KILGORE, TX (KTRE) - An East Texas superintendent's cellphone recording of a controversial candidate's speech at a monthly meeting shows multiple protests from area school chiefs Wednesday.
Mary Lou Bruner is used to raising eyebrows. Over the past year she has made headlines after remarks she posted about President Obama and global warming went viral.
Shocking opinions, outspoken posts: E. Texas education election stirring conversation
Wednesday, she raised eyebrows in East Texas.
"Public schools are now approaching 50 percent of students in one special ed program," Bruner said to groans of protest at the monthly Region 7 Superintendent meeting in Kilgore.
Bruner is running as a Republican nominee for the State Board of Education District 9 seat.
"I was very surprised she made the speech she did in front of educators," said Hudson Superintendent Mary Ann Whiteker.
"I was shocked with some of the things said about public education," said Mineola Superintendent Kim Tunnell.
The video was captured by Lufkin ISD Superintendent Dr. LaTonya Goffney at the meeting.
In Bruner's speech, she addressed the district
"Lufkin ISD had a shortage of 91 teachers and filled the positions with full time substitutes," Bruner said at the meeting. The video captures Goffney protesting the claim.
"I had no idea Lufkin ISD was going to be mentioned," Goffney said. "I am sitting there thinking, 'All you have to do is go online to the TEA website to find this information out.'"
A quick look at the TEA website shows the district had 67 open positions before the year started and, according to the district's HR department, all of those positions were filled by full-time employees.
Also, the state reports only 8.5 percent of the students are in special education, not 50.
Bruner said according to ACT and SAT scores only 1 in 6 graduates read with fluency and comprehension well enough to take their college courses. Several educators objected to that statement too.
According to the boards for ACT and SAT tests, in 2015 41.9 percent of Texas test takers were at a college ready level, not the 16.6 percent quoted by Bruner.
"Apparently, she is just hearing bits and pieces from people and assuming that is factual and going out and campaigning on facts that do not exist," Whiteker said.
In the 19-minute video, Bruner also took criticism from other districts.
"I work hard for every kid in my district and you just lost my vote," Hawkins Superintendent Morris Lyons said at the meeting. "I don't speak for Hawkins ISD but..."
"You spoke for me, You just spoke for me as well," other superintendents could be heard saying.
Bruner also said she has visited several superintendents including Mineola's.
One superintendent: "Have you been to Mineola Schools?"
Bruner: "I have, yes sir I have."
Tunnell: "Mrs. Bruner, respectfully I have to say you have not met with me. You have not approached me. We have not had a conversation. I am the superintendent of Mineola ISD."
"If you are going to be about truth in education then you also need to be truthful in the facts that you are using," Tunnell said.
"It was basically attacking the quality of education and the job we do," Whiteker said.
Goffney, Tunnell and Whiteker said they have not sat down to talk to Bruner.
Bruner faces Keven Ellis in a run-off for the Republican candidacy on May 24. Anyone who did not vote in the Democratic primary is eligible to vote.