In Takeover Meetings, TEA Hears (More Than Expected) from Community

Frustrated by a lack of answers, Houston Educational Support Personnel member Karla Mattox interjects at the first community meeting hosted by the Texas Education Agency. 

In Takeover Meetings, TEA Hears (More Than Expected) from Community

Following the announcement last week that the Texas Education Agency planned to remove the democratically elected school board of Houston ISD and take over management of the district, the agency hosted the first two of four planned community meetings. 

They did not go as planned. 

At the first meeting on Tuesday at Westbury High School, Alejandro Delgado, TEA’s deputy commissioner of operations, attempted to keep the scope of the meeting limited to discussions of the nine-member board of managers that will be appointed to run the district, instead of the board elected by the community. 

Of that process, Delgado said there have been 138 applicants to the board of managers; applications are due on April 6, and the board will be installed by June 1. 

Parents, school employees, and community members in attendance, however, had other questions, many of which TEA officials at the meeting seemed unprepared or unwilling to answer: Why is the district being taken over when it has been given a B rating by TEA? How much control will TEA exert over operations? Will the board of managers reflect the community? How are issues that would affect student test scores, like chronic underfunding, be addressed?

At the first meeting, attendees grew so frustrated with the evasiveness, they began to chant “Where is Mike Morath?”, and TEA handed control of the meeting to U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who voiced her own opposition to the takeover

At the second meeting, on Wednesday at Chavez High School, educators and parents passed around a bullhorn to ask questions and share concerns so they could not be brushed off. 

“What our schools need is more funding,” said Ruth Kravetz, co-founder of Community Voices for Public Education. “If the governor really cared about us he would make sure that our class sizes are small. If the governor really cared about us, instead of last night being somewhere else, he would’ve come.” 

We agree with the Houston Chronicle’s incredulous editorial board: “TEA’s response suggests a disrespectful disinterest in even being prepared for the types of questions they were going to get, for the concerns that the fix is in here.” 

There are two additional community meetings scheduled: 

  • 6:30 p.m., March 29: Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center
  • 6:30 p.m., March 30: Kashmere High School

Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson and Houston Educational Support Personnel President Wretha Thomas have promised members will be at every meeting, making their voices heard.