Grand Prairie Teacher Opens Investigation Into Own District’s Hiring

GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – Many North Texas school districts are starting their school years having made budget cuts.  In Grand Prairie, the district even encouraged people to retire early.

Yet the relatives of a school board member at GPISD continued to have jobs until the superintendent found out about it.  And one teacher says his district crossed the line and violated nepotism laws.

Bart Scott tries hard to teach the right lessons.  The 7th grade science teacher at Arnold Middle School in grew up in Grand Prairie and went to school where he now teaches.  “The ethical standard I was taught in Grand Prairie when I was a child is that we don’t just follow the letter of the law, we follow the spirit of the law.”

But over the summer Scott uncovered what he believes are violations of Texas’ nepotism law.

Through a number of Freedom of Information Act requests he discovered that two daughters and a niece of school board vice president Terry Brooks were employed by Grand Prairie ISD.  “This is unjust. It’s unethical, it’ s immoral and it needs to stop.”

He took his complaint to the police department. and investigators there referred the case to the Dallas County District Attorney’s office and to the Texas Education Agency.

Last year Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office released a ruling which interprets state law as prohibiting a school board or a superintendent who is the final authority on personnel from hiring relatives of school board members.

District spokesperson Sam Buchmeyer says the district has violated no laws.  “We are well within the parameters of the law.”

Requests to speak with Brooks and with district superintendent Susan Simpson-Hall and with Brooks were declined.

Buckmeyer says the human resource department hired the women as teachers’ aides,  not the board or superintendent.   “We have an internal auditor come every year that does our auditing for school district.  Part of what they do is relative to conflicts of interest – they have given this issue to the Texas Education Agency, who in their estimation believe this is not a problem because they are low level paraprofessional positions.”

He says Brooks’ daughters resigned in July after the superintendent was told about the situation.  Brooks’ niece has since left the district to attend college.

Dr. Simpson-Hull’s own daughter also works in the district as a teacher, but according to the district that’s not a violation as she was hired by the board, which is the hiring authority.

Dallas attorney Marcos Ronquillo has represented a number of large districts in court, and is an expert in employment law, including nepotism cases.  Ronquillo says it doesn’t matter if it’s a low-level position or upper management, the district needs to be more transparent.  “If you’re dealing with public dollars, you are talking about public integrity, you’re talking about a high degree of transparency.”

As for Scott, he is hoping for some accountability.  “I would like to see the school board put in new policies that go above and beyond state law.”

  • darrell

    i think mr. scott has some deeper issues here besides nepotism which may have sparked his freedom of information searches to start with.

    • gp info

      who cares. he did what needed to be done!

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  • Jack

    I remember Mr. Scott. The idiots in Mansfield were fighting against a child predator law and protecting pedophiles. He stood and tried to defend kids. So I guess both of you are fine with school board trustees getting their kids jobs?

    I think GPISD has some real problems. Mr. Scott doesn’t seem to be the issue, but it is easier to attack the messenger than discuss whether or not trustees kids should work for this district which is clearly illegal.

    • darrell

      Jack, you dont know JACK!
      dont even presume you know what im fine with or not unless i state it as such. prior to this article i knew nothing of mr. scotts past. i based my statement on the contents of the article and the reasoning that people would not normaly do freedom of information requests of this kind without some reason besides nepotism. there are more serious issues im sure that should require investigation besides this. this seems more like a skeleton hunt than a real concern over GISD policy or proceedures. in addition, rulings by the AG office have determined its not in violation of state law. even if someone talked to someone about hiring a relative, proving it will probably be impossible and its unlikely anyone will want to spend the money to investigate it.

      • Jack

        Why so defensive Derrell. You seem awful aggressive. Do you have some personal connection to this issue?

        I disagree abuse of an officials office by getting kids jobs particularly in this economy is a pretty serious issue to me. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own set of facts.

        The story said the GP Police investigated the issue and referred it to the Dallas DA. If it wasn’t illegal the Police and DA would not be involved. They are unbiased regardless of mr. scott’s motivation. The report also made it clear the AG ruled it is illegal in 2010.

  • Rick McDaniel

    The answer to that is obvious……..a corruption investigation is certainly warranted.

  • I Care

    Channel 11 needs to check the credibility of the person they are getting the story from before they decide to air it. Google Barton Scott Mansfield to check his credibility.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Mr. Scott sounds crazy. Who let this man in the classroom with our children? This whole situation sure shows that Mr. Scott knows how to make enemies. Good luck with the rest of your career in GPISD, sir.

    • Teach

      It doesn’t really matter who he is. He has placed a target on his own back. Better start looking for another job/career, because his teaching career is over. He will be under the microscope.

      • GP Info

        He’s probably a member of a teacher’s union and definitely has a signed contract. The microscope needs to be on at the top of GPISD, starting with The Board, the Superintendent and probably HR.

      • ?

        Sadly, GP INFO., you can be a member of a Teacher’s union, have a signed contract and still be harrassed by TERRY BROOKS.

      • skippy

        Teach must be Terry Brooks. He’s the one that needs to be under the microscope.

  • Craig

    Who is Mr. Scott? He is apparently a great teacher in GPISD. He was recognized as one of the best teachers in the metroplex last year. The story link is below.,0,2265196.story

    What I see here is that everyone keeps trying to destroy the messenger vs. commenting on the issue.

    Yes looks like he wasn’t the best politician. I don’t know many school teachers who would be good politicians because they aren’t typically motivated by money. Politics is all about money, power and egos.

    I agree keep digging deeper. There is more to this story.

    • skippy

      keep digging in his past – nepotism would be the least offensive charge.

  • GPISD Parent

    I think Mr.Scott is absolutely correct in exposing the wrong in this school district. There are many underlying issues concerning administrators that have been overlooked because of who they know. Why is it okay to hold a few positions for your family members? Well this is GPISD were speaking and I can say I went to school in GP and it has always been that way. Family First. What a mess. I support Mr. Scott and others should bring forth the many wrong doings of the school district.

    • Concerned Citizen

      You make it sound like the women weren’t qualified for the positions that they held. Do you know that or are you inferring that from a news article?

      If Sam Buchmeyer is stating that the human resources department hired the women, not the board or the super, then what is the problem? They were not hired by their father/uncle. If they’re being forced to resign, so should the super’s daughter, if we’re all against having relatives work within the school district, which is awfully ridiculous.

      • GP parent

        One of Brooks’ daughters was a para in my son’s special-needs class. She is highly qualified and competent and adored by her students. It breaks my heart that this happened to her. Her relationship to a school board member was never an issue. It’s the district’s loss.

  • j.davis

    The Freedom of Information Act is a federal law and applies only to information held by the United States or an agency of the United States. The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to information held by the state of Texas, an agency of this state, a political subdivision of the state, or a school district of this state.

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  • Katrina Jones

    I have been a part of this district for the 15 years I have lived in GP. I can say that our school district, as do all others, has issues that they need to work out BUT I can also say that they handle matters with the upmost integrity and I know Terry did not influence the employment of his relatives, that is not who he is. As another post stated that his daughter was a para in her son’s class and is highly qualified, ask the parents of the students that are affected by this. I mean come on!
    There are other issues in the City of Grand Prairie that should have the attention of Mr. Scott and I think his investigation was a result of too much time on his hands to take down a district or a school board member rather than making sure that the “spirit of the law” was being followed in the areas that truly matter.
    I have not ever seen this man at a school board meeting and that should speak volumes! Every meeting has an open forum where if he was truly concerned he could have brought it up there and addressed it. He wanted his 15 minutes of fame and he went about it the wrong way.
    If you want to do something to “protect” our children in GP then let’s focus on the matter of all the sex offenders living so close to our schools and their bus stops. Let’s focus on gangs and drug issues in our city. Let’s focus on the fact that we have teens racing in certain areas of our city that have this year alone claimed lives of teens. Let’s focus on the things that truly matter that affect our students….

    • handfishin

      Granted students and children need the utmost protection, we as employees need protection. we have rights too.

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