SOUTHLAKE, Texas — Carroll Independent School District has roughly 8,000 students. But the district’s school board races earlier this year received national attention and now, two district parents are competing in a special election this November.
Early voting began Monday Oct. 18 and ends Oct. 29, with Election Day on Nov. 2. The winner of the race will only serve until May, when they'll run for a full three-year term.
Stephanie Williams is a Carroll ISD mom and former elementary and middle school teacher running for the seat open, after trustee David Almand resigned earlier this year.
She said her focus is on ending the bitter back-and-forth shouting that has filled board meetings for more than two years.
“When we focus on students and education, then we’re going to find common ground,” Williams said. “We’re going to find areas of agreement. We’re going to find consensus. It’s when we get in this partisan back and forth that I find we get distracted.”
The focus of the election has been a diversity and equality plan named the Cultural Competency Action Plan or CCAP. It was created after a video of students chanting a racial slur went viral three years ago this week, and another video of students chanting the same word went viral months later.
The plan has now been held up for roughly a year due to a temporary restraining order. After pushback from some parents began, hundreds of current and former students shared testimony of racism and bullying in the district.
“We feel that we have a message of what we’re for,” Williams said. “We are for students. We are for moving our community forward. We are for protecting our public schools.”
Andrew Yeager, a Carroll parent, media sales director and University of North Texas adjunct professor, is challenging Williams.
WFAA made repeated attempts to get in touch with Yeager over several days, a relative said he was aware of WFAA’s request. Also, Yeager supporters outside Southlake Town Hall’s polling location wouldn’t talk to WFAA.
Yeager took part in a town hall last week, though, and said he supports strengthening the student code of conduct but is against the CCAP and separate demands made by a group of students known as the Southlake Anti-Racism Coalition.
“We represent the parents. We’re not a conduit for students with radical ideas. We represent the parents and the taxpayers,” Yeager said during the town hall.
Yeager is endorsed by the Southlake Families PAC, which says on its website it “is unapologetically rooted in Judeo-Christian values. We welcome all that share our concerns and conservative values.”
“I’m the only conservative in the race and they do support me, and I appreciate that,” said Yeager.
“We need to get politics out of the conversation,” Williams said. “It is a nonpartisan position. It’s a public school.”
The PAC’s two recent school board candidates, Cam Bryan and Hannah Smith won by a roughly 40% margin in Mary elections and oppose the diversity plan.
“People are not coming here because they’re saying I want to pick the most equitable school district in north Texas,” Yeager said in the town hall. “That’s not what they’re saying. They’re saying I want to pick the most excellent school district.”
Carroll ISD made headlines weeks ago after a 3-2 vote to discipline a teacher who had an anti-racist book in her classroom.
The district garnered national attention again last week after a recording captured a school administrator telling teachers if they had a book on the Holocaust in class, they needed to have a book with an alternative viewpoint. Leaders apologized and called it a poor example of following a new state law.
“We’re not perfect,” Yeager said during the town hall, which occurred before the Holocaust recording. “We’re humble enough to understand there are things that we have to work on.”
Yeager said if elected his top priority would be the district’s budget.
“We’re not going to be able to achieve what we want, which is ensuring that our programs that cost the most money are safe,” he said.
In the first three days of early voting, nearly 30% of in-person votes cast in all of Tarrant County have been at Southlake Town Hall, which makes up a fraction of the county’s eligible voters. Voting ends in two weeks. The division likely won’t.
“We would love to be in the news for all of the wonderful things that happen in Southlake and Carroll,” said Williams.