KRUM — A group of about 60 people gathered in Krum on Sunday to discuss the recent removal of Bernard Lightfoot as high school vice principal.
The Krum school board voted unanimously Thursday night to accept a voluntary separation agreement with Lightfoot. The agreement came after allegations of unethical grade manipulation by school officials, and controversy over the ousting of Lightfoot is in no short supply.
An online petition titled “Save Lightfoot” circulated via social media in the lead-up to Thursday’s announcement. It had more than 800 signatures by Sunday night — a significant number considering that Krum ISD serves about 2,000 students, according to its website, and the city population is just over 5,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2017.
The events leading up to Thursday’s announcement gained the attention of parents, students and city residents, as well as local activists, including Willie Hudspeth and Larry Lamonica.
Sunday afternoon’s meeting was organized with help from Hudspeth and Ron Harris, united by a singular idea: Krum ISD is in need of change. Hudspeth is president of the Denton chapter of the NAACP, as well as an outspoken activist and community member.
Harris is the mayor of Krum, although he claimed to be at the event as a parent and not as a politician.
Krum residents Misty and Scott Vystrcil live in the neighborhood near the park where Sunday’s meeting was held. They showed up to hear organizers talk because of a feeling of injustice.
“We’re trying to figure out how to support change,” Misty Vystrcil said.
They both claimed to fully support former Vice Principal Lightfoot, and felt that his dismissal was unjust, even if it doesn’t seem to have been strictly illegal.
“Public perception is he got fired for bringing something to light,” Misty Vystrcil said.
“It just all seems wrong,” her husband, Scott, added.
Their shared feeling that something may be rotten was a common thread among the people present at Sunday’s event.
Hudspeth addressed those feelings as soon as he stepped in front of the group.
“I’m here to help you guys get organized,” he said. “What did they do that was illegal, that we can prove, that we can verify?”
Huspeth, wearing a Vietnam veterans hat and a neon yellow shirt reminiscent of the “#SaveLightfoot” T-shirts worn by people at Thursday’s school board announcement, told listeners to not rely on rumors. He told them to start working to prove illegal activities immediately, but to leave questions of unethical behavior to upcoming elections.
“You need 250 people, and you can determine whatever happens in this community,” Hudspeth said. “Two hundred fifty people voting in the same direction will change this city. That’s the power you have.”
Hudspeth spoke with attendees as they listed what issues surrounding recent problems in Krum ISD were most important to them. Harris took notes, filling the role of parent and secretary.
Oscar Matthews is a Krum resident and father. Regardless of who is to blame, he said he feels that “whatever’s going on with the school board is hurt/ing the children.”
The recent allegations leveled against Krum ISD have made his family reconsider their daughter’s education. In fact, he has spoken with his wife about home-schooling their daughter, Joshlyn, instead of enrolling her at Krum High School next fall.
Items on the list included: alleged grade tampering at Krum High, students being “bullied” into signing nondisclosure agreements, nepotism from school board members down the chain of command and a general lack of transparency.
Once the list was finalized, Hudspeth urged listeners to vote for a change in school board leadership and told them to prepare themselves for the next school board meeting on Nov. 14.
“The next school board meeting, we are going to be there, and we are going to put on our prison uniforms,” Hudspeth said, referencing the bright color of the “#SaveLightfoot” T-shirts. “And we are gonna sit on the front row. This has never happened in Krum, [and] it never happens in Denton.”
Krum Organized Voters Group was picked as a tentative name, and those wishing to stay informed put their names down for an email list. Nearly 50 people signed the list.
Sunday’s meeting was originally announced as being at a local Masonic lodge, but the location was changed on short notice. A woman brought a simple memo purportedly written by members of the lodge and presented it to event organizers. It read, in its entirety:
“The Masonic Lodge had nothing to do with the scheduling or rescheduling of this meeting. It is not our purpose to participate in political disputes [controversies]. They may, of course, participate at their own volition, but the lodge is not a participant.”
No logo or signature accompanied the memo.
The next meeting of the newly established KOVG was scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 4. A local church was first announced as the meeting site, but now the location is yet to be determined.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Harris said, “and there is a lot of will in this particular situation, and we will find a way.”