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Education News

Houston School Board To Discuss “Agenda Items By Ambush”

“That fact that some people feel ambushed is a sign that they’re not communicating.”

community on behalf of the Houston school board, for how they've behaved over the last 10 months.
Laura Isensee/Houston Public Media
In October, Trustee Diana Davila issued an apology to the community on behalf of the Houston school board, for how they’ve behaved over the last 10 months.

Last week, when the Houston school board considered some controversial charter school contracts, board member Anne Sung proposed an amendment — something pretty common in government meetings — to add more accountability to those deals.

For another board member, Jolanda Jones, that felt like an ambush.

“I'm not going to be meeting-ed by ambush, agenda item-ed by ambush, amendments by ambush,” Jones said from the dais. “I just think on this board, the trustees need to do unto others.”

Now, the Houston school board's slated to discuss “agenda items by ambush” and board members’ responsibilities related to meetings at its monthly meeting Thursday. The item, which was added after the board reviewed the agenda last week, comes as HISD trustees are trying to revamp how they hold their monthly meetings, with more streamlined discussion.

It's also an issue that's caught the attention of state investigators. After five trustees made a surprise move to fire the district's interim superintendent last fall, the Texas Education Agency launched an investigation into the Houston school board. At first, state administrators were investigating governance issues and potential violations of the state’s open meetings act. Later, board members said that the probe has been expanded to include how vendors are selected to do business with the state’s largest school district.

Jasmine Jenkins, who leads Houstonians for Great Public Schools and advocates for effective school boards, said that the discussion about surprise agenda items “seems very much like something that they should discuss in a retreat.”

At the same time, Jenkins said that even if it’s an item board members agree on, making changes on the fly is “not how the deliberative process works.”

“That fact that some people feel ambushed is a sign that they’re not communicating,” she said.

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