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16 April 2014 Written by  Robert S. Muhammad

Letter to the Editor : HISD is “Out of Order”

Dear Editor:

In a meeting that follows Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, can someone move to "Table Indefinitely" a Main Motion?

Answer: It depends on whose meeting it is. If it’s the Houston Independent School District (HISD) Board, they can. For groups following the rules, the answer is No! There is a motion to "Postpone Indefinitely" but a motion to "Table Indefinitely" does not exist.

"Postpone Indefinitely," Robert’s says, "is useful in disposing of a badly chosen main motion that cannot be either adopted or expressly rejected without possibly undesirable consequences." 

Three members of the board, including President Juliette Stipeche brought forth a motion to rescind the boards’ previous action to close Dodson Elementary School. This was not a "badly chosen main motion."  (Page B1, Thursday).

Had Trustee Harvin Moore used the correct word, "Postpone" instead of "Table," the matter could have been debated. It could have gone into the merits of the postponement as well as the main motion. Instead, the board applied the principles of "Tabling" that deny any debate. By doing what they did, this five member majority silenced a reported 17 or more members of the community, plus members of the board from speaking at all.

In a country that makes virtuous the Patrick Henry quote, "I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it," the HISD school board violated one of the great principles; a cornerstone of this republic. Even worse, this incident highlights the need for policy and structural reform at HISD. The district lacks a credible, quantifiable community engagement policy. After decades of ceding board authority to the district superintendant, our elected, uncompensated Trustees with no paid staff, rely solely on recommendations of the Office of the Superintendent, his staff and consultants. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog.

Dodson Elementary is loved by the children who attend it. Their parents love it, too. Closing elementary schools guts neighborhoods. In March, Ms. Stipeche voted to close the school and last week wanted to fix her error. However, the school board must fix their error first. I am calling on the HISD board to hold a special meeting to address this issue. Ms. Stipeche wanted to rescind her previous action. Let’s hope the entire school board follows suit.

Sincerely,

Robert S. Muhammad
Southwest Regional Student Minister
Urban Planning and Environmental Policy Consultant
Muhammad Mosque No. 45
Houston, Texas
(832) 236-9956