Candidates hope to shape HISD's future

October 20, 2011 4:39:20 PM PDT
Budget difficulties underscore the importance of an upcoming Houston ISD school board election. Four seats are up for re-election and only one of them is unopposed. The new school board will have a big decision to make regarding HISD's leadership.

We talked to the three candidates facing incumbents for HISD trustee. If elected, they would decide if the current superintendent, Dr. Terry Grier, will get to keep his job.

So far, Davetta Daniels is the only candidate to openly criticize Grier.

"I think he maybe would not be suited to be the superintendent of Houston ISD," she said. "I hear that teachers are under a cloud of fear and intimidation."

Daniels is running against one of Grier's biggest supporters, HISD Board President Paula Harris. Harris voted to expand Grier's reform program for low performing schools, called Apollo 20.

Harris said, "The Apollo 20 schools have shown you can change the culture of failure, the culture of defeat in a campus."

Fellow trustee Juliet Stipeche has mostly supported Grier, but has questions if he has done enough to engage community members.

"It's something that is high time needed and necessary, because in order for HISD to succeed we have to have the input and buy-in from the community," Stipeche said. "So I've always from day one talked to Dr. Grier about that."

However, her opponent Dorothy Olmos says Grier is on the right track.

"Absolutely," she said. "I see that in one aspect he has put in a strategic plan in the beliefs and the visions that everyone needs. I do believe that vision and that belief needs to be trickled down."

Candidate Ramiro Fonseca has reservations before offering his support.

He said, "Just like we hold our principal and teachers accountable, we too need to hold Dr. Grier accountable for the job, the performance that he brings to HISD."

Incumbent Manuel Rodriguez agrees, saying HISD's academic growth is at an all-time high.

"When you make change not everybody is comfortable with that change," Rodriguez said. "But the players here the people at stake are the students."

Trustees have already begun their evaluation process for Grier's second year. His contract has one more year before he is eligible to begin renewal process. Early voting starts next week, Election Day is scheduled for November 8.

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