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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Phil Ritter Challenged in College Board Election

Education, Featured

Phil Ritter speaking at a rally for a $450 million DCCCD bond election. | Image by Jim Mahoney, The Dallas Morning News

When Phil Ritter was elected to the Dallas College Board of Trustees six years ago, seven separately-accredited college campuses in Dallas County were among the lowest-performing throughout Texas.

“We had to change that, and change is hard for some people because it does involve restructuring,” he said.

Since then, the Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake, and Richland campuses fall under the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) and are home to Early College High Schools.

“It involved some people leaving the organization and other people coming in,” Ritter told The Dallas Express. “But all of this change was necessary to serve students because we were not performing as an institution. As a board member, I could not sit quietly by and not do anything.”

Ritter supported the consolidation, which was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and the Schools Commission on Colleges in 2020, according to media reports.

“We are a pathway to jobs and professions, but we are also a pathway to not only 4-year degrees, but upper-division education, graduate education, and even medical education that people otherwise wouldn’t have access to,” Ritter said. “So, the notion that Dallas College should be an archipelago of seven separate liberal arts schools is absurd because that’s not serving the public, it’s not serving employers, and it’s certainly not serving our students.”

Ritter vies for re-election as Dallas College’s Board District 2 trustee. His opponent is Eugene Robinson, who unsuccessfully challenged Ritter six years ago. 

“They’re pushing our college students out the door so they can steal their classrooms for the Early College High Schools, which shouldn’t even be on these campuses,” Robinson stated to The Dallas Express.

Early College High Schools, also known as Pathways in Technology (P-TECH), offer students the opportunity to earn dual credit for high school courses and college courses. The programs waive college tuition fees, providing high school students with a chance to earn an associate degree or up to 60 hours of college credit, according to the Dallas ISD website.

“This integration is causing our students to succeed at a much higher rate and to graduate and progress directly into the workforce at a much higher rate than we were five years ago, which is why they are so important and why I strongly disagree with my opponent that they should be dismantled,” Ritter said in an interview.

However, if elected on May 7, Robinson vows to expel Early College High Schools from DCCCD campuses immediately.

“Send them back to their junior highs and high schools where they belong and where our Independent School District tax money pays for them to be,” he said.

In the 2021-22 school year, Dallas College has partnered with sixteen school districts to offer twenty-nine Early College High Schools, forty-one P-TECH schools, and fifteen T-STEM high schools, according to DCCCD data. The partnership spans some two-hundred high schools in Dallas County, from independent school districts to charter and private schools, benefiting about 30,000 students every year.

“Many of these early college pathway programs are serving students that come out of some of our poorest performing high schools in Dallas County,” Ritter said.

Robinson worked as an instructor in the community college district for 23 years.

“I’ve taught in multiple positions as a full-time instructor, adjunct instructor, ESL instructor,” he said. “I ran the foreign language lab at Brookhaven for many years. I’ve been a professional support staff, College Learning Skills instructor, and contract negotiator.”

His last position ended abruptly in 2014 after he spoke out about the district allegedly spending student tuition illegally on Early College High Schools.

“They were not authorized to do that,” Robinson told The Dallas Express. “That was tax theft, and they decided that I was a problem and got rid of me.”

Robinson filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, but his complaint was eventually dismissed.

“I don’t know what he is referring to,” Ritter said in response to Robinson’s tax theft accusation. “We’re investing heavily in our students and our ability to meet their needs. That’s the intent of the One College program is to make the entire operation more efficient for students. We have a lot of work to do in terms of aligning programs to their needs in both academic and student services, but we have made a lot of progress, and we have to continue. That’s why I’m running again. My candidacy represents the continuity of strategy in moving the college district forward.”

Property taxes fund an estimated half of DCCCD’s more than $500 million annual budget, with student tuition contributing about 30% and state aid the other 20%.

“It’s important for us to have transparency, good board members, and advocates for the constituents, now more than ever, and that also means we need to ensure that we empower our tax paying dollars to be used in ways that help our students,” said Brad Namdar, a former coach at DCCCD’s Mountain View College.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, Ritter, an attorney, works as GreenLight Credentials’ senior vice president of health records. If re-elected, Ritter plans to ensure sound fiscal management and governance.

“I have been a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars,” he said. “I’ve never voted for a tax rate increase. I championed two increases in the property tax exemption for the elderly and disabled. As chair of the Finance Committee, we have maintained an AAA bond rating, which is a measure of our proven financial management, and our board was recognized by the Dallas Business Journal last month.”

However, Robinson wants Ritter to resign from the Board of Trustees due to his job at GreenLight Credentials.

“Phil Ritter is completely conflicted out in his position at the moment,” Robinson said in an interview. “His employer does business with and profits from contracts with the community college district, and he oversees the community college district and the contracts. It’s a clear conflict of interest.”

While GreenLight is the world’s largest academic record blockchain platform, according to a Dallas ISD statement online, Phil Ritter denies any wrongdoing.

“I joined GreenLight to develop innovation in mental healthcare, which is a different initiative than academic records,” he said. “When I joined GreenLight, I fully disclosed my relationship before I accepted the job, and there’s only been one board vote on any matter related to GreenLight, which was last year. I disclosed my conflict of interest and I recused myself from all discussions and all votes. That is exactly what the law requires.”

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Betty Culbreath
Betty Culbreath
1 month ago

I support Phil Ritter.

Lynn Davenport
Lynn Davenport
1 month ago

Here is a great interview with Gene Robinson outlining the issues at Dallas College https://offbeatbusiness.com/higher-ed-lowers-standards-social-impact-podcast/

Van Sheets
Van Sheets
Reply to  Lynn Davenport
1 month ago

The “great interview” with Robinson has no ideas or quotes from Robinson, only statements from Trustee candidate Lynn Davenport. It implies Robinson was fired for criticizing DCCCD but his wrongful termination lawsuit was dismissed based on judicial review. Phil Ritter has been an excellent Trustee for both students and taxpayers. He has my vote.

Darren Boruff
Darren Boruff
1 month ago

I strongly support Phil Ritter.

Byron Zarrabi
Byron Zarrabi
1 month ago

Mr Ritter has made no effort to bring any change to the college. He is part of the establishment who has created one of the lowest performing colleges in the State.

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