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Education

North Texas School District Takes Step Toward Firing Principal

James Whitfield speaks emphatically at a podium, with a large crowd of people listening behind him.
Miranda Suarez
/
KERA
James Whitfield, the principal of Colleyville Heritage High School, speaks at Monday's school board meeting.

The Grapevine-Colleyville school board voted on Monday night to take the first step toward not renewing James Whitfield's contract. He'll have the opportunity to have a hearing, where the board will make a final decision.

James Whitfield said he will take the school district up on its offer to hold a hearing to determine if he'll keep his job.

Whitfield was placed on leave on Aug. 30, a little over a month after a former school board candidate said Whitfield was promoting critical race theory (CRT). Whitfield is the first Black principal atColleyville Heritage High School.

Part of the criticism centers around a letter Whitfield wrote following the murder of George Floyd, in which he called on district families to fight against racism.

The school district has denied that CRT had anything to do with Whitfield being placed on leave. On Monday night, school officials detailed a long list of reasons why the superintendent recommended not to renew Whitfield's contract, including deficiencies in his employee evaluations and insubordination.

Whitfield said there wasn't a big problem until the board meeting where he was accused of promoting CRT.

"Prior to July 26, when they allowed what they allowed right here, the things that we mentioned — that wasn't the conversation we were having," he told reporters Monday.

More than 30 community members asked the board to support Whitfield at Monday's meeting.

Students in front of the Grapevine-Colleyville administration building hold signs protesting in support Principal James Whitfield.
Miranda Suarez / KERA News
A group of students supporting James Whitfield demonstrated outside Monday's school board meeting.

Rafa Merland-Roa, a sophomore at Colleyville Heritage, addressed her remarks to the parents who don’t interact with Whitfield the way students do.

“Did you know that every pep rally, he starts with ‘You are kind, you are beautiful, you are loved’?” she asked. "Did you know that he makes an effort with each individual student, makes handshakes and makes sure [he knows] their name? Do you know he makes sure that you’re OK physically and mentally?”

Whitfield’s attorney said trustees denied his request to have his own time to address them. So Whitfield took his one minute at the podium with the rest of the speakers.

“I have not changed,” Whitfield said. “I’m still the same man today as when you hired me in ’18-19, when you promoted me twice in three years."

He also defended his efforts to make sure all students, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, have access to “excellent, equitable education.”

“Yes, I said those words," Whitfield said. "Unfortunately, my unapologetic stance for those things have brought us here tonight.”

He has 15 days to appeal Monday's decision and request a hearing.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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