By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Price says he referenced the "N word" as an example of racism but never actually said it. He says he also referenced the "H word" as the counterpart used to denigrate whites.
The following day, he was greeted by the HISD police. Department Captain Jeffery McMillin confirms that two officers did visit the school because of reports that Price had a gun, but the officers did not find a weapon. How that resulted in Price's suspension due to allegations of racism, McMillin could not say: "I don't know where the two connect."
Somehow, though, Officer R.E. Peters wrote up both the gun and the alleged racial harassment. His police report lists five complainants, all Kashmere Gardens parents. Each either failed to return calls from the Press or refused to discuss the allegations of racism, but one, Priscilla Wilson, did say Jefferson called her to the school that Tuesday, and another, Cynthia Catina, would say only that she reported the incident to the school herself.
Judging by the evidence, it's no wonder Jefferson would want to get rid of Price. For one thing, Price had his share of run-ins with his previous principal, Joyce Andrews at Bastian Elementary; in fact, the whole faculty was divided into two camps over Andrews. In 1994 Price was involuntarily transferred from Bastian after having a heart attack on campus; shortly afterward Andrews was removed from the school in an HISD "intervention."
At Kashmere Gardens, Price had been waging war with Jefferson for months over the way she runs the school. He claims his every offer to help the school, by calling in favors from contacts at Southwestern Bell and other businesses to running a reading competition, was rejected by Jefferson. "All that threatened her," Price says.
Frustrated, Price says, he started to fight back. Among Price's milder allegations: Jefferson refused to buy supplies for students, kept Price's orders for library books sitting on her desk for weeks and locked new audio-visual and computer equipment in a closet where no one could access it. In fact, only two weeks before the HISD police escorted him of campus, Price gave Jefferson a seven-page letter detailing his complaints. "Why when I mention our wonderful test scores in public people look at me and smile like I should be in an institution?" Price wrote. "Do they know something I don't know?"
Price says he made attempts to inform the district of allegations of cheating and mismanagement at the school. Since June, he says, he has contacted Curtis five times. "I told him something was going to happen to me" he says, adding that Curtis simply made note of his complaints. When the Press asked if Curtis would respond to Price's statements, spokesman Abbott said there would be no comment.
Price also points out that Jefferson has tried to pin charges of racism on him before. In October, when two HISD investigators visited Kashmere as part of their probe of cheating on the TAAS, Price says assistant principal Vivian Davis accused him of calling them. Shortly afterward, he says, Jefferson told him parents had complained about him. Price claims Jefferson also called children in one fifth-grade class to her office and tried to tape-record their saying Price had made racist comments.
Price's union representative, Carol Galloway, put an end to those accusations, though Galloway says she didn't know about the tape recording. "It was a parental complaint, but it wasn't about racism. They didn't present it within policy, that's all."
The race-related allegations, along with the added reports about the Jasper incident, apparently rematerialized after the gun search proved fruitless. Now, with the Jasper tie-in, the story has been getting nibbles from national reporters. Although Price agreed to be interviewed by several TV stations, he laments the resulting effect on his life; he says he's been recognized at restaurants, the grocery store and the copy shop. "Six million people now think I'm a racist," says Price. "People asking me if I said those things; people asking me why did I drag that kid -- it tears my heart out.