Two Open Letters to Jo Ann Fleming: Texans Not Happy With You

May 22, 2016 by


“Two Open Letters to Jo Ann Fleming: Texans Not Happy With You”

By Donna Garner






To:  Jo Ann Fleming, Executive Director of Grassroots America and We the People PAC

Date:  5.18.16

Re:  Your withdrawal of endorsement for Mary Lou Bruner for Texas State Board of Education, District 9

From:  Donna Garner


JoAnn, I am heartsick about your decision to withdraw your endorsement of Mary Lou Bruner (document attached).  I cannot believe that as hard as we across the state have worked to get rid of Thomas Ratliff, you and GAWTP would be foolish enough to undercut our efforts, possibly clearing the way for a “clone” of Thomas Ratliff to be elected – Keven Ellis. If Ellis should get elected instead of Mary Lou (a 36-year veteran teacher), you would put at risk the goals that the five conservatives on the SBOE need to accomplish.    


Mary Lou has run a superb campaign (both a Primary and a Primary Run-Off), speaking out as honestly as possible to everyone in her district who will listen to her.


I have already sent most of this information to you over the last few weeks but will resubmit it to you once again. Maybe this time you will read it carefully and realize how inaccurate and petty your questions and statements on the attached document really are:  





5.16.16 — “Frustrated” — By Donna Garner – —


Excerpts from this article:


On May 4, 2016, the “educrats” set themselves up to get their revenge at the Education Service Center to which Keven Ellis and Mary Lou Bruner were invited to hold a Q&A. The place was filled with school administration personnel who were deliberately adversarial in their questions and responses; and in the midst of the pressures of the moment, Mary Lou accidentally misspoke and said that the number of students in Special Education is approaching 50%.


Mary Lou meant to say “students in special programs,” and she was making the point that classrooms are becoming harder for teachers to manage because of the many labeled students who require special accommodations. Mary Lou was also criticizing the educrats who have purchased CSCOPE/Common Core-compliant curriculum and curriculum systems that are setting students up for failure.   


Keven Ellis and his crowd have blown that one mistake clear out of proportion while ignoring many appropriate statements made by Mary Lou Bruner.


Ironically enough, today the new student demographic information for 2015 – 2016 from the TEA was made public; and it clearly states that at least half of the state’s students are in one or more of the “at risk” categories which means special programs (e.g., Title I, economically disadvantaged, at-risk, bilingual, ESOL, Special Education, dyslexia, etc.). Mary Lou was right except she accidentally said “Special Education” instead of using the term “special programs.”  





[This is information from the 2015 – 2016 PEIMS Standards Report. As you can see, Title I, Economically Disadvantaged, and At-Risk are all three well over 50% of the total number of Texas public school students.  Mary Lou Bruner is right; well over 50% of the students in today’s Texas classrooms belong to some special program. Many of them fall under several special programs which means teachers are having to meet several different sets of requirements to serve one student.  – Donna Garner]


SOURCE: 5.16.16 — Texas Education News – Vol. 33, Issue 20 – PEIMS Standards Report –


(Updated on April 15, 2016)


Total Student Enrollment – 2015–2016 – 5,299,728


Percent of the state’s total enrollment (5,299,728):


Title I – 3,435,157 students – (64.8%)

Economically Disadvantaged students – 3,122,903 (58.9%)

At Risk students – 2,649,069 (50%)

Bilingual/ESOL, other programs for English Language Learners – 1,949,622 (36.8%)

Special Education students – 463,185 (8.7%)

Dyslexic students – 141,033 students – (2.7%)

Career and Technical Education Programs – 1,285,605 students (24.3%)






Source:  (3.28.16 – “Why Aren’t Texas High School Students Prepared for College?” – by Julie Chang – Austin American-Statesman )


Quote from this article:

The latest data available from the Texas Education Agency showed that 54 percent of students who graduated in 2014 were college-ready — a measurement that takes into account how well students did on state standardized tests, the ACT or the SAT in math and English. Performance on the SAT and ACT in 2015 was even poorer — 34 percent of those taking the SAT and 27 percent of those taking the ACT were college-ready.

In 2015 — 66% not college ready (SAT)

In 2015 – 73% not college ready (ACT)



Please go to page 4 of this 2014-2015 Achieve, Inc. report.  This shows that 27% of all Texas students were College and Career Ready.  




3.14.16 – Achieve, Inc. Releases Annual Report on Each State’s College-and-Career-Ready Policies




These individual state profiles, as well as a K–12 summary report, represent the first time that indicators of college and career readiness, from publicly available sources, have been compiled to paint a picture of college and career readiness in every state in this way.








Mary Lou could not identify her source for the Lufkin ISD statistics about the credentialed teacher shortage because the person who confided this in Mary Lou is employed in Lufkin ISD.  Mary Lou did not want the person to face retribution for having told her the facts. It is not unusual for classroom teachers to know what is actually occurring in a district only to see that information distorted and manipulated by administrators and the school board to deceive the public.





Mary Lou and her husband Anthony have been driving around District 9 night and day during the Primary run and also during the Primary Run-Off.  (Most candidates do not have to endure a Primary Run-Off; but because a third candidate ran in the Primary, this split the votes and caused a Primary Run-Off to occur.)  


No town is too small or group too insignificant in numbers for Mary Lou to speak to them. She has visited with many administrators, classroom teachers, business groups, retired teachers’ organizations, church groups, Republican Party meetings, newspaper reporters, radio commentators, etc. They also went to the Texas Republican Convention in Dallas and spent much time in the Education Platform meeting because they care so deeply about education in Texas.  Mary Lou was introduced at the end of the RPT Convention, and Keven Ellis was not even present to be introduced.

People who have never campaigned on a shoestring budget in an area that covers 31 counties may not understand how difficult it is to reach each part of District 9. Unfortunately, Mary Lou did not have enough campaign funds to hire a staff to help her write her numerous speeches and do her scheduling for her.

On many days Mary Lou and her husband Anthony left their home before 7:00 A. M. and did not return until past midnight. They genuinely tried to see as many school administrators as possible, but oftentimes the schools were closed at the time they were going through the various towns.   

Mary Lou stated clearly in her Q&A at the ESC on 5.4.16 that she was sorry the pace of the campaign had been so fast and furious which made it impossible for her to visit with every school superintendent in District 9.



My question to you, Jo Ann, is why you and your organization have not been the first in line to work as hard as possible to make sure that Mary Lou Bruner is elected to the SBOE from your District. Because of the conservative principles that your organization supposedly supports, you should be excited to give your whole-hearted support to Mary Lou.  She and Anthony have supported you and your organization with funds that they gave sacrificially to further your efforts; and now when it is your turn to support a great conservative such as Mary Lou, you have not only withdrawn your support for her based upon petty and unfounded reasons but have also increased the chances that Keven Ellis, another educrat like Thomas Ratliff, might be elected to the Board.


Mary Lou and Anthony have had to endure untold difficulties during these two campaigns, but the cruelest cut of all is when it comes from those they consider to be their friends. Unfortunately, you fall into this category.







To:  JoAnn Fleming

From:  Donna Garner

Re: Your ESC Kilgore Questions of Mary Lou Bruner

Date:  5.20.16


Something that I found out last night from talking to Mary Lou is that she did give you the answers to the ESC Kilgore questions you asked. In fact, right smack in the middle of crunch time with early voting and Mary Lou and Anthony going non-stop in the campaign, Mary Lou took the time to try to contact you numerous times. You did not return the calls. Then Mary Lou stayed up until 2:00 A. M. one morning writing an e-mail with the explanations to your questions and sent that to you.  Finally when you and Mary Lou did talk, you cryptically admitted that you had received the e-mail but indicated no appreciation for Mary Lou’s  having done so. The only question Mary Lou refused to answer was to provide a list of school administrators with whom she had talked. That is confidential and privileged information which no candidate needs to share.


Meanwhile, in an effort to relieve Mary Lou, I had also provided the documentation to you  to answer questions that arose out of the ESC Kilgore Q&A. I sent you several e-mails containing the credible documentation for those questions, but I never heard anything back from you. I again included that documentation in the e-mail that I sent to you on 5.18.16.    


Here is a reiteration of my comments that I sent to you on the next day — 5.19.16:


Mary Lou told me that your group wanted some documentation, and I provided that for you (what I put in my article last night – 5.18.16).  That should have sufficed even though I am wondering how many inquiries you made of Keven Ellis.


Did you put the same demands on Keven Ellis that you placed on Mary Lou to justify and explain his platform positions? 


You should have been questioning his support of 21st Century learning which is code for Common Core-compliant.


What about questioning why he is being supported by the Ratliff and Moses Clans, Raise Your Hand Texas, and the other CSCOPE/Common Core organizations?  


What about asking him what Lufkin ISD has done to make sure that the school funding that they receive is being used in the classroom instead of for administrative salaries and expensive technology/computerized systems?  


What about asking him for documentation to show how many credentialed teachers in Lufkin ISD are teaching in their fields of study?


I can think of many questions that your organization should have demanded that Keven Ellis answer; but oh, no, instead, you chose to put the pressure on Mary Lou, one of our strong conservatives; and you did that at crunch time right before early voting and election day.  


JoAnn, after I found out that you sent your withdrawal endorsement article widely throughout Texas, I decided to send out my 5.18.16 article to the thousands of people who are on my Texas e-mail list and social media sites. Many people wrote back to me to say how upset they are with you because they have fought so hard to get rid of Thomas Ratliff and do not want a “clone” (Keven Ellis) to hurt the chances of the SBOE conservatives to get things done. You have put the public school children of Texas in jeopardy, and caring parents and the concerned citizens are not happy with you.


Donna Garner

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