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The secret history of the upcoming TISD bond issue: The 5 ways Doug Brubaker is getting to a "yes"

Jun 13, 2022

Superintendent Doug Brubaker came from Fort Smith Schools to Texarkana, Texas Independent School District in January 2021 with a clear mission from the Board of Trustees: Get us a bond issue package. 

And a committee of 42 will be deciding which bond issue proposals move forward on June 21, 2022.

Brubaker has become known for bond elections. So almost immediately upon his arrival, he began making plans. It all started with preliminary work in early 2021 and walkthroughs of all district properties in mid-2021. But the public wasn't told about it.

A TISD group called the Long Range Planning Committee is currently meeting to determine how many tens of millions will be requested in TISD's 2022 bond issue. But you haven't heard about it, and it is only discussed deep within the school district's website. 

How does he do it?

A previous article from Texarkana News mentioned that Brubaker got a Fort Smith school district committee to agree to $658 million in spending, which eventually led to a $120 million bond issue. Click here to read

This made us wonder: How does Doug Brubaker get people to consent to outlandish spending? We found some brilliant but cunning strategic moves, along with downright odd things you need to know. 

This is the secret history of the Texarkana Independent Bond Issue 2022 and the five peculiar ways Supt. Doug Brubaker plans to get a "yes" vote from both the Long Range Planning Committee and TISD voters.

1. Doug Brubaker produced a vague and expensive strategic planning document

In October 2021, TISD started the process of "Imagine 2026." The school district paid around $40,000 for facilitators from Virginia to come and engage with the community and tens of thousands more in district time and resources before it was approved in mid-2022. 

As we discussed in another article (click here to read), the mission statement and findings of the 9-page "Imagine 2026" strategic plan were similar to one Brubaker produced five years ago in Fort Smith called "Vision 2023."

Although the document is basically a worthless list of belief statements that are overly vague and uninspiring, the expensive 9-page document was a massive win for Doug Brubaker. And it was likely pre-planned before the high-priced facilitators were hired. Indeed, the superintendent used it to form the Long Range Planning Committee, eventually leading to an enormous bond issue for TISD.

And to top it all off, Supt. Brubaker did not even put his name on the "Imagine 2026" document. "Imagine" that.

 2. Doug Brubaker created a handpicked group - who were asked to agree to promote the bond issue in the committee charter

The Long Range Planning Committee is a branch of the expensive, 9-page "Imagine 2026" strategic plan. Doug Brubaker will tell you that "Imagine 2026" gives him a clear mandate to move forward with massive building projects and spending.

As the process began, TISD told the members in the charter that they must agree to campaign for the November bond election, which was listed as the reason for the committee's existence. See the photo below. 

Doug Brubaker chose a group of 42 members for the planning committee - some related to each other and/or co-workers. It must be mentioned that all the members are probably fine people and upstanding citizens. 

Brubaker describes these individuals as "stakeholders" in TISD. However, the chosen members are somewhat different from the original "Imagine 2026" citizens committee and include more people from the business community with intersecting interests.

The charter states that members must: "Participate in voter education process should bond election be called by Board of Trustees."

Even though TISD has not announced its intentions to taxpayers or parents, the committee's sole goal is a bond issue. See the photo from the committee's charter below:

It states the purpose of the committee in no uncertain terms: "Collaborative development of a bond package recommendation for presentation to the Texarkana ISD Board of Trustees and ultimately to the Texarkana ISD community in 2022."

3. Doug Brubaker implemented an odd method of discussion for the Long Range Planning Committee

At the beginning of the Long Range Planning Committee's work, members may not have realized that they would be examining hundreds of millions of dollars worth of spending. 

They were probably equally stunned by the parameters Doug Brubaker set for the discussion of each project being discussed. Yet, surprisingly, the rationale for the decision-making process used by TISD was outlined in the book Facilitator's guide to participatory decision-making, written by Sam Kaner.

Discussions based on Sam Kaner's Diamond Model of Participation are often used in community organizing and team software development. It involves timed intervals of a "Divergent Zone," the "Groan Zone," and "Convergent Zone." It is very odd to use this method for a bond election. But it has been utilized in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Birdville ISD in Texas, where Brubaker began his career. For example, see the photo above, which was taken directly from TISD Long Range Planning Committee documents:

4. Doug Brubaker's method of voting is unorthodox and unnecessarily complicated

Forget the formal up or down vote of Robert's Rules of Order. Doug Brubaker has a "better" way for the Long Range Planning Committee to determine its decisions. 

The system being used by Brubaker is the overly complicated Community at work gradients of agreement scale, which virtually assures that the school district can pass any measure it wants. 

It allows three ways to vote yes to an agreement, four ways to basically abstain from the vote, and only one way to place a "no" vote that is counted as an actual 'no." And, yes, it really is that confusing. 

For example, see the photo below, which was taken as a screenshot from TISD Long Range Planning Committee materials:

As you can see above, there is only ONE way for a Long Range Planning Committee member to vote "no" that will be registered as a "no." And that person actually has to say they will "BLOCK" the proposal. 

Besides voting "Abstain," Brubaker's method allows members three additional ways to register disagreement without placing a "no" vote that counts as a "no." 

And let's not forget that a "BLOCK" vote could cause business or social retaliation by other members and/or the school district.

Notice the sentence at the bottom of the screenshot above. It serves as a warning to committee members who might vote to "BLOCK" the proposal. It tells committee members: "The scale makes it easier for participants to be honest. Using it can register less-than-whole-hearted support without fearing that their statement will be interpreted as a veto."

The not-so-subtle message is that a member's vote will be noticed by other members and that a "BLOCK" vote is a "veto." Of course, this causes pressure for members who disagree with the proposal to choose the other four options, resulting in an abstention.

Amazingly, there are three ways to vote "yes" including "Endorsement," "Endorsement with a Minor Point of Contention," and "Agreement with Reservation."

The four ways to basically abstain from voting for the proposal are: "Abstain," "Stand Aside," "Formal Disagreement But Willing To Go Along With The Majority," and the insidious "Formal Disagreement with Request to be Absolved of Responsibility."

And don't forget, there is just one way to vote "no" - with the "Block." This is considered fairness?

5. Doug Brubaker adds a fail-safe voting option

The odd voting rules that Brubaker put in force say that 80% of the committee must agree to the proposal. But, as you have already seen, this is not hard when people are given three ways to vote yes, four ways to abstain, and only one way to actually vote "no" - which is called a "BLOCK." 

But if all the other things don't work, Doug Brubaker decided that a "super majority" of 65% of the committee could vote to send the bond issue to the public. See the photo below taken from TISD's Long Range Committee documents:

Brubaker was apparently worried that all the other heavy-handed work could have a slight chance of failing. So he offered the super majority option, which he called the "least desirable" choice. But, of course, threatening this final voting method could cause members to focus on anyone against the proposal - which could then be used to get dissenting members to register a formal disagreement that would only count as an abstention.

Conclusion: A pre-determined outcome?

The committee system has been designed for an expected outcome. There is no question about that.

And now you can clearly see how a Fort Smith Citizen's Committee voted for $658 million in projects by Doug Brubaker and how a Texarkana committee will likely vote to proceed with tens of millions of spending.

The secret history of the TISD bond issue started with the Board of Trustees hiring Doug Brubaker, who is now known for bond issue success. Then, the Board and Brubaker brought in facilitators and created the costly 9-page "Imagine 2026" document. The conclusions of this vague document led to unorthodox discussion methods used in the creation of the Long Range Planning Committee, which then led to a voting system that gives members 7 ways to vote with the district or abstain and only one way to truly vote "no."

What's next

Sometime following the final Long Range Planning Committee meeting on June 21, you will hear Doug Brubaker claim that the "citizens" are the ones who want the bond issue. He will tell you he is doing what the people want - even though he has been planning for the bond election since he came to Texarkana.

Do Texarkana ISD parents and voters want tens of millions in spending when gas and food prices are through the roof? It's doubtful.

But that's what Doug Brubaker is going to tell you.

Dig deeper

After Texarkana News began reporting on the bond issue, meeting notes from the Long Range Planning Committee have not been updated to include the June 2, 2022 meeting or the June 9, 2022 meetings. This is wrong. The committee's agenda and reference material should be publicly available before the final June 21, 2022, meeting of the Long Range Planning Committee.

Click here to read our analysis of TISD's Imagine 2026 strategic plan.

Click here to read the first story we published on the TISD bond issue 2022 and the pitfalls Texarkana could avoid that happened in Fort Smith, Arkansas under Doug Brubaker.

Let's introduce the committee members of the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC)

Jason Adams
David Alexander
Blaire Barlow
Bob Bruggeman
Robert Bunch
Juan Bustamante
Tarisha Duson
Lesli Flowers
Melva Flowers
Pastor LB George
Tonja Hayes
Ben King
Dwight Lowrie
Steve Mayo
LaTonya McElroy
Derrick McGary
George Moore
Brittne Muldrew
Dorothy Murphy
Austin Odom
Jennifer Orgeron
Mo Orr
David Orr
Pastor Tony Patterson
David Potter
Bennie Raney
Erica Rhone
Jim Roberts
Robin Rogers
Chris Ross
James Henry Russell
Madeline Russell
Mendy Sharp
Mary Lou Thorton
Field Walsh
Shawna Watkins
Treva West
Rendi Wiggins
Antonio Williams
Betty Williams
Lee Williams III
Mike Young

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