Greg Abbott’s minion, Mike Morath at TEA, failed to show again at an HISD takeover community meeting, and Morath’s own minion (Alejandro Delgado) failed at running a meeting, again, as he attempted to show that powerpoint. Parents and teachers did show up again to ask questions for which they are not getting answers. When they didn’t get the answers, they took over the meeting.
The report from KHOU points out that Delgado states that over 200 questions have been collected and half are about the board of managers. Those at meetings do not seem to be asking about the board appointment process, so, my guess is that the questions are from the TEA online portal, where it’s safe for chaqueteros to ask. Also, 138 people have applied to be on the board of managers and TEA wants more applicants to justify their appointment process and outcome.
As Kuff points out, TEA’s meeting practices don’t give folks the warm and fuzzies to capture their hearts and minds, but I’m pretty sure that hasn’t been TEA’s intent this whole time. According to Campos, all of the loud noises from the people at the meetings aren’t going to change a thing about TEA’s takeover. But, hell, the lawsuits and the Lege didn’t work, so, what’s left? If this doesn’t turn into an actual and long-term people-led movement, instead of just a regular ol’ political campaign to win a seat with the least numbers possible, then nothing will change.
By the looks of it, the TEA Takeover public meetings are just for informational purposes; and by that, I mean, the information that TEA wants to provide.
Last night’s meeting at Westbury High School was planned to last one hour, was all about a PowerPoint presentation one can find on the TEA website, and an attempt to recruit community members for the “board of managers” Greg Abbott wants to create. The result: More chaos and more anger.
Houston community members were irate Tuesday night as state education officials tried to explain the process of taking over their school district. State officials did not take questions about the effects such a move could have on Houston Independent School District, which is the largest in Texas, but did try to recruit community members to replace the existing school board.
About seven minutes into the Texas Education Agency’s PowerPoint presentation on the impending HISD takeover, parents and community members erupted in shouts directed at TEA deputy commissioner Alejandro Delgado.
Further, TEA commissioner Morath didn’t even bother to attend and Greg Abbott was somewhere else outside of Houston ISD borders talking about giving public money to private schools.
If this doesn’t tell you what kind of a farce this is, I don’t know what will. It is obvious that a hand-picked board, much less the TEA, will not be accountable to the people. Certainly, they do not want to have a conversation with the people as they passed out notecards for folks to write their questions those in charge could hand-pick to answer. One can only think this is how “board” meetings will be run.
Local activist TravisMcGee, whose children attend an HISD high school, said the meeting was “very disrespectful” to community members. People wanted to express their concerns and frustrations directly to TEA officials through a microphone on a podium regarding the board of managers change, rather than hear about the application process, he said.
“The board of managers is going to be a bunch of puppets,” McGee said. “Our school district ain’t perfect, but I doubt the state of Texas gonna do any better.”
Arnetta Murray, a Houston ISD teacher, said the TEA has not listened to the community about more pressing concerns. If they did, they would know the district has a bus driver shortage and teachers are stressed over standardized testing.
“I don’t care about no board of managers,” she said. “I care about our students and I care about the teachers.”
At this point, rolling over and allowing Greg Abbott’s takeover to happen is not an option, much less participating in the farce through the board of managers. At least, that’s how the people feel.
There are three more “talk-at the community” TEA meetings to reach 200,000 children, 30,000 employees, and millions of taxpayers. I hope DPS copters in Morath. The mouthpiece he sent seemed useless on the TV.
So, when TEA takes over Houston ISD in June, they will replace all of the elected trustees and give power to a board of managers appointed by Mike Morath and Greg Abbott. That much we knew. A look at the TEA FAQs regarding Houston ISD gives us more details, such: Authority is removed, but trustees remain elected officials. Board elections continue and when a Board of Managers is removed, elected board members return. The timeline includes how elected trustees will be phased back in to power, which will be done in thirds after the board of managers meets the goals acceptable to TEA.
So, the part of democracy where those we elect do the actual work is placed on a ventilator, but the campaigning and political consultant fees continue? Can’t wait to see the campaign messaging: “I’ll do these things if Greg Abbott gives HISD back to us!”
While the Board of Managers is in place, my hope is that members of the Board of Trustees will choose to continue to be engaged by members of the Board of Managers in an advisory capacity, to help facilitate a seamless return for those local elected officials when the time comes.
So, it’s nothing statutory, but just an invite–maybe. Whatever cover of democracy TEA and Abbott are attempting is just that.
Little Joe y La Familia made the tune, Las Nubes, a theme song of the Chicano civil rights and farm worker movement. A somber tune about suffering and challenge ends up giving one hope for the future. It’s been recorded and re-recorded many times, each time with its own brand of sabor. La Santa Cecilia vocalist La Marisoul, Los Texmaniacs, and Little Joe, all Grammy winners, have come together to produce a conjunto version of the song, filled with soul and acordeon. I love it, especially as things seem to be going to crap in the world–politically, at least. There’s always hope, right? Check it out:
Posted onMarch 4, 2023|Comments Off on La Semana Pasada – The Week That Was
Well, I had a blog slowdown this week for various reasons, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention to the latest attacks on democracy, public education, and humanity, in general. But also some good stuff.
The Possibly Inevitable HISD Takeover
Mayor Sylvester Turner announced at a council meeting that Greg Abbott and his minions were about to take over Houston ISD, as has been promised by them for a few years. Greg Abbott has never been a friend to democracy, nor to communities of color, so that this is about to happen (maybe) isn’t a surprise. If taken over by Abbott, the local school board would be replaced by unelected Abbott supporters whom the people have not vetted, and the reins given to some other executive not chosen by those we elected. Whether it does or doesn’t happen, the stress it has put into the families and taxpayers of the district is palpable.
Abbott and his minons blame poor performance at one school, which has since improved. The school district continues to improve, too. Also blamed is past relationship problems on the school board. Since then, voters have replaced school members through election. The political and administrative face of HISD has changed since Abbott and his minions began to whine about Houston ISD. We even lost a couple of good school board members in the process and gained some right-wingers who do the bidding for Abbott’s agenda. Will Abbott sacrifice their political careers to make his point?
The question is: Will it happen? Do Abbott and his minions want the blame for what is to come when they turn HISD into the crown jewel of the Texas prison system? Or at least run it in the same fashion? Since my rent pays for HISD taxes, I’m really concerned, now.
I Support Food Not Bombs
I’ve really had it with HPD and City Hall’s BS against people who are simply doing the right thing–feeding those who are hungry. This last Wednesday, HPD cited a volunteer of a group, Food Not Bombs, for holding what they consider an unauthorized feeding of people in need outside of the downtown library. The Mayor wants to make the library “family friendly,” by banning human beings who are houseless. A local law prohibits these kinds of activities in downtown, but they hadn’t cited anyone. After over a decade, the Mayor has decided to crack down on these good people.
The City offered an alternative location at HPDs parking lot, which is just outside of downtown. Seriously? We already have Greg Abbott wanting to turn HISD into a state-run prison, now the city wants to treat the homeless and hungry in a similar manner.
Thankfully, local civil rights lawyer Randy Kallinen is on the job defending against what is an unconstitutional and inhumane ordinance. But the City needs to stop this nonsense.
Dem Chair Candidates Making the Rounds
It’s good to see that Dem Chair candidates are going around campaigning, and not just to precinct chairs. On March 19, the County Executive Committee, made up of precinct chairs, will meet by Zoom to vote in a new leader for the Harris County Democratic Party. According to the Dem Party website, there are three announced candidates, including my friend, Silvia Mintz.
The link also provides the process by which a person will be elected: Nominees must be nominated from the floor by a precinct chair during the meeting. And 50% of the precinct chairs must be present for an election to happen. While the meeting will be conducted on Zoom, those precinct chairs without technology will be able to attend at HCDP’s HQ. And those interested in running can fill out an application on the HCDP website so that they may inform precinct chairs of their choices.
Of course, one wonders if floor nominations of those not providing information beforehand will be allowed. One never knows if surprises will be allowed.
For those who are not precinct chairs, this is a democracy and we should be able to contact our precinct chairs to suggest a nominee and why. That said, the vast majority of Democrats may not know who their precinct chair is. So, I filled out this form on the HCDP site requesting that information so that I can tell my precinct chair my preference. But this should be easier.
The Mavericks “In Time” Celebrates a Decade
If you’re a fan of The Mavericks, you will remember this amazing comeback album from this Americana band. If you’re a superfan, then this album is on your Mavericks Spotify playlist and on heavy rotation, still, after ten years. Well, they have released a 10th anniversary album of “In Time,” which includes a three added tunes, including a different version of Ven Hacia Mi (Come Unto Me). It’s got more Cubano and Conjunto flavorings, and it’s little bit more swingier than the originals. Give it a listen and enjoy!
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I have a running joke whenever something occurs at Houston ISD.
“Don’t look at me, I live in Alief ISD.”
But Houston ISD’s possible move to place 10 of its schools under a charter corporation whose record is iffy at best is concerning since all of us will be affected in one way or another.
The abrupt end to the meeting when the school board decided to have enough public comment on the issue was ugly in that leadership was lacking. Watching (on TV) constituents dragged by HISD police was scary in that you have black and brown and white families being thrown out of a building for which they pay taxes. But much of this could have been avoided at different times.
For last night, perhaps HISD’s tactics and rules were a bit much. Fewer seats for the public at meetings; no standing in the room, but there’s an overflow room elsewhere; limited public speaking time; no applause; etc. I remember reading that the gringo school boards did this to Chicanos in my hometown of Crystal City when families were showing up to school board meetings to demand justice from those they elected. The more they showed up, the more rules would trickle out with the hopes of stifling progress and activism.
Well, I don’t expect these tactics to work, as they didn’t work then.
The bigger problem is a Republican-led Texas Legislature which has failed to fix school finance. Decades of a system designed to ensure poor districts were adequately funded has been met by an economic system that has made the wealthy wealthier, the poor poorer, and the middle class stagnant. And while Houston’s wealthy seem to have provided us with a lot of property wealth that makes Houston ISD seem like a wealthy school district, the bottom line is that the district is 85% black/brown and 75% economically disadvantaged. The wealth hasn’t trickled down. Thus, the current school finance system penalizes a wealthy-looking district like Houston with mostly poor kids in attendance and sends much needed tax dollars elsewhere to districts who are indeed property poor. And no one in charge in Austin seems to want to change this, or even want to achieve any kind of fairness for all.
The rules the TEA has imposed on schools–forcing the creation of charter arrangements, threatening to take over school boards-has placed an even bigger burden on the people we elect to create and oversee school policies. To the point where they’ll do just about anything to keep their elected positions, or the access that comes with it. School boards should be siding with the people–in the board room and not just outside after the meeting is ended.
This is a great formula which has the least among these three groups fighting for scraps. And a power base that can blame the other two groups (and the groups among them) for all the troubles. Obviously, all of this came to a head at the HISD board meeting last night. And the school board was met with a united front.
As much as it seems that last night’s meeting was about someone over-applauding or being loud, the problem is a systemic one that has been avoided by those in power, and, yes, those who fail to vote.
Still, one should expect better from elected officials than rules designed to stifle activism and discussion.
Houston ISD Trustees on Monday unanimously agreed to appoint Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca to serve the unexpired trustee term representing District VI on the district’s west side.
Flynn Vilaseca, who is fluent in English and Spanish, worked as a bilingual teacher at HISD’s Windsor Village Elementary School as a Teach for America corps member from 2004 to 2006. Since then, Ms. Vilaseca has continued working in the education field with Battelle for Kids, K12 Inc., and thinkLaw.
“I am excited to serve the city and students of Houston,” Flynn Vilaseca said.
Flynn Vilaseca holds a master’s degree in social-organizational psychology from Columbia University, and bachelor’s degrees in Latin American and Caribbean studies and in sports management and communications from the University of Michigan.
Flynn Vilaseca, along with newly elected District VII Trustee Anne Sung, are scheduled to take the oath of office on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Both Flynn Vilaseca and Sung are filling unexpired trustee terms that run through the end of 2017.
I’ve known Holly Maria for about five years now and she’s been nothing short of impressive with her commitment to service and to public education. There is no doubt that she will be a good fit on the Board and for District VI. All one has to do is read her workplace bio:
Holly Maria is passionate about affording equitable access to education to all students and has been involved in the fight towards closing the achievement gap for the past twelve years. The daughter of an immigrant mother and blue-collar laborer growing up in a small town where opportunities were limited, she was the first in her family to go to college…
Congratulations to Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca!
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Posted onJanuary 6, 2017|Comments Off on The HISD Board Vacancy: A Few Thoughts
As Kuff reminded us back in December, there is a vacancy on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees after the resignation of Greg Meyers in District VI, and the Board will be appointing a replacement to complete Meyers’ term. A little bird tells me that the Board is getting closer to naming that appointee, so, it’s time the community have a conversation about this process.
District VI stretches from the Sharpstown area through the Westheimer/Gessner area and on to the far reaches of the west side to Highway 6. Given its meandering through these areas, little doubt is left as to its diversity, and this speaks volumes as to the need for added diversity on the school board. If anything, it also speaks to the need for a responsive, action-oriented individual to serve this trustee district.
That Houston ISD is diverse is nothing new. That 62% of its students are Latinos is also nothing new. Notwithstanding the trustee district’s westerly location, out of 15 elementary schools, eight are majority Latino schools, while two will soon reach majority Latino status. The future is not only diverse, but emergingly Latino at Houston ISD. As such, diversity in political representation is something that must be discussed.
Of course, ethnicity isn’t the only characteristic that is at issue. The recent election in which the vast majority of voters chose to not send local dollars to the State of Texas, instead choosing to call on the State Legislature to fix school finance shows that Houstonians are worried about the city’s educational foundation. The Board of Trustees needs someone who will advocate for Houston’s future–the kids–from Day 1 and beyond the rest of the term for which she/he will be appointed.
Some may argue “voter demographics” as a means of choosing a trustee who better matches up to past election results in the district, but there is such a thing as taxpayer demographics. Whether one is a homeowner or a renter, any ethnicity or color, and whether one lives closer to the west side or to Sharpstown, all are taxpayers and all deserve to be heard. Perhaps in the future the board can venture into a fairer redistricting process, but, until then, it is up to the Board in this instance.
Still, others may argue that District VI merely needs a placeholder to serve until the term is completed, while taxpayers wait for the November election to elect a full-term trustee. With the issues that Houston ISD faces, especially as a Legislative session looms, the Board needs a committed individual who is willing to serve beyond the year that is left in the term. It will not be a surprise if any placeholder decides to run for the full-term.
The Houston ISD Board of Trustees has a unique opportunity to be responsive to the needs of constituencies who often go ignored by government entities in this area of the city. Appointing an individual who has worked in and has an understanding of the current and future diversity of the district and who has an undying commitment to public education, K-12 and beyond, is the only path to achieving fair representation.
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Posted onOctober 15, 2015|Comments Off on Hispanic Professionals Honor Juliet Stipeche
Hispanic Professionals Host Committee
A group of Hispanic professionals got together Wednesday night at El Tiempo on Navigation to honor and fundraise for Houston ISD District 8 Trustee Juliet Stipeche.
Vying for her second full-term on the Board of Trustees, Stipeche has not taken any voter for granted, running a full-fledged campaign to earn what she calls “the people’s seat.” And earn she has tried to do by being an accessible school trustee from Day 1; attending countless community meetings to listen to voters and leading on various issues.
The event included speakers with experience in dealing with board trustees. One, a school principal stated that trustees must be open to discuss the issues that those who serve the students directly deal with on a daily basis. Another speaker, a parent of HISD alumni and current students spoke to the ease in which she has worked with Stipeche. Whether it was PTO issues, or her own challenges with ensuring her daughter went through a successful college-going process, she credited Juliet Stipeche with being accessible, caring, and most of all, proactive in addressing the needs of families, students, and teachers.
Stipeche reminded voters that being an effective trustee means sacrificing one’s livelyhood at times, but that the work is fulfilling and the time spent on fighting for a better school district is worth it. Indeed, Stipeche was recognized for leading on literacy programs, ethics and campaign finance reform, budget and contract transparency, non-discrimination policy, and on placing the needs of students first. Also looming in the near future for HISD is the search and hiring of a new Superintendent, for which Stipeche intends to promote a thorough, community-based process.
Kudos to HISD Board President Juliet Stipeche for calling on the board to consider a resolution favoring Mexican American Studies be added to curriculum offerings–an issue to be voted on by the Texas State Board of Education on April 9. As reported by Ericka Mellon:
The 9-0 vote followed some debate over whether the district would appear to be favoring one culture over another.
HISD board president Juliet Stipeche, who brought the resolution to the board for consideration, asked her colleagues whether they could name five Mexican-American leaders in history.
“It’s not that we don’t care. It’s that we don’t know,” she said.
As I’ve mentioned previously:
The Texas State Board of Education is set to vote in early April on including Mexican American Studies in the state curriculum. Unfortunately, those who are iffy or possibly against the proposal are all Republicans and at least three more are needed to pass the proposal. Let’s give them a call and ask them to support Mexican American Studies at their next meeting on April 9.
At least one Republican on the SBOE, however, appears to support the idea. Vice chairman Thomas Ratliff told The Texas Tribune in February: “Some of [the board members] are trying to say that they don’t want to start creating a whole bunch of other studies for every other ethnic group. I don’t understand that concern because there aren’t any other ethnic groups that make up a significant portion of the state’s population like the Hispanics do.”
Houston: Call Donna Bahorich at 832.303.9091
Woodlands: Call Barbara Cargill at 512.463.9007
San Antonio: Call Ken Mercer at 512.463.9007
Ft. Worth: Call Patricia Hardy at 817.598.2968
Dallas: Call Geraldine Miller at 972.419.4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Waco: Call Sue Melton-Melone at 254.749.0415 or email@example.com
Amarillo: Call Marty Rowley at 806.373.6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
General e-mails in support of the proposal may also be sent to: email@example.com
One of Houston ISD’s best schools is the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. I mean, if it produced someone like my friend, HISD Trustee and Attorney Juliet Stipeche, then it must be a great incubator for our city’s future leaders. But the status that it has earned is now threatened by a land sale deal that could leave Houston ISD and the students of HSLECJ shortchanged.
Houston ISD wants to sell the land for a nice price and in turn use that cash to buy more land and build a new HSLECJ. The problem is that while the new school is being constructed, Houston ISD would pay rent to the new owners at a hefty price. Under one deal, HISD would pay a whopping $100,000 per month, and under another one, $250,000 per month. That would end up eating millions of dollars that could be used toward the new school building.
On top of all of this, Houston ISD is yet to find a suitable piece of land to replace the current school that is beneficial to students and all stakeholders. And, moreover, HSLECJ is a school that is 70% Latinos and they deserve a better deal than a high-rent building that cuts into the quality and value of their new school. Bottom line, it’s not a good deal and the Houston ISD Board of Trustees should not rush into the deal. In other words, I agree with the Editorial in the Houston Chronicle, a copy of which I provide below. Give it a read. Then contact your Houston ISD Trustees and tell them to stop the sale of HSLECJ.
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