Fort Worth Way Out

Vasquez says power brokers are going after Hispanic school trustees. Murrin says they’re just going after everybody.
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Posted April 10, 2013 by ERIC GRIFFEY in News
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Considering the Fort Worth school board’s penchant for melodrama, it’s no surprise that the race for the District 1 seat, representing the North Side, would ratchet up to near soap opera levels.

Incumbent Carlos Vasquez claims that a few downtown power brokers want him off the board and are throwing their weight behind juvenile probation officer Jacinto Ramos. Vasquez says Ramos, a political newcomer, is ineligible to run based on residency requirements. Also in the race is podiatrist and former trustee Camille Rodriguez, whom Vasquez defeated in 2008 in her bid for a second term.

Those same movers and shakers who want to oust him, Vasquez said, are conspiring to rid the board of all Hispanic trustees, including former board president Juan Rangel and J.R. Martinez, who withdrew his re-election bid in District 8. Vasquez said a committee called Citizens for Great Schools — which includes former school board president Ray Dickerson, businessman Isaac Manning, and Northside businessman and former city council member Steve Murrin — is behind the attempted ousters.

Dickerson hung up on a Fort Worth Weekly reporter who called for comment, and Manning did not return multiple phone calls and e-mails.

Murrin told the Weekly he’s not on the committee. Matthew Avila, however, who is running unopposed in District 8, said the committee interviewed him earlier this year. He confirmed Vasquez’ identification of the three committee members.

Murrin scoffed at the idea that he is conspiring to unseat trustees because they are Hispanic. But he acknowledged that he actively searched for candidates to replace every trustee whose seat is up for grabs in next month’s election and that he is supporting Avila.

“I got interested as just a citizen and a taxpayer,” Murrin said. “I was looking for candidates. My original thought was a clean sweep — let’s replace the whole board. And five seats were available this year.

“I think [current trustees] have failed to understand the needs of the students that are a part of our abysmal attendance and drop-out rates,” he said.

Vasquez said he found it “disgusting” that a former school board president would actively seek out candidates to replace the Hispanics on the board.

“We’re politicians. We’re used to having opponents,” he said. “But I do have an issue when certain politicians or certain business people have issues with some of us Latinos.”

Dickerson “chose to leave the school board on his own,” Vasquez said. “He didn’t finish his term. Now he feels compelled to form a citizens committee to find people to run against us.”

Though he never named him, Murrin strongly implied that Vasquez is more interested in advancing his own political career than in serving the needs of students. Vasquez narrowly lost a bid last May to unseat longtime State Rep. Lon Burnam.

As a businessman, Murrin said, it is in his best interest to have a functional school board. “No industry in the world is going to bring their employees to your city if no thinking person in that city would recommend they send their children to the schools,” he said.

Vasquez said he thinks some people want him off the board because of his role in the departure of former superintendent Melody Johnson, who resigned under pressure in 2011. If he loses his seat, Vasquez predicted, the first order of business for the new board will be to fire Superintendent Walter Dansby.

“Mr. Dansby, much like myself, is an individual who will do what’s right for the kids and the community,” Vasquez said. “He doesn’t listen to special interests, and he’s not going to be controlled by anyone.”

Murrin specifically said he was looking to replace Vasquez when he approached Debra Nyul, president of the Fort Worth ISD Council of PTAs, because he was interested in mining the PTA for candidates. He was startled to find out that there were no PTAs in any school in District 1.

“I said, ‘How can you have a board that has no interest in cultivating parent-teacher associations, especially when you’ve got our drop-out rate?’ ” he recalled.

Nyul told him that one couple was starting a PTA for Northside High School. That couple turned out to be Ramos and his wife.

“I called different leaders in north Fort Worth, and I got the name Jacinto Ramos from maybe 10 different people,” he said. “I called and he [initially] turned me down.”

Ramos, whose son will be a freshman at Northside in the fall, said that the lack of a PTA there was one of the factors that motivated him to run for office. He said a conversation with David Carrizales, Murrin’s business partner, helped sway him.

“I was approached by some folks in the community who care about the future of the school district,” he said.

Although Ramos was born and raised on the North Side, documents obtained by the Weekly raised a question as to whether he is eligible to run in District 1. Residency laws require that a candidate live in the district for six months before running for office there. Documents show that Ramos voted in a Haslet election last November, though he said he has been living in District 1 since last July.

Before July, he said, he had moved out of Fort Worth for a time, because he had received threats connected to his work as a gang intervention specialist for the county.

“What I find interesting,” he said,  “is that a number of those folks [who are questioning his eligibility] know that I’ve been living there. They’ve seen me since July.”

Jana Johnson, communications coordinator for Tarrant County, said that if someone were to vote in one political subdivision, that “could be a problem” if the person then wanted to run for office shortly thereafter somewhere else. She said that no candidate’s name will be taken off the ballot at this point. After the election, she said, the matter could be decided in state court — if someone files suit.

Rodriguez said that she learned a lot during her last campaign, when, she said, Vasquez “went negative.”

“I’m focusing on the issues, and I’m not going negative,” she said. But, she added, “Now I’m more prepared. And if he goes negative again, I’ll know what to expect.”

Rodriguez said that the badly divided board hasn’t been acting in the best interest of students.

“When you read in the newspapers what’s going on with this board, all of the arguing, it doesn’t seem like the focus is on the children where it needs to be,” she said.

Part of her platform is to make sure the board and the school district do a better job of engaging the community. “A lot of people have said they wanted to help,” she said. “And I want to make sure they all get involved.”

Vasquez said he thinks the Great Schools committee also had a hand in arranging Rodriguez’ candidacy. Both candidates that he maintains were urged to run in order to weaken Hispanic power on the board are themselves Hispanic.

“They are working on a divide-and-conquer theory,” he said. “They aren’t going to run a white against us.”

He said that the committee settled on supporting Ramos instead of Rodriguez because “from what I understand from the meeting, she can be a difficult Mexican too.”

Vasquez said that the committee conspiring to unseat him is also responsible for trustee Martinez’ withdrawal from the District 8 race.

“Basically [the committee] told [Martinez], ‘We’re going to put up $50,000 to $100,000 behind Avila … so either we crush you or you get out,’ ” he said.

Martinez declined to comment on why he withdrew.

Murrin said that Martinez and the other would-be District 8 challenger, Anael Luebanos, both withdrew willingly and amicably.

“They kind of made a pact,” he said. “Why beat each other to death? The most electable guy is Matt, so let’s let him be the board member, and let’s all continue to participate. And I think that’s the attitude it’s going to take to solve our problems.”

Avila said he hasn’t seen any evidence of a conspiracy to unseat current Hispanic trustees.

He did confirm that he met with the Great Schools committee early on to discuss their support for his campaign but said he has “received money from no one, and I’m beholden to no one except for the children.”

Vasquez said his critics are upset because he’s “called the district out” on problems ranging from overpaid employees to insufficient technology. “They can’t attack my record,” he said.

“I don’t play the Fort Worth Way,” he said, referring to the city’s ostensible tradition of settling controversial matters amicably but out of public view. “I came up with my own slogan: The Fort Worth Way isn’t the only way, it’s not always the right way, and it’s usually the white way.”


16 Comments


  1.  
    The Insurrectionist

    Is this an issue about race, power or ego? Well, the children are the most vulnerable to be taken advantage of them. A plethora of mercenaries always uses the “children” as a platform to benefit themselves or their organizations.

    The corruption is so intense and engraved in the culture of the district that it would take years and courageous leaders to change it. Fort Worth ISD needs a culture that promote student achievement and community prosperity.

    The superintendent got a pay raise! What did he do? This school board is throwing money without getting any significant academic improvement in student achievement.

    In the name of the children… AMEN.




  2.  
    Educator FWISD

    Carlos Vasquez has nothing but political ambition on his mind. The school board seat is merely a platform for a State Rep. seat in Austin. When he lost to Lon Burnham, he promised he’d run again in two years. Controversy is his brand. Keep following this. It will get more and more interesting. Dansby would be wise to distance himself from this egocentric bully.




  3.  
    Insider

    Hard to know where to begin. This is only one person’s opinion. Let’s start with that snake Ray Dickerson. No surprise to anyone in FWISD he is still lurking in the shadows; continuing to do the bidding of. He has been and continues to be an unethical fraud. On the other hand, I believe Mr. Murran is absolutely correct that there should be a “clean sweep” of the Board. Only this goal seems hollow when you consider NO ONE was recruited to run against that corrupt Needham minion Norm Robbins or that living fossil T. A. Sims. Why? Because their votes on any given issue are under control. We don’t need another political ladder climber like Camille Rodriguez either. Her partner is running to get back on the Council – one politician in that household should be enough.The truth of the matter is that EVERY PROBLEM in FWISD begins with Judy Needham. Which brings us to that hypocritical buffoon Vasquez. Carlos, you are going to loose BECAUSE of your record. You’ve burned too many bridges – starting with the Teachers and Employees of FWISD. UEA may support you but the Teachers do not. You were on a personal quest to get even with MJ – using every one and every issue you could to remove her – starting with the children. Sure there was plenty of corruption to go around – but she did allow you to resign. Why not tell that story? When you succeeded in getting rid of “…the best Superintendent in the country”, you tossed everyone aside – most importantly the children – to further your own ambition. It was Needham who recruited you to run against Lon Burnham; Needham who helped secure funds for your campaign. Have you forgotten already that you became her big buddy? You voted against every employee whose grievance came before you except Aracely Chavez. You belittled and berated two of the women who brought sexual harassment charges to the Board – even brought them to tears. You turned your back on Duran and actually thought Palazzolo would sell out for money – firing him without a new hearing in the hope that no one would find out it was you and Rangel who directed the AHHS scandal to the media. You made the motion against Tennyson who reported one of Needham’s friends for embezzlement. Then you even voted Judy Needham in as Board President. Well Carlos, where is your buddy now? Is she still supporting you? What card is left for you to play? The RACE card. FWISD needs PARENTS who care about children and NOT political careers to step up and get involved. Time for Vasquez, Rangel, Robbins, Sims, Needham, Moss and Jackson to step aside. Time too to end the litigation, the endless appeals, and reinstate Palazzolo. His trial will prove to be the scandal of the Summer. And Carlos, stop trying to drag Dansby down with you. You are reaping what YOU have sown.




  4.  
    Purveyor of truth

    According to the Star, “Trustees voted unanimously to cancel elections on May 11 for three seats and to declare the unopposed candidates the winners.” So this leaves Vasquez, Ramos and Rodriguez for District 1; Rangel and Paz (Palacios dropped out) for District 9, on hold! District 8, according to the statement above, declares Matt Avila the winner, since Martinez and the other incumbent dropped out of the race. Wow Vasquez, I guess your stupid theory about “The Great Schools” people trying to “lighten up” the board again, has gone out the “non-transparent” window, considering that Avila, last time I heard, is Hispanic! You and other board members have all beaten the “racial card horse” to death. Why are you fighting so hard to stay on the board Vasquez? I’ll tell you why, because you want to advance in the political arena and you are using the district, students and families to get there. In my opinion, you are getting what you deserve, because you have thrown so many people under the bus!!! You cannot keep track of all your lies and who you failed, like Palazzolo for example. I’m not going into all the crap you did to him, because it will all come out soon enough. You, Sutherland and Rangel used Palazzolo and his supporters to help you oust Johnson, for YOUR personal vendetta, since she strongly suggested you resign as a principal. Oh, let’s call it was it actually was…SHE FIRED YOUR ASS! You also had the plan to further your board and political career, by pushing Dansby in as permanent Super. Do you remember your own Christmas party Dec 2011, when you all had already declared Dansby the new Super…even before the bogus finalist (beside Dansby) was named for consideration? Once you pressured Dickerson to “voluntarily step down”, Johnson to resign, Dansby elected as permanent Super, you and your cohorts dropped your support for Palazzolo (and continue to do so, since his whistleblower case is heading over ½ million in legal fees). Let’s not forget also that you were a supporter against the firing of Araceli Chavez in accounting, for the Connects mess. She filed suit against the district and miraculously, 2 years later, she is awarded A LOT of money, returned to central office with a new job with higher pay, more than what she made before she was fired! Now she is working on YOUR campaign for re-election, while being a district employee?! Can anyone but me connect the corrupted, unethical and self-serving dots? And last but not least; I cannot forget the despicable banter, on this exact paper, about how bad Needham, Dickerson, Reyna and others were, when they wanted Palazzolo gone, so you called them ALL out and called it a “witch hunt”. You and Needham have been, and continue to be, the masterminds behind all these backhanded deals on the board, all for personal and professional gain. You think Needham is your ally? Seriously Vasquez, think again! You got rid of her buddy, so you could bring on Dansby. Do you think Medusa Needham suddenly stopped playing dirty, because she offered you money for your campaign for State Rep? It may appear that she is your ally, but remember; she has been at this dirty political game longer than you have! You have played right into her hand…and you will soon find out how poisonous her snake bite is, when she throws you and others under the short yellow bus, in order to save her own crypt keeper ass! Oh joy; this is going to be the most enlightening and outrageous scandal ever! So now, you have the cajones to say that Dickerson and his organization are out to clear all the Hispanics off the board??? Here’s a clue mijo: Needham is behind Dickerson’s new and improved vendetta to oust you, because he and Needham both still adore Johnson. See where I’m going with this? Here’s the deal Vasquez, Dickerson was no angel…most are glad he is gone, but as luck would have it, now HE is OUT TO GET YOU, just like you were out for his buddy Johnson! Payback (and Karma) is a bitch! People want you off the board; because the puppet strings you have manipulated need to be clipped away, from your puppets (Sutherland, Rangel, et al). You are NOT going to get the votes you need from the district you care nothing about. Your schools are academically imploding! All you have cared about is YOU, not your schools, the students or anything in relation to making them better. Now you are trying to make this election about race, privilege, residency, or any other crazy ass notions you will conjure up. Face it Vasquez; people want you off the board, because it’s about YOU and your failures as a principal and board member; it’s about the shady corrupted deals you have made behind closed executive doors and/or on local wooden bar stools. Quit your bitchin’ and take your medicine like a man! You did this to yourself. The entire board, Dansby included, need to go away, so new blood can come in and return this district back to the students!




  5.  
    Curious

    Go away and stay away Vasquez and Rangel! you had your chance to change FWISD for the better and you turned your back on the kids, parents and employees. Gee Juan, and your wife is an untouchable, high paid FWISD employee too. Remember Vasquez, next time you start crying that Rangel was Board President when you threw Duran to the dogs and nuked Palazzolo and the AHHS Teachers. The vote to fire Palazzolo a second time – without a hearing – was on YOUR watch. And every Board Member knew that night that TEA had already found what he and the Teachers reported was TRUE! You are both frauds but no different from Robbins, Sims, Needham, Moss and Jackson. I still wonder how Needham and Sims escaped indictments after they got new driveways (and whatever else) at FWISD expense a few years ago. Wake up voters! This whole Board should be gone! Nothing will ever improve in FWISD until they are! Was there NO ONE interested in running against Robbins? Is Sims the BEST the Black Community has had to offer for the past 30 YEARS?
    REALLY? REALLY?




    •  
      purveyor of truth

      I’m starting to get really concerned by all of the comments I’m reading. Driveways for board members? Wow, the board is not paid a dime to serve, but they sure do get perks don’t they? I knew of a mayor of a large city who paved the street to his house and driveway and got indicted for it. Wasn’t this also the reason Tocco was fired? Damn, this is disturbing as hell! I went back and re-read the AHHS scandal and read that the principal defrauded the state, was promoted to Pasquel HS, then people got mad, so Johnson put her on leave with pay?! The foul mouthed athletic dir, Izzy Perry, had an affair with the AP, took $ from door sales, loaned thousands to an assistant super from booster funds, and sexually harassed many, yet all of these idiots were pardoned, allowed to resigned or were still on the payroll a year after the scandal. All the while, Needham, whose district covers AHHS, runs around free, even praised for becoming board pres. she knew what was going on the whole time??? How is this possible that no one was arrested? Oh, I forgot, corruption within the district is the norm and even the city, because Needham’s buddy is the despicable FTW District Attorney. Wake up fort worth!




  6.  
    Voice

    Totally agree with everyone.. we are on our way to take our the district back!
    It’s time parents and students and the stakeholders become the owners and take charge
    It’s about economics and the opportunities our students are losing because of self-serving individuals. We should be for candidates who are about kids and regardless of money or groups, etc. We all need to stand up and do what is right and clean sweep. 2015 in near.. let’s help whomever is willing to help get the district back on its feet.




  7.  
    Educator FWISD

    Overpaid employees? Vasquez’s record: He complained almost daily about Johnson’s salary when she helmed the ship. Now, Dansby makes what she made and HE approved it (nearly $330,000 yearly), and receives a $600 a month car allowance and $40 a month for a cell phone. Can someone explain to me why someone who is paid such a salary gets these additional perks? In a district that can’t even afford decent football equipment for it’s kids, I think this fact is reprehensible.




  8.  
    Teacher

    More Teachers need to speak out against these frauds. Courts ruled Chavez was no whistleblower – only brought back to campaign for Vasquez and Rangel. Suddenly going to an ATPE Meetings does not make you one of us – nor are we fooled into believing Rangel suddenly gives a damn. Both these clowns are out for themselves. Vasquez is out for himself. We are all waiting for the Palazzolo trial. Standing room only in that courtroom!




  9.  
    Frustrated

    First off, thank you Eric for writing about the continued drama at FWISD, especially when the stories are about the questionable board members. I have a question: I only read about the AHHS/Palazzolo fiasco in different comments, such as this current article. Have I missed any stories on Palazzolo and any new developments on his case? I don’t think i have read a full story on him since Betty died, which I was very saddened to hear. I worried that her coverage on the district was going to stop. I am happy to see that it hasn’t and that you are picking up where Betty left off, but with your own style! People I know stopped reading the sinking ship Telegram, specifically because they only reported puff pieces on the district, whereas your paper, always reports the cold harsh truth, like it should be. Please continue to write about FWISD, because the public needs to know the truth! Also, I hope to read an update on the Palazzolo case soon, because based on the comments written on this article and others recently, it sounds like things are about to get interesting very soon.




  10.  
    Memory Lane

    Carlos,
    Just wanted to take a stroll down memory lane courtesy of the late great Betty Brink. Here are some of your more notable quotes over the past year or so.
    “I think this is one person trying to dig up the past, and it’s shameful,” said school board member Carlos Vasquez. “Raul decided to take that settlement — he could have kept fighting or gone to court.”
    “I’m sure she (Katherine Everest) does sway the hiring process,” said Vasquez, the schools trustee, laughing. “I’m not going to hire somebody who hates me. … No business would do that. Why should we do that in our schools? When people are in positions where they get to hire people, people are going to hire who they think is going to be loyal to them, who is going to work hard, and who they can trust.”
    “Vasquez said that, having worked with Everest when he was a school principal, he does not believe she is racist.”
    “He (Vasquez) went on, “Mr. Palazzolo was wronged by our district and by Dr. Johnson, but Mr. Dansby and most of us on this board want this resolved, but he has to be reasonable in his demands.” (Reasonable? Isn’t this what you said Duran should have done?)
    “Every time we are asked to make cuts, we start at the bottom, not the top,” said Fort Worth schools trustee Carlos Vasquez. “I have asked that we start at the top, but it never happens. But here we are voting for a raise:
    http://star-telegram.com/2013/04/09/4762619/dansby-gets-year-extension-possible.html#storylink=misearch
    Perhaps you and Mr. Rangel would be wise to follow the advice which follows:
    “It was all game playing,” Rangel said. “We cannot afford to play games. We must act for the benefit of the children, not ourselves.”




    •  
      purveyor of truth

      BRAVO “MEMORY LANE” BRAVO!!! Do you hear that Carlos? That’s the door closing on your political future! If you win your seat back after all that has been said and done, your cohorts have bought it for you, like most of the seats on the board.




  11.  
    KSS

    I think Mr. Vasquez encapsulated it perfectly when he said, “We’re politicians…” That’s how he views himself, as a politician. Do we really need more “politicians” who relentlessly play the race card in an effort to further their personal interests? I believe we need a board that represents the needs of all of our students, regardless of their race. And, last time I checked, Jacinto Ramos is Hispanic. Is Mr. Vasquez suggesting he is “more” Hispanic than Mr. Ramos?




    •  
      Voice

      It has never truly been about race or the like more about self. He has no other way of defending his lack of action for the needs of the students. You don’t hear much about how students have been helped. We do need a board that is about representing and advocating for others than to self. I am sure some on the board preach help thy neighbor and yet forget our students. We also need to look at ourselves and make sure that we get involved in making the change because we can complain and blog all we want but unless we are outthere helping candidates nothing will change. We can want change if we are not willing to work for it. Let’s go Fort Worth.. 2013 is the first step then onto 2015 to make more change.




  12.  
    Teacher

    Agree with everything said here. It has been weeks since the Weekly reported on the latest AHHS scandal. NOTHING has been done by Dansby, Vasquez, or Needham. Oliver is still Principal – still going to his “classes”. Teachers from Eastern Hills need to come forward and tell about the Spanish class where the Principal decided that 90+ students who attended Spanish “class” sitting in the gym the entire first semester were allegedly simply given a “95″. We are all afraid of retaliation but we have got to come forward! Again, you just have to ask why Chavez got her job back, a raise, legal fees and damages when Duran did not and Palazzolo is still in litigation.





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