According to emails shared with the El Paso Politics, the El Paso chapter of the Texas AFT, formerly the Texas Federation of Teachers is facing some controversy over the representation of an El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) teacher facing termination and the pending union election for president of the union. The Texas AFT represents non-administrative employees of public schools and some charter schools, according to its website.
The current president of the El Paso chapter of the teacher union is Ross Moore.
This is not the first time that Ross faces controversy.
In January, Moore filed 24 ethics complaints against Claudia Ordaz alleging that Ordaz failed to report campaign contributions over $500 to city council as required by the city’s ethics code. Two of the contributions were for $10,000 each from Paul Foster and Woody Hunt. Ordaz was accepting campaign contributions for her campaign for the Texas House District 76, which she won.
Ordaz told the El Paso Times that Ross’ ethics complaint was wrong because Ordaz reported the political contributions to the Texas Ethics Commission, as required. According to Ordaz, she was not required to report the contributions to city council as alleged. The El Paso AFT had endorsed Ordaz’ opponent, Elisa Tamayo, in the race.
In February, an outside counsel hired by the City, dismissed the ethics complaints by Ross against Ordaz.
El Paso Independent School District Controversies
In 2009, the school district was embroiled in a student cheating scandal. Citing the scandal, the Texas Education Agency dissolved the school board in 2012 and appointed a Board of Managers. The Texas agency returned control the school district to local authority in 2015.
In 2017, then candidate for Congress, Dori Fenenbock specifically told her supporters that she was not seeking the endorsement of the Texas AFT. A leaked email from Ross Moore revealed that Moore was turning “EPISD employees against” Fenenbock. Fenenbock was the previous president of the EPISD Board of Trustees. The controversy between Fenenbock and Moore was about charter schools.
On November 15, 2017, The 74, a self-described “non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America” published emails by Ross Moore detailing Moore’s tactics to block any relationship between the newly appointed EPISD superintendent, Juan Cabrera and the El Paso AFT. [Beth Hawkins, “Campaign to Sabotage District/Charter Partnership, Out Superintendent,” The 74, November 15, 2017]
In the emails, Ross Moore writes that the teacher’s union should “begin interfering with” Cabrera’s relationship with universities and to “turn members and other EPISD employees against Cabrera.” Moore adds, “Cabrera will not be EPISD Superintendent in 6-12 Months, this is his pay-off to (Dee) Margo/CREEED.” CREEED refers to the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development.
CREEED and Charter Schools
CREEED is an El Paso education advocacy non-profit. In 2017, the Hunt Foundation gave $12 million to CREEED. Richard Castro, owner of several McDonald’s, is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of CREEED. Woody Hunt is the Vice-Chair and Amy O’Rourke, Beto O’Rourke’s wife, serves as the Choose to Excel Director.
In his emails, Moore encourages his membership to “develop a Boycott McDonald’s Campaign.”
Teacher Faces Termination While Running Against Russ Moore For President of Union
Emails shared with the El Paso Politics shows more controversy surrounding Ross Moore and the teacher’s union he runs.
EPISD teacher, Xavier Miranda, is facing termination over allegations of the misuse of school time for personal things.
According to an email dated August 17, 2020, Ross Moore writes that El Paso AFT “will not be challenging” EPISD’s decision not to release the “identity of the persons who either filed complaints or made statements” about Miranda’s “behavior and actions on March 12 th at El Paso High School,” pursuant to an open records request filed by Miranda with EPISD.
Moore goes on to write that “EPISD has serious concerns about you (Miranda) confronting and retaliating against individuals.” Moore wrote that Miranda confronted a teacher who had filed a complaint against Miranda at Coronado High School on two occasions – a classroom and in the parking lot.
Moore concludes his email with “having personally seen you lose you temper and control becoming belligerent and verbally abusive with our State Senator, the EPISD Trustees, the former Board of Managers President and the 15 year old daughter of a member, as well as having personally been subject to your loss of control, I must share their concern.” In his email response, Miranda writes that Moore’s allegations against Miranda are “interpreted as slanderous in nature, as well as an overt attempt to sway opinion” against Miranda.
Xavier Miranda added in an email to Moore that Miranda plans to make his “records of employment and discipline available for public scrutiny”. Miranda adds, “I also wish to acknowledge not only the involvement and advocacy of colleagues, but also the community at-large, including elected officials, one of whom is TX State Senator Jose Rodriguez of whom you reference, that are appalled by the recommendation to dismiss me for standing up for the children and families of our community.”
Miranda also writes, he “publicly called you (Moore) out for endorsing the 2016 $668 million EPISD bond without consulting General Membership; and that a subsequent administrative assignment was awarded to your spouse soon thereafter.”
Miranda also alleges that Moore has “not dutifully held elections for your position in the past two cycles, in a manner adhering to our Constitution.”
Miranda writes that he “collected the required signatures and submitted” his petition to run for president of the union on March 12, 2020, adding that Moore “superseded EPAFT Constitution and delayed the biennial election, without consulting General Membership.”
Termination Hearing And Union Election
At issue are two things. The first is that Xavier Miranda is facing a termination hearing before the EPISD Board of Trustees on September 15. The hearing is where EPISD officially notifies Miranda of their “intent to terminate” him. The second is that Miranda is challenging Ross Moore as the union president.
The American Federation of Teachers have now become involved in the controversies, according to emails provided to the El Paso Politics.
According to an email from Xavier Miranda to the El Paso Politics on August 24, 2020, Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez, as well as “other community members” are expected to speak on Miranda’s behalf at the termination hearing. Miranda writes that he will likely be representing himself “as a result of the union reneging on their obligation of Duty of Fair Representation” to a dues-paying union member, “for obvious political reasons.”
Miranda also adds that he will be moving forward on his campaign to be elected as the union president, “whether Ross Moore conducts the election or not.”
On August 26, Ross Moore wrote an email to Miranda detailing the “Legal Review” of Miranda’s EPISD termination case by the union. According to the email, the El Paso AFT attorney found that Miranda had “violated prohibitions against the use of school hours for personal purposes” and the union attorney does not believe that Miranda would prevail in the hearing. Thus, according to the email, the labor union attorney recommends “not funding the case.”
Ross Moore’s email also states that the union attorney found that EPISD’s offer for Miranda to resign effective October 31 in lieu of termination “is a reasonable offer.” Moore’s email asked Miranda if he wished to “schedule a meeting” with the local attorney and if Miranda wanted a second legal opinion. Miranda replied in the email “yes” to both questions.
Miranda was also asked if he wished to accept the offer of resignation in lieu of termination, to which Miranda replied “no”.
Miranda also asked in the email that an election be held on September 17, 2020. Miranda has announced a challenge against Ross Moore for president of the local teacher’s union.
Change.org Petition Started Against Ross Moore
The El Paso Politics also found a Change.org petition asking for the “removal of Ross Moore from Teachers Associations and boards”. The petition, started by James Schwitters last week has gathered 176 signatures as of this morning.
The petition states that “Ross Moore has a long history of bringing his political affiliations into his classroom.” The petition also says that Moore “has been extremely toxic during his career in EPISD.”
The El Paso Politics will continue to monitor this developing story and will add more articles as more information becomes available.