Galveston ISD's superintendent is facing criticism from both community members and school board trustees over comments he made Wednesday during a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new high school, and his future with the district appears to be in limbo.
While speaking about a $189 million reconstruction of Ball High School, as part of a $315 million bond passed by Galveston County voters in 2022, superintendent Jerry Gibson referred to female members of a political action committee as behind-the-scenes "worker bees" and said the district needed "a man to push this through."
"The ladies are the worker bees, they are going to get it done behind the scenes and keep pushing and take care of the details," Gibson said, according to the Galveston County Daily News. "Isn't that right, men? They do their best to make us look good even though we don't give them much to work with. But we need a man to push this through."
In a comment posted to the local newspaper's website, school board president Anthony Brown criticized Gibson's remarks and apologized for them on behalf of the district, adding that he was speaking "both as a trustee and a father of two adult daughters who need no one to ‘push things through' for them." Brown subsequently told the Daily News that school board members planned to call a special meeting in early May to discuss the comments made by Gibson, who recently was criticized by Brown for interviewing for other jobs in Florida without notifying Galveston ISD trustees, according to the Daily News.
Gibson's comments on Wednesday also drew the ire of Laura Addison, a Ball graduate who has a son currently attending the school.
"I believe it was an off-handed comment that was stupid to say," Addison said. "All he needed to do was address the community and thank the community as a whole for passing the bond. He didn't need to individually try to thank people for their efforts. It was a team effort, both men and women. To just point out ladies as I guess he was introducing one of the male team members, it was just a very embarrassing, awkward comment in my opinion that wasn't necessary."
Neither Brown nor any of the other six trustees for Galveston ISD responded to emails seeking comment Friday.
In an emailed statement, Gibson expressed regret for going "off script" with his remarks at the groundbreaking and called it "sad" that the focus from the event has not been on the construction of a new campus but on "comments that were not meant to harm anyone." He added that he has employed women in "vitally important positions" within the school district, saying, "Anyone who knows me knows that I respect women."
"As I was introducing guest and speakers, I noticed two ladies who had been a driving force in getting the bond (passed) for our students," Gibson also said. "… The ladies had worked so hard and tirelessly and the bond would not have passed without them. The comment of them working behind the scenes was not meant to say they could not do any task. I know they are more than capable of accomplishing anything they set their mind to. I am saddened that my comments were interpreted the way they were."
Gibson did not address his reported pursuit of other jobs in his statement or respond to follow-up questions about them.
Addison, who unsuccessfully ran for the Galveston ISD board in 2017 and described herself as a vocal critic of Gibson, said his comments Wednesday might not have received as much backlash if not for the job-seeking issue.
Gibson was hired by Galveston ISD in early 2021 and is under contract through July 31, 2025, while being paid a base annual salary of $247,450.
Addison said she thinks the school board should consider terminating that contract.
"I feel like it's obvious the superintendent wants to be somewhere else other than Galveston ISD," she said. "I feel like we need somebody laser focused on the issues in our school district, and not focused a little bit on our school district and a little bit looking for other jobs."