Leander ISD trustee Jim MacKay resigns citing lax oversight of some literature in district

By RICHARD STONE, Hill Country News

Place 5 Leander ISD Trustee Jim MacKay announced his intention to resign his position on the board on Sept. 10.

MacKay said his decision was informed by the district’s lax oversight of various literature programs — some of which he called pornographic — and the apparent unwillingness of the board as a whole to hold LISD Superintendent Dr. Bruce Gearing accountable for that and other things.

“I made a statement to the community that we would hold this administration accountable,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Hill Country News, which published Friday, September 10. “It’s become obvious that the board has no appetite to hold anyone accountable. Therefore, I have no choice but to hold myself accountable because I have failed my community.”

“We are sorry to hear about [Jim’s] resignation,” said LISD Board President Trish Bode. “He has been a valued member of our board and I am sorry that he will not be continuing this journey with us, but we will respect his decision. We as a nation owe our servicemen and women, like Jim, a tremendous amount of gratitude and respect.”

Bode added that she is sympathetic with MacKay’s decision.

“It has definitely been a trying time for trustees volunteering in public education to navigate the pandemic and public discourse, while maintaining our focus on students and the classroom,” she said.

MacKay’s frustration with the board and administration was evident at the September 9 meeting during a discussion about COVID-19 protocols.

“We’re making decisions that I am ultimately responsible for … and I’m really uncomfortable with some of the decisions we’ve made and that I have to live with,” MacKay said. “I’m so frustrated, I don’t know where to turn right now.”

MacKay cited the concerns about what was termed pornographic literature, and literature that addressed gender fluidity or that promoted Critical Race Theory, by some parents in last week’s meeting.

“The stuff that was being read was horrific. Absolutely horrific. Stuff that you couldn’t even print, it was that vile.”

He specifically referred to content from “An ABC of Equality,” a book for children ages 3-6 that explores diversity, gender equality and fluidity; and another book for middle school students that includes a scene that described a gang rape.

“There is no reason on this earth that conversations about gang rape with a 14-year-old student is good education. … it isn’t. If this is the only way we can meet our TEKS, I don’t want to be part of that. I’m just not gonna do it. I cannot, in good conscience, continue on the board thinking this is alright,” MacKay said.

He sent a copy of a letter he said he intends to share with the community with The Hill Country News.

“I cannot, and quite frankly will not, support a superintendent or board that turns a blind eye to the incredible harm we are potentially doing to our innocent children,” he said in the letter. “I have failed in my promise to protect our most vulnerable.”

MacKay also cited clashes with Gearing. He said that he knows Gearing was asked several times about several issues to address COVID-19 spread — including air filtration systems — and was dissatisfied that Gearing asked for more time to study it.

“We were talking about COVID protocols … everything other than wearing a mask, including air filter systems. We were talking about air filtration last year. Why is it now, I don’t have an answer for that? When [were they] going to do the research.?”

In the letter, MacKay said he had been steadfast in his position on “ … COVID mitigation strategies, including the consistent and proper wearing of protective face coverings in our schools. Due to despicable attempts by senior elected officials to weaponize and politicize health safety protocols, my ability to make face coverings mandatory has been severely impacted. I accept that the political wranglings are beyond my control and have worked diligently to explore every legal opportunity to mandate mask wearing.”

MacKay was first elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. His current term expires in 2024. MacKay said last Friday his resignation was effective immediately. September 10, the board called for a special meeting on Monday to accept MacKay’s resignation and discuss options for filling his seat.

Hill Country News has been serving Cedar Park, Leander and Northwest Austin since 1968.