Houston Forward Times

12 March 2014 Written by  TaShon D. Thomas

Politicians Can’t Relate to Neighborhood Schools of Today

"Write the vision and make it plain." Most Christians will recognize this as part of scripture from Habakkuk 2:2. Not only is this a mantra for the Judeo-Christian religion, it should be the motto of anyone who wants to become successful in life. "Just My Take" will be my way of writing the vision, as I see it, for a new generation of up and coming young adults. This will be my way of guiding us through the political and judicial process, as well as expressing our frustrations against the status quo. With the ongoing attack on our neighborhood schools, I believe we can start this new venture by taking a stab at the issue.

Once the pride of our nation, the neighborhood school is becoming a thing of the past in most minority communities. There was a time when students could walk a few blocks to school, but now that walk has turned into a day’s journey for many of America’s youth. From New York City to Detroit; Chicago to Oakland; and even right here in Houston, each year seems to bring about an epic struggle surrounding closing neighborhood schools. If school closures were a disease, it would be considered a national epidemic without a common cure. There have been many solutions offered to save our neighborhood schools, but one potential solution that has offered the biggest disappointment has been the inability to depend on our elected officials.

Before I continue, I must say that many of our politicians have done a yeoman’s job of pointing out the problems in our failing schools. There have been town hall meetings, work sessions, protests, strategy/focus groups and many other gatherings to point the finger at who dropped the ball. I thank them for holding such forums and allowing us to voice our opposition to the closing of our schools; but the time for politicians to get involved in the problem has already past. If politicians could have solved the problem, they would have done so already.

Many have suggested that if our legislators placed more money into our schools then our problems would be solved. Unfortunately, that is only half-right. There is an old saying, "If you build it, they will come."

That’s not true with neighborhood schools.

Politicians can put all the resources in the world into neighborhood schools, but they will continue to lose students and face closure because the primary problem with our neighborhood schools isn’t just resources; it is us and the politicians who represent us.

The next time you see a politician saying that they want to save our schools ask them this question: Are your children currently attending schools within the district you represent?

Shockingly, for most, the answer will be no. Even if that elected official’s child has graduated from school, chances are they went to a school that was not in the district. I am not "hating" on them for seeking a better education for their children, but it speaks to the root cause as to why our politicians cannot solve the epidemic. You cannot crusade for neighborhood schools to stay open one day and then place your child on a school bus to go to school on another part of town the next.

The problem is not just resources, the problem is reputation.

North Forest ISD (NFISD) closed because its reputation was marred by scandals, reports of nepotism and allegations of financial mismanagement. NFISD had partnerships and resources coming in, but its reputation led many parents in the community to seek alternatives for their children. I have attended schools in both Houston ISD (HISD) and NFISD and they are often touted as being some of the worst in the city; not because of academics or funding, but because of the negative stigma that has been placed on those schools for years.

When HISD makes its decision on whether to close Jones High School and Dodson Elementary School, the voice of our elected officials cannot be the only ones that are heard. There should be droves of frustrated and disgruntled parents, students, alumni and community partners lined up to speak at the March 13th Board Meeting. Everyone who cares about the well-being of neighborhood schools needs to attend the meeting and voice their opinions for two reasons:

1) When our politicians are the only ones to speak, Superintendent Terry Grier has already made up his mind that he will turn them off because many of them did and are doing the exact opposite of what they are arguing against and 2) if your school was left off the list this year, does not mean it will be safe next year.

As long as HISD has a policy that looks at budget numbers instead of the individual progress of its students, we are going to continue to have this problem. After the meeting, don’t just stop!

This has been a major problem in our community. We speak out but do not show up when it is truly necessary. HISD Superintendent Terry Grier should be Public Enemy Number 1. There have been calls for his resignation and protests at various locations, including his home. I say do not let him quit that easily; I say make him suffer.

We, as a community, need to elect an HISD Board of Trustees that will take the fight to Superintendent Grier and call him out on all of his failed "policies" and "initiatives." In order words, let’s give him hell!

Why?

1) When Grier resigns he will receive an extremely hefty severance package, on top of the $300,000 salary and bonuses he receives. I refuse to pay him anymore incentives. As Johnny Taylor sang, "It’s cheaper to keep her!" and 2) if Grier just leaves, do you seriously believe that the next superintendent is going to change course. They are going to look at Grier and say "If he got away with, why can’t I?" We cannot allow that to happen in our communities.

By giving Superintendent Grier hell, we as a community will send a strong message to anyone who tries to mess with our community to rethink that option. By giving Superintendent Grier hell, we set a standard for future generations to stand up against subtle injustices as though they were major crimes against humanity.

But we have to start somewhere.

Our neighborhood schools will be strong once we as a community return to them and change those negative stigmas that have been attached to them. Our politicians can only be a major part of the solution as well, once they decide to send their children back to the schools that spawned them.

If you went to a restaurant and the chef could not recognize the food, would you eat there? If the chef refused to eat the food, would you still eat there? #ijs

TaShon Thomas is a young politico and serves in different capacities throughout the city of Houston, including being the youngest Executive Committee Member of the NAACP, Houston Branch. TaShon can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .