MISD’s Blaylock pledges ‘great fury’ on books

Local school board learns of controversial title found in joint city-school library

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Shelle Blaylock

The latest trend within the conservative movement is a review of subject matter on books available to students. The Midlothian Independent School District board of trustees had previously resisted hard-right local entreaties, but tacitly buckled to one last week with the hearing of a review of youth-oriented tomes across all campuses.

MISD assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Shelle Blaylock said the school district recently completed an internal review of one particular book titled “Gender Queer” that was located in the joint A.H. Meadows Library located at Midlothian High School.

Blaylock said the book did not meet the standards of the review and has been removed from circulation. She said “Gender Queer” was purchased before a review process was put into place by the Texas Library Association.

“We have over 152,000 titles in our libraries,” Blaylock said. “Our librarians have been very aggressive to ensure that they have practices and protocols in place for ordering.”

Blaylock said the book review process is constantly ongoing as books “fall apart” and student focuses on subjects continually change.

“I want to assure you and our community that we most definitely want to assure that what our students have in front of them meets those standards for our district and that our librarians are working with great fury to make sure that those books are appropriate for our students,” Blaylock said.

“Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe, is a coming-of-age autobiography by a California writer that has been seized-upon by conservative Texas politicians who want greater control over the kinds of books available in Texas schools.

Blaylock added that the current review is ongoing across the district.  She said a “rubric” was put into place last summer that will be employed in evaluating books based on educational value and age-appropriateness.

Responding to a question from board vice president Andrea Walton, Blaylock said the internal review committee is separate from a recently-appointed committee that oversees the joint library.

Trustee Tami Tobey was not present at the meeting but participated by telephone. Trustee Matt Sanders was absent.

Other items

• MISD assistant superintendent for finance Jim Norris presented the results of the school’s FIRST financial rating, MISD scored 96 points out of a possible 100, the 18th year in a row the district has been rated superior. The only thing keeping MISD from a perfect score was the district’s debt to assessed property ratio, which Norris attributed to a 2020 bond sale to build Coleman Elementary and expand Heritage High School.

• MISD executive director of communications Sheri Brezeale announced recipients of $12,000 worth of Midlothian Education Foundation mini-grants for STEM supplies for teachers in a partnership with Holcim.

• Blaylock recognized Midlothian High School students Ayonna LeGrand and Kaylyn Whitley as students recognized by The College Board as scoring in the top 2 percent nationally as indigenous scholars.

• The approved consent agenda consisted of previous meeting minutes, requisitions over $50,000, gifts and/or donations, purchase of FF&E for the Heritage expansion project, revisions to local policy, a third-party administrator for benefits, approval and an increase in reimbursement for leave upon retirement, and approval of district and campus improvement plans for 2021-2022.

• Trustees agreed to submit 161 votes for John Knight and the district’s remaining 834 votes to Dani Muckleroy for the Ellis Appraisal District board of directors at Walton’s urging.

• A one-time supplement was approved for MISD employees amounting to $1,500 for full-timers and $750 for part-time employees. Norris said increased attendance numbers in the district along with federal ESSER III money will help fund bonuses.

• The board OK’d a memorandum of understanding with Tarleton State University that would waive testing requirements and guarantee admission to the top 33 percent of all MISD graduates. This is a departure from previous Tarleton agreements that guaranteed admission to the top 25 percent.

• A request for bids was approved seeking proposals for vape detection and air quality monitoring within MISD schools.

• Trustees approved a contract for educational services with Arlington Regional Day School for the Deaf.

• MISD superintendent Dr, Jo Ann Fey congratulated MISD technology head and newly-minted Dr. Leslie Garakani, who she said earned his doctorate of education last week through Lamar University by defending his dissertation.

• Following an executive session, the board took no public action.