Some pretty easy calls for the Chron here. In HISD VII, they go with Judith Cruz.
Houston Independent School District does not need more of the same in its leadership. The embattled district must move away from the dysfunction that has tainted the current school board, from the in-fighting and public squabbles that have left its reputation in tatters and taken focus away from the needs of students.
State intervention, triggered by Texas law when Phillis Wheatley High School failed in yearly accountability ratings, will likely result in a state-appointed board of managers. But voters must also do their part by electing trustees who are well-prepared to guide the district no matter what is ahead.
In HISD’s Board of Trustees District VIII, which includes the East End and some of the city’s top performing schools, that means rejecting incumbent Board President Diana Dávila.
A Texas Education Agency investigation found that Dávila made false statements to state officials during an inquiry into potential violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act in late 2018, when she and other trustees unsuccessfully tried to oust Interim Superintendent Grenita Latham. Dávila also faces accusations of improperly interfering in district vendor contracts.
Dávila, who declined to participate in a candidate screening by the editorial board, has denied wrongdoing, but the allegations and her role in the board’s missteps would only be a distraction.
Her opponent, Judith Cruz, 44, brings a commitment to rebuilding trust and transparency, as well as experience as a classroom teacher and in an educational nonprofit, DiscoverU. She began her career with Teach for America, and went on to teach ESL at Lee High School (now Wisdom) in HISD, and at Liberty High School, where she was a founding teacher.
It is time for a change in HISD. We recommend Cruz for Board of Trustees District VIII.
I expected this, based on the Chron’s endorsement of challenger Dani Hernandez in District III. Even without Dávila’s other baggage, the Chron was almost certainly going to call for a clean slate. My interview with Judith Cruz is here. Some but not all of the 30 day finance reports for HISD are up, I’m going to wait a little more before I post on them to give time for them all to appear. The Chron still has to make a call in HISD IV.
Also a trivially easy decision was to endorse Monica Flores Richart in HCC District 2.
Former Houston Community College District 2 trustee Dave Wilson announced in August he was quitting his seat in order to focus full time on running to represent District 1. Trouble is, he said he had moved from District 2 to District 1 seven months before, in January — and was only just then getting around to vacating an office he appeared to be no longer eligible to keep. He called Texas residency rules “vague” but there’s nothing vague about keeping a job representing a district you no longer even live in.
Now that he’s running to fill a different seat on the same board, we do not encourage anyone to vote for him.
Fortunately, the majority Hispanic District 1 on the northeast side has a really good candidate running against Wilson, and we heartily endorse her for the job.
She is attorney Monica Flores Richart, 45, who has an undergraduate degree in public policy from Princeton University, a law degree from Columbia University. She worked for U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, the Democrat who in 2006 won the heavily Republican district vacated by Tom DeLay. He got swept out of office in a Republican wave in 2008.
Richart is smart, has good ideas and strikes us as someone who can accomplish positive change in a professional way.
We endorse her for District 1 on the HCC board of trustees.
My interview with Monica Flores Richart is here. Honestly, they could have written dozens of paragraphs about what a bigoted jackass Dave Wilson is and then ended with those last two sentences above. But Richart really is a strong candidate, so better to emphasize that as well.
Finally, the Chron endorses Rhonda Skillern-Jones in Wilson’s old district, District 2.
The District 2 candidates are former HISD board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones, longtime educator and community leader Kathy Lynch-Gunter and attorney Brendon Singh.
Retired teacher Linda Murray, 70, is on the ballot but told us she has dropped out and supports Skillern-Jones.
Skillern-Jones, 52, is the heavyweight in the field, having served eight mostly laudable years on the Houston Independent School District board of trustees, including two as president.
The Texas Southern University grad’s reputation took a hit in April 2018 when she presided with a heavy hand over a failed attempt to transfer control of 10 troubled schools to a charter school company with a questionable reputation.
The emotional meeting resulted in two people being hauled off by police and, in the end, the transfer of schools was abandoned. Skillern-Jones, who had asked the police to help quiet the protesters, accepted blame for the debacle.
There were a lot of things to like about Lynch-Gunter, 56, and Singh, 24, an HCC alumnus, but Skillern-Jones’ experience and knowledge of educational governance is hard to beat.
We agree with Skillern-Jones that her long record of public service shouldn’t be reduced to her actions during a single meeting. We urge voters to elect her to the HCC board of trustees, District 2.
You may ask, why does Skillern-Jones not get the same level of skepticism that fellow HISD Trustees Sergio Lira and Diana Dávila got? One, she wasn’t named in that TEA ethics investigation, and two I presume either the Chron didn’t consider her a part of the problem in the same way, or they decided that even with that on her record she was still the better choice for HCC. There’s one more HCC race, though it appears to be uncontested, and one more HISD race, the open seat in District IV. We’ll see what the Chron has to say about them.