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Spring Branch ISD going down the tubes

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Spring Branch ISD seems to be imploding lately. In a matter of less than a month’s time they have had two high profile situations that have raised serious concerns about SBISD’s ability to remain a highly rated district.

In the first situation, Superintendent Jennifer Blaine and other high ranking individuals in the district, as well as the board members, have been flooding district families' inboxes imploring them to reach out to the state legislature, warning them that if the state doesn’t raise Spring Branch’s per-student allotment by $1,000, the following consequences will occur starting the 2024-2025 school year:

  • Quote


    • Combine schools/change boundaries
    • Change staffing models, including class sizes
    • Eliminate 10-20% of SBISD staff
    • Remove the 20% local optional homestead exemption
    • Discontinue the block schedule model for Stratford High School
    • Reduce programming and/or institute pay-to-play models for athletics, performing and visual arts
    • Discontinue choice and specialized programs
    • Cut safety and security, counseling and mental health services
    • Cut centralized instructional supports, including but not limited to, interventions, Dyslexia services, and college and career counseling
    • Cut business and operations functions that support the district’s safety, security and fiscal management
    • Raise the tax rate


Senators Paul Bettencourt and Joan Huffman have called the district’s claims “scare tactics” meant to “distract parents from how the school district is managing their local, state, and federal funds like their recent hiring of Austin lobbyists.”


The second situation is Spring Branch canceling all school field trips to see Main Street Theatre’s production of James and the Giant Peach. SBISD received nationwide and international negative coverage over this. This decision came very soon after a mother gave a rambling, incoherent tirade claiming the performance had characters “in drag”. This mother is a frequent flyer at SBISD board meetings’ public comment periods, always spouting fringe right wing anti-CRT, anti-trans rhetoric, and attacking one of the more moderate  board members, a Methodist pastor. The district should have known her complaint wasn’t credible, but ever since the the board was taken over by a majority of super-conservative trustees that ran as anti-CRT and anti-trans candidates in 2022, there is such a culture of fear among district employees that they fold to any complaint related to the board majority’s pet issues. After all the overwhelmingly negative publicity the decision brought down on the district, the district finally issued a statement where they claimed the decision was not based on Gerland’s comments, but unnamed teachers and parents had raised concerns about “movements that could be perceived as suggestive in nature that took place during the performance.

Criticism of the district’s decision has been fierce. David DeMatthews of UT’s Department of Educational Leadership was particularly scathing in his assessment of how Superintendent Blaine handled the situation:



To demonstrate how obsessed the new SBISD board is about culture war issues: In the midst of this crisis over Spring Branch’s financial sustainability, the board also discussed pulling out of the Texas Association of School Boards. This itself would have financial implications for the district, because it gets significant discounts in items like insurance, legal services, etc. Leaving TASB would raise costs for the district. So why was the board considering it? Because TASB’s guidance on transgender students wasn’t conservative enough for the SBISD board, and TASB didn’t distance itself from the National School Boards Association after NSBA sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking it to investigate the increase of threats of violence against school boards. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I’m not sure how many people outside of Spring Branch were paying attention to what has been going on there before the James and the Giant Peach fiasco, but things are really bad there. Major crackdowns on teachers and students’ self-expression. Pretty oppressive new rules on what kind of décor teachers can have in their classrooms, what they can wear on their persons, like no rainbow pins on lanyards, etc, no pronouns in their email signatures, etc. Pulling books from libraries and teacher’s classrooms has been a big priority. The Newberry Award winning book New Kid is an example of a book that was challenged. The board passed a new policy that made it easier for parents to challenge books, and more heavily weighted parental input into the decision on whether a book is pulled or not. But then other parents started challenging all sorts of books to prove that the process was flawed, the board got furious and just started reviewing books themselves. Even books that have not been through any kind of review process have been peremptorily pulled, there are entire rooms at schools filled with pulled books. And board members have started going after vendors and threatening to cancel their contracts because they don’t like their perceived politics. They’re going after everyone from Blue Willow Bookshop, a beloved mom and pop store that has brought wonderful authors to speak at SBISD schools, just because Blue Willow’s social media is pro-inclusiveness and anti-censorship, to Scholastic, the national company that runs book fairs.

There are also other reasons SBISD's political/cultural climate might not be appealing to open-minded, educated families looking for a place to move to.The Villages, the areas zoned for Memorial High School, are where the most rabid conservative trustees and their ardent supporters come from, and unsurprisingly, the climate there is incredibly racist. There is an entire section of the bleachers at Memorial home football games that yells racist and homophobic epithets at visiting school players and band members, has for years, and the administration hasn't done a thing about it. It's a school that has events like this:


I see things going very badly for Spring Branch ISD over the next five years. Spring Branch is already having trouble recruiting faculty and staff. Classes like high school chemistry are running at as many as 60 kids per qualified teacher, who divides him time between two classrooms, with a student teacher pinch hitting for him in one when he’s in the other. Candidates are turning down job offers both because SBISD’s pay is not competitive and because they see the district in turmoil. When school boards go hard right on these culture war issues, teachers quit. Since Keller ISD’s board pushed to remove books about gender identity, teacher resignations went up 59%. After Granbury ISD pulled over 125 titles from library shelves, teacher resignations in that district shot up 115%. And now if SBISD staff think they might be laid off when other districts are scrambling for qualified applicants, well, I’d be looking for a job right now if I worked as SBISD. Teachers and staff will be signing their contracts for next year over the next month or so, will be interesting to see how many don’t resign with SBISD by the deadline.

People pay the premium real estate prices and the premium taxes in the Memorial area for the SBISD schools. When schools can’t hire decent teachers, their performance and reputation goes downhill fast, and property values in the area follow, and it’s a self-sustaining process of decline. Now you have a district that is publicly on the brink of financial meltdown by its own characterization, you have teachers not wanting to work there because they don’t know if they’ll have a job there in a year and they can make more elsewhere, where they won’t have to fear their every word being scrutinized for “woke” leanings. Pretty soon you’ll see a mix of parents pulling their kids from public school because either they’re concerned about the declining educational performance, or because they are the kind that buy into the Moral Panic over CRT and gender identity, as well as people not wanting to move into a district with a national reputation of being small-minded, reactionary, and a local reputation of being financially unstable. That’s going to drive down the Average Daily Attendance used to determine funding, as well as drive property values down, that will only worsen SBISD’s financial woes, further drive down performance.

I remember how in the 70s and 80s SBISD went from being a top-regarded district to second-rate pretty fast; teachers and administrators fled the district for growing districts in the suburbs, they had to close two high schools, Spring Branch High School and Westchester High School, and Northbrook High School went from a decent high school to the low-performing school it is now. I remember in the late 80s my parents thought about moving closer into town and considered buying a really nice house south of I-10, zoned for Memorial High School, but decided to stay in the far suburbs because they were worried they’d probably have to fork out for private school if they moved into SBISD. I see that fate repeating itself for SBISD this decade.

Edited by Reefmonkey
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The need for additional state funding applies to all districts. Bettencourt and Huffman would be happy to eliminate public schools completely, just like their mentor Dan "Despicable Human Being" Patrick. 

I do hope that the lawsuit to force single member districts for SBISD succeeds, and the obnoxious jerks from South of I-10 lose control. They are only interested in keeping Memorial and Stratford as good schools, and could not care less about the schools North of I-10.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Ross said:

The need for additional state funding applies to all districts. Bettencourt and Huffman would be happy to eliminate public schools completely, just like their mentor Dan "Despicable Human Being" Patrick. 

I do hope that the lawsuit to force single member districts for SBISD succeeds, and the obnoxious jerks from South of I-10 lose control. They are only interested in keeping Memorial and Stratford as good schools, and could not care less about the schools North of I-10.

Oh, you're 100% right, and that's the pathetic irony. The conservative SBISD board members, Chris Earnest, Lisa Alpe, Caroline Bennett, and John Perez are all true believers, they believe in public education....they just want that public education to conform to their conservative Christian values. When they were running for office and had people like Bettencourt, Huffman, and Mano DeAyala patting them on the back and cheering them on, saying "you fight that fight against CRT and gender identity," they didn't realize these seasoned politicians were playing them as useful idiots in their long game to tank public education. And it starts with using hysteria over moral panics like CRT and gender identity to push for "school choice." “School choice” and voucher programs have always been a Trojan horse extremists have been constructing with the intent to siphon funding from public education to force it to collapse. Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo, the architect of the strategy of elevating critical race theory from an obscure graduate-level academic theory into a major conservative talking point, said in 2022 “To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust.” The strategy has always been to sow distrust of public schools by manufacturing outrage over lies about schools “failing” and “indoctrinating” students. Once enough people bought this Big Lie to be amenable to voucher programs, the decreased funding would make the “failing” part a self-fulfilling prophesy. Once public schools were truly failing anyone who could afford to put their children in private schools or homeschooling would have no choice but to do so, and public education would diminish in significance in American society. 

Earnest, Alpe, Bennett, and Perez are all shellshocked. Perez especially, this guy thinks he's the smartest guy in any room, and in every board meeting, just about every third sentence he's reminding everyone that he's an engineer, he thought these guys in Austin were his friends, he kept telling everyone "just wait, you'll see, Mano [DeAyala] is gonna come through for us," like Little Orphan Annie telling the other kids in the orphanage that her parents were coming back for her.

And you're absolutely right, they don't care about north of I-10, which makes it that much more disgusting when they shamelessly talk about how Austin doesn't understand how unique Spring Branch is, that we're only one of two Recapture districts that's majority low income students. I'm cheering on that lawsuit, but mostly I'm just hoping their buffoonery doesn't tank property values in the next two years, so we can cash out when our youngest graduates and move back into town.

Edited by Reefmonkey
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  • 2 months later...
On 5/8/2023 at 5:54 PM, Ross said:

The need for additional state funding applies to all districts. Bettencourt and Huffman would be happy to eliminate public schools completely, just like their mentor Dan "Despicable Human Being" Patrick. 

I do hope that the lawsuit to force single member districts for SBISD succeeds, and the obnoxious jerks from South of I-10 lose control. They are only interested in keeping Memorial and Stratford as good schools, and could not care less about the schools North of I-10.

Big question is whether the TX Education Agency takes over this school district as well ?


B.) NO



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  • 1 month later...

Well the last few board meetings have provided some good entertainment. The blood feud that has developed between SBISD board member John Perez and Texas House District 133 representative Mano Deeyala has all the high drama of a Shakespearean tragedy. Or at least the beef between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B.

Perez thought because Deyala cheered him on in all his efforts to ban books and expunge humaneness from SBISD that his fellow Latino conservative and he had an unbreakable bond, that he had Mano's ear. When the Texas Leg was still in the process of deciding how it was going to kill public education and all the other board members were incredibly alarmed, Perez kept reassuring them that Deayala was going to come through for them in the end, like Little Orphan Annie assuring the other orphans her mother and father really were going to come for her, just you wait and see! 

But once reality settled in Johnny felt betrayed by his bestie Mano. Deayala was the only Texas lawmaker who accepted the SBISD board's invitation to come face the music over the terrible school finance result, and he got hammered, especially by Perez, who accused Deayala of making private promises to him and then crawfishing on him, and Deayala was indignant at the accusations, insisting he never made any such promises and that as a freshman rep he was powerless to sway the vote (which almost sounded like he thought that absolved him of responsibility for voting with the majority).

Two days after that meeting, Perez annouced his intention to challenge Deayala in the next primary. Perez is making this very personal. After Ken Paxton's impeachment trial ended in acquittal, Perez issued a statement praising the result and blaming Deayala for Paxton being impeached in the first place: 

"The Texas Senate's unanimous acquittal of Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 impeachment charges raises a critical question: how did we end up in an impeachment trial in the first place? The responsibility for this lengthy and baseless ordeal lies squarely with my opponent, Mano Deayala, who has succumbed to political pressure from the left and initiated this months-long witch hunt."

I swear, if Deayala had been against impeaching Paxton, Perez probably would have accused him of failing to hold Paxton accountable for his corruption, Perez is that invested at lashing out at Deayala.

Those of you who paid attention to the Senate's vote on the charges might have raised your eyebrows at Perez's claim the acquittal was "unanimous", since the vote went 16-14 in 9 out of 16 charges, and none of the other 5 charges were unanimous either. You also might have looked twice at Perez's claim that Deayala "initiated" the impeachment effort against Paxton, since it was the Texas House General Investigating Committee who initiated the investigation against him and recommended he be impeached, and Deayala is NOT on this committee. It's hard to know if Perez just doesn't know what "unanimous" and "initiated" means, or he simply tried to get away with making factually false claims, because Perez often awkwardly misuses big words in SBISD board meetings, but he also is frequently guilty of bombast and exaggeration as well.

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