November School Board Election Presents Opportunity for Change

The number of signatures calling for Midland ISD’s superintendent to resign demonstrates Midlanders’ desire for change in their school district. However, if residents want the district to chart a different path, it will come only through holding the current school board accountable, or by electing new members in November.

It’s been a little over a week since local advocacy group Midland Moms on a Mission launched a petition calling for the resignation of Midland ISD’s superintendent and other district leaders.

With 635 signatures as of Wednesday, it is undoubtedly making a statement. But Midlanders should know the petition is not legally binding, which begs the question: what’s to come of it?

Though combating bullying and improving MISD’s culture of leadership are goals arguably shared by everyone in the community, critics of the petition rightly question whether this tactic is the most effective way of accomplishing those goals. From a policy perspective, it isn’t.

MMOMs was founded on anti-bullying advocacy, but the petition is much broader — asking Superintendent Orlando Riddick and “specific leaders and employees of under his authority” to resign due to a “collapse of leadership and school administration.” Reasons cited to justify these changes are high employee turnover, inadequate school safety, corrupt leadership, community distrust, and poor communication.

Petition drives are a tool often used by citizens to enact political change, primarily at the local level. However, not only does state law not allow online petitions to be legally binding, but most petition provisions allowed in the code do not apply to school districts.

According to Chapter 87 of the Texas Local Government Code, residents can file a written petition of registered voters for the removal of a school board trustee with the appropriate district court in the case of “incompetency, official misconduct, or intoxication on or off duty.” An online petition for the removal of a superintendent has no legal implication but is simply a way for residents to express disapproval — as demonstrated in Katy, Spring, Kirbyville, Wilson, and now Midland ISDs.

As stated earlier, is simply expressing disapproval and calling for the resignation of Riddick the most effective way to elicit positive change within MISD?

The petition states, “After nearly a year of leadership Mr. Riddick has failed to optimally perform in the [above listed] areas, which are a part of his contractual obligations as the head of schools MISD.” This seems to imply the issues with bullying and leadership culture were either caused, made worse, or overlooked by Riddick during his one year as top administrator.

It’s important to note that the law already provides a remedy for dissatisfied taxpayers: voting at the ballot box.

This November, three school board trustee seats will be on the ballot — District 3 which has been held by Trustee Tommy Bishop since 2006, District 6 which has been held by MISD Board President Rick Davis since 2008; and District 5 which was vacated by former Trustee Karen Nicholson.

The filing period for candidates to run for a place on November’s ballot began July 21 and continues until August 20. Elections, and this one especially, are an opportune time to call for changes demanded by residents.

 

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Lauren Melear

Lauren Melear leads the West Texas Bureau for Empower Texans & Texas Scorecard. When not working, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, as well as cooking, working out, traveling to the hill country, and cheering on the fightin' Texas Aggies.

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