The Chron has an overview of the races for the Harris County Department of Education, and in describing the one At Large race between incumbent Michael Wolfe and Democratic challenger Diane Trautman they do the useful service of describing what the HCDE does.
The department supports the county’s 26 independent school districts. It operates a co-op that allows the districts to buy food and supplies at lower prices. The department also runs adult-education programs, administers federal Head Start grants and Early Childhood Intervention programs, and supports after-school initiatives.
Most of the department’s budget comes from state and federal grants and fees for service paid by the districts.
Trautman said her opponent wants to abolish the department and has been censured by the board for unethical behavior.
Wolfe acknowledged that he would support abolishing the department, saying that he believes taxpayers pay twice for education. The 2008 censure, he said, was in retaliation because he was pushing for lower taxes.
In 2009, the board tried to remove him from office because they said he had a disregard for the department and its procedures and disrespect for the board.
Here’s what was said about Wolfe at the time:
Fellow trustee Jim Henley said the movement to oust Wolfe is based on his numerous absences and Wolfe’s “lack of acting in the best interests of the department.”
The board considered removing Wolfe for incompetence last year, but Wolfe appealed for a second chance and pledged to adhere to a list of ethical practices.
Henley said Wolfe has violated that pledge and continues to miss meetings without informing the board ahead of time of his absences — or explaining them afterward.
Board members voted 6-0 Monday night to seek Wolfe’s ouster from the $72-a-year position.
See here, here, and here for more on this. Henley is one of only two Democrats on the board right now, so that means four fellow Republicans voted to pursue ousting Wolfe. If you think they did so because they didn’t like him pushing for lower taxes, I’d say that’s pretty naive. Plus, as you may recall, it wasn’t just Wolfe’s board colleagues who didn’t like him. Read this letter from County School Superintendent John Sawyer to Wolfe from December of 2007 for a reminder of that. Wolfe is a clown, and in a just world he’ll be sent back to the private sector in a couple of weeks.
The race for Position 4, Precinct 3, between Republican Kay Smith, who successfully primaried the more moderate Raymond Garcia, and Silvia Mintz, is frustrating to me.
In the Position 4 race, Smith, 61, a Republican, said she wants to bring more department transparency. She said it often is difficult to get information about operations and how money is spent.
“I want to know what we are doing with those tax dollars to ensure better education,” Smith said.
Mintz, her Democratic opponent, did not return calls.
On her campaign website, Mintz, 38, said she entered the race because she believes it is important to “protect the American Dream through education.”
Mintz ran for HD132 in 2010. She has a compelling personal story, and I was impressed by her when I interviewed her for tat race. She’s the kind of person I’d like to see get elected to something. But I have no idea what she’s doing in this race. She reported nothing raised and nothing spent on her 30 day finance report, after minimal activity on her July report. I made numerous attempts to reach her for an interview, but like the Chron never heard from her. Her campaign website appears to have been last updated in December, when she announced her candidacy. Her Facebook page indicates some activity, but that’s about it. She would be a distinct underdog in this race, but then so are people like Paul Sadler and Traci Jensen and Cody Pogue, all of whom have run active, highly visible campaigns. All I can say is that I’m terribly disappointed. I wish I knew what was going on with her.