Colleyville High School Principal and District Agree to Separate
James Whitfield, the first black principal of Colleyville Heritage High School, and the school district agreed to go their separate ways after controversy erupted when he was accused of promoting critical breed theory and then told “racial attacks” against him on Facebook.
In a specially called meeting Monday night, Grapevine-Colleyville school trustees voted 7-0 to reach a settlement with Whitfield, meaning he will be on paid administrative leave until his resignation takes effect August 15, 2023.
Superintendent Robin Ryan read a statement prepared after council voted to accept the settlement.
“The Grapevine-Colleyville School District and James Whitfield have been in the media frequently and recently,” Ryan said. “Everyone firmly believes that they are right. However, everyone also agrees that the division in this community on this issue has profoundly affected the education of students in the district.
Ryan said the district and Whitfield have agreed to resolve their differences and that there will be no further public statements from either party.
Ahead of the vote, many speakers gathered in the boardroom to urge Whitfield to remain as director. But others were not so favorable.
Stetson Clark, who first criticized Whitfield in July for promoting critical breed theory, told administrators he didn’t think Whitfield should get money as part of his settlement.
“We come here in the hope of ending this very ugly and public chapter in the history of GCISD,” he said.
“I don’t think James Whitfield should be rewarded for his bad behavior and fanaticism. I agree that a settlement is more cost effective than a lawsuit.
Clark then asked, “How did we get here in the first place? Critical theory of race, equity, social and emotional learning, ”he said.
People in the audience laughed and shouted their disapproval. The chairman of the board, Jorge Rodriguez, hit with his hammer, trying to restore order.
“Sir, order sir,” he said.
Clark had 30 seconds to finish speaking.
But others begged administrators to allow Whitfield to remain director, including several students who said he was a great leader.
Sean Vo, a senior at Colleyville Heritage who organized walkouts to support Whitfield, said administrators had not listened to the students.
“We have been to these meetings several times. We have not yet been heard, we have not yet been heard, ”he said.
Beverly Mavis, who also spoke in favor of Whitfield, said there had been “a deep dive into Whitfield’s Facebook page, but none of the directors backed the principal.”
Becca Garrett, who also supported Whitfield, described him as a dynamic educator.
“I just want to say that we (the school district) screwed up here,” said Garrett, who added that she wanted the district staff to better reflect the diversity of the population.
How the controversy began
Whitfield was named Colleyville Heritage High School’s first black principal in 2020.
Controversy surrounding Whitfield escalated at a July 26 school board meeting when Clark, who unsuccessfully ran for a vacant board seat last spring, repeatedly called Whitfield during the public commentary, accusing him of teaching and promoting critical race theory. Clark also called for Whitfield’s dismissal, and some in the audience agreed.
It is against district policy to appoint an employee when filing a complaint or criticism.
School board president Jorge Rodriguez repeatedly told Clark not to use Whitfield’s name, but didn’t stop him from speaking.
Shortly after the meeting, Whitfield wrote a long post on Facebook describing how he had been the target of racial attacks in recent months, but he remained silent to protect his family. But the incident involving Clark was the last straw, he previously told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
In his post, Whitfield also said that in 2019 the school district asked him to delete the photos he and his wife, who is white, took on a Mexican beach to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Whitfield also described how he was criticized after writing about the death of George Floyd and his support for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On August 30, Whitfield was put on administrative leave with pay, and the directors also voted unanimously to allow Ryan to notify him of the proposed non-renewal of his contract.
Whitfield said school officials were using his race as a reason not to renew his contract, but school officials said the non-renewal notice had nothing to do with race or Pictures.
At the September 20 board meeting, Ryan and the district human resources manager listed some of the reasons the district was advising Whitfield of the possibility that his contract might not be renewed. Some of the reasons included lack of communication, email communications with a party outside the district, and accusations of hiding public documents from discovery by deleting them from sent items and trash folders.
The school district is also facing a lawsuit from Mitchell Ryan, who accused the school board president of shutting it down when he spoke about Whitfield in an open forum. Ryan alleged that his constitutional right to free speech had been violated.