Northside ISD under investigation after some staffers felt pressured to vote in bond election, governor says

Abbott says conduct is ‘likely a crime’; union dismisses governor’s actions as ‘political rhetoric’

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Northside ISD will be investigated by Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Attorney General’s Office after leaked emails suggested that staffers were pressured to vote in Saturday’s bond election.

SAN ANTONIO – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Northside ISD will be investigated by Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Attorney General’s Office after leaked emails suggested that staffers were pressured to vote in Saturday’s bond election.

Abbott’s comments on Saturday came as a response to a Twitter thread from Corey DeAngelis, the National Director of Research for the America Federation for Children, a group that fights for school choice. DeAngelis posted leaked emails from a Northside ISD principal that indicated the district’s central office is monitoring employee voting numbers.

“I have spoken with Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath about this,” Abbott tweeted. “He confirms that IF these posts are verified, then it is likely a crime.”

Under Texas law, public employees cannot use public resources in statements that “is sufficiently substantial and important as to be reasonably likely to influence a voter to vote for or against the measure.”

Northside AFT Chief of Staff Melina Espiritu-Azocar confirmed that the teachers union did express those concerns to district leaders leading up to the bond election.

“What they did to resolve those concerns, I cannot tell you,” Espiritu-Azocar said, referring those questions to NISD officials.

Espiritu-Azocar said the leak did not come from the union, and that the group was “disappointed” with how it was portrayed on social media.

“That’s not helpful or beneficial,” Espiritu-Azocar said.

The union did endorse the bond, which passed Saturday, giving the district $992 million to renovate old schools and buy new buses.

“We’re glad that it passed because it was necessary in order to maintain and do what needs to be done across the district with our current schools and schools that need to be built,” Espiritu-Azocar said.

As for Abbott’s comments, Espiritu-Azocar said the governor was just looking to stir his base with “political rhetoric.”

“If he is really truly concerned about public education funding, then schools should be properly funded so they don’t have to seek bonds,” Espiritu-Azocar said. “So we are disappointed in his behavior as we typically are.”

Barry Perez, NISD’s Executive Director of Communications, did not respond to requests seeking comment about the investigation on Sunday.

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About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.