Houston ISD’s District II includes many of the public schools in the area, including Highland Heights, Katherine Smith, Oak Forest and Stevens elementary schools, Frank Black and MC Williams middle schools and Booker T. Washington High School. It also includes Wheatley High School, which received yet another failing grade in the state accountability ratings that likely will prompt Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to replace HISD’s nine-member, publicly elected board of trustees with a state-appointed board of managers.
In spite of that, elections for some board positions are underway, with early voting being held through Nov. 1 and the main polling day set for Nov. 5. Even in the event of a state takeover, elected trustees could be reinstated before the end of their four-year terms.
Among the spots up for grabs is the board seat in District II, which is being vacated by longtime trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who is running for Houston Community College trustee in District 2. Katherine Blueford-Daniels, Jevon German, John Gibbs, Cris Moses and Chloe Veal Short are on the ballot.
Athletic coach Michael Maloney and T-shirt printer Arthur Smith filed applications but didn’t qualify because of issues with their signature petition. Signatures must be from registered voters living within the district boundaries. HISD officials said some of Maloney’s and Smith’s signatures were invalid.
Smith said he filed a grievance with HISD with the aim to be cleared to run.
“I am hopeful that a solution will take place in the next few days,” he said.
The remaining candidates have different skill sets but a common goal – to get HISD back on track.
Blueford-Daniels, a retired postal manager, is a Wheatley graduate and said she decided to run because of her previous advocacy for children’s education.
“I believe that closing community schools is the main ingredient in a recipe to starve communities,” Blueford-Daniels said. “More importantly, I believe that inner-city children deserve the same academic start and finish lines as those in affluent communities.”
She also said she wants to work with companies and businesses to partner with schools and ensure that safe transportation is provided by HISD and METRO.
“My background in management includes bench-marking targets and working to achieve the targeted objectives,” Blueford-Daniels said. “We have to work in tandem to be a successful board and the success of the board is gauged by the success of the students.”
German, an accountant, is a Kashmere High School graduate and lifelong resident of the district. German said it is crucial to have good leadership on the board with a state takeover looming and that his business mindset would be an asset.
“I want people who come from a single-family home to know that they can go to college and do well,” German said.
He also said board governance, budget analysis and data review to improve student outcomes would be his strengths.
“I want to put more money back into the classroom,” German said.
Gibbs, the community outreach liaison and director of constituent services for Houston City Councilman Michael Kubosh, said that in his six years with the city he “solves problems every day.”
Gibbs has been the PTA president for an HISD elementary school and led the booster club at Washington, where he is also the president of its alumni association.
“(Over almost 30 years) I’ve worked with different superintendents, with the school board, this is not something new to me,” Gibbs said.
Moses is a Washington graduate who is also a math and technology teacher at Fleming Middle School in District II. Moses said his run is “all about the kids.”
Moses said he has seen how the students at his school, 95 percent of whom are classified as economically disadvantaged, sometimes get slighted. He said he wants to engage the community for solutions
“It shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all (model for schools),” he said. “Schools are unique in terms of needs.”
Moses said his classroom experience will be an asset to the board, even if it is at least temporarily replaced.
“I personally do not believe that the state will (take over),” Moses said. “But if they do, I’ll still be able to have a voice with the board of managers and will hopefully be in that position.”
The Leader was unable to reach Short, listed as a pilot on her HISD application. Short told the Houston Chronicle she was undecided in her support for a state takeover.
Other districts that have had a board of managers installed include El Paso ISD, Beaumont ISD and Edgewood ISD in San Antonio.
A statement from the TEA media relations department explained that while a recommendation has been made to install a board of managers, the commissioner has not yet announced a final decision on that recommendation. Thus, the regularly scheduled board of trustee elections still take place.
“It should also be noted that even if a board of managers is installed in a district, board of trustee elections continue to take place during the term of the board of managers,” said the statement. “However, elected board of trustee members are not installed until the Commissioner starts the process to transition the board back to the elected trustees.”