Ashley Paz recently made history by possibly becoming the first elected official in the universe to initiate an investigation of herself. The Texas Education Agency will look into the Fort Worth school board member’s “complaints concerning Fort Worth ISD,” according to Ashley Jernigan, TEA investigations officer.
The request for an investigation, Paz told us, is intended to clear allegations that she mishandled complaints by several parents whose children attend a high school within her District 9. Parents began voicing complaints about a then-new principal early last fall, according to Paz, who said privacy laws prohibit her from disclosing either the school or principal in question. Allegations of students using racial slurs and bullying were two main concerns that parents brought to the principal’s attention. Paz acknowledges mistakes were made in promptly addressing those concerns.
“Anytime you have someone who is new to a situation, [that person] has to establish credibility with staff” and parents by empathetically listening to their concerns, Paz said. “I think that might have been overlooked.”
Last May, one parent emailed the school board, accusing Paz of using her position to try to force out the embattled principal. Paz said the parent threatened to file a complaint with the TEA, prompting Paz to file first, such was her belief in her forthrightness. While that request works its way through TEA channels, Paz said significant progress has been made at the school.
“We’ve held [and continue to hold] meetings between the aggrieved parties and the principal,” she said. “It’ll take everyone working together to move forward.”
Paz is waiting to hear from TEA officials about the timeline of the investigation. Given that relationships between the parents and the principal are on the mend, she doesn’t think the issue will be a “top priority” for the state agency.
Paz said that the Fort Worth school district and others across the state have “bigger issues, such as access to special needs services, testing violations, governance violations, and fraud.”