Statement from GCISD - September 22, 2021
Posted on 09/22/2021

Dr. James Whitfield and his attorney issued a press release Wednesday regarding the procedures surrounding the proposed nonrenewal of his contract and the vote taken Monday, Sept. 20 by the GCISD Board of Trustees. The statements in Dr. Whitfield’s press release require context and correction.

Dr. Whitfield’s attorneys have blatantly mischaracterized the non-renewal procedures provided by Texas law. According to the Texas Commissioner of Education, the Term Contract Nonrenewal Act of 1981 provides educators with the procedural protections of requiring written evaluations, policy-based reasons for nonrenewal, notice of proposed nonrenewal, and an opportunity for hearing, if requested by the employee. A final vote by the Board on whether to non-renew an educator’s contract — which is the final step — may not be taken without the Board first providing timely notice of proposed nonrenewal, and the opportunity for an evidentiary hearing, if requested by the employee. Therefore, contrary to the attorney’s assertions, the Board’s vote Monday was NOT final and Dr. Whitfield has NOT effectively been fired.  In fact, several members of the GCISD Board of Trustees went out of their way to express Monday that they want to hear from Dr. Whitfield and give him the opportunity to respond to the issues raised by the GCISD administration as part of the proposed nonrenewal.

A few hours before Monday’s meeting, through his attorney, Dr. Whitfield requested an opportunity to be heard in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act. The Board provides this opportunity to members of the public during the open forum portion of the meeting. On Monday, each speaker during open forum, including Dr. Whitfield, had one minute to address the Board due to the number of individuals signed up to speak. In Wednesday’s press release, Dr. Whitfield’s attorney criticizes the Board of Trustees for not addressing his situation for more than an hour after he spoke. However, Board Operating Procedures state “Board members may respond to comments when the agenda item is considered.” This is the longstanding operating procedure of the Board and one that was followed Monday night.

Dr. Whitfield’s attorney states in Wednesday’s press release that “GCISD was only willing to grant Dr. Whitfield sixty seconds.” However, sixty seconds is the amount of time that was given to anyone who spoke in open forum at Monday’s meeting due to the number of individuals signed up to speak. The appropriate place to have a more extensive dialogue between Dr. Whitfield and the Board of Trustees will come when and if Dr. Whitfield requests a hearing as outlined in Board Policies DFBB(LOCAL). At that time, the Board will conduct an evidentiary hearing that includes the presentation of evidence and witness testimony. 

GCISD has worked carefully throughout this matter to adhere to appropriate procedures and laws regarding the proposed nonrenewal of an employee’s contract. The District and Board of Trustees have also labored to be clear with the public about the opportunity that state law gives an employee — Dr. Whitfield in this case — to fully present their side of the story. GCISD remains focused on educating every child in our outstanding school district as we await Dr. Whitfield’s decision about whether he will request a hearing before the Board of Trustees.