Opinion: Katy School Board It’s Time To Stop the Nonsense

Opinion

Today we learned that Katy Independent School District Superintendent Alton Frailey has withdrawn from his scheduled Friday morning appearance on Fox 26. The program is designed to promote Katy and will still be aired with numerous other Katy area officials who have been booked to appear. Frailey’s decision to withdraw comes one day after Fox 26 News reporter Andrea Watkins asked the Superintendent very pointed questions in a news conference.  The district says Frailey has a scheduling conflict, that he has to speak to a group of students.

We believe these developments make it imperative that we review Frailey’s relationship with the media so all can understand that today’s developments really aren’t surprising, and we feel this type of nonsense needs to stop.

All the recent horrible publicity that’s descended upon the Katy Independent School District did not happen in a vacuum. It’s the result of several years of destructive behavior on the part of an undisciplined superintendent and his inept communications staff. The God controversy at West Memorial Junior High, and the recent gang initiation at McDonald Junior High, should have been only one or two day stories, but they dragged on, and one of them even went national. If handled professionally, the district would have been scratched by these stories but not scarred.

There is a reason why Katy ISD can’t get in front of bad news and reduce or eliminate the stain that it has on the school district. The district’s problems can be summed up in two words: “trust” and “relationships.”  None of the real reporters in the Houston market trust or have a good relationship with Superintendent Alton Frailey or his communications team. Every news organization has been burned by them in one way or another.


The news media in Katy and Houston have been deceived, mocked and misrepresented during the years of Superintendent Frailey, and he’s doubled down on those tactics since the departure of former communications manager Steve Stanford, and the ascension of Chief Officer of Communications Dr. Andrea Grooms. The post-Stanford era has marked the complete destruction of the mutual professional respect between the media and the district.

Seasoned journalists respected Stanford, and in retrospect he did a good job of controlling Mr. Frailey. Until he left we had no idea that the superintendent was a train wreck. Even though Stanford represented an administration known to be secretive, he was still able to maintain good relations with journalists. Reporters understood that Stanford was frequently between a rock and a hard place, and he understood that journalists had a job to do. Basically we all liked the guy, even when frustrated by his answers. Stanford’s handling of a bomb scare at Seven Lakes High School was a one-man performance in how to handle the media during a time of crisis. He was fantastic.

The Houston media is unfamiliar with Dr. Grooms. She’s made no effort to cultivate relationships with the media. She needs to be out building trust, and saving Frailey from himself. The district does not need a person with a doctorate, it needs a person with experience in media relations. The district needs a person who understands that one negative story by a reporter should not dissolve a relationship. That same reporter will be back to cover positive stories too, if you know how to cultivate relationships.

I believe the relationship between the real news media and Katy ISD reached rock bottom Wednesday at the district’s disastrous news conference. It is now clear that this administration will never repair the damage it’s done in its relationship with the real journalists who cover Katy’s schools and actually ask challenging questions.

The district’s mocking, misrepresentations and deceptions were on full display for all to see in person, and live on the Internet, Wednesday. During the question and answer session, Mr. Frailey flippantly mocked a television reporter by implying that she was making up her facts. Publicly implying that a reporter is making up facts is the fastest way anyone can burn a bridge with a reporter. A reporter is nothing without credibility. Frailey did not have the discipline to remain calm, and she made him look like a fool with her follow-up question.

Andrea Watkins of Fox 26 asked about an allegation that the teacher in the center of the God controversy was aggressive toward her students. Frailey said he’d never heard that claim before Watkins brought it up. Watkins then pointed out that Frailey had heard the claim, and he was on video tape when he heard it, and that many people had seen the tape. Alton “Loose Cannon” Frailey was up to his old tricks, but this time the public was watching on a live stream and was allowed to see the real Frailey. The guy just can’t shoot straight. His default position is mockery, condescension and nonsense.

It wasn’t but a few weeks ago that the Frailey supporters made the same claim about Covering Katy.  They claimed we also make up our facts. Then, 48 hours later, the crow was served up to those who concocted that allegation. These actions are from the same old tired playbook. If they don’t like the facts, they claim it’s all a big lie, but the public knows better.

Here is a nugget of information that no one else has revealed. The reporter who was unfairly targeted in Wednesday’s news conference was recently assigned to cover Katy permanently. I suspect it was her first taste of dealing with Katy ISD as the head of the newly established Fox 26 Katy bureau. Her new assignment began on Monday, and it took Frailey less than 72 hours to move the honeymoon directly into divorce court. His staff was aware of her new role, so Frailey should have known too. Still, he couldn’t resist lobbing a cheap shot, which she quickly dropped back in his lap. It was ugly, and when it was over you could not see the egg on Frailey’s face because the crow he was eating blocked the view.

Frailey and West Memorial Junior High School Principal Gina Cobb also struggled to answer questions about whether there was a grade assigned to the classroom activity dealing with God. Members of Team Frailey should have anticipated that question, but they don’t have the experience to handle major market reporters. Again, another disaster that could have been avoided with some forethought.

This entire mess comes on the heels of the recent gang initiation event at McDonald Junior High School.  Since then the district has engaged in efforts to delay Freedom of Information Act requests for documents that must be made public. There is a much more professional way to handle these situations, but the Frailey administration has only three plays in its media relations playbook: mock, deceive and misrepresent.

Mr. Frailey’s attitude is that no reporter should ever post a story that he hasn’t personally approved.  We all know that’s not how it works, but when his nose is out of joint he’s done some really foolish things, like sending emails to parents mocking reporters, which eventually land back in every newsroom in Houston and Katy.

One night, not long ago, I watched in stunned silence as Frailey proudly showed a PowerPoint presentation in a public meeting where he openly mocked reporters. He was mad because it was reported that the funding for a new stadium would be on the ballot for a second time, after being defeated the year before. The bond committee had been talking about the stadium for weeks, but somehow Frailey thought no one in the media would notice. Again, it was an issue that he and his team should have known would be reported and should have been ready with a response. Then again, his team probably had no idea he’d get mad over something so trivial. Only in Frailey’s world would this story be considered “sensationalizing.”

Many years ago Mr. Frailey announced that everyone should view Katy ISD as “the center of truth” for all things that have to do with public education in Katy. It was a foreshadowing of what was to come.  We had a government official who was claiming his bureaucracy was the center of truth. How very Orwellian!

While attending Catholic school the nuns said the pope was infallible in church doctrine. Given that the head of the Roman Catholic Church and Katy ISD are the center of truth for their respective domains, perhaps we should change the superintendent’s title to Pope Frailey.

All humor aside, Mr. Frailey lacks discipline and his antics transcend any positives he brings to the role of superintendent. Someone on the school board must round up the votes and then step forward as the Sen. Howard Baker of our community and say, “Mr. Frailey, your time is up.”

 

11 Comments

  1. I worked over 34 years in education and I am familiar with education around the country. Texas has placed all the local power in overpaid Superindents who want to be treated lik CEO’s of corporations.
    If Katy is such an outstanding district why were we unable to get a leader who did not and does not have a PhD.
    Weak school boards and highly overpaid superintendents is the case in Texas.

  2. Thank you for your past service to our community, Mr. Proctor. I wish you would have had colleagues that could work with your experience and knowledge for the betterment of our children’s lives.

  3. 😉 I wish that we could get people more involved. We have 70,000 students in Katy ISD and can’t get ten percent of their parents to the polls when there is not a general election. Public information indicates that almost 20% of that student population is illegal or non citizen, so even adjusting for that factor the turnout is very poor. Talk to your neighbors. We need people with solid values that cannot be swayed to run for the school board. We need people talking to their state legislators about returning the power to the boards to deal with the incompetency that these 6 figure administrators bring to town with them.

  4. We have taken the real power away from the school boards and the superintendents are left unchecked to push agenda lobbies for organizations to include, but no limited to, TASA, TASB, AASA and the like, who are at the mercy of their big business contributors. Assessment and Accountability is a joke. You cannot gauge where your kid’s learning is today based on those tests.

  5. It was eye opening to read your comments. It reminded me of the way I feel about the current US President.

    While many find them to be incompetent, they are very successful in their own agendas. Frailey has been a ring leader in the “education transformation” or “reform” movement. His roles in TASA, TASB and AASA have been instrumental in setting up Katy ISD as a model for 21st Century Learning and the College/Career Readiness programs that are destroying our public education.
    Common Core, the Texas TEKS process standards, etc are all just symptoms of the push for the nationalization and eventually globalization of education.

    Those of us with any sense can run for the hills and hide our kids, but it doesn’t stop what is in play. If we want to restore education and hopefully preserve our nation, we have to start (in Frailey’s words) plucking out the thorns like this. We have to ensure they do not have roles in the future of our public education system.

    We may rid Katy of him, but he will just move on to use the influence that he has had to divide this community in other ways throughout the state or nation.

  6. Everything that comes out of the KISD propaganda machine has to be good news. The Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council, and most of the Realtors have a vested interest in good news because they want to sell Katy as a destination. Like Marco Rubio mentioned in the debate the other evening,the above mentioned groups are KISD’s Super Pack along with the builders and architects that are selected, by law, without bids. A very close relationship.
    The politics of KISD remind me of how the Clinton’s react when they are challenged by students, parents or teachers.

  7. KISD has been run and those elected to the board are a part of the Katy insiders, Katy Chamber of Commerce,the Economic Development Council, and other insiders. As long as voter turnout stays low nothing will change. The Superintendent and Board reminds me of how DC works. There is no way they are looking out for the people. I believe KISD is run on fear. When I was on the board, the board never sided with a student or teacher that filed a grievance.
    It is past time to elect board a that will not be Frailey puppies. Get involved and vote!

  8. I am sure Mr. Frailey has many strong personal traits he brings to the job as leader in chief of Katy ISD. One of his strengths is how well he conceals them from public view.

    I doubt there is anyone we can install as Super who will be loved by all, but why do we need to have a lightening rod who does all he can to draw negative attention to our district with his over bearing personality?

    Alton often cites his examples of belief and truth not being the same, and for the record they don’t have to be all you have to do is look at his performance. He believes he is great, the truth is; not so much.

    This fellow has it made.

    For years people have asked how his job is to be evaluated. For years the school board says they will be getting around to that task and even brought it up during school board elections. The sitting members said they were getting close to having their check list in hand even as they extend his contract, cave into all his demands and give him a raise.

    The truth is I am jealous and wish I had whatever he drinks for breakfast on my table as he is without a doubt a master at what he does.

    Seems to me I recall another pillar of truth with similar sway over the masses in pre world war Germany but can’t quite recall his name.

    (Note to Alton: The truth is I was thinking of Otto Bismark, but your belief is I was thinking of someone else.)

  9. When we moved to Katy many years ago, several schools were adorned with “Exemplary” titles. Seems those titles are hard to come by over the past 20 years as those titles are weather-beaten and old. Why is it that as the KISD’s superintendent’s salary has risen, expectations have fallen?

  10. Amen and amen! Frailey simply cannot stand anyone who dares disagree with him. It’s one of the marks of his gross incompetence. Katy ISD deserves a Superintendent who is fully literate, who can think clearly, and who can express himself/herself clearly. Perhaps the next Superintendent can meet those fundamental qualifications.

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