Orlando Riddick in his office at MISD. (Caroline Halter/Marfa Public Radio)
An appeal to remove Midland Independent School District Superintendent Orlando Riddick went live online Tuesday morning — just 3 weeks ahead of the first day of school.
It comes at a time when the district is facing over 150 teacher vacancies, with a total of nearly 500 professional staff departures for the school year. Riddick has been with Midland ISD since Fall of 2017.
Dani Shepard is a founder of Midland Moms on a Mission, the advocacy group behind the petition. They formed in response to what she sees as the district’s inadequate attention to cases of alleged in-school harassment throughout the year.
According to Shepard, upon forming the group, community members began coming forward with their stories “of teachers bullying kids, of kids bullying teachers, kids assaulting teachers, teachers assaulting kids, sexual assaults that go unreported, hidden weapons that go unreported, [and] death threats.”
Shepard has two children who attend an elementary school in the district. She became personally involved in the issue because of the district’s response to the alleged abuse of her friend’s 8-year-old daughter by another student while in school. She says the child experienced bullying, violence and sexual assault, and ultimately attempted suicide. An investigation with MISD Police concluded there wasn’t enough evidence that bullying had occurred.
Shepard says the group has called for communication and cooperation from the school district, and feels they’ve been given neither.
In response to the petition, Superintendent Riddick has issued the following statement:
“Upon arriving in Midland, it has been my goal to engage with our community. There are claims made in this petition that are simply not true, and I encourage our community and the news media to ask hard questions and seek more information before making assumptions about my leadership, members of my team, and my work. I have been extremely transparent and accessible since I came to this district. In the past year, Midland ISD has hosted a number of community engagement events. We have gone directly to our community seeking ways we can improve our district through a Listen & Learn Tour coupled with multiple parent meetings. During these meetings, we discuss openly with our community difficult topics and engage in very dynamic conversations. Boundary changes, transformation, in-district charter partnerships, and before and after-school programs, are examples. More so than ever before, we are collaborating with parents, business, faith-based, and community-serving organizations. A transparent example of this is the creation of the bullying task force which includes parents, community members, district staff, and Midland Moms on a Mission. Our goal will remain to engage with our community.”
As of Thursday morning, the petition had 409 signatures.