George Scott, sealed behind a closed door inside the Katy ISD Education Complex, waited nervously as the mailed-in ballots were recounted by hand. His competitor, Joe Adams, sat nearby, also champing at the bit.
In the end, Scott won. Again. By double the original margin of victory.
When Scott assumes his voter-elected spot on the board of the Katy Independent School District, the eighth-largest in the state, it will signal a significant change. Scott, a longtime renegading public-policy advocate, education researcher and journalist, will replace Adams, who served on the Katy ISD board for 27 years.
It’s one of those deals where a victory for the thorn-in-your-side firebrand, who has consistently pointed a finger at the Katy school board as well as the Harris County Appraisal District, seemed as unlikely as you-know-who’s run for the United States presidency.
But here we are, with the upstart Scott, who, after the recount, won the election with 1,479 votes to Adams’s 1,473, about to take hold of the school board’s Position 1. (Following the May 13 counting of provisional ballots, unofficial results showed Scott winning 1,475 to 1,472. The slim difference is why Adams asked for a recount.)
How did Scott do it?
“My campaign was almost certainly one of the more substantive, issue-oriented ones involving a local school board in that I was not focused on specific controversy that often produces candidates,” Scott tells the Houston Press hours after the May 24 recount proclaimed him the official winner.
On the surface, Scott, via self-produced video messages posted to his George Scott Reports blog, seems to bite the head off of Adams. However, the rhetoric never devolved into personal attacks on Adams. Instead, Scott pointed out local and statewide issues hurting Texas public education and backs them into a corner.
“The State of Texas has literally lied for the past 27 years since the development of the TAAS accountability test, continuing through today's STAAR test about the legitimate grade skills of significant percentages of Texas schoolchildren. Over this time, a compulsive and systemic dishonesty has overtaken the educational system's willingness to tell the truth about the academic realities our classroom teachers confront in their classrooms every day,” says Scott, explaining one of his campaign positions.
“There is a compulsive public relations machine model at the state level dedicated to telling some of the truth some of the time to some of the people and all of the truth all of the time to none of the people. This is actually not debatable. The state's academic reporting system is pervasively dishonest and academically corrupt. Accountability testing as implemented in Texas has left so much damage in its wake. Students, teachers, parents and taxpayers have been harmed.”
Scott has bent the ears of the Press’s reporters for a decade-plus. In one case, Scott took HCAD, his former employer, to task over Harris County's busted property-tax valuation system. Additionally, last fall, before deciding to run for the school board, he waged an interesting (albeit unsuccessful, owing to a lack of funding) campaign to create a shadow school board.
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In other words, Scott rarely pulls his punches. What happens when there are disagreements with his fellow school-board members?
“My professional background and decades of analysis of this system insulates me more from unreasonable influence of this system than many. In the instance of the Katy ISD School Board, I have expressed my genuine personal respect for the remaining six members of the school board. My criticisms have not been personal; rather, more institutional in nature.
"There are some very well-qualified individuals on that board. Our experiences are different. Our strengths are different. But I am confident our goals include finding common denominators,” says Scott, who's expected to be sworn in during a May 31 school-board meeting. The board also plans to announce the sole finalist for Katy ISD superintendent; that person will replace Alton Frailey, who announced his retirement in January.
“The burden is clearly on me to work with them in a way that allows me to earn some trust and confidence so that we can find those common denominators. I think they are going to find that I can work with them constructively. In this campaign, they have all taken steps of cooperation in my direction as I have taken steps in their direction. I am very positive about working with them.”