Herman: A candidate running for a job he once couldn’t spell


Would you want a governor who once had trouble spelling governor? How about one who couldn’t remember his fourth-grade teacher’s name?

Everybody remembers their fourth-grade teacher’s name, don’t they? And folks who want to be governor should be able to spell governor, particularly if they had a parent who had been governor.

During a recent Austin stop, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White prefaced an announcement about his public school funding plan by recalling a 1982 incident when he was a fourth-grader whose dad, the late Mark White, was Texas attorney general and had just been elected governor. Andrew White was a student at Cedar Creek Elementary School in the Eanes school district.

In calling for a teacher pay raise as part of his education plan, White recalled two teachers who had meant a lot to him.

“We cannot forget the fundamental truth that a great education starts with a great teacher,” he said. “We all know what a great teacher can do. In my life, Mr. Zartman’s history class at Lamar High School in Houston, Texas taught me a whole new perspective of the world.”

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And then he spoke of a long-ago teacher at Cedar Creek Elementary School who saved him from an embarrassment.

“Mrs. Krieg, my fourth-grade teacher in Austin, kept it a secret that I misspelled the word ‘governor’ on a spelling test the week after my father was elected governor,” White recalled. “She said it would be like a little secret, like a fourth-grade teacher would say. Well, you know what, Mrs. Krieg and Mr. Zartman? It’s my turn to repay the favor to you and to thousands of teachers around the state. We will invest in teachers and in education in Texas.”

That was the introduction to his school finance plan, which includes scrapping a commercial property tax loophole, finding more money for public schools by ending border enforcement funding by the state, and expanding gambling by allowing casinos at existing horse and dog tracks and in destination resorts.

After his remarks, and because I know you’d want to know, I asked White how he had spelled governor those many years ago. I also asked if he could spell it now. In America, land of opportunity though it is, a person should be able to spell the job they seek. It’s why I didn’t become a kinesiologist.

“It’s a great question,” White said when I asked about his long-ago spelling mistake. “I got the second o and the e switched. So it was govorner as opposed to governor. Very embarrassing. I was really embarrassed because my dad had just won.”

Embedded in that answer, I think, is proof that White now knows how to spell governor. But feel free to pop quiz him next time you see him.

And he had this message for his fourth-grade teacher: “If she’s still around, thank you Mrs. Krieg. You kept a secret for 35 years. I appreciate it.”

Nice, except for this: If this happened shortly after Mark White was elected governor, it happened in 1982 when he ousted incumbent Bill Clements. So I checked with the Eanes school district to find out about Mrs. Krieg.

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I was told Mary Krieg taught in the district from 1988 to 1993, which would put Andrew White’s story in the oops category. Either he’s got it wrong or, heaven forbid, he misremembered the name of his fourth-grade teacher.

Who doesn’t remember the name of their fourth-grade teacher? (And a belated thank you to Mrs. O’Shea at Brooklyn’s P.S. 99.)

White’s team insisted he was correct about the name and the year. And, I’m pleased to report, he was. I nudged Eanes to recheck and, sure enough, Mrs. Krieg taught in the district from 1981 to 1993.

It’s always nice when we find out that our gubernatorial candidates aren’t making stuff up — and that they know the name of their fourth-grade teacher.

But alas, Mrs. Krieg is no longer with us to hear the thanks from this appreciative former student. Mary “Midge” Krieg died in July 2014 at age 76 after a three-year battle with multiple myeloma, according to her obituary. She was living in Plano at the time.

“As she had done all her life, she maintained a positive attitude which was a lifelong example to her family and many friends,” the obit said. “Midge was a dedicated teacher, serving in Kyle and the Eanes school districts. Many years of her tenure, she or her class was recognized for some extraordinary achievement.”

Like all good teachers, she probably wasn’t recognized enough for more ordinary achievements, including little things that are remembered — sometimes by kids who grew up to be gubernatorial candidates — as big things long after they happened.

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Thanks, teachers. It might not buy groceries for your homes or supplies for your classrooms, but a big part of the non-financial reward for your toils is the fact that many of you make lifelong impressions on the kids who pass through your lives for such a relatively brief period.

“Seeing a picture of her really brought back a lot of great memories,” White told me after he saw the obit photo of his fourth-grade teacher. “She did keep my secret, all the way to the grave, about misspelling governor.”

White, who had not known his teacher had passed away, recently added this note on her online obit:

“Mrs. Krieg was my 4th grade teacher in 1982. When my father ran for governor and won, she put ‘governor’ on the spelling test that week… I misspelled…she said it was ‘our little secret’….I never forgot that 35 years later.”

Footnote: In disclosing his fourth-grade spelling error during the recent Austin campaign event White misspelled the teacher’s name: “K-r-e-i-g,” he said.

Oh great. Now we must ponder whether a governor should be able to correctly spell his or her fourth-grade teacher’s name.



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