online were permissible. Board president Fleming gave an incoherent explanation as she changed the reasons several times, none had to do with the candidates’ applications or state election laws, as to why the applications were dropped from the online site.
Gore’s persistence paid off. He is on the ballot for school board trustee, Place 2. But he points out, it never should have happened. The way certain factions on the school board worked to keep one candidate and remove another through questionable actions and cronyism is precisely why the school district is in bad shape. He says, in this school board election cycle, voters in Glenn Heights and DeSoto will have the opportunity to say, “No More” and “Enough is Enough!” to the decimation of their beloved school district.
Canceling the Election
“At one point the Board President, Fleming, said the district was going to cancel the election and just have everyone re-apply, then have a special election. But that’s not legal.” He asserts that his only opponent, Chastity Mckissic, used to work for the district’s central administration in various director positions since 2018 and believes she mismanaged a $15 million dollar STEAM program that was phased out of existence in 2019. Just as the alternative A2E2 program was running into trouble, Mckissic left the district 2021 to go to work for an out of state charter school which she is part of the team to bring to north Texas metropolitan region. Rocketship Public School will directly compete with the ISDs such as DeSoto ISD for students and tax dollars.
Carla Venters-Griffin, Senior Executive Assistant, and Gore’s initial contact about his application being rejected was McKissic’s secretary when she was in various directorships in Learning and Curriculum department over the failed I3D and A2E2 programs in DeSoto. The US Dept of Education has ceased funding these programs pending review. But the Board of Trustee voted upon recommendation of the administration to voluntarily terminate the A2E2 program forfeiting almost $4 million.
After his quest to seek answers and to keep his name on the ballot, Gore was notified by Mr. Shon Joseph, Director of Operations that Mrs. Venters-Griffin, the Board Secretary, had resigned. Gore believes it’s more than a coincidence. Gore says, “It appears someone had to take the fall for the wrong application being given out to the candidates and on the official website.”
Desoto ISD Losing Students, Funds
Gore has been paying attention to the Board’s decisions and is concerned that the number of students have dramatically dropped in the past few years. He says the ISD has gone from a high of almost 11,000 students to about 6,500 now. Three schools have been closed in recent years, Northside ES, Amber Terrace Early Childhood Center, and East Middle School, and the students merged into existing schools making for larger class sizes, requiring students to be without a teacher or classroom. Gore thinks the recent superintendent D’Andre Weaver was embattled with Board, since his reinstatement in 2020. He says, this is evident by the requests to the Board that were not approved but were overriding by the TEA conservator including a $1 million tutoring gift from the City of DeSoto that was unanimously rejected by the Board. One board member walked out of the board meeting rather than vote to approve the tutorial measure as directed by the conservator.
“Millions of dollars in grant money are gone, spent with little to show for it.” says Gore, continuing by asserting the current Interim Superintendent was fired or resigned in lieu of termination from his superintendent job in neighboring Lancaster for similar fiscal mismanagement. DeSoto ISD is now dealing with being over budget by $12 million and growing, lack of state funding due to lackluster student enrollment, and loss of millions in federal grant received for programs that have been mismanaged out of existence.
New Direction for DeSoto
There are seven elected school board trustee members with two seats up for election this year, three next year, and one after that. Board members serve three-year terms without term limits. All board members are elected at large from the cities of Glenn Heights and DeSoto. Gore is running for Place 2. Historically the school board election has an exceptionally low voter turnout. The last school board election about 2,800 votes were cast out of 45,000 voters.
The school district is currently has an estimated $11.3 million revenue over expenditures with a fund balance of $55 million, yet it can’t fund its STEM/STEAM and A2E2 programs. Revenue is down from $125 million in 2019 to under $75 million 2021. The TEA conservator, AJ Crabill, said during the February 28th meeting he is deeply worried and concerned regarding the district’s financial state. He has indicated that lifesaving pandemic funding will not be there going forwarded, and recently ‘paused’ the spending of $1.6 million for literacy programs proposed by Dr. Larry Lewis. There has been discussions and public concerns of a conflict of interest with the proposed program vendors and Dr. Larry Lewis.
Gore questions the literacy proposal of $1.6 million this late in the school year. “With only 6 to 7 weeks of school left, these programs will do very little to improve student outcomes this year.” He doesn’t know why the Board would even approve the measure when they denied the request of Dr. Weaver for the $1 million tutoring initiative in September 2021. “It doesn’t look right, considering the player(s) involved it is very suspicion, and with the current fiscal outlook why!” Trustee Clark, Place 4 has insinuated that she approved the measure even though she did not believe in the programs and was against it because the TEA conservator made her vote for the items, and she would have been out voted 5:1; so, she went along with it.
This is exactly why Gore thinks the current board is still dysfunctional as with the district. From lack of transparency to gaslighting the public on various issues detrimental to all students including Michelle, Gore’s 8-year-old daughter.
A Fiscal Budget Hawk
Gore plans to be a fiscal budget hawk on the school board when elected. He has operational experience of managing and fiscal oversight of the state initiative of the Dallas Community Youth Development, Project 75216, the legislative brainchild of state Senator Royce West. Retired, he has time to devote to pour over documents and contracts to be the communities voice of concern or support of any programs that does not fit into the current academic schema for DeSoto ISD, and for top heavy administrative salaries. Gore believes that many upper administrative positions could be consolidated, eliminating some overlapping responsibilities. Gore says, director of school operations, director of strategic schools, chief of schools should be consolidated into one position: shift responsibilities to other admin positions. DeSoto ISD is not a large district and with its mere 6,500 students it needs to reduce upper administrator positions, hire, and incentivize the teaching ranks. The board should mandate that all persons hired for upper administrative position have a demonstratable skills and experience for the position. There is too much cronyism in DeSoto ISD to the detriment of school operations. Gore believes in order to make the district truly healthy and not just superficially will be to reign in wasteful, unnecessary spending, exorbitant salaries, and consolidate position in the upper administration, “There is too many positions in administration that overlap with people doing very little for 6 figure salaries, especially when a third of students can’t read on grade level. DeSoto ISD is just a cash cow, a money grab.”
Gore would also like to see DeSoto redesign STEM/STEAM, advanced academics, and magnet programs that it was supposed to do with that $15 million in federal dollars, and another $7.8 million is match grants and donations for a STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering Arts and Math) and A2E2 (The Academies for Academic Enhancement and Excellence) programs. “What happen and where did all that money go for the district not to have anything to show for it.” Gore says. The school board voted to terminate with STEM/STEM and A2E2 partnership with the U.S Dept. of Education during its last board meeting on March 28th. These are truly dark and uncertain times for the DeSoto and Glenn Heights educational community. Bear in mind, Lancaster ISD built 2 new state of the art schools for about $25 million a piece.
“We are the only district on this side of the Trinity River, in the Southern sector of Dallas County that does not have a comprehensive STEM/STEAM and/or magnet program.” Gore points out. “Almost $23 million could and should have been used to create a sustainable STEM/STEAM, magnet and advanced academic programs within DeSoto ISD that would diversified the student population the district as it was intended to gain back White, and all other students that have left.” Persuading parents to enroll their children into DeSoto ISD from local charter schools and nearby ISD like Dallas and Duncanville can happen only with strong, robust academic offerings, he says.
Educating After COVID
Another issue the DeSoto must address as most district are, the loss of learning over the past two school years. But Covid only exasperated decades old learning gap issue that existed pre-Covid. Nationally, public schools especially in urban centers saw an additional loss of a year or more of their education due to isolation and remote learning from home for students. DeSoto ISD interim superintendent Larry Lewis says, some students are as far as 3, 4, 5 years behind in literacy. And he has a plane to fix that.
Gore says his daughter’s school made the most of their Zoom class experiences and she kept up with her education without the distractions of a typical pandemic school day. “Studies show many kids ‘lost’ a year of learning, but the students at my daughter’s Katherine Johnson Technology Magnate Academy kept right on learning.”
Gore attributes the difference and experience his daughter had as a student at Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet to resolute and supportive teachers, staff and campus administrators who initiated and producing quality lessons, and parents at home during the lockdown ensuring their children were online and learning. “It was phenomenal! A functional, competent distant learning program – they got it right. My daughter, and her classmates flourished.” But it was easy going as the start of school in the Fall of 2020. Gore recounts having to criticize the curriculum & learning dept. at the central administration office for a lackluster remote learning program. Gore recalls telling administrator to look at the remote learning of neighboring districts such as Lancaster ISD and Dallas who got it right out the gate. Gore has background in technology, teaching, and his education – he attended the HBCU Xavier and matriculated from University of North Texas where he earned his degree in Applied Arts & Science in adaptive Technology Training Development and Performance with an emphasis on Education – helped him keep his daughter on track. He has high aspirations for his youngest children to attend Stanford, with respective interests in science, medicine, and engineering. “My daughter Michelle wants to be a pediatrician. She made that choice at 4 and has not wavered from it. It is up to me to ensure that she has the best educational experience our family can offer her through public education. And DeSoto ISD is failing her and all the other kids in these cities.”
During COVID the teachers at Johnson taught what they had the most expertise in, “Sometimes 60 students at a time. The teachers worked together to provide a quality education.” Now all you hear about are chaos on campus, overcrowded schools, students with no teachers, students are relegated to days of idleness in the halls or cafeteria.” But this phenomenon is not unique to DeSoto ISD; its being experienced across this nation. Not a state in this country has been spared the exodus of teachers, teacher shortages, superintendents and administrative leaderships leaving their institution, Gore says at this crucial period of his daughter’s life he can only be concerned about that and her future.
These are large obstacles and hurdles the district must overcome. But Gore says he is preparing and making himself ready to help by being the voice of a genuinely concerned school community to the School Board. He wants the current DeSoto ISD students to have unhindered and vast educational opportunities that he hopes will be stern foundations for whatever future they children of today and adults of tomorrow set their sights upon. But it was a frill path if the board of trustees, and the district leadership don’t get their act together for the best interest of the students, OUR children.
Early voting begins April 25. Election Day, May 7.
To learn more about the upcoming DeSoto ISD School Board elections see: Board Elections – DeSoto ISD
Another helpful/informative link Board’s Goals and Constraints.
Meetings of the DeSoto Independent School District Board are held at the Administration Building, 200 E. Belt Line Road, DeSoto, Texas. Agendas are available online at:
Board of Trustees – DeSoto ISD
Want to get involved.
Join the DeSoto PTA or Volunteer in DeSoto ISD.
Parents' Guide to Student Success
Contact Terrence Gore at: firstname.lastname@example.org website is www.Gore4Kids.com
Thanks to all the contributing writers and researchers on this article.