Audience Erupts in "Fire Terry Grier" Chant as HISD School Board Closes Dodson, Saves Jones (Sort Of)
Amid chants of "Fire Terry Grier," Houston ISD school board members and their superintendent retreated into a back room Thursday night while HISD police officers formed a protective barrier in the front of the room after audience members began shouting in protest about two proposed school closings.
Photo by Margaret Downing Houston ISD's police force got to go into full alert at last night's meeting
After reconvening their monthly board meeting, trustees voted 5-4 (voting against were Wanda Adams, Paula Harris, Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Anna Eastman) to shut down Dodson Elementary and 6-3 (voting against were Harris, Skillern-Jones and Eastman) and to make over Jesse Jones High School into a magnet school where students from throughout HISD would take vocational courses and be able to get associate degrees.
The role of peacemaker fell to new trustee and former city councilwoman Jones. In her initial remarks, she told the room that they did not have the votes they wanted on the board to keep Jones open as a comprehensive high school. If they didn't accept the compromise plan to turn Jones into a magnet, the alternative -- and the initial proposal from Grier's administration -- would have been to shut down the comprehensive school at the end of this school year and use it as a swing facility in which to house students whose home schools were being renovated.
Adams urged the audience to take what they could get, advice that was not always welcomed by the more outspoken critics there, more than 60 of whom lined up to publicly address the board about the two schools.
Later it was Adams who came out and addressed the room, asking for calm so that the trustees could return and finish the night's business. Although she said the board was there to listen to the public speakers, many of the people who got one minute to address the board made it clear they thought the board's actions were a done deal and that listening was not on the agenda. "You may not like what we have to say. I'm just asking, please just be respectful. I understand your pain. I understand your anger. I'm just asking you, just do it with respect, not with threats or anything like that."
So many people showed up for the 4 p.m. meeting that many were directed to the overflow room and watched the proceedings on television.
Initially, there were great cheers when trustee Manuel Rodriguez introduced his amended motion that "I move that the district not close Jones High School" but as he continued to delineate the new character of the school, the mood of the room rapidly went the other way.