On her way to the Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center on Thursday morning, Jessica Campos sent an anxious text to our reporter.
"I'm so nervous," she wrote.
She's a parent of two, one of whom attends Pugh Elementary School, half a mile from the community center where Campos and other community members met before heading to the Houston ISD administration building.
They were protesting sweeping reforms to Pugh and 28 other schools, announced by Houston ISD's new superintendent on the same day he was installed by the Texas Education Agency.
Campos was nervous because she hadn't organized a protest before.
"I want to be a voice for my people," Campos explained after she arrived at the Denver Harbor community center. "My Spanish-speaking community, those are my people. I am so grateful that I’m bilingual, and that I can do this — that I can help my people get informed."
Campos said the teachers at Pugh understand the community and have helped improve her dyslexic daughter's academic abilities. She's angry that the reforms require those educators to choose between reapplying for their jobs or relocating to other campuses.
"It’s just heartbreaking what’s going on," she said. "I feel bad for them that they’re having to make this choice."
On Thursday, Miles announced plans for eight "family events" at schools across the district. The state-appointed Board of Managers will continue meeting Thursday evening and June 22. They'll have to decide whether to approve several of the proposed reforms, like test-heavy teacher evaluations, and they have until the end of the month to approve a budget for next school year.
Outside the community center, Nancy Coronado spoke to a small huddle of reporters.
"From the principal to the staff to the secretaries to the custodians to the lunch staff, every morning they greet our kids with a smile," Coronado said in Spanish. "The problems kids have at home, I feel like they forget all about them when they go to school."
"We don't want other teachers," she continued. "We want the same teachers because they've been our second family at Pugh."
Rising sixth grader Ricardo Delgado just wrapped up his final year at Pugh. He said his favorite teacher was Ms. Lopez — she's the type of veteran educator that all the students in the school know and look forward to having as a teacher.
"I always say ‘I’m excited to be in your class,'" he remembered.
When he finally had her as a teacher, he said she helped him improve his reading.
"She makes everything fun," he said. "I’m feeling sad because I want more students to go to that class because they will feel nice."
There are some community members who have expressed optimism about the takeover and some of the changes, but many of the parents and teachers in the affected areas of Northeast Houston are highly critical of both the reforms — which they worry will increase inequity — and of the way they're being implemented, without serious public input.
Houston ISD superintendent Mike Miles said changes are urgently needed.
"Adults have all the time in the world," he said. "I have all the time in the world. You do, too. But the kids do not. Every day counts, every month counts for our kids."
Kourtney Revels is the parent of a student at B.C. Elmore Elementary School, which is also facing reforms. She hopes the Board of Managers actually debates the changes instead of rubber stamping them without discussion.
"I wish one or a few of them would stand up and oppose some of these things," she said.
Many community members are concerned about the possible removal of wraparound services, specialized magnet programs and fine arts offerings from the 29 schools facing reforms. Miles said final decisions haven't been made on most of those items.
Elected school board trustee Kathy Blueford Daniels lost policy-making power to the Board of Managers earlier this month. She's concerned that the changes — which Miles plans to eventually expand to 150 schools, more than half the district — will allow affluent communities to retain vibrant community schools while leaving low-income areas, like Northeast Houston, with campuses that lack joy.
"It’s gonna be unequal," she said. "Let’s have those same programs in all the schools, for the access of the community to community schools."