Austin school 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 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, Trustees Geronimo Rodriguez and Julie Cowan — schedule a discussion of a possible closed-door censure of Gordon at a future school 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, a University of Texas associate professor, was not at Wednesday’s board operations meeting, but, reached by phone later, he said, “I maintain my position, and if the board feels it needs to censure me for it, it can do so.”
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 at the University of Texas.
Gordon, the only African-American trustee on the board, told the media that the board has “no moral compass and moral spine” on the issue, and he told a crowd of several hundred that the school board has not acted 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.
A censure is an official reprimand or denouncement of a board member’s actions, but it does not necessarily have any accompanying discipline of the trustee, nor is it a step toward removal from office.
But after Wednesday’s meeting, Pace, the school board president, said it’s unlikely the board officers will agree to put the item on a future agenda. However, Pace said she does “agree that we should have respectful dialogue and interpersonal conversation, especially if there’s disagreement.”
In 2016, the board renamed Robert E. Lee Elementary after some in the school community pushed for the change.
Administrators already had a timeline and plan for removing names tied to the Confederacy from five more Austin schools, and had discussed the issue with advisory councils and students. But this month, trustees said they wanted to postpone a February decision to develop a process for how the schools should be renamed, prompting the criticism from Gordon, who was absent when the board decided to put it off.
The board next month will continue discussions on the issue.