Katy ISD Superintendent Calls Anti-Stadium Signs "Bullying at Its Worst"

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Courtesy Michael Franks
School bond elections don't exactly see the type of white-knuckle politics currently plaguing Gov. Rick Perry (you can read about that here, in case you missed it). Still, things got pretty tense before the Katy ISD Board of Trustees' unanimous vote Monday night to put a $748 million bond package on November's ballot.

No matter how you look at it, Keith Carmichael accepted a pretty tough gig when he agreed to chair the district's bond committee, which worked for months to craft the multi-million dollar package the Katy ISD board approved last night. The district says it's fast outgrowing its current facilities, particularly in light the 3,000 additional students expected to join the district each year.

However, this most recent bond effort comes on the heels of last year's $100 million bond proposal, which voters rejected. The (most likely) reason for the proposal's failure at the ballot box? The district had included a contentious 14,000-seat, $69.5 million second football stadium in its bond referendum, drawing the ire of fiscal conservatives across the country (The Week dubbed the battle "The Tea Party vs. the $70 million high school football stadium"). If built, taxpayers would have funded the most expensive high school football stadium ever constructed.

So this go-around, the bond committee lowered the price tag. The district says the current package would fund six new schools, much needed renovations on existing campuses, and--you guessed it--a brand new, $58 million football stadium.

Courtesy Michael Franks
Apparently some in the community didn't want the meat-and-potatoes bond referendum stuff (renovations, new schools, etc.) mixed in with a proposal to build a $58 million football stadium--which would come in at about $2 million below the country's most expensive high school football stadium in Allen, Texas.

Courtesy Michael Franks
On Sunday, signs began to pop up around the Second Baptist Church West on Katy Freeway, where bond committee chair Keith Carmichael also serves as administrative pastor. "NO TO EXTORTION" one sign read, while another (presumably directed at Carmichael) blared "SECOND SAVES SOULS, NOT STADIUMS."

Michael Franks, who opposed throwing the stadium in with the rest of the bond proposal, saw the signs while driving Sunday morning (Franks insists he had nothing to do with the signs). "Voters should have a chance to vote for all of those school improvements separate from that stadium," he says. "Let that stadium be a stand-alone vote. Multi-million-dollar stadiums are a whole different issue than school improvements."

The signs apparently so angered Katy ISD Superintendent Alton Frailey that he sent out a blistering email to community members, parents, and staff before noon yesterday. He said the signs were "in opposition to our school district," and a "proverbial shot across the bow to those who would dare support Katy ISD."

"This is an example of bullying at its worst," Frailey continued, before asking the community to "condemn this type of dishonorable behavior. It does nothing to enhance or help our community in any way."

Here's Frailey's entire email:

August 18, 2014, 11:45 a.m.

Dear Katy ISD Community, Parents and Staff,

New signs were showcased over the weekend in our community in opposition to our school district. That is nothing new in today's political environment. However, one sign in particular indicates a much lower level of indecency and, perhaps, desperation. It personally attacked a long-time community resident who chose to volunteer, as a private citizen, on behalf of our students and our community. Additionally, I believe this was a proverbial shot across the bow threatening others who would dare support Katy ISD. This is an example of political bullying at its worst.

Keith Carmichael is an upstanding member of the community who is a great husband, father, and incidentally a highly respected pastor. He volunteered to serve as Chair of the 200 member community-based committee that studied our facility needs in order to arrive at consensus on a bond package that would be responsive to the tremendous growth of our student population. Mr. Carmichael's role was to ensure that committee members had access to the information they needed and that individuals supporting and opposing each issue had an opportunity to be heard. His service has been rewarded by a series of signs that have called into question his motivation and unbiased approach to the task he was given.

In recent elections, signs inserting President Obama and Washington D.C. were put up along with signs attacking Katy ISD. Some of these same individuals are now attacking a church congregation because one of its leaders, acting as a private citizen, dared to oversee the bond development process of a committee that worked together over the course of 4 months and collectively 6,000 hours. These actions are shameful and an insult to the committee and our entire community. I am personally familiar with the tactics that try to destroy a person's character. I have seen it enacted against my predecessor and it has been tried repeatedly against me. Keith Carmichael does not deserve this either.

As a community, I strongly encourage all of us to do the right thing and condemn this type of dishonorable behavior. It does nothing to enhance or help our community in any way. If an individual wishes to oppose one or more aspects of the bond, please do so in a respectful and kind manner. None of us should attack those who have actually invested in and supported the Katy community with their time, effort and energy to bring forth an equitable solution to the issues facing us all. This bond referendum has never been just about one project. It is about the heart of this community. It's about our values in support of our students, our volunteers, our schools and providing the best platform of success for our children, both in the classroom and in extracurricular endeavors. Shameful, ugly and insulting tactics only serve to polarize a community that should be working together with a single purpose in mind-- providing the best opportunities we can for our students.

The committee proposed one bond because we care about all of our students. To segregate students who participate in band, flag corps, dance team, cheerleading, soccer or football programs is to make them a political sacrificial lamb. It's about ALL of our students.

Alton Frailey Superintendent, Katy ISD

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