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Carroll ISD votes to hire Republican-focused firm for district communications

Carroll ISD has faced several controversies in recent years, including five pending federal civil rights investigations.

SOUTHLAKE, Texas — Editor's note: This story has been updated after the board voted on the hire.

Carroll ISD voted on Monday to hire a Republican-focused consulting firm to oversee the district’s communications.

At the board’s meeting on July 11, the district shared the company, Southlake Public Affairs, was the only applicant for Carroll’s request for proposal (RFP) that pays $96,000 for a one-year agreement to audit and oversee the communications department.

“I really like this idea of learning and it not being a big commitment,” board member Andrew Yeager said in the meeting.

Trustee Michelle Moore, though, pushed back on the idea.

“This is just going to create some issues and I don’t think it’s the right match for us,” she said. “This firm, to me, doesn’t really have any specific experience as it relates to education.”

The school board approved the hire in a 4-1 vote on Monday night.

The district has continued to deal with several crises over the past several years. In 2018, a video surfaced of Carroll ISD students yelling a racial slur. Another video went viral just a few months later.

Since then, hundreds of students submitted testimony of bullying based on sexuality and race. District leaders rejected a controversial plan to improve diversity and equity, and now Carroll ISD faces five separate investigations from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

“When I first heard about it, I was just concerned,” former Carroll board president Buddy Luce said. “When you’re on a school board, you’re not supposed to be Republican or Democrat. You’re supposed to be for all the kids.”

Carroll ISD received national attention when Southlake Families, a conservative political action committee got several board candidates elected. The district declined to speak about the vote scheduled for Monday.

It sent invitations to six firms. Southlake Public Affairs and Potomac Strategy Group are both affiliated with Republican candidates or issues. 

A district spokesperson said Carroll ISD leadership decided who to send the invitations to. The other companies invited were Lavidge, Spoken Word, Piercom and Shirley and McVicker. None viewed the RFP online.

Southlake Public Affairs was the only applicant. Its testimonial page lined with Republican officials and the resume of founder Chuck Hahn mentions previous work for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“I’m not sure bringing in a firm that is aligned with any one political party is really in the best interest of our district,” Moore said in the July 11 meeting.

In an email, Hahn declined to talk about the contract or his company’s qualification and background in education. He added his four children have attended Carroll ISD.

“I think they need to hire someone with school PR experience. Period,” Luce said.

Board members deferred comments to board president Cam Bryant. Bryant didn’t reply to multiple requests for comment.

Luce says he worries the district is more focused on politics than what’s best for students.

“I’m not optimistic that this board is going to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m extremely concerned for my grandkids.”

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