Endorsement watch: Is that all there is?

For the second consecutive day, there are no endorsements in the Chron’s op-ed pages (though there is the anticipated Rosa Parks obituary), which leads me to wonder if they’ve done all the endorsing they plan to do. Why that would be, and why they’ve skipped these particular races and propositions, are mysteries to me.

For example, the Express News has offered a recommendation on all nine propositions – you can see seven of them here, with the two others here and here. The Morning News has a concise summary of all of its recommendations here. The Statesman did an all-in-one piece almost two weeks ago. That’s not so hard, is it? I mean, sure, there’s city elections in Houston and not in these other places, but Dallas has over a dozen city propositions on its ballot, and the DMN has reviewed all of them by now. So where is the Chronicle?

Well, at least we’re still getting race coverage. Today’s piece is on the two contested HISD trustee races, one of which will be on my ballot.

Trustee Karla Cisneros’ decision not to seek re-election in District 1 set up the three-way match for her seat, and the outcome could change the board’s ethnic makeup.

A win by Anne Flores Santiago or Richard Cantú would give Hispanics three of HISD’s nine school board seats. More than half of HISD’s 210,000 students are Hispanic. Cisneros is Anglo and married to a Hispanic.

The current board comprises four whites, three blacks and two Hispanics.

Cisneros has endorsed Natasha Kamrani, a 37-year-old lawyer who came to Houston from Ohio 15 years ago as a Teach for America corps member teaching Spanish-speaking students at Edison Middle School.

Her husband, Chris Barbic, runs the YES College Prep charter schools.

Kamrani said she would push to improve HISD’s middle schools and support policies aimed at preparing all high school graduates for college.

Santiago, 38, wants to expand an HISD partnership with the Houston Community College System that allows high school students to earn college credits. Too many HISD students are graduating without basic skills, she said.

“We need to make sure our students can read and write when they graduate from high school,” Santiago said at a recent candidates’ forum. Santiago owns a private ambulance service and her mother, Yolanda Navarro Flores, is a member of the community college board. She is endorsed by HISD Trustee Diana Dávila, the wife of HCCS board member Abel Dávila.

Cantú, 36, runs Mayor Bill White’s Citizens’ Assistance Office and is the only District 1 candidate who has sought a school board seat before. He has promised to make teacher pay raises and HISD’s high dropout rate his top priorities.

He is endorsed by HISD’s main teachers union, the Houston Federation of Teachers.

Cantu said he supports HISD’s partnership with Project GRAD, a non-profit group that promises $4,000 college scholarships to graduates from certain low-income schools. The organization requires the schools it supports to use its teaching methods and strict disciplinary practices. HISD trustees this year cut Project GRAD’s budget by $1 million amid concerns from some administrators that the organization hasn’t delivered strong enough results.

Cisneros has endorsed Kamrani, who is definitely the favorite choice in my neighborhood. I’ll have more on this shortly, but in the meantime I’ll point you to Kamrani’s website so you can learn more about her, and to my previous Q&A session with Cantu.

Finally, the tireless Sal Costello has a pointer to more video of him disputing pro-Prop 1 assertions. Eye on Williamson has more on yesterday’s Costello video, plus a plea to help No Nonsense In November in that county.

UPDATE: Forgot to note that BOR has some information on statewide coverage of the Save Texas Marriage effort, and that Jonathan Ichikawa was way ahead of the curve on this one.

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4 Responses to Endorsement watch: Is that all there is?

  1. Marie says:

    I wonder how many of the upper middle class Heights residents send their kids to public school. Is Kamrani really interested in making Hogg, Marshall, Burbank and Hamilton better? Will the upper middle class Heights residents send their kids to the neighborhood schools? Or is she going to vote to divert more money to places like KIPP, further starving the neighborhood schools and not making them better at all?

  2. Natasha Kamrani says:

    YES, I am interested in improving Hogg, Marshall, Burbank and Hamilton. I’m a former middle school teacher–I taught English as a Second Language at HISD’s Edison Middle School on the eastside of town. I know first-hand how tremendously we need reform in our middle schools and I also know that without improving our middle schools, we are missing what is, perhaps, the most important effort in addressing our high school drop out problem and our lack of college ready high school graduates. If you look at our district, you will see that our challenges with low test scores, school attendance and low parental involvement begin to occur in a widespread way at our middle school. Many of the reforms that HISD currently has underway in high schools–smaller learning communities, more rigorous curriculum, remediation of instruction–are all logical steps we need to take immediately in our middle schools. Most kids who drop out do so during their ninth grade year, subsequently, implementing reforms at the high school level is misdirected effort. I am committed to making middle school reform a central part of my effort as a school board member.

    Additionally, while I may be described as an upper middle class Heights resident, I’ve a strong history of working to increase educational opportunities for our city’s most underserved students–first as a teacher and then as Executive Director of Teach For America. I worked, most recently, to help open our district’s first All Montessori School which offers what is typically a high dollar private school education at no cost to HISD students.
    The notion that I am running this race and plann on serving as a representative for only a few is an absurd notion.

    I think all parents in my district–those who could be described as upper middle class Heights residents and those that could be described as not having the same financial resources–share the very same dream. Simply put, all parents–rich, poor, black, white or Hispanic, want good public schools to send their children to. And I am a representative of all these parents in my district, and all children in my district. And I most assuredly would not be running if I didn’t believe that I had the background, the desire and the work ethic to help make ALL parents’ dream a reality.

    As regards schools like KIPP, let me first say that I would never support any effort that would lead to “starving the neighborhood schools and not making them better at all.” I will say that I am a huge fan of all high performing public schools. Some of these high performing public schools are HISD schools and some of these high performing public schools are charter schools. I do not support charter schools that mismanage funds and fail to provide children with the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

    It’s important to know a few basics about charter school finance too before making the sort of statements Marie has regarding their “starving” HISD schools. Charter schools receive per pupil funding. For each child enrolled in a charter school, the per pupil allotment from the district the child is zoned to follows the child LESS facilities costs. What this means is that a school district does NOT lose capital costs as a result of a child going to a charter school. Charter schools are required to do more with less than our district and our district ends up, in essense, with more money than it would typically get when a child enrolls in a charter rather than the district to which he or she is zoned. Additionally, the number of chidren within our district that are enrolled in charter schools rather than HISD is miniscule. Our district enrolls 210,000 students. Our city’s charter schools are barely making a dent in this number. Finally, it’s so incredibly important to concentrate on what great charter schools do to HELP HISD. Great charter schools like KIPP and YES College Prep are achieving awesome results with student populations very similar to the student population of HISD. For instance, YES College Prep sends 100% of its high school graduates to four year colleges and universities. What this says to me is: HEY! If this school (with less funding) can achieve results like this with kids who are similar to the vast majority of students in HISD, what’s HISD’s excuse. Let’s take a good long look at what these schools are doing and implement these strategies too!

    These “laboratory” schools, so to speak, provide our district with a real opportunity to see how things work, to see what will work in our district and to execute ideas that work for our own students.
    If you have any other questions about me, about what I’ve written or about any other topic concerning education, please feel free to visit my website at http://www.onesmartmommy.com and shoot me an e-mail.

    Natasha Kamrani

  3. Marie says:

    The person I voted for is a fan of public schools, not just the “high performing” public schools. Ms. Kamrani – I am a product of public education and I attended schools in the neighborhood. While I appreciate your response to my post, you have to understand some community concerns. While we all share the values of wanting the best educations for our children, it starts with equalizing the playing field within HISD. Davis, Sam Houston and Reagan have been losing kids for years to schools like Lamar and Bellaire. When are we going to have someone on school board to fight to make our schools better? We don’t need “laboratories” to experiment with what works. That experiment has been happening for years across town at Lanier, Lamar, T.H. Rogers and Bellaire. Those schools work. We all want the best opportunities for our kids, but there is no good reason why we should have to bus our kids across town for them to have those opportunities.

  4. Natasha Kamrani says:

    Problem is, the schools you listed, Lanier, Lamar, T.H. Rogers and Bellaire do NOT work for ALL kids. Under the federal No Child Left Behind, districts are now responsible for “de-aggregating” data on schools. What we learn from this de-aggregation, which essentially means breaking out test scores by race, is that these schools that HISD has held up as examples of what works, are not working for ALL kids. Hispanic and African-American students at the schools listed are NOT performing all that much higher at these schools than they are performing at other schools throughout the district. This is a sad, sad fact and, this is why, schools that do have high levels of academic achievement across all racial lines must be examined for what they are doing and how we can learn from them.
    And, my goal is not to have a few high performing schools–that’s simply ridiculous. ALL schools need to be operating at a high level (meaning all children are achieving academically). This is my sole goal. I assure you that my work on the school board will be to ensure that District I schools are operating in such a fashion that children and families have confidence that a first-rate public education will be offered to all who enter the school’s doors…
    I’m sorry I didn’t receive your vote, but I certainly look forward to more dialogue with you in the future–either here or over the phone. If you would like to contact me at [email protected], I would be more than happy to give you my phone number, Marie.
    I hope you are well,
    Natasha Kamrani

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