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DFW Candidates Discuss Their SBOE Aspirations

Featured, Government

Vote. | Image by Knightfoundation.org/

When Evelyn Beauman Brooks spoke before the Frisco ISD school board last year, she didn’t expect the microphone to be muted in mid-sentence.

“I was asking trustees and our superintendent what a medical clinic they were building in our district would be used for, and the purpose of that, and asked to see that in writing,” she said.

The censorship was a defining moment for the mother of two. She decided to campaign for a seat on the fifteen-member State Board of Education (SBOE) for District 14.

“I’ve been in the business of education for many years,” Brooks told The Dallas Express. “I’ve never, ever seen parents treated so poorly and disrespectfully. So, I think there has been a shift. There’s been a shift where it doesn’t matter what we think. I’ve never seen so many controversial issues just thrown at parents at the same time.”

The SBOE oversees some 1,029 school districts along with an estimated six million students. As previously reported in The Federalist, the Board determines curriculum criteria and approves or rejects charter school applications.

Brooks is challenging the Republican incumbent Sue Melton-Malone, a retired educator who is on her third term on the board after being first elected in November 2012.

“A group of women and I, and parents, wrote letters and left voicemails for my opponent, but she was unresponsive,” Brooks said. “I would like to be able to run for this position, serve constituents and be available to them. I’d like to see what changes are within my power to make in that position as well as just keeping people informed.”

In response to Brooks’ claims that she tried and failed to contact Melton-Malone, the incumbent told The Dallas Express in an email, “I respond to [my constituents] when I receive any communication from them. If they didn’t get a response, then I didn’t get anything from them,” emphasizing, “My contact with my constituents is extremely valuable and important to me.”

One change that Brooks says would result from her election is the assurance that a Republican board member would vote in accordance with Republican ideals.

“My opponent is a conservative, but she voted in favor of health instructional material in November where they had to go and take out a lot of the language, the ideas, and links,” Brooks said. “For me, sex is a conversation for parents to have with their children because we all have different views and opinions.”

Brooks vows to remain true to her conservative Republican values.

“My decisions will be definitely more in the interest of families,” she said. “I am pro-family, pro-parental rights, and I will remain true to that.”

Melton-Malone defended her vote for the health textbook in her email to The Dallas Express.

“As to the health textbook that I voted for — that particular company met all of the TEKS requirements,” she said. “I did not vote for them until they agreed to take the sex education portion out of the general textbook and make it a separate section that parents could opt out of. The sex ed portion will only be taught to those students whose parents choose to have their students take it at school. It will not be taught in the general classroom setting. I would not have voted for that textbook if they had not agreed to do this. It is the ONLY health textbook that I agreed to.”

“I will NOT allow anything to be taught in the public school classroom that would be harmful to [any] student,” Melton-Malone said in summation.

Melton-Malone is a formidable foe. She serves as chair of the board’s Committee on Instruction, which oversees areas such as curriculum, instructional materials, graduation requirements, gifted and talented education, and education of individuals with disabilities.

Brooks is an educator who has taught in four different school districts as well as in private schools. Currently, she teaches at a co-op and volunteers at a South Dallas public school.

“I owned a tutoring business, and I started a small school program,” she added. “I offer a very diverse background of educational experiences, and that has allowed me to dive into different unique experiences in order to get the optimal results out of students. I’ve been able to choose curriculum based off of children’s individual learning needs.”

Brooks was among the Republican candidates who attended an SBOE candidate panel talk hosted by the OBBM Media Network on January 26 in North Dallas.

Ajua Mason, SBOE District 13 candidate, and Joshua Tarbay, SBOE District 11 candidate, were also in attendance.

“I have an awareness of the corruption and how the schools and the government are trying to infect the minds of the children,” Mason told The Dallas Express.

Mason’s candidacy for SBOE District 13 emerged from her experience testifying at the school boards of various school districts last year against mask mandates and her involvement in the schooling of her nieces and nephews.

“I’m aware of Critical Race Theory and Social-Emotional Learning and how divisive it is,” she said. “It’s ruining the minds of our children. It’s weakening them and causing them to be victims and not be strong individuals.”

Mason, a concerned citizen who owns a beauty salon, hopes to unseat Democrat Aicha Davis, an educator who was elected in November 2018. Like Melton-Malone, Davis serves on the board’s Committee on Instruction.

Davis is credited with creating the African American Studies course in Dallas ISD, taught for the first time in the 2019-2020 academic year. In 2020, the State Board of Education (including Melton-Malone) voted unanimously to approve the course as a high school elective that districts statewide may choose to offer.

“Kids for generations will become better people because of this course. And I know other states are going to pick up on it,” Davis said after the course was approved.

According to Davis, the curriculum was designed to allow African American students to better see themselves in U.S. history, as well as dismantle stereotypes among all students.

Jamila Thomas, who is the former director of DISD’s Racial Equity Office and worked on the course with Davis, described it as an in-depth look at African American history that would encourage critical thinking in students of all races, helping them to better understand issues in our society today.

“My biggest thing is the curriculums and what’s being taught in schools,” Mason added. “I do believe that parents should have a choice in where their kids go to school. I’m all for parent choice, and I don’t have anything against charter schools as long as they’re not teaching radical indoctrination.”

Tarbay, who is based in Parker County, is campaigning against Pat Hardy.

“My opponent, Pat Hardy, did technically have two more years on her term, but because of the redistricting, there’s an election this year,” Tarbay told The Dallas Express. “The rules say that if your area was redistricted, you have to run. I’ll do very well out here in Parker County.”

Tarbay, a tenured college professor, has a doctorate in educational leadership and served for six years on the Weatherford ISD School Board as a member and subsequently as a vice president.

“The State Board of Education was always a natural progression,” he said. “It was something I have wanted to do for a very long time. This seems to be where, if I want to do something and leave this world better than I found it, it would be at the State Board of Education.”

A believer in term limits, Tarbay could have run for a third term on the Weatherford ISD school board but chose not to.

“Having served on the local school board, you see that school budgets are very unique,” he added. “They do not work exactly like your normal household budget would with a mortgage and a car payment. The vernacular is different. The terminology is different. The funding cycle is different, and I’m intimately trained in that. I’ve been certified in school finance. I’ve been certified in school budgets just from serving six years on the school board.”

Hardy has been an SBOE member for 20 years and has spent a lot of time lobbying the legislature.

“It would be a good idea to keep me on the board because I have been there long enough to understand the ropes of how to get things done in Austin and working with the legislature and knowing how to reach out to them,” Hardy told The Dallas Express. “They know me personally, and I can ask for their help on a bill.”

Note: This article was updated on February 18 at 2:16 p.m. to include additional information throughout.

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