Board President Manuel Rodriguez Finally Hammers Jolanda Jones to a Close [UPDATED]

It was the end of another long meeting for Houston ISD trustees last week. The final audience member from the public speaking portion of the evening had delivered her concerns. Trustees were packing up, getting ready to make their ways home. Board President Manuel Rodriguez asked if anybody on the board had anything else to say.

And, of course, Jolanda Jones did.

She repeated her frequently stated complaints about needs at certain schools — Attucks and Cullen middle schools, Yates High among them. She talked about setting people straight and having come-to-Jesus meetings to get the schools sorted out. She talked of her promises and missions.

She addressed earlier-in-the-evening comments from the audience about the infamous vendor-hosted Scholastic trip last January, saying she was a novice board member when she agreed to go after being assured by the district's board services department that what she was doing was legal. Because after all, literacy is a problem in the district and she should study it (though why she had to go to California to do that, we're not so sure). She announced, "Let me be clear. Those trips were paid for," referring, we guess, to herself and fellow trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Diana Davila. (What she left out, of course, was the trips were paid for weeks later only after district personnel told them they needed to ante up.)

An audience member, the man who'd brought up the Scholastic trip during his address to the board, attempted to respond to her statements and she told him — totally correctly according to board protocols — that he'd had his chance to speak and was done.

And then she started in on the Houston Chronicle, for the umpteenth time this year, saying it was inaccurate; "I don't care what the Chronicle says. I don't even buy the Chronicle. The Chronicle is inaccurate. But in any case, my point is this..." A faint hammering could be heard in the background. "I'm sorry, the meeting is now adjourned," Rodriguez said. Jones rallied and started again.

“The meeting is adjourned,” Rodriguez insisted and the videotaping of the meeting cut off.

Rantus Interruptus.

It had taken ten months, but Rodriguez had finally stopped Jones from completely hijacking a meeting while everyone around had to be punished by a lecturer who just couldn't stop talking.

In other news that night, 12-year board member Greg Meyers resigned (moving to another part of the district in January, he can no longer represent the part of town that elected him.) He joins longtime board member Harvin Moore in the last days of his term, who resigned earlier this year (two candidates are in a run-off for his seat). And then there’s trustee Mike Lunceford, who resigned abruptly at one meeting and then took it back within days.

In October the Texas Education Agency sent HISD a letter, telling the school board and new Superintendent Richard Carranza that they need leadership training and if they don’t do it, they could be forced out of office. a board of managers could be appointed. At issue: low-performing schools. Correction, 9:52 a.m. : According to HISD spokesman Jason Spencer this morning, the state did not include "inability to get along at public meetings" as part of the reason it was asking the district to undergo leadership training. He also said HISD trustees would retain their seats even if a board of managers was appointed. Raised voices, charges of racism, long, unending monologues, brow-beating the staff at public meetings — all have been on display since January for a public that really just wants to know that the best strategies possible are being taken to educate their children.

No one disputes that Jones has made several good points about inequities in the schools. But saying the same things repeatedly, attacking the Chronicle and fellow trustees, holding court when people are tired and just want to go home – well, just perhaps there is a better way. And finally Manuel Rodriguez on November 10 stepped in, saying enough was enough.  And at that moment, it was.

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing