The sudden retirement of Dr. Christie Whitbeck, superintendent of Fort Bend ISD, is accompanied by mysterious allegations of impropriety.
During a Monday meeting of the Fort Bend ISD board of trustees, they voted 5-1 to accept the resignation of Whitbeck. The move was unexpected. Whitbeck’s contract had recently been re-approved through 2026, and she even received a merit-based raise of $7,400 annually. Whitbeck has been superintendent since 2021, having previously served as superintendent of Bryan ISD and deputy superintendent of Fort Bend ISD.
The mystery deepened when Sonya Jones (Position 5), who was elected in May, made some vague but menacing accusations.
“If we went one by one on what was closed, talked about closed session, number one, she would never be able to work in education again,” said Jones.
The room then erupted in boos and accusations that Jones had crossed a boundary. Jones responded that Whtitbeck has “crossed many boundaries.”
Jones did not elaborate on what exactly Whitbeck was accused of in the closed session. Kristen Davison Malone (Position 6) responded harshly.
“It boils down to personality conflicts between our president, our secretary, and perhaps another,” she said.
For her part, Whitbeck has denied doing anything unethical, illegal, or immoral, but she as well has not elaborated on what was discussed in the closed door meeting. What is known is that her last day as superintendent will be Dec. 11. She will remain an employee of Fort Bend ISD through June, helping her replacement transition. In addition, the district will have to pay Whitbeck a severance package of $491,000.
What is the reason for the sudden resignation of the superintendent of the Houston area’s fourth largest school district. Malone said that Board President Judy Dae had given Whitbeck an ultimatum to resign, but not why.
The reason could have to do with recent elections. The board is more conservative than it previously was, though nothing in public statements appears to support a plan to ouster Whitbeck. Fort Bend voters approved a massive $1.26 billion bond that would increase teacher pay in the recent elections, which seemed like a public mandate of approval from the community.
On the other hand, the board and Whitbeck have been clashing on student disciplinary protocols. Whitbeck has been advocating transitioning to a more “restorative” style of discipline and reducing traditional punishments like suspensions. Board member Rick Garcia (Position 3) responded to the suggestion by saying the district was “not a daycare.”
This proposed shift in policy came after a U.S. Department of Education investigation found that Fort Bend ISD disciplined its Black students six times as often as its white students. The investigation stopped short of accusing the district of racism, but the matter put a spotlight on how discipline has been handled on campuses.
Despite this, the board generally feels restorative discipline is too soft on troublemakers and too much work for teachers. Whether this argument was the sticking point that led to Whitbeck’s ouster is unknown, but it does illustrate some of the personality conflicts mentioned by Malone.