Trustee requests censure of fellow board member in Confederate name flap

2:12 p.m Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 Local
Austin school board member Ted Gordon speaks Monday during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on the East Mall of the University of Texas campus. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin district trustee Ann Teich asked fellow school board members Wednesday afternoon to consider censuring Trustee Ted Gordon for publicly criticizing the board.

The request, made during a board operations meeting, is the latest move in ongoing board clashes related to the trustees’ delay in deciding whether to remove the names of Confederate figures from five schools.

Teich asked that the board officers — President Kendall Pace, Trustee Geronimo Rodriguez and Trustee Julie Cowan — decide during next month’s board operations meeting whether to place censure for discussion behind closed doors at a future regular board meeting.

Teich said she wanted trustees to consider the censure “for his comments on two different separate occasions about the board of trustees, which includes all of us. They were unprofessional comments, they were not done face to face, they were not discussed with us at all. That, in my opinion, violates our current board handbook provisions about board member behavior.”

Gordon, an associate professor at the University of Texas, was not at Wednesday’s board operations meeting and was not immediately available for comment.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Pace, the board president, said it’s unlikely the board officers will agree to put the item on a future agenda, but said she does “agree that we should have respectful dialogue and interpersonal conversation, especially if there’s disagreement.”

Since trustees on Jan. 8 pushed back a February decision on whether to rename schools, Gordon has at least twice publicly criticized the board’s decision, most recently during Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech.

Gordon, the only African American trustee on the board, previously said the trustees had “no moral compass and moral spine” on the issue and didn’t act to “remove the names of traitors who took up arms to defend slavery and destroy their nation… because it is afraid of the tensions that are produced by the prospects of change.”

Teich said she wants the board to consider the censure in executive session.

“I don’t believe in making things public when it comes to individuals because I don’t believe in public shaming even though I was shamed and the whole board was shamed on two separate occasions in public,” she said.

In a text message to Gordon on Monday after his MLK Day speech, Teich called Gordon a “coward,” telling him to make the charges to her face, and criticized him for not having these conversations with his fellow board members and instead airing his grievances in the media or in public speeches.

Administrators already had a timeline and plan for renaming the schools with names tied to the Confederacy and had discussed the issue with advisory councils and students when trustees said they wanted to postpone a February decision to develop a process for how these schools should be renamed.

In 2016, the board renamed Robert E. Lee Elementary after some in the school community pushed for the change.