The Chron does remember that there are HISD races on the ballot.
It’s the board of managers that has the voting power on district decisions, a task some critics say it has fulfilled by largely rubber-stamping Superintendent Mike Miles’ plans.
But there is still an HISD board election this November.
Four of the nine seats are open on the elected board with two incumbents facing challengers and two more candidates in unopposed races. Will the winners ever have any voting power? The timeline for the state takeover depends on the district meeting three specific criteria, including complying with special education requirements and ensuring no school receives a D or F rating from the state for two or more years in a row. Once met, the board would begin to transition back to an elected board, with three board members added at a time over roughly two years.
Realistically, it will probably be awhile until elected board members have voting power again but there are multiple reasons voters should still care about who is serving in those seats.
We want a strong board in place whenever that transition happens. And in the meantime, we want informed and engaged representatives who can listen to the public, help advise the administration and use their bully pulpit to effect positive change.
In both races with challengers, we believe the incumbents have the deep roots, board know-how and student-focused priorities to help speak for and with the community as the district navigates uncertain times.
We’re also concerned that the challengers, to varying degrees, would ensnare HISD in ideological battles it has so far largely avoided. There’s a risk that, with voters’ attention elsewhere, far-right interests could find their way on the board. Both list “parental rights” among their top priorities. In Texas, parents already have the ability to opt their students out of class activities that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs. But conservative leaders have taken up the cause to push for still more influence over public schools, using the talking point to support everything from vouchers to pulling books from library shelves.
In District III, which spreads east from Carnegie Vanguard High School to Chavez High School, incumbent Daniela “Dani” Hernandez was a bilingual teacher in the same HISD elementary school that she once attended as a child. Our pick in 2019, Hernandez, 35, was part of a shakeup on the board that marked a turning point in governance and eventually became the board president. Since the takeover, she’s shown a willingness to work alongside the state-appointed leaders and hasn’t hesitated to also share her concerns, especially community concerns around the integrity of bilingual programs.
“There’s a very big need in HISD for proper bilingual education,” said Hernandez.
In District IV, which covers portions of southeast Houston including Yates High School down to Sterling High School, voters have a smart and deeply-rooted incumbent with Patricia Allen.
“I am Houston ISD,” Allen, who is the daughter of state Rep. Alma Allen, told us.
A graduate of Madison High School, Allen, 65, has also taught and worked as a principal here before getting elected in 2019. Her election was part of a marked improvement in board governance and when trustees found themselves in a deadlock after 10 votes, they chose Allen to serve as board president in 2021.
Allen tends to work behind the scenes as problem solver. She has talked with the members of the board of managers and Miles and said she’s particularly focused on making sure that gifted students are still engaged and challenged within the curriculum coming from the central office and that schools that had to sacrifice their libraries still find a way to bring reading and enrichment opportunities to their students.
While she has been opposed to the takeover, Allen believes she can still play a constructive role by providing feedback to Miles and the board of managers, and by working with them to address longstanding inequities in the district.
My interview with Dani Hernandez is here. I reached out to Patricia Allen for an interview but she declined the invitation. Both are and have been good solid Board members, and just as importantly their opponents are “parental rights” candidates, and we don’t need or want that crap. Make sure you vote in these races, and tell everyone you know to make sure they vote in these races. We can’t afford any screwups.
UPDATE: The print edition has their Mayoral endorsement, and it’s for Whitmire. I assume that will be online soon if it’s not already.