For almost two months, a lone black leather chair has sat empty on the Fort Worth ISD school board dais inside the district’s Professional Development Center.

Trustee Daphne Brookins last held that seat, representing District 4 in southeast Fort Worth. She died from COVID-19 on Nov. 5.

The clock is ticking on filling Brookins seat. Fort Worth ISD policy lays out two options to fill a trustee vacancy: Appoint someone to the seat until the next school board election, or call for a special election. Regardless of the approach, trustees must fill the seat within 180 days of its vacancy. The latest the school board could do that is May 4, 2022. 

Trustees are considering both options, board President Tobi Jackson said. Board members discussed the process for the first time during executive session at their Dec. 14 meeting.

“Trustee Brookins was not only our friend, but one heck of a community leader. It’s taken a good amount of time to process her sudden passing,” Jackson said.

If the school board appoints a person to the seat, the new trustee would serve until the next regular school board election in May 2023. The winner of that election would serve the remainder of Brookins’ term, which ends in May 2025.

Trustees serve for four-year terms. Brookins was elected to her first full term in May 2021.

If the board calls for a special election, the District 4 seat would be on the May 7, 2022, ballot. The winner would serve for the remainder of the term, and be up for reelection in 2025.

Under state law, school boards that call for a special election must do so on the next uniform election date — even if the date falls outside of the 180-day period. 

Fort Worth ISD residents Ken Kuhl and Alex Montalvo called on the school board to hold a special election. Montalvo wants residents to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Kuhl wants the board to respect Brookins’ legacy.

“It is absolutely essential that this board honors (Brookins) by holding an election and allowing the citizens of District 4 to elect their next trustee,” Kuhl said.

The last vacancy on the school board was for the same seat. In July 2019, trustee T.A. Simms announced he would resign from the board after serving more than 35 years. Simms was the longest-serving trustee in district history.

Trustees called for a special election for the following November. Three candidates sought the District 4 seat, and Brookins came out on top.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob Sanchez

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University.

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