BREAKING: HISD Board will not Charter Black/Brown Schools

hisd pic.jpg

Just confirmed the authenticity of this press release from HISD Press office via phone who confirmed the Board will not move forward with the hotly debated Charter Schools proposal that led to last night's infamous protests from parents, activists, and community leaders.

Kandice Webber and Amelie Goedecke were arrested after Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones ordered police officers to "clear the room," which was filled with constituents awaiting the fate of 10 historically Black and Brown schools.

At the end of Karina Quesada-Leon's testimony, the Board President ordered her removed as seen below.


From HISD Interim-Superintendent Lathan:

HISD Board of Education will not vote on partnership for
“Improvement Required” campuses

HISD will not submit any plans to the Texas Education Agency related to SB 1882
April 25, 2018 - The Houston Independent School District Board of Education on Tuesday adjourned without approving a contract to partner with the governing board of Energized for STEM Academy as part of Senate Bill 1882. The district will no longer pursue this proposal, nor will the district submit plans for partnerships to the TEA.
The proposal was intended to give HISD a two–year pause on accountability from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and prevent sanctions from the state related to House Bill 1842.
HISD will continue to operate and manage the 10 campuses that have been in Improvement Required (IR) status with the state for four years or more. Those campuses are: Blackshear, Dogan, Highland Heights, Mading, and Wesley elementary schools, Henry Middle School, Woodson PK-8, and Kashmere, Wheatley, and Worthing high schools. The district’s goal is to help these 10 schools exit IR and continue to meet yearly standards.
“We are not bringing another partnership proposal to the Board, nor will there be another meeting to consider partnerships for the 10 schools,” said Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan. “Instead, we will continue to reinforce our commitment to helping students, staff, and families of our Achieve 180 schools continue the hard work they’ve done this year to transform their campuses and increase student achievement.”
HISD will make the necessary changes to the Achieve 180 framework to ensure the district provides them with the additional resources and supports they need to be successful. District administration will be holding meetings with staff and parents at these 10 schools to discuss Achieve 180 plans for their campuses in the 2018-2019 school year. Staff will remain in place at these 10 campuses unless a position is closed as part of the reduction in force HISD is experiencing across the district due to the $115 million budget shortfall.

Project Orange Profile by April Henshaw

When I saw the call to help register voters who were currently incarcerated, I knew I had to do it.

I was raised by a single father, in part, because both of my parents were convicted felons. He was always saying that the government didn't care about him, the primary example being that he wasn't even allowed to vote. I know now that is untrue. But it took him decades to find that same truth.

One simple bit of dignity to make you feel you are part of the community at large could have a ripple effect on someone's life.

Because of my childhood, I avoid police officers at all costs. They trigger a lot of anxiety and I had not thought of this until right before I began the drive to the Sheriff's office. I realized I would be around inmates, but I was suddenly more afraid that I would be around a bunch of police.

I also hadn't thought about the fact that in all of those years of legal issues and arrests, I had never been inside a jail/prison. All of this hit me with a quickness and I confessed to the person in charge that I had also never registered anyone to vote, so I was "nervous about that".

In reality, I was nervous about at least 10 different things that morning.

I am so glad that I did it now.

I hope to encourage people to have their voices heard and am working on rallying some folks in Austin to do the same thing there!


Project Orange Story by Emily Vanous

I first heard about Project Orange in an email from Houston Millennials.

I had already been to a VDVR training and am very concerned about the lack of voice disenfranchised populations have in our government, so it was a perfect opportunity for me. I was excited to be in a position to have a direct and almost immediate impact relating to people engaging in their civic duties.

I was nervous my first time going to register voters, but only because I was unsure of the process, not the environment. I was made to feel at ease right away though. While there were things to get sorted out and improved during each volunteer session, I always felt safe and, most of the time, very appreciated by the people who I registered to vote.

It was also an incredible opportunity to get a better understanding of the experience of the men and women who spend time behind bars, sometimes only because they can’t afford bail. Eye opening!

Overall, volunteering with Project Orange was a great opportunity to feel like I was giving back to my community, engaging in a crucial civic duty and shining some hope on the future for people who felt like they had hit a road block.

I absolutely will be continuing to volunteer with this incredible organization and also hope to help spread the word about this groundbreaking initiative.


My Story - by Chris Tebow Smith

Okay, so full disclosure, I registered only two people on the very first day of Project Orange, so I'm a little embarrassed about that. I first read about this effort on Facebook last summer and wanted to sign up, but Harvey had other plans for the city. When I saw it pop up again in December, I signed up and was vetted.

I became a VDVR in May of 2017, but hadn't really connected with any events yet. This appealed to me because for some reason I relate best to outsiders and loners, and I hate injustice. I've had co-workers, relatives, and acquaintances - all good people - who have gone to prison or jail, and they deserve their humanity and their rights. They are forgotten and vilified, instead.

I was nervous. I wasn't nervous at all about interacting with the inmates - and I am basically unshockable -  but was worried about whether I was parking at the right place, worried that I wouldn't fill out the forms correctly...stupid stuff. Tina and Durrel were wonderful, warm, and welcoming to those of us who showed up; it was new ground for them, too, the VERY FIRST DAY! The officers could not have been nicer on this groundbreaking day, and they walked us through what to expect, how to react, what to do, what not to do...

BUT they gave me a new worry, how to keep track of the MANY pens I brought. You must account for every single one or they have to put the entire facility on lock down until an errant pen has been recovered.

I still have nightmares about my Bics.

The guys (we didn't make it to the women's floor that first day) were receptive to a new experience - especially one involving women on their floors - and some lined up maybe out of curiosity. They were mostly really sweet, but boy, was it hard to hear in there. And I learned something else. In jail, the elevators don't have buttons.

It was a great and humbling experience. Thanks for letting me participate in this great program.

I will never forget tiny powerhouse Margie telling everyone who registered, "Congratulations!"


Bringing Black People to Boards and Commissions

 Photo by IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock / Getty Images

From Durrel's Facebook Post:

We discussed launching a project aimed at placing more Black people on government/NGO Boards and Commissions at our last meeting.  Some of you were involved in the discussion, others just got added because you came to mind.  


Working on a Board/Commission is a great first step that allows individuals to understand how entities actually operate.  


Though these initiatives exist in some form today, the organizations running them don't reach our community/age cohort the way we can, nor are the curricula designed through a Black/Millennial-centered lens... it's usually more "Friends" than "Livin' Single" if you get my drift.  Further, I believe that the effectiveness of projects like these is lost when top-heavy organizations attempt to take them on.  


I'm looping in Tarsha Jackson who runs the Criminal Justice campaign for TOP since they were doing something similar, and she might be able to provide pointers as we lay our foundation.


To make this happen, we plan to:

  1. Develop a Black/Millennial-centered curriculum outlining the necessary tools to being a successful board/commission member. This would include, but not limited to Robert's Rules of Order.  It would also include assignments like watching the episode of Insecure where the main character had to maneuver her non-profit employers leadership to get the right tools to the students they were serving.  
  2. Plan the inaugural two-day workshop that our first cohort would have to attend to become "Fellows" or whatever designation we'll give to those who have the HJC stamp of approval.  This will include a panel discussion or two from those currently/formerly serving on Boards/Commissions discussing what they learned, and what they wished they'd known.  Further, how they used their seat to make concrete advancements.  Lastly, we'd have a couple non-profit executives and/or elected officials to keynote.  We want our Fellows to leave not only knowing how to apply for these positions, but be prepared to be thought leaders at the table.
  3. Develop an online clearinghouse for those ready to serve.  Once completing the workshop and gathering a better idea of HOW they want to serve, they'll walk away with a spot in our online clearinghouse.  You'd be surprised how many Boards and Commissions are looking for Black Millennials, but don't know where to find us.  We'll fix that.  THIS IS THE STRONGEST PART OF OUR PROJECT.  There's nowhere one can go to flip through a book of US, with bios where selections could be made.
  4. Research the local government entities that use Boards and Commissions.  We need to know what the terms of service are, when the deadlines to apply roll by, and to whom we need to be working with directly at each of these entities over the next 6 months.  Additionally, the same can be done for non-profits.

I'm looking forward to the magic that we'll make, evidenced through the changes made to decision-making tables.  I've served in every capacity from volunteer, to executive, to Board member on both government and non-profit boards.  There's a HUGE gap when it comes to people who look like me in rooms where decisions are made and checks are cut.

For starters, I'd like to get your initial thoughts, and what seems like a realistic next step.  Further, reply to me if you're still on board with pulling this together.  If your plate is too full, or you don't see the vision, no hard feelings.

In my head, we start with a Google doc that serves as an "Idea Garden" for now, then plan to link up specifically about this in a few weeks before it's stale. 

#ProjectOrange, #TheCookOut, And More Stuff to Come



ACTION ITEMS follow each of the subjects we covered. That's how WE do meetings.

This is the part many don't get to see. We didn't just TALK about good ideas, we put dates on the calendar, and listed points of contact for all the ish below.

This awesome, devoted group of people laid the groundwork for the next phase of #ProjectOrangeincluding targeting recruitment to people who probably watch Issa Rae's #Insecure or enjoy reruns of Livin' Single (if you get my drift ;-)) LOL . Yes, we need more Black people on this project! We registered 662 behind bars before the primary!

ACTION: Akua F will followup by 3/31 on her civic club potentially leading recruitment/planning for one of these VDVR trainings we can have more VDVRs that know how to do the electric slide LOL.

Then, we made plans to create an informative "how to vote if you've ever been locked up" video---teaming up with Spread The Vote Texas, who also gave a pretty lit explanation. They provide IDs/Birth Certs for the homeless, formerly incarcerated, etc. which come in handy when they're looking for work, housing, etc. Some homeless shelters even shut people out without IDs...and while it may seem simple to you or I, but coming up with $20 for an ID or copy of a birth certificate could be a HUGE barrier.

ACTION: Durrel and Kat will catch up prior to 3/31 with next steps for the creation of the video to be used on social media and inside the jail during GOTV. Further, we're looking into how to implement GOTV in addition to the existing (and growing) registration efforts.

After that, we set a date (JUNE 2nd) for#TheCookoutHouston!!! Listen, Kandice Webberand I, as well as Travis McGee had been chatting about a once-a-month BLACK CENTERED meeting where Frankie Beverly and Kendrick Lamar share the playlist, dominos, spades, and a basketball tournament are on the agenda, and food is overflowing...BUT HALFWAY THROUGH THE EVENT, and before the food is served, there's a brief update with what's going on at City Hall, HISD, state legislature etc...and we're not giving the microphone to any electeds to come and shuck and jive,... no.... there will be a layman's terms explanation with a breakdown of what's going on, and what we need everyone to do to change the issue at hand... then, we crank up the music again! I'm SOOOOO looking forward to this once per month event, and the first one is slated for MacGregor Park, and Kandice is at the helm!!! This shall be LIT AF!!!

ACTION: Kandice is researching the broad-stroked needs assessment for MacGregor Park. It's my hope that we pull Karl Mayes King Motivator into this as the Emcee, and help add a motivational angle to this somehow.

I've always wanted to increase the number of Black people on Non-Profit and Governmental Boards and Commissions, so we're working creating both a training to send the RIGHT people to apply for these opportunities to become thought leaders when they get there, but to also walk people through the process!!! I can't wait to see this as a reality. 

ACTION: Durrel (me) will recruit an ad-hoc group to research what a clearinghouse of trained, eligible Black folks that want to be on boards and commissions, and what the training might look like. Hoping my play-cousin Brandy Douglas will work with me on this LOL. 

HJC will soon be launching a job board specifically for Texas employers who employ people with records and Spread The Vote will help job seekers with records get the IDs they need to obtain employment.

ACTION: Terrance Edmond is point on this initiative.

Congratulations, y'all. The train has left the station!

Hit me or any of the awesome folks in the photo up if you want to get involved with where Houston Justice Coalition is headed!

Ashton Woods Bows Out of District K Special Election Race


In a late night Facebook Live video, prominent Houston activist Ashton P. Woods bowed out of the race to replace former City Councilman Larry Green who passed unexpectedly in early March.  Woods says he will back a Black woman for the post since he believes there should be another Black woman on City Council. 

Woods, founder of Black Lives Matter-Houston, says he still plans for an at-large seat in 2019.

Rumblings of candidates aiming to fill the southwest-Houston district filled rumor mills with long-time Democratic operative Pat Frazier and Larry Blackmon announcing runs so far.

The Mayor and City Council are slated to approve the May 5th election date which will give candidates roughly thirty days to campaign for a seat around the horseshoe at City Hall.

NO Partnerships! NO Charters! NO Closures! NO TEA!

 Parents, Teachers, Students, and Supporters in Austin at Texas Education Agency Headquarters with a unified message: Save Our Schools!

Parents, Teachers, Students, and Supporters in Austin at Texas Education Agency Headquarters with a unified message: Save Our Schools!

We met up at Worthing High School at 8:00 AM to board a big yellow school bus to head to Texas Education Agency (TEA) Headquarters.  We were parents, teachers, students, and supporters coming together to save our schools from privatization.  Worthing, Wheatley, Kashmere, and a slew of other historically Black and Brown schools are slated for  closure/charter if TEA has its way.

Legislation (HB 1842 and HB 1882) passed under the big pink dome of the Texas Capitol have low-performing schools under the gun.  Instead of offering additional resources, or guiding improvement, the move spearheaded by State Rep. Harold Dutton (Houston) moves to close or charter neighborhood schools.


We arrived in Austin around 1:00 PM asking to meet with TEA officials to no avail.  According to the receptionist, there was nobody available since it was Spring Break.  Spring Break?!?!? 

From there, we headed to the big show---The Texas Capitol---where we attempted to meet with Dutton's staff, but were met with a locked door and lights out, before heading over to Senator Miles' staffer who pledged support to keep schools open.

From there, we stopped to speak with the staff of Senator Whitmire.  

In the coming weeks, it's important that we make a strong showing at the HISD Board meeting on 4/12 at 6:00 PM.

For more information:

The Race to Replace Judge Zinetta Burney


Earlier this afternoon I met up with Sam Blair on the Air, KG Smooth, and these three candidates for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 7, an open seat to replace Judge Zinetta Burney who announced her retirement last year.  Among those running to replace her are her daughter, Sharon Burney, and Cheryl Elliot Thornton who's run for in the past for other judicial seats.  We're not going to talk about them just yet.  Instead, I'm going to tell you my views on these three candidates who answered my last minute request to chop it up on 97.9.

All three candidates arrived to the studio before me.  Ray donning a campaign t-shirt, Audrie in lawyer-esque business casual attire, and DC in denim from head-to-toe with one of those cowboy bolo ties.

It started off pretty snooze-worthy with each candidate giving their 60-second polished pitches.  Ray and Audrie were both ready for this---something you end up doing on the campaign trail a lot.  DC, not so much.  

I've had the chance to chop if up with these folks over the phone, via Facebook, and in-person today, so here's my take on each of the candidates.


Of the three candidates, Audrie has the most legal experience.  She packs an impressive resume including work on the other side of the bench in JP courts, and is quick on her toes, too.  She's a Delta.  She's charismatic.  She's the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic.  Before I met her in person, I'd heard about her from some of my close friends who've been singing her praises after meeting her at screenings or other judicial events.  

I spoke to her by phone a few weeks ago asking her about her run.  She mentioned how she wants to work with non-profit organizations, and how she wants to make her court more accessible to the community.  She mentioned pro-bono work she's done with Texas Organizing Project around Hurricane Harvey legal issues for residents dealing with slumlords, and she runs a tight ship.  She even showed volunteered an afternoon recently for Houston Justice's #ProjectOrange.  Like Ray and DC, she's very responsive to emails, Facebook messages, and the like. 


Omega Psi Phi's stated purpose has been to attract and build a strong and effective force of men dedicated to its Cardinal Principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift, and Ray has always shown himself to be the epitome of their purpose.  I didn't have to do too much research on Ray because I've known his work over the years.  From his work on housing with the National Urban League, to his volunteerism, Ray is one of those people never chasing the camera or spotlight, instead always in the background doing THE WORK.

Ray touts his experience working on issues in the community as his strength.  He's served on the District Attorney's transition team, on the Mayor's Independent Police Oversight Board, and now he's running to become Justice of the Peace for a community he and his family have deep roots in.  In addition to his reputation, he has the benefit of sharing a name with his father, the other Ray Shackelford.  This will obviously be an added benefit.  For those that might not know the younger Shackelford, they know his father, and this will benefit him when people log in to that e-Slate machine.


Well, he is.  An Eagle Scout, actually.  DC is the type of conservative that keeps multiple copies of the US Constitution on him... in multiple languages.  How do I know this?  He offered me one once the interview was over.  If DC sounds familiar, it's because he ran against Carolyn Evans-Shabazz last time around.  Or, it might be because he's the Thurgood Marshall School of Law student that caused an uproar around the invitation of Republican State Rep. Briscoe Cain coming to speak to students as a Federalist Society event.  

During today's radio interview, DC seemed to try to spar with Audrie Lawton for some reason.  It happened more than once.  After she gave her introductory remarks which included a bit on what Justices of the Peace actually do, DC attempted to correct her.  He did this at least three times during the interview.  For what it's worth, DC is tenacious.  He explained how he fought his own party to end up on the ballot.  Whether I agree with his politics or not, that's admirable.

Who will you support to replace Judge Burney?

I live in Precinct 7, so I'll have to make my own decision as well.  I think I've made up my mind.


Dutton's 2015 Law: Worthing, Wheatley, and Kashmere


Don't just take my word for it, Superintendent Carranza said it plain a few months ago.  Though some call this "misinformation," check out Carranza's video and former Board President Wanda Adams' email response from the Texas Education Agency.

Here's Trustee Adams' email:

adams closure.jpg


In the following blog, I'll lay out the timeline with receipts to explain how historic schools like Worthing, Wheatley, and Kashmere are now at risk due to a 2015 law (House Bill 1842) also known as the HISD School Closure Bill.  CLICK HERE TO READ THE BILL 

Now, chances are your Rep voted for this bill, too.  The only people who didn't vote for this bill were:

Anchia; Coleman; Collier; Farias; Gonza´lez; Gutierrez; Herrero; Martinez Fischer; Moody; Naishtat; Neva´rez; Phelan; Riddle; Rodriguez, E.; Rodriguez, J.; Romero; Turner, C.; Walle; Dukes; Miles. 


The bill basically set a new rule:  if low performing schools remain that way for five years in a row, the Texas Education Commissioner MUST close the school, or, take over the entire school district through a board of managers that they'd appoint.

Now for what it's worth, I do believe HISD has long neglected our Black and Brown schools like Worthing, Yates, Wheatley, and Kashmere, however, I think this bill makes matters even worse.  Especially considering Dutton, the bills "architect" has been in office since 1984, and on the same House Public Education Committee that has cut resources over and over and over and over.  So it's a bit ironic and absurd for him to write such a bill.

Now some might look at a partnership or charter and see the good in it, but it's not good at all.  It's bad.

How is this bad?  You and I would have no local control over the decisions being made.  Imagine a board of managers who didn't understand the legacy of schools like Yates or Worthing.  Imagine no longer being able to vote for your school board member, instead giving total control to someone who might not even live in Houston.

In 2015, Dutton spearheaded a bill aimed at school accountability, but armed with risky penalties like school closure, chartering, or partnership.  In each of these instances, the district basically hands over the keys to the car, allowing a third-party entity to drive it.  They could decide that Worthing doesn't need a varsity football team, and should instead devote more resources to academics.  A third party could decide to eliminate the marching band at Wheatley, get my drift?

Dutton, whose district includes Wheatley and Kashmere, are now under the gun because of a bill he co-authored!  Don't just take my word for it, take a look here at the Texas Legislature Online page which lists Dutton as a Joint Author. Don't just believe me,  CLICK HERE FOR THE TLO PAGE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF.

Here's a quote from the Republican Chair of the Public Education Committee talking about the bill in THIS HOUSTON CHRONICLE ARTICLE:

"House Bill 1842, which would force districts to improve failing schools or face tough consequences, passed the House the day before with little of the discussion Aycock's other legislation generated. Aycock called the bill "one of the most far-reaching bills of the session," and said while he carried it, Dutton was the architect."

The architect. 

This State Rep. was credited being the "Architect" of the bill that has our historically Black schools hanging in the balance.

But why?

Well, he received a hefty $5,000 donation from a group called "Texans for Education Reform" right before the beginning of the legislative session.  Check out this quote from the Observer Article on "Texans for Education Reform":

"The group dispatched 19 lobbyists to the Texas Capitol, many of them highly paid, pushing charter school expansion, online learning and state takeover of low-performing schools."


Then chairman of public education, State Rep Jimmy Don Aycock, also received $5,000 from the group. As did committee member Joe Deshotel who represents Port Arthur, Beamont, etc, Rep. Farney and pretty much everyone else on the House Public Education Committee from the same organizations that likely pushed the bill in the first place.

Here's a link to his Campaign Finance Report where you can find this donation, too.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's look at the way HISD seems to be walking this thing.  There are essentially two groups of schools.  In one group, they propose a partnership with Johns Hopkins University, but when asked about case studies, or examples of where this organization has partnered with schools before, district officials didn't have any of this information last night.

I did speak to Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jolanda Jones about what we could expect, and for what it's worth, Jolanda always tells it like it is.  She's 10 for 10 in my book, so I believe her when she says athletics, marching band, and other activities will remain on these campuses.  And though I've known Rhonda less time, she hasn't lied to me yet and seems to be upfront with the position the district is in.  I just wish the district were more upfront and transparent with what we might expect if partnership were to happen.

Let me be clear:  I'm against chartering, partnership, and closure. Period.

But, it would be nice to hear:

  1. This is what Johns Hopkins did in X city with the school district there. 
  2. This is what a timeline would look like.

However, I  know she's just 1 of 9, and I don't really trust HISD as a whole. 

Remember back in 2013 when we were fighting school closures?  I guess we'll do this every 5 years.  But at this rate, there won't be any of our schools left.


Yeah, here we go again.

Now, here's what you can do:

1. Call Dutton's office and let him know it's not cool to move vulnerable students around like pawns on a chess board.  Here's his number:(713) 692-9192

2. Attend the HISD Board Meeting on 2/8 at 5PM and sign up HERE to speak.  We'll have t-shirts for the first bunch of people that show up.  

3. Call YOUR REP and ask how they voted. 

4.  Keep up with HISD over the next several weeks, they vote on whether or not to approve the proposal on April 12th.