At some point this evening, the Dallas Independent School District board of trustees will elect new officers. Among the front-runners for president is Lew Blackburn, which may explain why Carla Ranger took to her blog earlier today to throw Blackburn under the bus.
You see, there's no love lost between the two trustees, dating to at least '07, when Blackburn allegedly threw his support behind Jerome Garza for second veep when he'd earlier promised to support Ranger, who had nominated Blackburn, who lost to Jack Lowe. (Got that?) Then, in June '09, Ranger wrote on her blog that Blackburn and then-trustee Ron Price engaged in "a new low in treachery and petty politics" when they tossed out her suggestion to name a school for Dr. John Hope Franklin and instead went with Wilmer Hutchins Elementary School.
So, there's that. Then comes this: On her blog today Ranger points out that before the 2010 elections, Blackburn received $12,000 in campaign contributions from the Houston area. "Strange that so many Houston area contributors would take such a strong financial interest in a Dallas ISD School Trustee race in the African American community," she writes.
She then tries to connect the contributors to the district's interest in charter schools, an initiative being pushed by the Dallas Regional Chamber, which funded trips for school board members to Denver, Los Angeles ... and Houston. Ranger made it clear two weeks ago she's vehemently opposed to that. About that 12 thou, she asks: "Does it have anything to do with the charter school push in Dallas ISD that Superintendent Hinojosa mentioned this week in Georgia?"
Doubtful. Patrick Michels and I tried to reach everyone on Ranger's list of Blackburn contributors, and those with whom we spoke say they have no connections to charter schools here or in Houston or anywhere else.
GreenbergTraurig attorney Franklin D.R. Jones Jr. says he was invited to a fundraiser for Blackburn in Houston last year and cut a $500 check at a friend's request. "I don't have anything to do with charter schools," he tells Unfair Park. And he barely knows Blackburn, he says: "I just met the man once."
Former Harris County-Houston Sports Authority chair William F. "Billy" Burge III says he just gave $500 because his buddy Frank Jones did. "No charter schools here," he says.
Patrick reached Mourhaf "Michael" Sabouni at work at Houston's Autoarch Architects, who told him, plain and simple, he likes to support leaders in education. Like David Medford, and Blackburn donor Tracey Medlock's husband, Jason, Sabouni also contributed to Houston ISD candidate Larry Marshall back in 2009.
Sabouni says he doesn't know why Ranger would suggest any ties between him or his construction firm, and a push for new charter schools in Dallas. "If you know of any, let me know," Sabouni says. "I'd like to submit a proposal."
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We couldn't reach architect Christus N. Powell II, but Powell does list among his myriad educational clients the Dallas Independent School District.
We also left messages for Tracey Medlock, wife of Jason -- a partner in Houston Texans defensive end Aaron Glenn's real estate company. Tracey made the biggest outside donation to Blackburn's campaign at $5,000. But we can find no charter-school connection there either. She's in the catering business.
We're still waiting for more calls. Still, so far ... nothing. But Ranger's insistent in her blog post: "Why would persons outside Dallas make the following contributions to Trustee Blackburn who works for a charter school and who in 2008 served as Superintendent of Lynn Acre Academy Charter School? Click Here!"
Interestingly, the article in which Ranger quoted Hinojosa talking about how "national funders are pushing Dallas to be involved in charters"? That's the same one in which the outgoing superintendent also said: "Some of my board meetings are not that professional."