Pflugerville ISD teachers rally for transparency, free speech amid rumors of COVID-19 outbreaks within district

Education

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — The Pflugerville Board of Trustees unanimously struck down a level four grievance filed against it by the Pflugerville Educators’ Association on Thursday.

The grievance, which was initially filed half a year ago, was in regard to a board policy which limits public comments in regularly scheduled board meetings to only topics that are listed on the agenda.

The trustees were allowed to enact such a measure in September 2019, following the passage of House Bill 2840.

House Bill 2840… provides the opportunity for public comment at every posted meeting of the board of trustees including workshops, special meetings, etc… (t)he District allows for public comment at its board meetings. For board meetings that have been designated as Board Workshops, comments may pertain to an item posted on that meeting’s agenda as well as issues unrelated to that meeting’s agenda. For all other board meetings, comments must pertain to an item posted on that meeting’s agenda. If you have information you would like the board to be aware of, you may always contact the District directly.

Pflugerville Independent School District

The Association argued it gravely harms the way in which teachers, parents and the greater community can share their most pressing needs, concerns and praises with their elected officials.

“I feel like I should be able to come and address the board if I have concerns with my child’s education here in the school district. And I feel like I am being limited,” said Pflugerville Educators’ Association President August Plock.

This comes at a time when members of the community have expressed displeasure and openly criticized the way the district has handled the ongoing semester.

Parents and teachers told KXAN they are concerned with the cleanliness of the schools after several buckets of disinfectant wipes were discovered with mildew and mold grown overnight.

“I can’t tell you how many days kids were probably cleaning with mold. No wonder our migraines are off the chain these past few weeks,” said Franchesca Mejia, the Vice President for the Pflugerville Educators’ Association.

Others were concerned about the lack of transparency from the district about possible clusters of COVID-19 cases within the school. They say the district isn’t updating its COVID-19 dashboard quick enough to match the pace in which cases are being reported among the student body.

“Cases are popping up all week long, multiple cases, multiple exposures. 97 exposures already, yet we don’t hear about them,” Mejia said.

For several days, KXAN has sent repeated attempts to Pflugerville ISD communication officials about reports of moldy disinfectant materials and to confirm a possible cluster of COVID-19 cases at an elementary school, based on circulating discussion seen widely on social media.

The district hasn’t answered any of KXAN’s repeated attempts.

These disruptions and lack of communication from the district has caused veteran teachers to resign. Dan Dawer, who has worked for PFISD for more than a decade, left his position two weeks ago, saying he didn’t feel like the district had himself or his students’ best interest in mind.

“I was concerned with being apart of a system that told its students and families that it was safe, when I don’t believe that it is,” Dawer said.

Kelley Kalchthaler, the lawyer representing the district argued there are several ways the community can communicate to the board of trustees, such as email, phone calls and letter writing. Kalchthaler said people can still speak to the trustees in public comment if the topic is on the agenda.

Plock said allowing the public to openly discuss these issues with their board of trustees cuts down on the issues that teachers, students and their families will ultimately face.

“It stops rumors from happening that I’ve seen on Facebook and other social media posts where folks are talking about what is happening inside of our district without any confirmation,” Plock said. “I think we need to make sure we have information that is accurate for the public in our community to know. Is their child safe here in school, and what is the district doing about it?”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Austin-Travis County

More Austin-Travis County News

Tracking the Coronavirus

Coronavirus Cases Tracker

Latest Central Texas COVID-19 Cases

More Coronavirus Live Blogs

Trending Stories

Don't Miss