02:40:06 am, by bill
, 1142 words,
Categories: Observer Opinions, Open Government, Education
Lovejoy ISD is one of the smallest school districts in North Texas, serving about 2,500 students from parts of Fairview, Lucas and the surrounding communities.
Lovejoy ISD is also one of the richest in the state. According to the Collin County Central Appraisal District, the average home value in LISD is over $327,000. Even with the high property values, the taxpayers in the district pay one of the highest rates in the region at $1.4763.
In 2007, the TEA rated only one school district in Collin County "Exemplary" - Lovejoy ISD. Ted Moore (picture below), the LISD superintendent has been named as one of 5 finalists for Texas School Administrator of the year.
Yet there is a dark side to the Lovejoy success story.
For several years now, one of Collin County's oldest community bulletin boards, lovejoyschools.com, has been sharply critical of the LISD board and policies.
Recently, lovejoyschools.com, which styles itself as the " unofficial Lovejoy Independent School District information site", has leveled allegations of nepotism, official oppression, and other "unnamed, serious allegations" made against the LISD superintendent, Ted Moore.
While the mainstream press has refrained from covering the scandal, a teacher, recently voted as "Teacher of the Year" was fired and then paid off in a $50,000 settlement. The superintendent held an "invitation only" closed meeting with selected citizens to defend himself, and a parent was served with "Cease and Desist" orders, banned from the schools and then cleared of all wrongdoing.
Last November, Laura Goodson, who is one of the members of lovejoyschools.com and a parent of a LISD student, posted a response she had received from the McKinney ISD on an Open Records Request. Goodson asked MISD for any records concerning misappropriation of funds in regards to Ted Moore, Dennis Muizers and Mark Slavin during their employment of MISD in 2004-2005.
Dennis Muizers had worked under the supervision of Ted Moore when Moore was at MISD, and Moore had recently hired Muizers as the Assistant Superintendent at Lovejoy.
After protracted 4 month legal battle, allegedly paid for in part by the Lovejoy ISD, that resulted in the Texas Attorney General ordering the release of the documents, MISD released documents detailing allegations that Muizers had left MISD after being placed on administrative leave during an investigation on his falsifying time records for one of his employees, Mark Slavin.
Mark Slavin was the son-in-law of Ted Moore.
After being hired by LISD, Muizers then hired Slavin to run the newly created preschool for LISD employee's children. Research by members of lovejoyschools.com revealed that Slavin had no college degree yet was placed in administrative authority over certified teachers and was paid a salary larger than experienced teachers in the district.
On March 11, 2008, while the Open Records battle was happening, Ms. Goodson attended an open house at her child's school. Goodson stopped to talk with Laura Hendrix, a fourth grade teacher about getting her child transferred to Hendrix's class.
Another teacher overheard the conversation and reported it to the school's administrators, alleging that Ms. Goodson 'defamed' Ted Moore by spreading rumors about Moore's family issues. It seems LISD has a rule forbidding anyone from disparaging the district or its administrators on school property.
Then on April 10, 2008, Ms. Goodson met with Gavan Goodrich, the principle of Lovejoy Middle School regarding her child, towards the end of the meeting, Gavin Goodrich said he had to check on something – left the room and returned with Mari McGowan of the law firm of Abernathy Roeder Boyd & Joplin. McGowan handed Goodson a Cease and Desist letter from Abernathy representing the LISD board and another one from Ted Moore’s personal attorney. Goodson was banned from all LISD campuses.
Laura Hendrix, the teacher in the conversation, was no longer seen at LMS. She had been suspended. Now the parent, Ms. Goodson, was banned from the campus.
Attempts by Ms. Goodson to ascertain the reasons for Hendrix' suspension and her own banning using the Texas Open Records Act were stymied by LISD. At one point the district demanded $871 to fulfill her open records request. For the second time, the Texas Attorney General had to intervene to require that the district comply with Goodson's request.
On May 6, Tonya Vining, the Executive director of Personnel, send Ms. Goodson a letter stating, "Based on the findings of the investigation, the District has determined that you did not make the specific statement alleged. Therefore, the directive previously issued regarding your access to Lovejoy ISD campuses has been revoked."
But while Goodson was cleared, on June 17, Laura Hendrix's contract was terminated by the school board for the same incident.
On July 16 Ted Moore invited "selected parents" to a closed meeting where he showed a power point presentation comparing lovejoyschools.com to the National Enquirer. A public meeting that he had previously called for July 22 was abruptly canceled with no real explanation.
And on August 19 the LISD board approved a settlement agreement ending Ms. Hendrix's contract and paying her $50,000.
One effect of the settlement was to end all litigation. Earlier, lovejoyschools.com founder, Brenda Rizos was served with a subpoena in a lawsuit styled Lovejoy Independent School District vs. Laura Hendrix. That subpoena duces tecum required Ms. Rizos to produce the servers and all computers used in her email and for the lovejoyschools.com website. It also required Ms. Rizos to furnish the real names of all subscribers to her website, all communications to the press and all emails to Hendrix, Goodson and others.
The battle, which started over an Open Records request back in November of 2007, had ended On August 19.
To date, the Texas Attorney General had to intervene twice against the school districts, a parent was served with a Cease and Desist writ, and then exonerated, and an award winning teacher was fired, and then paid off. A subpoena has been served on the founder of lovejoyschools.com, and the school district paid unknown sums in legal fees for itself, Moore and Muizers.
No apologies or admissions of wrongdoing were ever issued by Moore or the LISD.
It is still a violation of LISD policy to defame or disparage Ted Moore, or any administrator at Lovejoy ISD.
The discussion and criticism at lovejoyschools.com continues.