Endorsement watch: Garza Lindner and Vilaseca

The Chron goes against an incumbent in HISD District I.

Janette Garza Lindner

Trustee Elizabeth Santos, 39, is asking voters to keep her on the board representing Houston ISD District I. They shouldn’t.

Santos’ connection to the district is deep. She grew up attending its schools and taught English there. Her dedication to students shines through when she speaks. As a board member, she helped get raises for teachers and staff as a vocal champion for better pay in the district, whose teachers remain among the region’s lowest paid.

That record speaks in her favor, but it does not overcome her weaknesses as a board member.

An early strike against Santos came in late 2018, when she joined four other trustees to oust Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan in a surprise vote that came after the five had met with a former superintendent whom they then named to replace Lathan. The Texas Education Agency cited that apparent violation of the state’s open meetings law as partial grounds for replacing the whole board.

Santos defends her actions, and claimed in our meeting with her she hadn’t known in advance that Lathan would be fired. But the episode was deeply disruptive and showed poor judgment.

That was an early mistake, but unfortunately Santos has not provided the steady influence and smooth leadership that the school board, with all its recent acrimony, so badly needs. In interviews with us and other outlets recently, she has also struggled to share a cogent vision for how she’ll use a second term to steer the district to further success.

On the other hand, Janette Garza Lindner, 45, is a strong candidate. The mother of two HISD students, she grew up in Brownsville, bilingual in Spanish and English, as an adopted daughter of a widow who left school in the second grade and never learned to read. She graduated from the University of Texas and is an energy industry consultant and project manager. In 2019, she received training as a board fellow of Latinos for Education and serves on the leadership committee of Arts Connect Houston.

My interview with Elizabeth Santos is here, with Janette Garza Lindner is here, and with Matias Kopinsky is here. I noted the issue about the Lathan/Saavedra mess when the Chron endorsed Sue Deigaard, noting that she was not involved in the non-compliant meeting, but I totally forgot to mention that Santos was one of the trustees they might have opposed as a result. I don’t know how much this hurts Santos – she was not the Chron-endorsed candidate in 2017, either – but in a low-turnout affair it may boost Garza Lindner a bit. I figure this is going to a runoff anyway, so we’ll see then if Santos may be in some trouble.

Over in District VI, the Chron did endorse incumbent Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca despite her involvement in that meeting.

Holly Flynn Vilaseca

Overseeing the nation’s seventh-largest public school system does not accommodate learning curves. After Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca was appointed to the board in January 2017, the editorial board endorsed her for a full term , reasoning that nine months is hardly enough time to garner a first impression, let alone demonstrate the breadth of knowledge.

Through five years, three superintendents, an attempted state takeover of the district, Flynn Vilaseca has acquitted herself well on the board as a steady voice and an open mind with a deep fluency on education policy. We recommend District VI voters give her another term representing West Houston.

Flynn Vilaseca, 40, a bilingual former early childhood teacher, wants to bolster the district’s investments in special education and better train campus principals on managing finances to avoid wasteful spending. Her support for wraparound services for special education students is admirable and desperately needed in a district still routinely failing students with learning differences.

Flynn Vilaseca’s role in one of the more shameful chapters in the district’s history is a vulnerability. She was among five trustees who allegedly met in secret with former HISD superintendent Aberlardo Saavedra to coordinate replacing the interim superintendent with him. TEA officials alleged the “walking quorum” violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and led the agency to recommend replacing the entire board.

Flynn Vilaseca claims Saavedra was a long-time mentor and that she arranged the meeting so trustees could discuss “concerns on the board,” but never talked about hiring him. Why, then, did she hand Saavedra a copy of another former superintendent’s contract? According to her 2019 affidavit: “Because he had previously asked for it.”

Even if true, it doesn’t excuse how she was willing to vote days later, ostensibly with only a few minutes notice, without public input, to hire Saavedra.

That said, Flynn Vilaseca seemed sincere in her apology, and pledged to rebuild the public’s trust through transparency. We’re taking another chance on her because her collaborative, moderate voice is needed and because her challengers came up short.

My interview with Flynn Vilaseca is here and with Greg Degeyter is here. Maybe the difference in the Chron’s eyes between Santos and Flynn Vilaseca was the quality of the apology. We’ll see how Anne Sung fares when it’s her turn.

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10 Responses to Endorsement watch: Garza Lindner and Vilaseca

  1. David Fagan says:

    1 day and counting………

  2. Michelle says:

    There is a close friendship between Lindner and a Chron editorial board member that was not disclosed in the endorsement. That is very problematic

  3. Manny says:

    Why am I not surprised that the Houston Chronicle is biased.

  4. C.L. says:

    Everyone is biased, there is no more ‘fair and honest’ print medium.

    Considering the mess/debacle/ClusterF the HISD board has been for the past couple years, I don’t know how any incumbent is even on the ballot at this point. My faith in any of them pulling HISD out of its systemic malaise is nonexistent.

  5. Ms. Smith says:

    The Chronicle’s endorsement for District 1 lacks substance. There is no reason given for why Garza Lindner received the endorsement vs Kopinsky. It appears that intentionally they left out Mr. Kopinsky’s interesting upbringing and background. Being a member of the Hogg PTA, I wish the Houston Chronicle would have done a better job showcasing each candidate’s policy, vision, and background. Once again, the Houston Chronicle missed a golden opportunity to inform the community in a low turnout election. Furthermore, ageism seems to be in play in this election. Let’s not forget that the majority of new multinational successful and disruptive (AirBnB, Uber, Twitter, among others) companies were started by innovative individuals in their early 20s.

  6. David Fagan says:

    30 days and counting………

  7. J says:

    Please, I hope it is time to put this countdown ca-ca into moderation.

  8. David Fagan says:

    The lawyers, and the city, stated they needed another extension with the supreme court, the Houston Fire Fighters’ Union disagreed with the extension, but an extension was granted. I agree with you, it was time to put an end to the countdown long ago, but that’s not what happened. Just think how the lives of people hanging on this judgement feel. Those are the lives of the people that so many Houstonians, politicians, and business people support, and it has been literally years, and years.

    Kuff said in one of his last posts that he didn’t even know it was still going on, yes, it is still going on. The importance? Either the city will complain about the expense, or the Houston Fire Department will weaken to the point of disaster.

  9. policywonqueria says:


    What’s the point of the countdown when even folks who previously commented on the FF-litigation don’t even know (or remember) what you are counting?

    And now that you have elucidated the no-longer attentive audience, let’s reiterate that the SCOTX doesn’t render instant decisions in regular appeals brought by petition for review (PFR). I takes months, if not years (in some cases) and that presumes that they even decide to take the case.

    And here, a PFR has not even been fieled yet. Instead: Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review pursuant to Tex. R. App. P. 53.7(f). See Tex. Docket No. 21-0755.

    The rapid-action concierge service is given to the Abbott-AG Alliance:


    Orders Pronounced October 14, 2021


    IN RE THE STATE OF TEXAS; from Bexar County; 4th Court of Appeals District (04-21-00419-CV)

    stay order issued

    Pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 52.10(b), Real Party in Interest San Antonio Independent School District’s policy requiring that all its employees be vaccinated for COVID-19 by October 15 is stayed pending further order of this Court.

    [Note: The petition for writ of mandamus remains pending before this Court.]
    Per Curiam Opinion


  10. Joel says:

    CL: “Everyone is biased, there is no more ‘fair and honest’ print medium.”

    everyone always was, and there never was.

    the challenge for the reader is not merely to identify bias (“i see biased people”), it is to account for it and still recognize the truth. suggesting that this was ever different is disingenuous.

    DF: “30 days and counting………”

    holy christ, will you shut up. we know you can count backwards from 30. we have seen you do it twice now. what is equally apparent is that these countdowns lead to nothing but more countdowns.

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