Gonzales Independent School District (GISD) Superintendent John Schumacher announced Dec. 7 the hiring of Brandi Bell as interim principal of East Avenue Primary effective immediately. Dr. Damaris Womack, the previous principal who will be resigning at the end of the semester in June, will be joining the administration team as an academic support administrator.
Schumacher explained that Dr. Womack will be able to help the district “in certain areas that we want to make sure we’re getting everything [shored] up before she leaves us in June.”
“We were fortunate for her to resign when she did,” said Robin Trojcak, the Director of Public Relations for GISD. “Because obviously it’s later in the year. So, with her making that decision earlier, we were able to move forward on this.”
Womack’s replacement Bell was at the center of a scandal while she served as principal of Weinart Elementary in Seguin. According to Seguin Gazette reports, the scandal revolved around alleged irregularities in benchmark testing. Though Bell denied the allegations, she resigned from her previous position in June 2018.
“Yes, we were aware [of the allegations] and we investigated and went through it thoroughly,” Schumacher told the Inquirer. “I would never bring to our district anybody that in any shape or form would be cheating. Character and integrity are the first things I look at besides your skillset. We had four people interviewed for this position and the skillset that we need, the integrity, the other [candidates] matched those integrity and character…[but] the skillset we needed for this particular position, this candidate came out high for us. From the interview committee [Bell] ranked number one, easily.”
The controversy centered around Bell’s usage of the school’s benchmark test.
“What [Bell] chose to do was to have them review the questions so they can look at the level of rigor in how that question is and what it’s like because most of the benchmark tests that you take in January, those lessons haven’t been taught, those TEKS haven’t been taught,” Schumacher explained. “If we were to give a benchmark right now, it would give us maybe background knowledge of what [students] don’t know in terms of the TEKS we haven’t taught us, and then it gives us knowledge of the TEKS that we have taught, how well have we taught them and have they learned them.”
“What she chose to use [the benchmark] as is a teaching tool to teach kids on learning how to read those [tests] and then knowing about the knowledge of what they’re going to have to learn,” Schumacher added.
“TEA didn’t, there’s no need to look at this,” he said. “Had that been a STAAR test? We wouldn’t have even interviewed.”
The Inquirer has reached out to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) public information office for comment on the investigation into the Seguin ISD campus, but they were unavailable before press time.
Schumacher said the GISD school board will decide whether or not to remove Bell’s interim status and promote her to full time principal of East Avenue at its regularly-scheduled meeting Monday, Dec. 13.