No respect

DISD trustee Se-Gwen Tyler explains why she cast her controversial vote for an Anglo board president

Brashear says he treated Tyler the same way he was treated by black former trustees Yvonne Ewell and Kathlyn Gilliam when he first came on the board in 1992. "I served as an understudy...You have to listen to somebody who has the best interests of the community at heart."

Tyler scoffs at the notion Brashear has black Dallas' best interests in mind. She points out that Brashear wasn't listening to the black or Hispanic communities when they voiced their united support for Dr. Carrol "Butch" Thomas as superintendent. "This is not about me," Tyler says. "I'm thinking about the children every time I make a decision, and I was thinking about the children when I voted for Miss Staff."

Tyler goes on to question Brashear's motives for serving on the board. She alleges that recurring problems in DISD haven't been investigated properly because Brashear has too many friends throughout the system. "I know that's the reason some of the ideas I've suggested haven't gone anywhere," she says.

One woman, one vote: Freshman DISD trustee Se-Gwen Tyler effectively ousted board president Hollis Brashear.
Martin Menocal
One woman, one vote: Freshman DISD trustee Se-Gwen Tyler effectively ousted board president Hollis Brashear.

Venable, for one, lauds Tyler's independence and willingness to vote against her African-American board colleagues. He says it only took her a week to establish her own course as a trustee and decline to follow Brashear's and Price's lead. "I think Se-Gwen has the intelligence and independence to be a good board member, and in doing so she's going to catch an awful lot of hell from people who don't want her to be that way," he says.

Tyler has also won an ally in Ron Davis, former president of Townview Magnet high school's PTA, who says he's pleased with her representation of District 5. "Many folks in the [black] community felt that we should take a hard position until she became a team player," Davis says. Now, he says, many people are upset about the buffeting Tyler has taken in the media -- especially from Brashear.

Says Brashear: "I'm not fanning the flames. I simply told the truth."

Which is more than he will say for Tyler.

For weeks leading up to the board's election of new officers, Brashear claims Tyler led him to believe she would cast her vote for him as board president. Then, moments before the vote took place, Tyler informed him that she'd changed her mind. He says that makes her a liar.

Tyler denies ever saying she would vote for Brashear. "I said I would 'support' him," she says. "I never said I would vote for him."

Once again, Ron Price backs up Brashear's view of events. Tyler "personally told me three or four times -- without me even asking -- that she was voting for Hollis, and she said it in the presence of a lot of people," Price says, though he can't remember when or where the declarations were made.

What neither he nor Brashear volunteer are the behind-the-scenes machinations that preceded the vote.

Tyler claims that Brashear had not only sicced the late trustee Yvonne Ewell's cronies on her, but also enlisted ministers and elected officials to put pressure on her to vote for him. "He even had Hattie Jackson call my pastor," Tyler says.

She believes she walked into a series of ambushes on the day of the vote. She says when she arrived at DISD headquarters on June 2, members of Ewell's old advisory council were waiting for her.

Brashear initially sidestepped questions about whether he had made calls to the ministers, activists, and officials. Then he denied it. He did say some called him with "concerns" about Tyler.

Brashear also volunteers that a "prominent minister" met with Tyler and himself to "try to straighten all of this out." He and Tyler both declined to give the minister's name.

Tyler uses the word harassment to describe her meeting with the women from Ewell's advisory council. Tyler told the women she would "vote her heart."

What's clear is that Tyler already had some sort of understanding with Roxan Staff.

"I had spoken to her about a possible change in leadership right after the May election" of new trustees, Staff says. She says Tyler was "open," though she made no commitments. "I said to Se-Gwen, if you can't support me, let me know, and I won't put myself out for nomination."

Staff put her name out and won.

Tyler now says she had already decided to support Staff in May, but doesn't bother to reconcile that with her pledge of "support" for Brashear. "I didn't say no, but I didn't say yes," she says.

Tyler maintains her decision to support Staff was about the kids, and nothing more. "In order for this district to move forward, everyone's heart has got to be in the right place, and I don't see where his [Brashear's] is," she says.

Asked if she has any specifics to back up her criticisms of Brashear, Tyler says, "Nothing particular."

For a moment, she appears lost in thought. Then she turns once again to the issue closest to her heart. "I just demand respect," she says. "If you won't give it to me, I'll get it."

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