Fort Bend ISD's outgoing superintendent says she was forced by board to retire or be fired

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Fort Bend ISD's outgoing superintendent says she was forced out
Fort Bend ISD's superintendent is speaking for the first time since announcing her retirement, telling ABC13 she was forced out by the board president, who gave her an ultimatum.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Christie Whitbeck addressed questions surrounding her sudden retirement and said she was given an ultimatum that she would be fired if she didn't retire.

"The facts are my contract was renewed until December 2026 and a 2% raise was given to me in July," Whitbeck said. "I was not on any kind of a growth plan or any kind of plan for improvement. I received no memos, nothing of that nature. I still, to this day, have not met with my board of trustees to fully understand exactly why all this is happening."

In November, after the tax rate election, Whitbeck said she was approached by Board President Judy Dae, who gave her an ultimatum.

"Nineteen hours after a successful VATRE election (Voter Approval Tax Rate Election) that's going to pay our people more and bring in security, why I would have the board president meet with me and tell me, 'You can opt for a voluntary retirement agreement, or we are going to pursue termination,'" Whitbeck said.

According to Whitbeck, she asked the board president why they wanted to terminate her.

PREVIOUS REPORT: Fort Bend ISD board member claims timing of superintendent's retirement is 'lacking due process'

A Fort Bend ISD trustee is pulling the curtain back only to ABC13 after the superintendent's sudden retirement. She says an ultimatum was placed on the outgoing leader.

"There really is no cause of termination, but there is a piece in my contract that pretty much, basically, makes a superintendent somewhat at will," Whitbeck said. "It says at any time, the board can end the relationship if there is a rapport issue. Now, it doesn't define rapport. When I think of rapport, I think we are working together, and in my mind, I am working well with them. But there is no definition. So, because of that, I can fight it, but I also know I signed the contract, so there is my dilemma over the last couple of weeks. What do I do, and what is the best thing to do?"

On Monday night, dozens of community members packed into the Fort Bend ISD board meeting, where the public was allowed to comment on the issues.

Fort Bend ISD serves about 80,000 families and the board members are elected leaders who the families trust to make the best decisions on behalf of the district.

Most spoke in support of the superintendent, vouching for her character, including many teachers within the district and Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman. A lot of the people who showed up told us they felt the district is not putting the families who elected them first.

During last week's board meeting, Board Member Sonya Jones shocked everyone when she said the superintendent would never work in education again if the public knew what was revealed in closed session. The board has not said anything to back that up, leaving the public in the dark.

"I have never done anything illegal, immoral, or improper, ever," Whitbeck said. "I have not violated a district policy, any kind of directive from the board."

SEE ALSO: Fort Bend ISD board member claims superintendent was forced out: 'It doesn't add up'

Dr. Christie Whitbeck's contract was extended until December 2026, and she received a bonus, but now there are questions rising about her sudden retirement announcement.

Whitbeck said she has officially signed the separation agreement, which is for more than $490,000 that taxpayers are now on the hook for, along with the salary of the interim superintendent.

ABC13 has reached out for a copy of that separation agreement, but the district claimed they have not received a copy yet. ABC13 also reached out to the attorney of the board of trustees, Jonathon Brush with Rogers, Morris, & Grover. He did not respond to our emails or calls.

ABC13's Brooke Taylor asked him during the board meeting if he plans to respond and give us a copy and he walked away and said he could not release documents for the district.

President Judy Dae previously released a statement about the allegations, which said she was unable to comment on personnel matters of district employees. ABC13 has reached back out after Whitbeck's comments.

Whitbeck will remain with the district as the Superintendent Emeritus until June 2024, to help with the transition.

For updates on this story, follow Brooke Taylor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

RELATED: Fort Bend ISD trustees OK superintendent's request to retire

Fort Bend ISD approved Superintendent Christie Whitbeck's retirement request, although she has two years left on her contract.