By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Today, Evans likes to think of himself as a protege of the late Yvonne Ewell, but he is more like a grainy copy of John Wiley Price. Throughout the Townview debate, Evans was seen standing at Price's side, a loyal sidekick who seemed only too willing to use the students at Townview as pawns in Price's game of race politics.
Price did not respond to the Observer's request for an interview, so it is unclear why he is supporting Evans. But Tyler's campaign manager Foreman contends that the old black political guard has selected Evans because they can control him and, therefore, maintain their clout in the black community.
"They don't ever want anyone new that they can't control," says Foreman, who helped trustee Ron Price defeat then-incumbent Kathlyn Gilliam by overcoming the support of the same people who are endorsing Evans. "The same endorsements went against Ron Price, and we barely won. It's very important for them to keep control in the neighborhoods," Foreman says. "If you get a new face, all these people come against you. It's like you have to get [the ministers'] permission to run."
The biggest task that board members will have to tackle this year is the hiring of a new superintendent. Evans now says he thinks good superintendents come in all colors. "I personally would not make race an issue, but if race is made an issue by other individuals, then we have to deal with it. I am an adamant believer in working with all communities and educational stakeholders."
Perhaps the 35-year-old Evans has matured since the days of Townview, but current board member Don Venable doesn't believe it. "I don't think there could be more of a destabilizing force on the board than Richard Evans," Venable says. "The last thing the board needs right now is irrational rhetoric predicated on racial differences."
Although Venable says he will try to work with whoever gets elected, he warns that his patience for playing race politics is running thin. "If this board goes back to the political instability that we saw a year ago," Venable says flatly, "I'll resign."
Like Foreman, Venable is disturbed by the ministers' decision to support Evans.
"It appears as though they want to punish the board for beginning to work together. I think destabilizing politics is the agenda of the ministers' association," says Venable. He adds that he's in favor of whichever candidate proves the quietest: "At least he or she may be able to learn, but you can't learn if you're running your mouth the entire time. That's the problem with Evans--you can't ever shut the guy up."
Board member Roxan Staff, who has given $1,000 to Se-Gwen Tyler's campaign, says she, too, has been unimpressed by Evans' penchant for playing the race card during board meetings. "I think he refers to me as 'that white woman,'" Staff says. "He wasn't interested in talking to me. He was interested in yelling at me."
But not everyone shares those concerns. Harley Hiscox is an Evans supporter and president of the Alliance of Dallas Educators, which recently endorsed Evans after interviewing all of the candidates. Although Tyler claims that the alliance was predisposed to endorse Evans, Hiscox says the opposite is the case.
"I had been given to believe that a lot of the people who are muckety-mucks wanted the other one--Se-Gwen something. So we invited them all in. [Tyler] performed so badly that the committee voted 14-zip for Mr. Evans," Hiscox says. "Richard Evans, he knew his facts. He knew all about us."
When asked whether he was bothered by the possibility that Evans never made it out of the DISD system, Hiscox says absolutely not. "They don't have any record of me graduating either. Besides that, I don't care."
Hiscox may not care to judge Evans by his background, but the voters in District 5 may want to consider what little is actually known about him before they go to the polls.
According to police and court records, just after Evans turned 18, he was still prone to juvenile behavior. In May 1981, Evans was caught trying to switch the price tag on merchandise at a southern Dallas grocery story. In September of that year, Evans pleaded guilty before the court on the misdemeanor charge, and he received one day in jail plus court costs.
By 1991 Evans had landed a job as a low-level supervisor at Ameriscribe, a company that provided copy services for large law firms. It was at Ameriscribe that Evans met a temporary worker, Johnny Johnson, who told police that in October 1991, Evans tried to "grab his crotch" as part of a pattern of behavior by Evans to force himself on Johnson.
Dallas police spokesman Sgt. Jim Chandler says Johnson lodged a complaint against Evans in 1993. At the time, Chandler says, Johnson claimed he saw Evans' picture in the newspaper as part of a citywide youth summit that Evans was organizing in the wake of the violence that had broken out after the 1993 Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl victory parade. (Evans lists the youth summit as one of his greatest accomplishments in education, but DISD trustee Ron Price claims Evans stole the idea from him.)