New court documents in the ongoing saga between former Colleyville Heritage High School principal James Whitfield and the district’s board of trustees reveal a clearer picture of the lead-up to his termination.
The claims between Whitfield and the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) began shortly after he was named principal in May 2020 when he sent a 4:30 a.m. email to every family, faculty, and staff member of his new campus concerning the “recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.”
The communication allegedly caused a stir, and “GCISD leadership fielded a number of inquiries from parents and community members” at the time, according to court documents.
Over a year later, in June 2021, Whitfield was given an end-of-year evaluation in which he received poor marks for his ability to work with teachers and staff, his leadership abilities, and his failure to “lead the development of initiatives for school improvement.”
Whitfield rarely scored above “Proficient” on any of the metrics of his review.
The review highlighted numerous results from a 2021 survey of teachers and staff on Whitfield’s campus and compared them with the previous year under a different principal, demonstrating a staggering decline in their perception of campus leadership and overall satisfaction under Whitfield.
Soon after, at a July 2021 GCISD board meeting, a resident of the district reportedly mentioned Whitfield during the public comment portion. Whitfield responded by going to social media to “express his concern” about the comments and also republished in full the controversial email he sent in 2020.
Whitfield also began sitting for media interviews for a wide range of publications, apparently generating a large amount of negative attention for GCISD and its community.
GCISD administration met with Whitfield several times regarding his behavior and provided him with written instructions to comply with explicit GCISD policies and protocols. GCISD administration implored him to refocus his attention “on his school’s staff, students, and the beginning of [the upcoming] school year.”
Whitfield, however, apparently responded to these professional interventions in a late-night email, telling then-superintendent Robin Ryan that he was “disappointed” in him and accusing him of “retaliation” against Whitfield for speaking out about social and cultural topics.
He further accused Ryan and GCISD’s interventions of being designed to appease “a small group of hateful, intolerant, bigoted, racist people” in the district’s community.
Whitfield also alleged that evaluations of his professional and personal conduct were “frivolous.” The day after receiving the email, Ryan placed Whitfield on administrative leave with pay.
In September 2021, the GCISD Board of Trustees voted not to renew Whitfield’s employment, which the now-former principal disputed, causing the two parties to enter into mediation to settle the dispute.
Part of that mediated settlement, agreed upon in November of 2021, barred the GCISD board from speaking poorly of Whitfield.
After that agreement was made, Tammy Nakamura was elected to the GCISD Board of Trustees in May of 2022 and allegedly made public statements regarding Whitfield and his conduct at an event.
Whitfield responded by suing the GCISD board as a whole and Nakamura individually for allegedly breaching the mediated settlement agreement.
However, attorneys representing Nakamura filed a motion on March 26 claiming that the Tarrant County District Court in which the lawsuit was filed lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear Whitfield’s claims.
The motion argues that the mediated settlement bound the board at the time as a whole and in its formal capacity, but not an individual speaking on their own behalf at private events or even a new trustee.
Nakamura’s attorneys argue throughout their latest filing that their client is not bound by the agreement made by the GCISD board before her time or in her capacity as an individual.
They further argue that numerous provisions of Texas law protect Nakamura and assert that Whitfield, in his suit, has failed to articulate how those protections do not apply in this case.
The Dallas Express reached out to Whitfield for comment but had not heard back as of the writing of this article.
I am glad that I never had a High School principal like James Whitfield.
I read that Tammy got tipsy and defamed an ex-principle, contrary to his departure settlement; now he’s suing her and GCISD. In the end, taxpayers suffer the hangover; while she claims ignorance and “executive privilege”. It’s too bad Place 3 is not on the ballot instead of in the toilet.
Educators need to keep politics at home and out of the schools. Any that cannot do that need to be terminated and barred from being rehired anywhere in the state.
I agree, we were forced to take government classes in high school. No need for civic classes. Lol
When I took Civics class in high school it was a Government class. It included structure & way-of-work of Federal, State (TX) and County governments. Definitely not a Politics class.
James should have kept him self out of the mix being his position otherwise be Switzerland. Just my two cents