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Federation of Teachers, even before the 1995 Legislature enacted “local control” school reform measures, “T.E.A. has never been accused of zealous enforcement out in the districts.” But equipped with a new set of “less-government” excuses \(and, to be fair, lacking the resources to investigate all the cases worthy of investigaThough parents and children wrote scores of letters detailing the school’s problems, which were submitted as part of a complaint to T.E.A. last January, the agency just “slapped their [the school’s] little hand,” as Tolson puts it. In February, the T.E.A. informed the parents that it was the superintendent’s responsibility to investigate their allegations of race and gender discrimination, and that the complaints had been forwarded to him. Given the parents’ previous attempts to approach Superintendent Rinehart, this didn’t bode well. Laquita Posey, for instance, had gone to Rinehart toward the end of the ’97 school year \(well before she and other parents son Jesse make up a test he’d missed. During the conversation, according to Posey, Rinehart said “Well, you just go get your lawyer, then,” about five times. \(Rinehart, who retired at the end of last Rinehart appointed none other than Barlow to investigate the discrimination complaints, and paid him $1,000 for the favor. Meanwhile, the T.E.A. informed the parents that their complaints regarding Barlow’ s discipline practices had been forwarded to the Texas State Board of Educator Certification, where apparently they evaporated into the bureaucratic mist. Board spokesperson Anne Roussos told the Observer that although the 1998 referral could not be located “I’m not sure that we don’t have the letter…. I suspect we have the letter, but we have some 1,600 active complaints” and though an earlier referral was not investigated because it involved confidential student information that the Board did not have the authority to review, all is not yet lost. The case appears to involve “an ethics violation” and thus might be re-opened when new ethics rules, themselves the product of no small amount of procedural headache, go into effect this March. In June came the hand-slap: after reviewing the “findings” that Barlow turned in, the T.E.A. recommended that Joaquin try to hire some minority teachers, revise its Student Code of Conduct Handbook to clarify the grievance procedure, establish a “multicultural/multiethnic committee composed of students, teachers, parents, community leaders, and administrators,” and consider sending teachers and administrators to some cultural sensitivity workshops. ‘Nuff Said. “ATTITUDE” Early progress of the multi-cultural/multi-ethnic committee has been modest, to say the least. None of the parents who complained of problems with Barlow sits on the committee, which was appointed by Barlow and Rinehart. After attending the group’s first official meeting in November, community representative Linda Martinez seemed hazy on both the composition and the mission of the group, which she characterized with perhaps unintentional candor as “to let people out there know that we don’t have any problems.” At the group’s second official event, held the Monday after Sherry Riley Nate Blakeslee Thanksgiving, about twenty people at least half of them teachers and administrators convened to hear a presentation by T.E.A. consultant Ester Hunt, who’d been dispatched from the regional office in Kilgore. Sherry Riley and Luke Gibson \(accompafore, were the only members of the critical group in attendance. A middle-aged black woman dressed in a navy suit and gold office jewelry, Hunt lectured with the practiced delivery of a downmarket corporate consultant. She began with a handout a single sheet with the word “ATTITUDE” printed down one side and each letter’s corresponding numerical position in the alphabet down the other. As the handout indicated, the alphabetical numbers totalled 100; it was the first of many cryptic revelations Hunt would offer over the next hour. “Somebody has come in here and ripped your community apart,” she began. Without elaboration, she moved on to the good news, which was that the healing could indeed, must, for the sake of the children start tonight. Large beads of sweat broke out on her forehead as she launched into a free-association on parental responsibility, the benefits of tough love, and the new approaches in pedagogy and discipline necessitated by the “smarter and more sophisticated” students of today. Hunt punctuated her presentation with anecdotes about her own son, Jaron, who had himself required more than a little punishing \(he being As the presentation wore on, with only oblique references to the actual problems in Joaquin, it became evident that Hunt was less than familiar with the history of the local controversy, or the specific allegations levelled against Barlow and the school district. \(Hunt later conceded that she had not read the Texas Civil Rights Project’s lengthy report; nor was she familiar with the complaints found in the Hunt stopped and solicited a specific complaint that a parent in the audience had with the school district. With Barlow and Rinehart 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 19, 1999