Wingnut Crusaders Want All of Round Rock ISD
Storming the castle
"We've faced a lot of difficulty with our board," said Round Rock ISD Trustee Tiffanie Harrison, using heroic levels of understatement. "There's a lot of misinformation, there's outright lies, and the difficult part is that I think that's part of the strategy: to create such a disruption that people divest from public education."
Harrison occupies one of seven positions on the RRISD Board, five of which are on the ballot this November. The two positions that aren't up for election are held by Mary Bone and Danielle Weston, the trustees that Harrison – and everyone else paying attention – says have helped instigate the chaos that has swamped the board in the last two years.
That chaos includes screaming and arrests at board meetings that routinely last into the early hours of the night, walkouts and lawsuits from Bone and Weston targeting their fellow board members, and demonstrations on school grounds by armed protesters from outside the city waving Confederate flags. To put it plainly, Harrison and her colleagues are facing the same ugliness that is being fomented by white Christian nationalists at school boards across the country. They've received death threats, and Harrison reports that in the last week she and two others have received packages in the mail containing used tampons. She believes the packages were sent by her opponents.
"These are used menstrual products with real human blood – so, a biohazard – saying, 'A gift from Tiff,'" Harrison said. "I wish I was kidding. I cannot tell you the amount of time I've had to spend on the phone with the police and FBI ... but these are the kind of people we're dealing with."
Now, five allies of Bone and Weston, calling themselves the "One Family" candidates, are running for the open positions on the RRISD Board. They are:
• John Keagy for Place 1 (facing Dr. Kevin Johnson Sr., appointed to the board to replace Dr. Jun Xiao when he resigned earlier this year);
• Orlando Salinas in Place 3 (running against RRISD Board President Amber Feller; Harrison is the VP);
• Jill Farris in Place 4 (running against incumbent Cory Vessa); • Christie Slape in Place 5 (taking on board secretary Amy Weir); • Don Zimmerman in Place 6 (running to unseat Harrison).
Alicia Markum, Linda Avila, Joshua Billingsley, Stefan Bryant, and Maryam Zafar are also running, but the real contest is between the One Family slate and the incumbents.
Zimmerman is a perennial candidate who in 2014 hit pay dirt and served two years on the Austin City Council. He has chosen to run against Harrison, who is Black, with the slogan, "Let's return the classroom to ABCs and 1-2-3s, not CRTs and LGBTs." Harrison said she's not overly worried about Zimmerman's challenge: "My opponent is so very extreme, and openly so, that I hope voters are paying attention," she said. "But we have five seats up and that means voters need to be paying attention to every single race."