Teachers balk at sup’s request to call parents about bond

October 23, 2013

Granbury School Superintendent Jim Largent sent out emails to educators last week, urging them to call parents reminding them about the $85 million school bond election.

The request didn’t receive a unanimous vote from teachers.

Some teachers said they would feel uncomfortable calling parents on school time and discussing a political issue, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Early voting started Monday, and Election Day is Nov. 5. Renovations, additions and security are included in the bond proposal.

The school complied with a request by the Hood County News and furnished the superintendent’s emails.

The first email was directed to principals. It said, in part, “As voting starts next Monday (this past Monday), we feel it is imperative that we get as much information out to our parents as possible. One technique, especially at the elementary campuses, is to have each teacher simply contact the parents of their students. Our teachers have likely had some personal contact with all their parents at this point, so they are probably the best people to reach out to them with this information.

“I have attached a script of how the phone call would be handled by the teacher. We are only giving out information, so this is perfectly legal to do.

“We would like to get input on the phone calls. Those who say I’m not interested, don’t plan to vote, tell us they are against the bond, etc. We also want to know those who offer that they will be voting in favor of the bond, want a call back, etc. We do not ask them to vote for or against, and we don’t ask them how they plan to vote. But, if they offer this information, please jot it down and get this back to us ASAP.

“I know some teachers may not want to do this, etc. It is certainly not a requirement, but if a teacher tells us they will not be participating, it would be great if someone else would call their parents for them.

“Again, this is just a final strategy to get our parents (the demographic who has a really poor voter turnout rate) to vote in the election. Anything we can do to help inform them of the issue and when voting starts could be a vital part of this election.”

Some teachers were upset when principals relayed the email to them.

Teachers felt it was unethical for the superintendent to expect them to call parents about anything that involves voting or is of a political matter, the source who asked not be identified said.

Some teachers also felt intimidated.

“They fear there will be repercussions, especially if the bond does not pass,” the source said. “Then there are those that are not for this bond to pass, but are expected to do something they do not support.”

The second email went to teachers. It said, in part, “This is not a ‘Jim Largent strategy.’ It is a strategy that has been successful in schools like ours where voter turnout is pretty dismal.

“Please do not be offended that you were asked to do this. We are not asking anyone to call parents they know will be upset, or that you don’t know at all.

FAMILIAR WITH PARENTS

“By this time in the school year, I would hope that most of you (especially at the elementary level) have had a chance to meet, speak to, and interact with the parents of the students you work with every day. And most of you at the secondary level know a lot of your parents, too. This is simply another attempt to give parents information about an issue that will impact their children’s education.

“You would not believe how many people I talk to that have no idea there is a bond election going on.

“Again, this is not a mandate, a directive, or something where we are going to be upset if you don’t do this.

“You are not calling to ‘talk them into something’ or to ask them how they will vote. But, if you have good relationships with the parents in your class, I have a hard time believing that they will be offended if you call to remind them of early voting or to see if they need any more information about our bond proposal.”

Largent told the Hood County News Monday that the bond issue is not a political race involving Democrats and Republicans.

He said some teachers may feel it is unethical to be asked to call parents, “but many others want to know how they can help, and feel that there is nothing unethical about being asked to talk to parents about an issue that impacts their children.

“No one was told they had to do this, nor were they given any directive to do this. No one is tracking or keeping a tally of how many phone calls anyone makes.

“Teachers who feel intimidated or feel that there will be repercussions if the bond doesn’t pass have absolutely no basis for those feelings.”

The superintendent also said if employees are against the bond “it is certainly their right to vote against it.”

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