Category Archives: K-12 Education

DC-Inbox: Public Service Career Expo on Tuesday

From the Mayor’s Office:

Who: City of Houston
Metropolitan Transit Authority
Houston Independent School District
15 colleges and universities
More than a dozen agencies and private-sector companies
Houston-Galveston Area Council
Workforce Solutions
Greater Houston Partnership
Project Grad
Big Brothers and Big Sisters
What: 2012 Career Day Expo
When: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: George R. Brown Convention Center Exhibit Hall B, 1001 Avenida de las Americas
Notes: This career expo will expose high school students to hundreds of career paths in the public sector and in local major industries.Scores of organizations and companies will showcase the careers they offer – many little known – with exhibits, demonstrations and discussions.  The event is expected to draw 1,000 youngsters.

Initially planned by the City to inform students of municipal government career choices, the event has since expanded to include the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Houston Independent School District, 15 colleges and universities and more than a dozen agencies and private-sector companies. Partners also include the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Workforce Solutions, Greater Houston Partnership, Project Grad and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Part of the city’s community sustainability initiative to grow its own workforce, the event will also feature real-life examples of employees who will talk about their distinct jobs and paths to success.

The Chron Visits Sharpstown

Chris Moran at the Chron took some time out of his busy City Hall schedule to do this write-up on my new neighborhood–Sharpstown. While Moran reminds us of the various negative things in the area, such as crime and some blight, I cannot but agree with my Council Member Mike Laster.

District J Councilman Mike Laster, a longtime Sharpstown activist and resident, compares his community today to the Heights of 15 years ago and Midtown a decade ago.

There are many components to revitalization, Laster explained. “The first and most important one is changing people’s attitudes about your area.”

Laster and Acquaro point to bricks and blueprints as evidence that Sharpstown is poised for a revival.

I think Sharpstown does suffer from a PR problem, as much as any of the cosmetic problems. And the perceptions, as they come from different people even within the community, are quite different, too. It seems when there is a discussion about Sharpstown, people either skirt the issue or come close to blaming the diversity of the area for the problems, while also trying to appreciate it.

I attended an HD-137 candidate forum this weekend and one of the candidates brought up “the old Sharpstown mall,” now known as PlazAmericas, and how all of the anchor stores are long-gone. The problem is, most shopping centers in the area don’t have anchor stores either; such as those huge shopping centers in what is known as Chinatown. It may be for obvious reasons:  It’s a challenge for anchor stores to locate and market in shopping centers which market to specific groups.

Perhaps a major reconstruction of the area will open a door, as is being done to Chinatown. Some cosmetic improvements have also been done to the PlazaAmericas area. To simply point to the problem is not enough; if you want to improve an area, then you have to work on bringing in investors and businesses, as well as push government to provide the necessary resources–law enforcement, city services, etc.–to help a business community thrive and a community revitalize. I see that commitment from CM Laster and from various leaders who have resided in Sharpstown and have chosen to stay.

Moran points to KIPP and other private schools in the area, including HBU, which will be working on expanding some of their offerings. And those institutions reach a few people; however, the vast majority of students are in public schools and there must be a commitment to improve those–whether in Gulfton, Sharpstown or any of these areas. Good, safe school do not only provide an educational foundation, but they also provide a base for community relations–organizations, cultural events, and community activism. Without investment in the public infrastructure, changing people’s perception will be an even bigger challenge.

Nonetheless, there are various issues in Sharpstown, and these are the same issues that affect most other neighborhoods in Houston–crime, blight, slow progress on economic development, etc. And as various entities partner up to improve the area, there needs to be some sort of cheer squad to pump up the positive aspects of the area:  its diversity–ethnic, cultural, and economic–and even small business opportunities. And it will take the most important part of Sharpstown to get this done–its people.

My neighborhood has a little bit of everything and nothing made me feel more hopeful than driving by a low-income apartment complex which has been improved and seeing its residents hold a community garage sale and car wash to raise money to keep improving their little community. And that’s just one instance of many that can make any Sharpstown resident feel hopeful.

I’m looking forward to Sharpstown’s process of revitalization–the process, not just the end product.

Perry To Promote More Irresponsibility for 2013

After his 2011 budget nonsense which became reality, Rick Perry is back to his old games as he preps for 2013; but now, he doesn’t want to be all alone in taking the hit for cutting education and services. Now, he expects his Republican buddies to sign some sort of pledge to cut education and services.

The compact will call for “truth in budgeting,” another way of saying Perry wants to end the common practice of using accounting tricks — like delayed payments and sped-up tax collections — to balance the state budget.

He also wants legislators and would-be legislators to “oppose any and all new taxes or tax increases, preserve the Rainy Day Fund, and cut wasteful and redundant government programs and agencies.”

I’m not surprised at Perry. This pledge is all about his 2014 campaign for re-election, and he wants all the GOPers on his side early-on–before the decisions are actually made. Before legislators get a chance to even discuss the needs of Texas children, the elderly, the indigent, and others.

House Democratic leader  and Houston’s own State Rep. Jessica Farrar said it best:

“His proposal promotes more fiscal irresponsibility in asking lawmakers to blindly sign a blood oath that will result in a doubling down of the devastating cuts already made to public schools, colleges and universities,” Farrar said. “Instead of planning for a better future, this plan ensures higher public costs through an uneducated workforce and treatment of chronic illnesses that could’ve been stemmed through preventative health care.”

This amounts to nothing more than a re-election endorsement pledge card for Rick Perry, and I hope the Republicans who sign on realize this. Unfortunately, the effects don’t make for a stronger Texas, unless you’re one of Rick Perry’s wealthy state contractor buddies.

The Chron has more from Rep. Farrar:

According to the speech excerpts, Perry will say that “the cost of Medicaid is a ticking time bomb and is primed to do massive damage to our budget in the short and long terms.” He will tout a push to allow Medicaid to be distributed to states in block grants to give them flexibility.

Farrar said in Texas, “We have the highest rate of uninsured people” and that providing health care early is a money-saver.

Farrar also said she doesn’t think a block grant giving Texas more flexibility would be in the public interest: “The legislative majority will do naughty little things to be stingy with people who are in real need.”

Perry is definitely sounding the drum beat for a war on students, the poor, the elderly, and more Texans.

State Rep. Mike Villareal of San Antonio responded on his Facebook page:

Today Governor Perry announced his “Budget Compact.” He loves to talk about his principles in the abstract, but he doesn’t want to discuss the disabled kids who lose health services when he won’t close corporate tax loopholes, or the students crowded into full classrooms when he won’t touch the Rainy Day Fund. After the deep and unnecessary education cuts that he championed, it’s no surprise that his Compact doesn’t say a word about educating schoolchildren.

Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso

“Although there are many things to be proud of in Texas, the state needs improvement. After decade under Perry’s leadership, Texas still has the fewest number of citizens with a high school degree, the highest number of citizens without health insurance, and the worst environment of any state with the highest rates of carcinogens released into the air and toxic chemicals released into the water.

“There are millions of Texans fighting day-to-day to make ends meet. Nationwide, Texas has the 4th highest percentage of kids living in poverty. In my own community, over a quarter of El Pasoans live in poverty.

“Perry and other state leaders need to stop focusing solely on how to lower taxes for multi-million dollar businesses and find ways to help average Texas families put food on their tables, pay for health insurance, and send their kids to college.

Tell HISD To Save Kaleidoscope

You may have watched various blips on the news concerning the possible closing of Kaleidoscope Middle School, a small HISD internal charter academy in SW Houston (Fox, ABC13). HISD adminsitrators have proposed merging Kaleidoscope with the school next door, Jane Long Middle School.

A new HISD proposal would merge Kaleidoscope with Jane Long.

Both serve the same community: recent immigrants, low income, largely Spanish-speaking residents.

But Kaleidoscope has something its larger host school does not: Exemplary Status from the Texas Education Agency.

My colleague in various causes, Fidencio Leija, had this to say:

“Out of all the schools that are currently Exemplary, why would you shut one down?” asked community organizer Fidencio Leija Chavez, Jr. “Instead of embracing it — keeping it intact — they’re wanting to take it apart and dismantle it.”

HISD seems to have its own plans:

“H-I-S-D administrators have proposed merging Kaleidoscope Middle School into Long 6-12 Middle School, which is adding grades 9-12 for the new pharmaceutical technology academy, in an effort to increase academic rigor and options for students,” read the statement.

Placing students from a school with a successful track-record into something that seems very experimental may not be a good thing for the students involved. If one formula is working, why mess with it? It may be the smaller environment that Kaleidoscope offers that works for these students. Either way, it seems this particular formula works for the students. Shouldn’t they come first?

Unfortunately, according to some organizers, HISD has been less than forthcoming in this process.

On Thursday, March 29, 2012 – HISD gave Kaleidoscope and Las Americas Middle School a “ONE DAY NOTICE” for the parents to come hear an HISD Representative tell the administration, parents and students that they would be closing Kaleidoscope on Thursday.

The parents and students were alarmed because the HISD Representative “DID NOT” give them any honest reason for the closure and “DID NOT” give the community of Gulfton any options to save the school.

That doesn’t seem very democratic, much less respectful of those affected by this possible closure.

HISD Board of Trustees meets Thursday at 5:30 for a final vote on the matter. E-mail your Trustee and tell them to keep a good thing. Keep Kaleidoscope.

Librotraficantes Launches Trip at Casa Ramirez

An energetic crowd turned out to support Tony Diaz and his Librotraficante crew this morning at Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery, a popular Heights storefront for culture and literature. The caravan takes with them a payload of contraband books to Arizona while creating various Underground Libraries throughout the Southwest.

The historic weeklong journey includes stops in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas; Mesilla and Albuquerque, N.M., and culminates in Tucson, Ariz., touting a celebration of Quantum Demographics, or multifaceted cultural unity, by highlighting Mexican American, African American and Native American literary works along the route. On St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, we’ll host a huge literary celebration of El Batallion San Patricio at 6 p.m., celebrating Irish and Mexican collaboration of the past.

The entire schedule is available online at www.Librotraficante.com.

Librotraficante is part of a response to recent laws in Arizona created to abolish Mexican American Studies programs. In some schools, books have literally been taken out of classrooms and stored away, thus banning them. Librotraficante has collected books and will traffic them into Arizona to ensure books are available to students.

“Arizona made me a Librotraficante,” said organizer and author, Tony Diaz, who has also brought together various banned authors who have donated to this cause.

Participating in Banned Book Bashes and Cultural Caucuses along the route are Sandra Cisneros, who kicked off our fundraising efforts by making a generous donation; Guggenheim Fellow Dagoberto Gilb, whose work recently appeared in the New Yorker and Harperssimultaneously; and best selling author Luis Alberto Urrea, with multiple titles found on the banned book list, was the first to enthusiastically support the project through Twitter.  Other literary giants participating in the Librotraficante Caravan include Rudolfo Anaya, whose seminal novel BLESS ME ULTIMA is banned; Denise Chavez, FACE OF AN ANGEL, who is hosting the caravan in Mesilla, N.M., and who organizes the Annual Border Book Festival; Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the syndicated comic LA CUCARACHA and who coined the phrase “Self Deport”; and Rene Alegria, founder of Boxing Badger Media and www.mamiverse.com, who attended one of the impacted high schools in Tucson.

“Politicians in Arizona have become experts in making humans illegal. We did not do enough to stop that, thus that anti-immigrant legislation spread to other states such as Alabama and Georgia. Now, these same legislators want to make thoughts illegal. If we allow this to happen, these laws, too, will spread. Other branches of ethnic studies will be prohibited, and other states will follow suit,” said Tony Diaz, author and director of Nuestra Palabra, organizer of the Librotraficante Caravan.

For more information and donate to the cause, please visit http://www.librotrafricante.com.

 

Silvia Mintz Files for HCDE Pos. 4, Pct. 3

Silvia Mintz is the latest local activist to file for a seat on the Harris County Department of Education Board of Trustees. Filing on Thursday at the Harris County Democratic Party for the seat which represents County Commissioner Pct. 3, Mintz says she is concerned about the state of education in Harris County, calling it the key to achieving and earning the American Dream.

“I am entering this race because I believe it is crucial that we protect the American Dream through education for future generations here in Harris County.  I am living proof of the American Dream’s extraordinary promise.  I came to Houston and started as a maid and janitor.  Now, I have my own law firm and my daughter is an engineering student in college.  Without access to a solid education, none of this would have been possible.  Given recent policy decisions, now, more than ever, Harris County needs a leader with innovative solutions to repair a broken education system.  The American Dream is being challenged. I am running to ensure that children have access to the highest quality education and a chance to live up to their God-given potential.”

Mintz is a well-known activist in Democratic and immigration reform circles, serving the community in various capacities.

Silvia is a volunteer and board member of various organizations, including the Houston Community College Foundation and Children at Risk.  She also volunteers her time as legal counsel for the Christian organization Pastores en Accion and the Mexican Consulate.

Silvia was also the 2010 Democratic candidate for Texas House District 132. Precinct 3 is a vast area which has become more diverse and the next frontier Democrats in Harris County. The HCDE seats are “bottom of the ballot” races, but with some good Democrats in contention for these seats, they could help keep the entire ballot exciting for voters. No doubt Mintz will be in it to win it as she is assembling a good support team to work the grassroots and the netroots.

You can visit and “LIKE” her Facebook page here.

The Forum for 137 and 144

This post comes a little late. It’s been a busy week!

So, Tuesday was exciting for me as I attended the Harris County Democratic Party’s Brown Bag Lunch at noon. Actually, I got there a little early to enjoy the wi-fi and pre-talk chisme. Tuesday was a special meeting to highlight the candidates for two new opportunities for Democrats–Texas House 137 and 144.

Candidate for HD-144 Ornaldo Ybarra was on hand; however, the rest of the competition was a no-show. For HD-137, it was Jamaal Smith and Joe Madden.

Chairman Birnberg, after a lengthy explanation about where we are on the redistricting maps and the Texas Primary, the forum began with each of the candidates taking a seat at the head table. Birnberg moderated the discussion.

Ybarra presented himself as a progressive candidate serving a diverse community. Citing the challenges to working with a mostly conservative administration, he stated he has made it his work to ensure his constituents were well-served and represented.

Ybarra did cite what some may bring up–a lack of a Democratic Primary voting record. Stating that he serves Democratic leaning constituents, he also falls on the Democratic side of their issues. For issues, he cited education as his main priority. Serving as a police officer and working with the schools, he has seen how small learning environments are more effective and therefore should be a priority.

HD-137 will be offering candidates with strong Democratic credentials, among others. Jamaal Smith has served the Democratic Party as a campaign operative, and he served the constituents of HD-143, having worked for the late State Rep. Joe Moreno. Joe Madden offers a lot of experience working for State Rep. Garnet Coleman and the Legislative Study Group.

Both candidates were in agreement on most issues, each offering their direct experience in the legislature. Smith, though, did exhibit a strong commitment to constituent services, and, many times, voters will seek those who they feel will serve them best in that regard. Another strong-point for Smith will be that he has exhibited a commitment to growing roots in the district.

And, apparently, there may be others getting ready to file. No matter what happens with all the redistricting mess caused by the Republicans, it will be an exciting Spring.

Erica Lee Files for HCDE Position 6

Erica S. Lee, a regional quality coordinator for a public health program, filed for Harris County Department of Education Trustee, Position 6, today at the Harris County Democratic Party HQ. Offering a healthy dose of political, education and public policy experiences, Lee wants to serve those not served adequately by the education system.

In a speech to supporters at her campaign kick-off held this weekend, Lee stated:

My vision for a quality education was created after witnessing countless students being denied access to educational opportunity and achievement.  Our system does not serve all students in a quality way and for this reason I seek to become a Trustee.  I am seeking a position on the Board because I have witnessed firsthand how much our children achieve when given a quality education.

Taking a shot at what has become business as usual, she added:

Despite what the special interests or pundits might say, we can bring quality to our education systems in Harris County.  We must be willing to put our resources where they are most needed and support efforts that are of proven quality.

Lee is also advocating to bring quality STEM programs to Harris County in order to expand what is currently offered.

Lee is vying for the position currently held by a Republican. If she doesn’t draw a primary opponent, Lee has a very good chance of winning and finally bringing true representation to the people of Precinct 1, which this position is supposed to serve.

DosCentavos wishes Erica “Victory in 2012!”

Update from the Chron:

Precinct 1 incumbent Roy Morales (the republican) said six years was enough for him. “My time’s done with that position,” he said. A candidate for mayor of Houston in 2009, Morales said he wouldn’t rule out running for office in the future but had no immediate plans.

This Just In: Fonseca Will Not Seek Recount in HISD3

That’s the latest from Texas Watchdog Reporter Mike Cronin on his FB:

Ramiro Fonseca, who lost to incumbent Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriguez last week by 25 votes, has told Texas Watchdog, he will not seek a recount. Fonseca’s statment: “After examining the official election results, I have decided that a recount is not an option that would change the outcome of this election. I congratulate Mr. Rodriguez on his re-election. I am honored to have worked with the many supporters and volunteers in my campaign for HISD Trustee. I thank everyone that stood behind me throughout this time. I am very proud of our campaign team and I hope that we have set an example for our next generation of leaders on how a campaign should be executed.”

Well, with the campaign officially over, the campaign to remove Manuel Rodriguez from the HISD Board continues. I just saw a new website taking shape explaining all that went on during the last last days of the HISD-3 race up to the protest at the HISD Board meeting in which community leaders and students called out Rodriguez publicly. HISDBully.org is the site, so, check it out.

LGBT and Community Protests Rodriguez at HISD

A small, but vocal group of community members held a protest outside of the HISD headquarters calling out HISD Board member Manuel Rodriguez for an anti-LGBT campaign flyer attacking his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca.

Rodriguez got just enough votes to seem like the winner on Tuesday night, and Fonseca is awaiting the canvassing of the votes before making any decisions on which direction to take.

Organized by activist Mike Pomeroy, representatives of the GLBT Caucus, Stonewall Dems, Young Democrats, HISD students, and vocal members from the Latino community came together to voice their displeasure regarding Rodriguez’s desperate tactic.

Rodriguez released what he called an apology, but for those in the protest, it was too little too late. Citing  that the flyers were being delivered house-to-house, as well as at polling locations on election day, some felt the apology was empty.

The Chron had more from inside the meeting:

Inside the board meeting, Rodriguez did not address the campaign ad controversy during the open comment period for trustees. But his colleagues, trustees Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche did, without mentioning Rodriguez or the ad.

Stipeche read a list of names of children who committed suicide after being bullied.

“Living by the golden rule, we do not bully and we do not judge others for who they are,” Stipeche said, drawing a standing ovation from some in the audience.

And then this.

UPDATE (7:45 p.m.): After hearing from several impassioned speakers who called Rodriguez’s campaign ad unethical, the HISD trustees voted unanimously to work on revising their own ethics policy to forbid discrimination based on sexuality.

Trustee Anna Eastman proposed the revision. Rodriguez voted in favor of the change but did not make any comments.

Trustee Carol Mims Galloway joined her colleagues, Eastman and Stipeche, in condemning Rodriguez’s ad. Galloway said she was apologizing on Rodriguez’s behalf. She said she believed he supported the district’s anti-discrimination policy. “But I guess when it comes to politics, people forget,” Galloway added.

Rodriguez sure earned himself all of this. Galloway is correct, though. Politicians are usually immune after using hateful language, whether it is toward the LGBT community, the Latino or immigrant community, etc. It seems the politicians easily separate things because it’s just politics, as the Republican presidential debates have exhibited. This needs to change.