Fort Bend

Fort Bend ISD approves superintendent’s early retirement, amid accusations she was forced out

A school board meeting Monday turned contentious after some alleged Christie Whitbeck had been pushed into resignation

From left: Now-former Superintendent Christie Whitbeck Fort Bend ISD president Judy Dae and Board Secretary David Hamilton
Natalie Weber/Houston Public Media
From left: Now-former Superintendent Christie Whitbeck Fort Bend ISD president Judy Dae and Board Secretary David Hamilton.

The Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees voted to approve the early retirement of Superintendent Christie Whitbeck during a heated meeting Monday where Whitbeck and others accused the board of forcing her out.

The retirement came as a surprise to many in the school district, as the board of trustees had previously voted in July to extend Whitbeck's contract until December of 2026. She started as superintendent in October of 2021.

According to her separation agreement, Whitbeck will continue to receive her salary until her time as superintendent emeritus ends in July. She will also receive about $320,000 in payouts, in addition to roughly $32,000 that will be paid jointly to her and an attorney. Her last day will be December 11th.

During Monday's meeting, Board Trustee Kristen Davison Malone implied that the board had forced Whitbeck to retire.

"It boils down to personality conflicts between our president, our secretary and perhaps another," Davison Malone said.

Malone said Board President Judy Dae offered Whitbeck an ultimatum that led to the superintendent's retirement. Other school board members intervened before Malone could elaborate.

Meanwhile, Board Trustee Sonya Jones alleged that if board members publicly discussed their reasons for Whitbeck's resignation, the superintendent "would never be able to work in education again." She did not offer any further explanation.

During the meeting, Whitbeck said she had "never done anything illegal, immoral, improper, ever." She said she was approached just after the November election, where voters approved a property tax rate increase to fund teacher raises in Fort Bend ISD.

"When I was talked to about this, it was 19 hours after our election passed and I was blindsided," Whitbeck said. "I was completely and totally blind-sided."

Dae apologized to Whitbeck for the contentious meeting. Dae tried to keep discussions of the reasons behind Whitbeck's resignation to a minimum, citing legal restrictions.

Dae told Houston Public Media she wanted to speak with legal counsel before conducting any media interviews. Whitbeck was not available for comment after the meeting.

Whitbeck has received scrutiny from some conservative leaders in the community. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt criticized the district's voting efforts during the most recent election season, according to the Houston Chronicle. The board of trustees also recently voted in favor of more traditional student discipline measures, clashing with Whitbeck, who wanted to implement restorative justice practices, the Houston Landing reported.

The overwhelming majority of staff and community members in attendance Monday night appeared to support Whitbeck, applauding her and Davis Malone during their comments.

Cheryl Buford, a Sugar Land resident who ran for the school board last spring, attended the meeting. She said she thought different priorities may have contributed to Whitbeck's departure and the school board may have had legitimate reasons for the superintendent's early retirement.

"I have no knowledge about what went into the decision, but I do know that the school board members are very thoughtful, reflective, god-fearing people," she told reporters.

Janice Little, a member of the NAACP Missouri City and vicinity branch and former school district employee, also attended the meeting. She has a daughter in Fort Bend ISD schools and spoke in favor of Whitbeck during public comment.

"What I see today is a form of workplace bullying because Dr. Whitbeck has been doing an outstanding job in the community," she told media after the meeting.

The school board appointed Deputy Superintendent Beth Martinez as the interim superintendent Monday.