What started out as a routine HISD board meeting about the future of 10 struggling schools delved into chaos after President Rhonda Skillern-Jones closed the meeting to the public.
When people refused to leave, some were dragged out and others detained or arrested.
The Houston Independent School District released a statement after the meeting saying an HISD police officer got hurt as he attempted to escort parents out the meeting.
During Tuesday night’s workshop, after continuous disruption and multiple outbursts from members of the audience, and after several verbal requests from the Board President to adhere to the rules, attendees were instructed to clear the room and called for a recess. Many refused to leave and a scuffle ensued. An HISD police officer sustained minor injuries.
The meeting centered around a controversial vote where the board would surrender control of 10 of its struggling schools.
If the state signs off on the plan the schools would temporarily be run by Energized for Excellence Academy, a charter school operator to stop a state takeover of HISD’s board of trustees and prevent school closures.
The Texas Education Agency has posted how the students performed on the STAAR test compared to the state wide average. Under the 2016-2017 category of “STAAR percentage at Approaches Grade Level or Above”, the statewide average is 75% of students.
For years student test scores at these campus’ have fallen well below the state average; Blackshear Elementary’s percentage under that same category is 43%; Wesley Elementary, 39%; Woodson PK-8, 33%; and Worthing High School, 42%.
The options include closing the schools then reopening them with limited grade levels. Doing nothing and hoping the schools meet state academic standards this year, which is unlikely. Or hand over control to a partner, in this case it’s the Energized STEM Academy.
The Energized Stem Academy is an organization that runs several charter schools in Houston, most of which met or exceeded state test standards, according to the TEA.
It is run by NAACP Houston Branch President James Douglas, along with former HISD trustee and previous president of Texas Southern University, Paula Harris and Dr. Opal Brandy.
They would be responsible for running the schools for the next two years.
Although the school board is on board with the partnership the Houston Federation of Teachers isn’t questioning some of the organizations finances, concerned there hasn’t been enough time to vet the organization.
In a press statement, HFT President Zeph Capo asked the school board to reject Energized for Excellence Academy to run the schools, saying its founder and president, Lois Bullock, also owns Educational Learning and Enrichment Center, which leases space to Energized for Excellence schools in Houston.
“There are too many serious, unanswered questions about each of the two companies,” said Capo, “their dubious track records on student performance, and their tangled web of financial arrangements to qualify them at this time to run our schools. It’s simply not fair to our students, families and taxpayers to take a chance on them.”
Capo is also concerned Energized for Excellence Academy will struggle to handle the student load going from approximately 1,000 students to 6,000.
After the board room was clear Tuesday night, HISD trustees went back into closed session. A vote, without the public watching in person, is expected late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.