Katy ISD makes change that threatens transparency in community

Katy open forum gone

- Wednesday, Fox 26 reported on a policy change at Katy ISD that appeared to be a gesture to improve communication with the community. But Fox 26 has since learned the change also exposes what may be the school district's ulterior motive.

The way Katy ISD has changed its policy, the public won't be able to see "open forum" when citizens address the board with comments or concerns.

Monday, Katy's school board moved open forum from its main meeting to work study meetings, and said work study meetings will no longer be recorded.

The district explained to Fox 26, via email, that because of a new state law, posting the main meeting was the only requirement, and that not posting the work study meeting would save the district $4,000.

"It's disheartening that the people in the Katy Independent School District would go so far as to lessen transparency," says co-author of the legislation, St. Representative Terry Canales from Edinburg, being interviewed by phone. He believes the district's move defies the spirit of the law. He also doesn't feel $4,000 annually is a pinch on Katy ISD's budget.

"For them to claim that this is some sort of fiscal problem... I know where Katy is. I know the stature, and the financial position of the Katy school district," Canales says. "For them to use this law as an excuse to hide, or narrow the scope of their transparency, when anybody reading the law would know the purpose of the law is exactly the opposite, is shameful."

Katy ISD's national scandal last year could have something to do with this. In October, a student brought to the board's attention the "God is a Myth" lesson.

During a news conference about that, this reporter was challenged by the superintendent over something the student said at the school board meeting.

I said to Alton Frailey, "This is not the first time you're hearing it."

Mr. Frailey responded, "It's the first time I've really heard that part of it. She might have said that, but I was really thinking about what was going on."

I replied, "It's on video tape and a lot of people have watched her say that."

Mr. Frailey then said, "I appreciate that," and ended the news conference.

Now the district can make sure that's not an issue again. Fox 26 explained to Rep Canales, the district would no longer be posting public forum sessions.

"All I can say is shame on them for trying to use a good law for a bad purpose," said Canales.
Fox 26 went back to Melissa Nixon, the parent, who Wednesday, praised the district for the policy change. She didn't know at that time, either, the district was going to stop posting work study sessions online.

"I'm concerned. I would like to see them recorded," Nixon said, adding that the community needs to speak up.

"Attend a work study meeting during open forum and let them know this is important to them," Nixon says. And to the school board: "They need to get on this as quickly as possible, and reinstate the work study."

Katy ISD would not talk to Fox 26 on camera, and they would not address at all the appearance that they were pulling back on the school board's transparency.


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