A Texas school board has voted to move forward with a process that could end with the firing of James Whitfield, a Black principal that became embroiled in controversy over critical race theory allegedly being taught at his school.
NBC DFW reports that on Monday, the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District’s board of trustees unanimously agreed to approve a proposal recommended by the district superintendent to not renew Whitfield’s contract.
According to the district, this vote was a “procedural” step to allow an opportunity for Whitfield–the first Black principal in the history of Colleyville Heritage High School-to defend himself.
From NBC DFW:
The district publicly revealed for the first time its reasons for the recommendation of nonrenewal. The allegations include deleting emails as a public record, insubordination, failing to cooperate with an internal investigation and being dishonest with the media.
The district cited multiple meetings with Whitfield’s bosses to address the subjects.
Whitfield was not fired Monday, but the process is moving forward for that to happen, or at least for him to get a hearing on the allegations against him. He was placed on administrative leave late last month.
Thirty-five parents, students and community addressed the school board Monday night — all of them in support of Whitfield.
“The decision is yours. Make it the right one and the one that history can look back on proudly,” resident David Benedetto said during public comments.
Whitfield had his own opportunity to speak to trustees.
“I stand before you today no different than I was when I came in ‘18-’19. I’m an advocate for all kids,” he said. “I believe every student regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, whatever bucket you want to put them in, I believe they should have access to excellent equitable education. Yes, I said those words.”
Whitfield’s conflict with the school board made national headlines in July after a man publicly accused him of teaching critical race theory during a board meeting, which, of course, is a problem in Texas since legislators have done everything they can to prevent educators from talking about racism in class.
Later, Whitfield said district administrators asked him to remove photos of him and his wife, who is white, from his personal Facebook page. NBC DFW reports that a district spokesperson said some of the photos “contained poses that are questionable for an educator, especially a principal or administrator.”
Whitfield, who has been on administrative leave since August, has maintained that he has done nothing wrong, as his school doesn’t teach critical race theory.
According to The Dallas Morning News, an attorney representing Whitfield said that the administrator hasn’t received a list of reasons in writing as to why he’s at risk of losing his job–a claim that the district argued isn’t true.
From the Morning News:
The district said in a statement Friday morning that on Tuesday, the day after the board vote, it sent Henderson and Whitfield the reasons for the proposed nonrenewal via email and certified mail.
The principal and his attorney released materials to The Dallas Morning News that show Whitfield was asked to improve in a number of areas in his first year at the high school, according to a performance evaluation from June 8, 2021, and a letter dated Aug. 16 from Superintendent Robin Ryan.
“You do not routinely work collaboratively with teachers and staff to assess the impact of research-based programs and interventions on student learning and achievement,” the evaluation read in part. “You do not regularly provide teachers and staff with individual feedback.”
Grapevine-Colleyville ISD spokeswoman Kristin Snively said in a statement Friday that the records provided to the media might be incomplete, and officials have asked Whitfield and his attorney what documents they have released.
The Morning News also reports that Ryan met with Whitfield and told him he was distracting his staff and students and “dividing the public” by giving interviews about the critical race theory accusations and the Facebook photos.
The principal was put on paid leave two weeks after that, per the Morning News, and on Sept. 9, he was notified that the board would begin the process of not renewing his contract.