It was a veritable love fest on Thursday night as Michael Lunceford was elected the new president of the Houston ISD school board, nominated by the two trustees who had reportedly been in the running for the position themselves.
Greg Meyers nominated and Anna Eastman seconded. The board normally lines up its votes ahead of time, so it was clear that accord had been reached before the public show. Eastman was elected first vice president, Juliet Stipeche, second vp, just-elected Rhonda Skillern-Jones, secretary, and Meyers, assistant secretary.
Both the incoming and outgoing (Paula Harris) presidents were lauded by one and all. As trustees took their usual turns to comment, Superintendent Terry Grier was praised as was the board services staff. Grier said Harris was one of the best board presidents he had ever worked with -- and he's worked with several in not a few districts across the country.
Trustee Harvin Moore, perhaps setting the stage for a contract extension for Grier, praised the superintendent for the administrative team he's assembled and his desire to make a difference and turn things around. "What strong leadership he provided and one way he demonstrated that is the top level of executives that have been brought into this district.
"Terry is a high achiever. He is ready to get things done. He's in a hurry to get done. And he just gets incredible people," Moore said.
"I believe Terry Grier is here to stay and he's here to stay for a long time," Moore said.
The only darkness cast on the proceedings was the construction worker Marvin Mundo, who said he had not been paid by subcontractors for his work at Jane Long Middle School and so he couldn't afford to buy basics that his kids needed, followed by Laura Perez-Boston of the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center, who said there's been more than one instance of HISD subcontractors (not the district itself) stiffing their workers and that she was going to hold HISD responsible. "There are two subcontractors on HISD school jobs who have not paid [their workers]," she said
And then there was the mother-son dynamic duo of Christie Nugent and son Christopher. Christopher told the trustees how life is hell at Jackson Middle School, where teachers allegedly stand by while fights are going on, there's "inappropriate touching" between boys and girls and students are unfriendly. He said he was afraid to go to the bathroom there because of students standing outside.
His mom echoed that and then reported on how at that and other schools on the east side, stray dogs are allowed to roam the campus and they are just a dog bite away from disaster. She mainly blamed the city of Houston's animal control efforts for this -- she said she was told by them they won't pick up a dog unless someone from the school captures it, which she (and most people) consider ridiculous, but she said HISD is responsible as well since it's supposed to safeguard the safety of its students.
Christopher did also stress that his new school -- Rusk Middle -- is a dream, with caring teachers, friendly students and without the fights he saw at Jackson. His mother said Rusk has the same demographics as Jackson, without the problems.
In an encouraging sign, HISD's General Manager of Facility Services, Issa Dadousch, was immediately dispatched by Lunceford to get the details on the nonpayment of wages charges, while Moore congratulated the Nugents on their very coherent accounts.
So, already things to do, possible wrongdoing to be investigated. Everyone seemed energized and ready to tackle anything -- even getting ready for a next school year with even less money from the state than HISD had this year.
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