This is not how you win hearts and minds

I don’t know what the TEA hoped to accomplish with its public outreach meetings about the HISD takeover, but it probably wasn’t this.

Houston community members were irate Tuesday night as state education officials tried to explain the process of taking over their school district. State officials did not take questions about the effects such a move could have on Houston Independent School District, which is the largest in Texas, but did try to recruit community members to replace the existing school board.

About seven minutes into the Texas Education Agency’s PowerPoint presentation on the impending HISD takeover, parents and community members erupted in shouts directed at TEA deputy commissioner Alejandro Delgado.

“We got questions,” attendees repeatedly yelled. “Y’all tryna take our community.”

It was the first meeting that the state agency held in Houston since it announced on March 15 that it would replace the district’s current superintendent, Millard House II, and its democratically elected school board with its own “board of managers” in response to years of underperforming schools, mainly Phillis Wheatley High School.


The TEA official attempted to finish his presentation without interruption, but community members would not stand down. They were upset that they had to write their questions down on index cards and then TEA officials would choose which questions to answer.

“This meeting was rodeo-grade BS,” said Houston ISD parent Travis McGee. “The community should have been able to speak.”

McGee and other community members were also upset that the TEA commissioner himself didn’t show up to the meeting.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, took the podium once the TEA could not take control of the meeting. She said she believes Morath has the ability to not take over the district and instead continue monitoring improvement within the schools.

“The board of managers will not be responsive to teachers, parents or children. I do want the school board to be responsive to you,” she told the audience.

The community meetings were mentioned in the earlier story about the requirements that HISD must meet to get out of takeover jail. I don’t know what I would have expected if I had been there, but 1) Mike Morath really needs to be at these things and talk directly to the people, it’s flat out disrespectful not to, and 2) “Rodeo-grade BS” is an excellent expression that I plan to borrow at some point. Stace, Campos, the Chron, and the Press have more.

PS – In re: that Press piece, I take issue with this:

Asked a direct question about why TEA thought it should take over the district, Delgado made the mistake of beginning his answer with a reiteration of all the good things about the district (like a boss talking to a disappointing employee before lowering the boom with a “but”) before starting to get to the point. The crowd, exasperated, shouted him down yelling “Answer the question.” Which he then tried to do but by then it was a lost cause.

(For the record, Morath determined HISD was in need of intervention after years of some low-performing AKA failing schools that didn’t meet state academic standards and board members that were not only dysfunctional but one convicted of corruption. Others engineered an aborted administration takeover in a private meeting in apparent violation of the Open Meetings Act. And while most of the board has switched out in subsequent elections, some members of the especially troubled times remain.)

Only two current members of the Board were there for the cited dysfunction. Only one of those two was involved in the Open Meetings Act violation. The other has not been associated with any bad behavior. Four of the five trustees associated with that Open Meetings Act violation were defeated in their subsequent election. I know that Margaret Downing, a longtime reporter of HISD doings and the author of this piece, knows all of that. I don’t know if she was just presenting the TEA’s case as they would present it without any additional context or if she chose to give it this shading. I don’t care for it either way.

UPDATE: The Chron editorial board was not impressed.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in School days and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to This is not how you win hearts and minds

  1. I don’t believe the TEA needed to take over HISD. Under the leadership of Superintendent Millard House II, HISD was making significant improvements and was on the right path. That said, local activists, grandstanding politicians, and the parents who disrupt TEA meetings should be escorted out of the room so the parents who actually wanted to hear the TEA speaker can do so. Screaming, approaching the stage, shouting down the speaker, using bullhorns during the meeting, etc. is unacceptable. That kind of behavior reflects poorly on the people opposed to the TEA takeover, not the TEA. Whether you support the TEA takeover or not, is it really too much to ask that people behave in a civil manner during a public meeting? Geez.

  2. C.L. says:

    I agree with Greg. From what I’ve seen on local media, you had irate parents acting irrationally and hijacking what could have been an informative meeting. Perhaps these same blowhards weren’t more involved in their child’s education and the schools they were enrolled in when they were receiving F’s from the State – they appeared to have the same level of education the State is attempting to improve upon, what with ‘tryna to take our community’ and all.

    HISD’s leadership had been a shitshow for years – not sure how anyone could/can be surprised by what ultimately transpired.

  3. Pingback: As Expected - CAMPOS COMMUNICATIONS

  4. Ross says:

    Maybe TEA should answer the questions instead of having a content free meeting that’s not informative. No one gives a crap about the application process, they want answers on what TEA intends to do.

    Having said that, using bullhorn and such is antisocial behavior. As is shouting and not allowing others to speak.

  5. Flypusher says:

    This is a test on how well the TEA can adjust, and so far they fail. It doesn’t look like Morath showed for yesterday’s meeting either. They now have 2 data points on how their initial plan for these meetings is not working. They have 6 days to get ready for the next one. What changes will they make in an attempt to have the 3/29 meeting go better? Obviously at the top of the list is Morath appearing in person. Nothing screams bad faith louder than an unwillingness to show up and face the people your plan is affecting. They also need a better way to allow the public to ask questions. It would be much better without bullhorns, but I can sympathize with people’s frustration.

    FYI Charles, our mutual friend Chuck T has applied to be on the board of managers. He would be an actual force for good, so I will be looking at his experience with this process as another test of TEA’s claims of good faith.

  6. Joel says:

    I haven’t seen enough discussion of the obvious, re: the TEA has two possible courses of actions in this situation. The fact they chose to take over an entire government instead of closing one school is telling. Not that anyone needed to be told.

    As for the tone of the protesting … what do you all expect? We are talking about it, which means it was effective. If they had just sat there an eaten their cucumber sandwiches during a powerpoint slideshow, would that have had the same impact?

  7. C.L. says:

    Maybe not have had the same impact, but certainly would have had me taking their bitching more seriously.

    This is exactly why I pulled my child out of HISD 10-11 years ago despite being zoned to the same group of schools as Kuff’s kids. Back then though, it was $18.5M in budget cuts and $43.5M in budget deficit(s) that caused me to bail their system.

  8. Joel says:

    i would take citizens exercising their first amendment rights over citizens bailing on their community anyday. YMMV.

  9. C.L. says:

    Yup, bailed on HISD’s ineptitude yet continued to pay school taxes + private tuition. And didn’t look back.

  10. Joel says:

    your taxes are literally the least you can do for your society. and not even close to what it would take to sustain a successful republic. but hey, you got yours. and apparently you aren’t noisy.

  11. Joel, people can exercise their 1st Amendment Rights and still be civil and respectful. If everyone is allowed to bring bullhorns, shout down the speakers, and disrupt the proceedings, then what’s the point of even having public meetings? It just turns into a circus, with everyone acting the fool. Sure, that kind of disruptive behavior gets the anti-TEA folks a lot of media attention, but not in a good way. Charles titled this blog post, “This is not how you win hearts and minds.” In addition to the TEA, that title could easily apply to the TEA protestors as well.

  12. Pingback: Don’t forget the teachers – Off the Kuff

  13. Joel says:

    seems some folks need to re-read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

    hint: you are not the good guys.

    telling those screwed over by systemic injustice that they need to calm down and protest more politely is ALSO “not how you win hearts and minds.”

  14. I believe MLK was referring to a moral obligation to violate unjust segregation laws. In this case, the TEA is just trying to hold public meetings to explain what’s going on. I’m sure there are a few parents out there that would like to hear what the TEA has to say, minus the protestor bullhorns. Is that too much to ask?

  15. J says:

    This meeting, being the first opportunity for a lot of angry people to confront the TEA, was doomed as soon as the written question format was adopted. The crowd did wait, much of the presentation was allowed before the situation boiled over and the people asserted their right to be heard.

  16. Thanks, J., but things didn’t get any better during the 2nd TEA meeting. According to the local media (see link below, with video), the TEA representative had less than 10 minutes before the bullhorn protestors took over the meeting again. Oh, well.

  17. C.L. says:

    Just a shit ton of silly business and disrespect. When faced with a cacophony of verbal outrage via bullhorn, no one hears any message from any party.

  18. Manny says:

    No message is a good message in this case. The racist party wanted to pretend they care.

Comments are closed.