The fights to save the two remaining schools targeted by the Houston Independent School District for closure is about to become four-alarm blaze as community leaders gear up for a showdown with Superintendent Terry Grier and the HISD board.
“We love our schools and we love our community,” Community Activist and leader Travis McGee Sr. said in a protest in front of Jesse H. Jones High School “This is a zero tolerance movement and we will not allow them to close any of these schools in this neighborhood.”
McGee said he believes the idea of closing school is polarizing and damaging the relationship between the community and Black school board members who refuse to stand up against Grier and the powers that be who are driving the closure push in the neighborhoods where there with high minority children.
Kofi Taharka, leader of the National Black United Front, Houston Chapter said HISD has been lying to the community from the very beginning.
“They told the public to vote for a “New Jones” when they were promoting the bond,” he said. “Now it is clear: They told us one thing and now they want to close Jones. We want Grier out and a complete moratorium on all school closures!”
Community, business and academic leaders have now joined forces and in a show of solidarity stood defiantly outside the grounds of the school to send a message to parents, students and HISD school board and administrators that the school should remain open and is a vital part of Houston’s African-American heritage and history.
The board plans a massive show of people power at Thursday’s meeting at 4 p.m at the board offices on 4400 W. 18th Street.
The group is not only battling the district’s plan to close Jones High School and Dodson Elementary in the Black neighborhood, but is also fighting to stop the board from closing any more schools in any predominantly Black, Hispanic and minority neighborhood.
Complaints have been lodged on HISD’s moves with the U.S. Justice Department Office of Civil Rights. Leaders want the entire plans, process and decisions being made reviewed because of its impact on poor and minority students and parents.
“This has to stop here and now. We are prepared to fight,” said Activist Charles X White. “(Superintendent)Grier is a serial school killer and it is time to Fire Terry Grier and save our schools from these downtown boys whose plans are orchestrating the calculated dismantling of our schools.”
Leaders have also offered another study by Dr. Reba Wright that refutes district figures and raises questions about the data in the district report and motives for wanting to close schools in the first place.
“Clearly the observations and analysis by Dr. Wright would justify pulling from the agenda a vote to close these proposed schools,” said Activist Charles X White. “It has been said that Terry Grier only wants to close Jones and Dodson, but really this is an old trick. Say you want to close many schools to get everyone’s attention – then you drop back to only two schools. He only wanted Jones and Dodson in the first place.”
White said the new study even questions how bond money has been spent and used over the years.
For many parents, at stake is the future of their children who are already growing up in economically distressed areas in need of revitalization and neighborhood business infusion.
Some said local business leaders already have plans in progress to revitalize the community and bring more jobs, much needed housing and commercial business and services to the ward.
The Hon. Bro Robert Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 45 said the real issues is how a small group of planners are using the system to systematically undo the history, heritage and disperse the unity and power in African-American communities.
“We are drawing the line in the sand because our children are the collateral damage in this process,” he said. “It is up to us to take up the fight. We must care about “we the people” and protect and save our children and communities from these foundations of public school haters.”
Taharka said the groups are united in calling on an independent review of HISD reports and with full and complete transparency to the public.
“If we are not performing, TEA would have come to take us over,” he said. “We do not want to hear about the crumbs you talking about because this is our school and Fleming is not the place.