Some HISD Trustees Frustrated by Dodson Elementary Do-Over

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Two of her fellow trustees took Houston ISD Board President Juliet Stipeche to task at an agenda workshop Monday for her decision to reopen the Dodson Elementary closure case, supposedly settled in a 5-4 vote last month.

After thanking trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Wanda Adams for supporting her in bringing the matter before the board again - scheduled for this Thursday's board meeting -- Stipeche who last month voted to close Dodson said: "I want to say thanks for the patience of my fellow colleagues on the board for allowing this to be reconsidered as well."

Saying she had received new information, Stipeche explained: "My concern was in terms of the information concerning the zoned area for the Dodson community only having 343 students that were enrolled in this particular zone to begin with." HISD has a school quota policy calling for most elementary schools to have at least 500 students. "I also learned that there were 211 applicants that asked to go to Dodson," she said, adding that while she recognizes that all of them wouldn't have finally chosen to go there, still based on prior years' examples, enough children would have attended to bring Dodson close to the 500 threshold.

Stipeche said two other factors in her reconsideration were the expressed fears of Dodson Elementary parents that the move to nearby Blackshear Elementary would not be safe for their children and her belief that HISD needs to work more closely "with other governmental entities such as the city and county and health district to say what are we going to do to help revitalize neighborhoods."

Given her turn to speak on the subject, trustee Paula Harris told Stipeche: "You could have voted to keep it open after you got your information from your meeting."

"I got the information only afterwards," Stipeche said

"It would have been so much easier if you had voted with us last time," Harris said.

"I agree," Stipeche said.

"And I think this is kind of ridiculous," Harris said.

Trustee Harvin Moore picked up on Sipeche's thanks to her fellow board members for their "patience."

"I don't actually have any patience on this," Moore told her. "We have a process that I think is an essential part of how democracy is transacted. It's a fair process; it does not always result in a solution that everyone likes and often doesn't. But that's why we have the process we do for placing things on the agenda, for considering them, for debating them. That process happened for this.

"I shudder to think what people will think if they realize something that is voted on and decided isn't really voted on and decided and it might just come back the next month and votes will have no meaning," Moore said. "I'm not trying to invalidate the concerns you have or the concerns the community has, it's just our process. I don't think that it should be considered again nor discussed nor debated nor voted on again because that process has already taken place."

Dodson's parents also have said they don't want to lose the Montessori program at their school. It is not known if Stipeche has the votes to overturn the board's prior decision on Thursday. Three other schools -- Henderson and Port Houston elementaries and Fleming Middle School -- had previously been removed from closure consideration by Stipeche. Jones High School is being repurposed.

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