Protesters at Cage and Chysalis Monday Morning Reject the Changes at Their Schools and Teacher Dismissals

Part of the 50-plus strong crowd that gathered to protest HISD policies Monday morning.
Photo by Margaret Downing
Part of the 50-plus strong crowd that gathered to protest HISD policies Monday morning.

The fact that a Houston ISD district superintendent told teachers at two schools on Friday that they were going to have to embrace the New Education Schools and NES-Aligned Schools program or get out of the way inspired predictably enough, an outcry from parents at Cage Elementary and Chrysalis Middle School Monday morning.

As previously reported by the Houston Press, two teachers who had questioned Central Division Superintendent Dr. Luz Martinez during her my-way-or-the-highway speech, were informed Saturday that they were barred from the joint campus and that termination proceedings had been started against them

Teresa Carr maintains that she was just asking questions, but Martinez in a formal letter to Carr said the science teacher had talked over her, been unprofessional and insubordinate. After Carr was ushered from the hastily-called Friday meeting, another teacher asked follow-up questions and also received a termination letter Saturday.

Just before 7:30 Monday, there were three people [putting up tables and assembling signs along with two boxes of doughnuts. By 8 a.m. that number had swelled to more than 50 parents, alumni and children waving signs that called for an end to what they said has been bullying of the teachers and invitations for Superintendent Mike Miles to go elsewhere.

Additional HISD police officers also arrived but there were no confrontations and the officers remained at the front of the school while protesters were off to the side on a public sidewalk.

Several said they didn't understand why Cage, which has received top ratings in the past, was selected for the new program. Several also said they felt the experienced teachers at the school were being disrespected by the new administration.

We asked the HISD press office for any further statement from HISD on what happened Friday and were told they would get back to us.

Update: 10:50 a.m.  Response from HISD:

HISD respects the rights of our students, staff, and parents to assemble and express their views through protest. The district provides personnel support to ensure students are kept safe while they express their First Amendment right to assemble. Because this is a personal matter, HISD will not be providing any additional information.
Although much quieter earlier, by 8 o'clock parents dropping off children got more enthusiastic and started honking their horns and cheering on the protesters.

Chrysalis alumni Jocelyn Coronado, now a UH student majoring in chemistry, sad nieces and nephews in the two schools. The loss of arts courses at Chrysalis gives students no chance to destress during the day, she said. Some of the students there before school started said they found their classes boring now.
click to enlarge
One of the youngest protesters.
Photo by Margaret Downing
Parent Jessica Campos said the protest organizers hope to involve the entire HISD community in rejecting the approach the district is taking to education under Miles. "I have to hope this guy will be gone." Asked  if this was realistic, Campos replied: "Someone's going to see the injustice  of what they're doing to our brown and African-American children.

"We're just waiting for someone to come to our rescue," she said. "Removing magnet programs? We didn't need them to come in and remove what was unique in our schools."

Campos agrees that something needs to change in the district to better serve children of economically disadvantaged families. She and others just don't believe that Miles' approach of constant testing and timed teaching, works. They are trying to arrange a number of community meetings. "We plan to have the entire Houston community in on this within a couple of months."

She related how she had gone to the school to speak to someone and happened to mentioned she liked gardening. "I am not a certified teacher. Within 30 minutes I had a job. I did not take it."

The former principal, Maria Castillo, was the one who committed the schools to NES-Affiliated status. But she was replaced right before the start of the school year by Mary Lou Walter, principal of both schools.