State Rep. Jolanda Jones speaking before the HISD board.
State Rep. Jolanda Jones speaking before the HISD board. Photo by Jimmie Aggison.

The community spoke and the HISD board listened. Tiffany Guillory will remain the principal of Jack Yates High School after HISD’s board voted Thursday night (6 – 3) against firing the embattled leader of the historic Third Ward school.

This vote came as a surprise to some, as Guillory was “relieved of her duties” last December for reasons that have still not been made known to the general public. As a result of this lack of public reasons given for Guillory being temporarily removed, some have speculated Guillory’s removal was based on Yates’ low college and career readiness numbers being low.

All photos and videos provided by Defender Photojournalist Jimmie Aggison.

Others, however, including Third Ward residents and Yates advocates, surmised the worst—the purposeful removal of Yates’s leadership to clear the way for the school’s closure.

Though not confirmed, that theory could be heard in some of the public comments during Thursday night’s HISD board meeting.

“It’s an attack on Black education,” said activist and Yates alum, Gerry Monroe. “Most of our Black high schools and middle schools are being quietly attacked. Our principals are being removed strategically and it’s making the schools unstable, and setting them up basically to be taken over by TEA.”

Supporters of Jack Yates High School and its principal Tiffany Guillory head into the HISD board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. Photo by Jimmie Aggison.

Monroe said HISD’s superintendent, Millard House II, believes that HISD will lose the TEA lawsuit and believes Guillory is being offered up as a “sacrificial lamb.”

Monroe, like many other Yates advocates, see the move to terminate Guillory as unfair on multiple levels, especially with regards to race.

“Tiffany Guillory has done everything that she’s supposed to do. She didn’t violate policy. She didn’t touch a kid. She didn’t mess with money. Nothing. They needed Guillory out of there. Here’s the question: Nick Ozuna, the Bellaire baseball coach, has been sitting in the warehouse for nine months. How you fast-track (Guillory’s termination) so fast; in less than three weeks?” asked Monroe.

Local activist, “edutainer,” and community legend, SisterMama Sonya opened her remarks to the board with words from a Michael Jackson song, singing, “You don’t really care about us.” She then stated, “Please make sure that our students are listening and learning the true history and herstory of AmeriKKKa, not a watered-down version just to make little kids feel good… We need a therapeutic counselor at Yates. And preserve the rich, powerful, awesome legacy of Jack Yates and do not continue to tear it down.”

Supporters of Jack Yates High School and its principal Tiffany Guillory head into the HISD board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. Photo by Jimmie Aggison.

Moreover, nationally revered journalist Roland Martin, a Yates alum (C/O 87), flew in from Washington DC specifically address the board in defense of Guillory.

“I’ve met with the last four superintendents dealing with what’s happening at Yates, and finally, we’ve had stable leadership at Jack Yates,” said Martin. “I go back to 2009 dealing with these various superintendents. The reason I gave a $25,000 scholarship (to Yates) was because finally, we have a leader who is putting the necessary things into place to improve Jack Yates.”

Martin, who has been inducted into multiple halls of fame, including the halls of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists, shared with the board that he has put his money where his mouth is regarding supporting Yates.

Supporters of Jack Yates High School and its principal Tiffany Guillory packed the HISD board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. Photo by Jimmie Aggison.

“I was going to have an event here in Houston celebrating that (his most recent hall of fame inductions), and I called (Guillory) and said I want to have it at Yates because I wanted those students to understand that you can go from Jack Yates to being one of the top journalists in the country. And at that event, I planned to announce a $50,000 (gift) to the School of Communications. But if this board chooses to fire Tiffany Guillory, I will pull every dollar I have given,” said Martin.

Martin said HISD called on him to participate in the upcoming HISD 100 celebration, but said he would reject that invitation if Guillory is fired.

“Because you cannot sit here and continue to have upheaval at this school where there are parents and students who understand why we need consistent, stable leadership. I have always wanted to reinvest in Jack Yates. My parents are graduates of Jack Yates. My aunt and longtime elite education leader in this district is a graduate of Jack Yates. And at some point, this board has to understand Yates will never be what it used to be and what it should be unless you have stable leadership.

Award-winning journalist Roland Martin (far left) with Yates principal Tiffany Guillory, Dr. Grenita Lathan (then HISD Superintendent) and the two scholarship recipients Dionne Odom and Kyairah McGee, June 2021. Photo by Ray Carrington.

“Tiffany Guillory, she is the reason why I chose to make that investment. And I should not look to move my dollars elsewhere and take them to another school, not only in this city but across the country. And trust me, I’ve talked to many members of Congress, talked to 15 today; and there are many folks who would like to have my money. But I prefer to leave it in HISD. If you make this move and fire her, you’re making a great mistake. This community stands behind her. The graduates stand behind her. The students stand behind her. And if it’s a question of test scores, and academic progress, we should be analyzing what resources they need; what new programs they need; what is best for the students. That’s what should happen,” Martin added.

What was clear from the comments of Martin and many others: community members wanted Guillory at Yates’ helm. And at the end of the evening, the votes fell their way, with board members voting 6-3 against terminating Guillory.