By Kristin Tassin
For the fort bend star
Rezoning is one of the worst parts of my job as a trustee.
Regardless of what decisions trustees make, someone in the district will likely be upset. But, in a fast growth district like Fort Bend ISD, rezoning is inevitable. With 80 campuses, FBISD is already the eighth-largest school district in Texas, and we are continuing to grow.
As neighborhoods and master-planned communities develop, existing schools become overcrowded, new schools must be built, and student populations have to be shifted to balance enrollment. We do our best as trustees to listen to feedback from every community. Ultimately, we must make decisions based on data and what we think is best for kids.
Usually, even when residents are unhappy with our decisions, they understand the difficulty of our job and realize the impact decisions have on their neighboring communities. Most communities work for compromise and are constructive in their feedback and how they engage with trustees. Recently, however, members of one community have chosen to harass and bully trustees into cowering to their will. Members of this community, which is a small portion of the Riverstone development, are acting like they are the only community that matters. The divisive tactics employed by these individuals are, ultimately, hurting students and the greater FBISD community.
These individuals are unhappy that some students will be rezoned from Fort Settlement Middle School to First Colony Middle School, a recommendation that was actually made five years ago. Rebalancing enrollment between these two middle schools has been discussed openly and publicly by the board since 2014. This is not new information nor is it secret.
Rezoning in this area was postponed in 2014 only to relieve overcrowding at Baines Middle School by moving some Baines students into First Colony. The board specifically stated in 2014 that this was a temporary solution and that once students could return to their zoned campus, the rebalancing between First Colony and Fort Settlement would happen. That time has come.
The only reason rezoning was not done this past fall is because the board was diligently looking for land to build the new elementary school that the Riverstone community asked for. Now that the land has been found, we are proceeding with rebalancing as has been discussed for years.
The majority of the communities in the area support this rezoning. Only a loud, angry few within Riverstone have threatened legal action against board members and engaged a former reporter turned political consultant to bombard trustees and administrative staff with multiple Public Information Act requests seeking six months of personal phone records, all in an attempt to bully trustees into doing what they want.
The district will likely be required to expend thousands of taxpayer dollars to assemble, redact and produce personal records for dozens of personnel. Thousands more in taxpayer dollars could be wasted as FBISD must now consider whether to issue trustees and staff phones and computers in order to protect personal information on personal devices.
This takes resources, money and focus away from educating students. This is especially damaging at a time when we struggle to find funding for technology in our classrooms, a literacy center that helps at-risk children read, an early intervention center that helps students with disabilities prepare for the classroom, and new early college and P-Tech programs at our more struggling high schools. This is where our money and focus should be.
Ironically, as many in the FBISD community know, trustees have taken great measures to listen and make decisions that these individuals in the Riverstone community have asked for in the past, the most recent of which is finding land within Riverstone for a new elementary school. This community has not been rezoned any more than any other fast growth community but, even as more and more houses are being built around them, they complain as if they are the only community impacted. As residents in Sienna, Aliana, Commonwealth and other communities know, Riverstone is not the only community impacted by growth and certainly not the only community to have to be rezoned.
As trustees we expect communities to advocate for their positions, provide feedback, and engage with us personally and via email. But, one community should not be allowed to dominate and usurp district time and money to the detriment of students and other communities. The greater FBISD community should stand together against the bullying tactics employed by these individuals. Our students deserve better.
(Kristin Tassin is a member of the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees.)