Aug 22, 2023 - Education

Parents lead the charge against HISD takeover

Photo of a woman at a rally with a crowd behind her.

HISD parent and community advocate Lauren Simmons-Mitchell at the mic, next to librarian Cheryl Hensley. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

Houston ISD parents are at the forefront of the fight against the state's takeover of the school district.

Driving the news: From rallies to read-ins, parents are showing up after work and on weekends to advocate for their children and speak up against the changes to the schools.

The big picture: "I'm in education, so it's summer break. It's still 100° at 4:30pm, and we don't live close," parent Benjamin Blanding told Axios during a recent demonstration. "Traffic and schedules are challenging. I can only imagine that for most people, it's much more challenging than for me."

Meanwhile, some parents are taking it upon themselves to inform others of the changes — including those who speak Spanish and might not know about the latest developments.

  • "I've had a lot of sleepless nights trying to make sure that I was informed about the changes because a lot of the Spanish news broadcasters are not putting out the news that we need to hear," parent Jessica Campos tells Axios. "No one knew what was going on until I translated."

This is the first time some parents have engaged civically with the school district.

  • "I had never been to a school board meeting before June," parent Melissa Yarborough said at the rally. "I got involved because I found out in early June that my kids' beloved teachers were being forced to reapply, and only two were going to do it even though they loved our school."

The intrigue: Appointed superintendent Mike Miles has largely shrugged off the parents' advocacy in public settings, including during a recent board meeting where he said, "This is a meeting of the board in public. This is not a public board meeting."

The other side: Former HISD trustee Anna Eastman published an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle calling for the public and city officials to "stop freaking out about Mike Miles" and give his policies a chance.

  • "I hope our city leaders will accept the invitation and visit the schools, both now and once the school year is in full swing," Eastman wrote. "And I hope Houstonians will stay engaged in future school board elections. When the Texas Education Agency is ready to replace appointed managers with elected trustees, we need to be ready."

The bottom line: "It's not the easiest to navigate parenting all day and advocating for your community," ousted HISD trustee and district mother Elizabeth Santos said. "It's worth it. My community is worth it … Greg Abbott, Mike Morath might be trying to take over our community, but we're not going to back down without a fight. They're on our turf now."

Catch up on the HISD changes


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