Two New HISD Board Members Agree: The District's Students Deserve Better

Cassandra Auzenne Bandy and Janette Garza Lindner, two of HISD's brand new Board of Managers members.
Cassandra Auzenne Bandy and Janette Garza Lindner, two of HISD's brand new Board of Managers members. Photo by Margaret Downing

One crucial difference of Houston ISD's Board of Managers from the school board members who preceded them is that each of the nine new members will be responsible for the district as a whole, rather than one particular part of it.

Newly named board member Cassandra Auzenne Bandy made that point in a joint interview with fellow board member Janette Garza Lindner Monday, in a discussion with the Houston Press. It was one of a series of tag team interviews with the media the pair gamely tackled Monday afternoon at the Hattie Mae White Administration building. They are two of the Board of Managers appointed by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath as part of the TEA takeover of Houston ISD. Morath also appointed Mike Miles superintendent.

"We have a gift that we aren't tied to districts. We as a board can focus on all areas of the HISD community. We can engage with our community across districts," Bandy said.

Bandy, a parent of fourth-generation HISD students, works as a business strategy manager at a global consulting firm and lives in the northeast side of Houston. A proud graduate of T.H. Rogers, she said her children go there as well, attending the Gifted and Talented program. They go there, she said, because their neighborhood schools "are not able to meet their needs."

"For me personally, it's not okay that if I'm number 300 on the wait list then I may have to go to a school that may not meet my child's needs. It's important for us to have that availability to all students because a zip code, a lottery system should not dictate your education. "

Equity of service was also a crucial point that Garza Lindner made. Garza Lindner, a management consultant in the energy industry, who lives in the Heights area and declined to name the schools her children attend, ran against school board member Elizabeth Santos in the last board election, losing narrowly.

"The data shows the children are falling behind especially the Black and Latino children in Houston," Garza Lindner said. " Because of that, she said, she applauds the real sense of immediacy Superintendent Mike Miles has initiated to get to the source of the problems and make corrections.

"I do appreciate his urgency. It's been far too long that we've been failing a lot of our kids. While a lot of other kids have been in great schools we know that there are kids that are underserved across the district. This is urgent work for anybody who knows that kids deserve better," Garza Lindner said.

While neither of these women appeared to be focused on just one issue, Garza Lindner has a special interest in the arts. "Integrated arts education is dear to my heart because I know that's something that's kind of fallen short with a lot of the energy on STEM.  I'm kind of like 'Where's the A?' We gotta make that STEAM.

"I see the experience and my work with Arts Connect Houston, I've seen the data that shows how student outcomes improve with education that has arts integrated into the curriculum."

Board of Managers members will begin community meetings across the district to hear what residents have to say about HISD and Garza Lindner and Bandy are more than aware that some in the audience may respond in a heated manner, not happy about the TEA takeover.

"What the community is feeling is not wrong. It's not wrong at all," Bandy said. "Jeanette and I are stakeholders. We're in the community. A lot of this uncertainty is what drove us to be here today. The community is not wrong. It's going to be our job to engage with them, let them know this is a passion for us. We're parents. We live here. We care about students. We care about our neighbors."

As Garza Lindner put it: "I'm really excited to work through that anger to actually get to the nuggets of what is it we really want to see as we move this district forward. Whatever energy people bring to it, I'm really excited to hear that."

Asked what they would say to someone concerned about low  test scores. Bandy responded: "The concerns are valid. The numbers don't lie. Our children are behind and the achievement gap is widening. and that's why we appreciate the bold urgent action that is being talked about today.

"There's not one thing that's going to fix this. The system has been designed and has failed our students and families. I think the superintendent called it 'a system overhaul.' It's going to take everything," Bandy said.

Normally the school board takes some time off in July before the August start of the next school year. That won't happen this year, Bandy and Garza Lindner said with so much work to do. .

The new board will start a series of meetings beginning with this Thursday night at 5:30 in the board room. They will meet again to go over the budget on June 15 and hope to pass a budget on June 22. The state requires them to have submitted their budget by the end of June. 
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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