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'Don't Southlake my Grapevine': Parents and students support embattled principal after contract not renewed by district

Dr. James Whitfield has been on leave from the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District since August 30th, "for the best interest of the district."

GRAPEVINE, Texas — The Grapevine-Colleyville ISD school board voted unanimously 7-0 Monday night to not renew the contract of Dr. James Whitfield, a principal at Colleyville Heritage High School.

The district will allow Whitfield to appeal his termination, and the board will have to re-vote regarding his termination after that hearing. 

Whitfield's attorney told WFAA a lawsuit is expected if his client is ultimately fired. 

Whitfield has been on administrative leave from Grapevine-Colleyville ISD since August 30 "for the best interest of the district," he says. 

Credit: WFAA

Whitfield told WFAA he has not explicitly been informed why the district put him on the chopping block. He says he was only given a list of 34 things the district considers when not renewing a principal's contract. However, Whitfield said the district didn't elaborate further. 

On Monday night, during a contentious school board meeting filled with Whitfield's supporters, a district official revealed for the first time why Whitfield was up for non-renewal of his contract. 

The official gave a laundry list of reasons that included performance issues, insubordination with superiors, and Whitfield failing to establish and implement high expectations for all staff and students. 

In addition, the official also said Whitfield was deficient in observation reports, evaluations and lacked communication skills and situational awareness. 

The official also listed an instance where Whitfield failed to report misconduct among staff. 

Whitfield told WFAA after the meeting that he looked forward to appealing the decision and said the reasons listed for his termination were ridiculous and never brought to his attention. 

Regardless, Whitfield has been a shining star with the district and has been promoted several times in the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD system. 

But he said trouble began as far back as 2019 when someone complained to administrators that he was setting a "bad example" by posting pictures of himself kissing his wife on Facebook. 

The photos were from an anniversary trip in Mexico and showed the pair kissing one another and embracing on a beach, fully clothed in the sand. He said he agreed to take some of the photos down.

RELATED: Students held walkout in support of Colleyville Heritage HS principal sidelined amid critical race theory complaints

But on July 26, former school board candidate Stetson Clark accused Whitfield of being an advocate for critical race theory: the idea that racism runs deep and continues to shape American society today. 

"Because of his extreme views, I ask that a full review of Mr. Whitfield's tenure in our district be examined and that his contract be terminated effective immediately," said Clark. 

After Whitfield was sidelined, speculation grew throughout the community that the district had a knee-jerk reaction to Clark's comments and parental input that followed. 

A statement was sent to WFAA on September 10 by a district spokesperson to squash that rumor:

"The District has received numerous questions regarding the decision to place Dr. James Whitfield on paid administrative leave. While the status of this as an ongoing personnel matter limits the information that the District can disclose about the events leading up to this decision, the speculation and conjecture that surround these events warrant some additional context.

The decision to place Dr. Whitfield on administrative leave was not a result of statements made by members of the public, including those who spoke at recent meetings of the GCISD Board of Trustees. Nor was the decision made in response to allegations Dr. Whitfield was teaching Critical Race Theory, or because of the photos on his social media account that were brought to the attention of the District in 2019.

We understand that members of our community have questions, but the District does not resolve personnel matters in the media. We have established procedures for that which we are following."

But the belief that Whitfield was being targeted because he was vocal for diversity and inclusion was front and center during public comments Monday night. 

During public comment, Whitfield even addressed the board, saying:

"I'm no different than when I came here. I believe every student, regardless of whatever bucket you put them in, should have access to an equitable education." 

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