Meet HISD Board Candidates -- Even the Ones Who Aren't TV Stars

If you watch Houston ISD TV, then you know school board President Paula Harris and the First Vice President Manuel Rodriguez.

They are everywhere.

For just some of the examples: Besides the televised monthly board meetings, Harris was on The Student Achievement Show -- Principals of the Year that aired three nights a week in July. In August same thing, only this time the focus was on teachers of the year. Harris was on HISD and the State Budget Crisis, first broadcast live on February 22 and repeated in March on every Sunday, Monday and Thursday in the month.

The list goes on.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez is on the air two to four times a week (in Spanish and English) for Faces and Places and A Class Apart, and Let's Talk About It. Toss in a Scholars Banquet and a Volunteers in Public Schools event and other assorted acknowledgments and that's a lot of face time. In fact, it's hard to turn to the HISD station on any day and not see one of them.

With a school board election coming up (and yes, Harris and Rodriguez are running for re-election), the HISD Parent Visionaries group is hosting a public two-hour meet-the-candidates function this Friday to bring anyone interested up to speed on what every candidate thinks -- even those without huge district support.

The meeting is Friday, September 16 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the main conference room of the American Red Cross Building, 2700 Southwest Freeway.

School board candidates are: District 2 newcomer Rhonda Renay Skillern-Jones (incumbent Carol Mims Galloway withdrew from consideration), District 3: Rodriguez versus Ramiro G. Fonseca; District 4: Harris vs. Davetta Mills Daniels and District 8: incumbent Juliet Stipeche (who is not on HISD TV a lot) vs. Dorothy Marie Olmos.

"My hope is that the emphasis is that we want real uncensored dialogue between parents and candidates so we can understand what these candidates believe in and how they see themselves serving Houston's diverse children," said Mary Nesbitt, president of Parent Visionaries.

In an invitation sent out by Parent Visionaries, Nesbitt noted that: "Four candidates are up for reelection in November. Depending on who is elected and what they believe, the votes they cast can profoundly shape public education for all students across the entire city.

"We have all felt the consequences of the votes cast by a majority of board members and incumbents over the last two years. You might want to ask yourself if HISD as a district is better off, more successful, and better preparing all children for college and workforce readiness than it was two years ago? Are there better quality choices and more of them for your child? Are we closer or farther away from becoming the best school district in the nation?"

HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said it is natural that Harris and Rodriguez get more free air time from the school district.

"Ms. Harris is the Board President and, as such, is the face of the Board. The Board President also traditionally makes many more public appearances on behalf of the Board than other trustees," Spencer said.

"Mr. Rodriguez is the Board's First Vice President and, therefore, has a more public role. In addition, he is a fluent Spanish speaker, which helps HISD TV to reach our Spanish-speaking community," Spencer said. "As you know, Hispanic students represent about 60 percent of the HISD student enrollment, so communicating effectively with that community is critical to the school district."

What the Parent Visionaries meeting has to offer -- besides the chance to hear from some less well-known candidates -- is the opportunity for anyone to ask some hard questions. Live and unedited.

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