Houston school board trustees voted 6-1Thursday to renew HISD's contract with Community Education Partners. The roughly $14 million contract with the Nashville-based alternative schooling program for at-risk students had received harsh criticism from the League of United Latin American Citizens, whose members addressed the Board before the vote. The Board also heard from parents who praised CEP.
Trustee Anna Eastman cast the lone dissenting vote. New to the Board, Eastman had been the most vocal board member, asking about the origins and reasoning behind a contract that has been rubber-stamped for years. This was the first year that CEP underwent an evaluation, despite the fact that HISD's contract required a yearly review.
Superintendent Terry Grier and Board member Carol Galloway left the room as most of CEP's critics took turns behind the lectern; they returned in time to hear the supporters.
As always, Trustee Larry Marshall contributed the most colorful soliloquy of any board member during the discussion before the vote. In a stinging rebuke to LULAC members who accused him of once calling Hispanics "parasites" and claiming that his previous status as a contract consultant for CEP tainted his votes, Marshall delivered an epic monologue where he informed his critics that he sacrificed over $500,000 in income he could have earned in the private sector in order to "put something back into the system that I got something from."
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Marshall also stated he appointed HISD's first Hispanic principals. (In an amusing non sequitor he also said he was part of the effort to "resurrect" Yates High, and stood at the entrance every morning to greet students.
He recalled taking an interest in one student who always threw a joint away right before getting to the school. Marshall said he asked the kid why he smoked weed every morning, whereupon the student said that if Marshall had to deal with what he did every day, he'd smoke out, too. Marshall followed the kid through a typical day, "And that night," Marshall said, "I was ready for a joint.")
In an ironic twist, after Board President Greg Meyers talked about "transparency" in a meet-and-greet before the meeting, the vote for the CEP contract wound up being he only vote that was not displayed on large screens so the audience could tell how each member voted. But we're sure that was just an accident.
Board members Paula Harris and Diana Davila were absent.