Tag Archives: public education

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.


HOPE for Future Teachers & Bobcats Leading the Way

by Fidencio Leija-Chavez, Jr.

Texas State University has its roots as an institution that produces highly qualified teachers. This has not changed. Bobcats educate the future workforce and leaders of K-12 public and private classrooms across our state and even the nation.

As our future teachers work on their certifications and develop their skills as educators on our campus, I’m thinking many of them wouldn’t mind a brief outlook on what is in the near future regarding policy changes in Texas public education. This past week (Tuesday) at the Texas Committee on Public Education we witnessed a major shift that several activists, community leaders and policy experts were shocked and even alarmed by.

The Committee on Public Education had over 100 public witnesses registered to testify on behalf of 8 education bills. This is not the alarming discovery, but the community engagement is worth applauding. Students, teachers, principals, superintendents, liberals and even conservatives made a stand that our education system needed revamping when it came to End of Course (EOC) Testing. The committee witnessed the energy and public concern that was cause for an overflow room to be opened to hold the crowd.

Speaker after speaker pleaded with the Committee Chair, Jimmie Don Aycock, and 11 members to strongly take into consideration lowering high school EOC Testing. Next to me sat three experts on the topic, one of them a fellow Bobcat, so I didn’t hesitate to lean over to ask his opinion. He quickly shared, “The real news for today is that everyone is in agreement to lower EOC Testing from 15 to a maximum of 5 and 3, minimum. This is positive and our kids win.”

That Bobcat was Joe Cardenas III. He is a Texas State alumnus, 18-year veteran teacher, former Texas League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Director and current Chairman of Hispanics Organized for Political Education (HOPE). Earlier that morning, our Bobcat led a newly formed “Latino Coalition for Educational Equality” of over 15 prominent organizations in a public press conference.

One of those organizations which has represented those in the struggle for an improved education system for all children in Texas is the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). The MALDEF attorney Luis Figueroa, who was present at the Latino coalition press conference and was a registered witness at the hearing said, “We are witnessing that everyone wants to lower EOC Testing but the conversation must turn to using EOC Testing as a tool for remediation testing and not graduation. If students fail, then they need rigorous remediation, not more tests.”

HOPE held their 3rd Annual Legislative Reception that (Tuesday) evening to recognize leaders who exemplify a strong commitment to improving public education in our state. The list of honorees included Senator Wendy Davis, Ms. Julieta Garibay, Mr. George Hernandez, the late Senator Mario Gallegos from Houston, and MALDEF Attorney Luis Figueroa. The last honoree, Dr. Patricia Lopez of the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project, received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Lopez’s recent dissertation, The Process of Becoming: The Political Construction of Texas’ Lone STAAR System of Accountability and College Readiness, was credited by a Huffington Post article by Texan Jason Stanford with this closing statement, “Credit on the research into what happened to HB 3 in 2009 goes to Dr. Patricia Lopez of the Texas Center of Education Policy at the University of Texas. That portion of this post drew heavily from her May 2012 dissertation.”

Maybe hope is around the corner for our education system and leading the way is a fellow Bobcat, a MALDEF attorney, and a Latina PhD. A team that’s united and well rounded which brings expertise, valuable experience, and HOPE to the discussion on educational equality. These leaders were also informally congratulated by one of our Texas State Deans, Dr. Jaime Chahin, who attended the reception. It is exciting for me to witness and recognize Bobcats who are engaged and proactive on such pressing state issues.

Before closing, to those who have recently joined the ranks of higher education at Texas State, you will not directly benefit today but if you have decided to lead a classroom as a teacher, you will reap the benefits that Democrats and even supportive Republicans are echoing – to lower the amount of EOC Testing in high school. The discussion on the topic reveals that it will lead to more productive classroom hours, lower student exam anxiety, and potentially, a better use of our tax dollars. Each EOC Testing is estimated to cost 35 to 42 dollars per exam, so, someone was making a fortune. Our Texas Legislature is on the hot seat regarding EOC Testing and financing our public schools, and maybe with a little HOPE we will see some positive changes in our education system soon.

Fidencio “Orale” Leija-Chavez, Jr. is a Co-Founder of Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting., a U.S. Navy Veteran, a Texas State University Bobcat studying Geography, a graduate of Houston’s National Hispanic Professional Organization (NHPO) Leadership Institute, Distinguished Brother of Phi Iota Alpha Latino Fraternity and a local political activist.

Editor’s note:  I’m a Bobcat (’95), too.