Friday, March 14, 2014

Another Month, Another Contentious HISD Board Meeting

Stay tuned because there will be fireworks at this Thursday's HISD 4 PM CDT board meeting.
--TransGriot   March 13, 2014.

Can I call it or what? 

I had the opportunity to spend what was an interesting afternoon and early evening watching and Tweeting remarks during the March HISD Board meeting in which 120 people signed up to speak at a meeting that had the closure of Jones High School and Dodson Elementary on the menu.  

As I mentioned in earlier posts, the Houston African-American community is seething with anger over the fact that 19 of the schools that have been closed so far are disproportionately in African-American neighborhoods, and are creating what we call 'school deserts' in our neighborhoods.   

HISD police officers provided security at the Thursday night meeting, where tensions rose during debate over the fate of Jones High and Dodson Elementary. Protesters chanted and a man allegedly threatened Superintendent Terry Grier.
  Photo: © Tony Bullard 2014, Tony Bullard / © 2014 Tony BullardThat anger boiled over in the meeting last night attended by a standing room only crowd in the board room at HISD's Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center on the northwest side of town. 

Because of the large number of speakers, we were limited to one minute (which pissed me off) because you can't even get a coherent thought out in one minute.  The dismissive,disinterested attitude of the white male HISD board members and Superintendent Grier as people came to the podium to express themselves was interpreted as disrespect, combined with the pissivity over the proposed closes of two more of our schools.  

That combined with many people feeling before even walking into that board meeting the HISD board and the district weren't and haven't been listening to our community about our displeasure over the disproportionate number of public schools being closed  in our neighborhoods led to emotions boiling over.

When one of the speakers made the comment of coming after Terry Grier with an accounting audit, all the HISD po-po's heard was 'threat' and scrambled into action to form a phalanx in front of the board while the person was hustled off to another corner of the room away from the speakers podium.  That triggered a five minute recess and 'Fire Terry Grier' chants as people wroked to defuse tensions in the room..

After the pissivity in the room was ratcheted down a few levels with the help of Trustees Wanda Adams, Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Texas state rep Borris Miles,  the vote on Jones fate happened.   The proposal was amended to keep Jones open and repurpose it without athletics, which didn't sit well with me and many of the people in the room.   We basically want the same thing the white HISD constituents enjoy at Bellaire, Lamar, Westside, and other comprehensive HISD neighborhood high schools.  

That passed on a 6-3 vote.  Jones lived, but its attendance zone was split between Worthing and Sterling High Schools and what the 'repurposed' school is going to look like is still to be determined. 

But it definitely wasn't the comprehensive high school we wanted 

File:DodsonESHoustonTX.JPGDodson Elementary unfortunately we couldn't save.  Because as I mentioned in yesterday's post Dodson's location made it a juicy target for closure despite hosting an exemplary rated Montessori program. 

It sits in the shadow of downtown in the EaDo neighborhood less than two blocks from the soon to be opened Purple Line light rail line and right next to a hike and bike trail.   It was battling the forces of gentrification and whatever backroom deals had been cut and our kids are going to be the losers in this.   .  

The vote to close it was a 5-4 one, and that stoked fresh waves of anger after the stunned crowd realized what happened.
So the struggle continues.  Another Black school in Houston has been slated for closure this May, Jones has been put on the slow track in many of our minds to eventual death and the simmering African-American community anger at superintendent Dr. Terry Grier and the HISD board has just had gasoline poured on it.

As to whether the trust level between the Houston African-American community and the HISD board can be rebuilt?   What that is going to take is Terry Grier's firing or departure as a starting point and a moratorium on school closures in our neighborhoods.    

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