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Anne Sung

The state of special education at HISD

Still a lot of work to be done.

Houston ISD’s quality of special education services remains in “grave” shape due to inadequate staffing, confusion among employees and a lack of accountability, according to a district-appointed committee reviewing the quality of programs provided to students with disabilities.

In a draft report expected to be presented to HISD trustees Thursday, members of the district’s Special Education Ad-Hoc Committee said the district needs to better address its many shortcomings and school board members should provide more oversight of efforts to improve delivery of special education services. The committee, comprised of district leaders, special education experts and HISD parents, has been meeting since February 2017, in response to a Houston Chronicle investigation that found a years-long pattern of Texas school districts — including HISD — denying access to special education services.

The committee’s 11-page draft report, which is expected to undergo some revisions before Thursday, echoes many of the findings documented earlier this year in a third-party review by American Institutes of Research. The nonprofit found HISD needed more staff members dedicated to special education, better clarity about delivering services to students and clearer systems for carrying out essential programs for students with disabilities, among other areas of improvement.

The committee is expected to issue several recommendations to HISD’s nine-member school board. They include ordering HISD administrators to issue a detailed response to the American Institutes of Research report and mandating regular reports to trustees about the district’s plans for improving special education services.

“It’s going to take years of persistence and commitment to special education to get the district to where we want it to be,” said HISD Trustee Anne Sung, who chaired the committee.

[…]

Kara DeRocha, an HISD parent and special education advocate who sat on the committee, said district leaders need a consistent, detailed and well-managed plan to satisfy long-frustrated families.

“The biggest problem in HISD has always been follow-through,” DeRocha said. “There are a lot of great plans that come out, but the devil is in the details and making sure they do what they said they’d do with fidelity.”

See here for all previous blogging on the topic. HISD had embraced the state’s artificial limits on special education in the past, and then-Superintendent Carranza set up the review of the district’s practices last January. The state is also working on a reform plan, but all these things will cost money. I agree with Kara DeRocha that the devil is in the details, but look at the budget appropriations first. It remains to be seen that the Lege will deal with this in an adequate manner.

July 2018 campaign finance reports: HISD

Every level of government requires finance reports in January and June, whether or not there is an active election cycle in that year. That includes HISD and HCC, which are the last two groups I’ll be examining. I didn’t get to their January reports, in part because they tend to post them later than other entities, and in part because I was hip deep in primary stuff. But that was then and this is now, and today I have the reports for HISD trustees.

Elizabeth Santos
Rhonda Skillern-Jones
Sergio Lira
Jolanda Jones
Sue Deigaard
Holly Flynn Vilaseca
Anne Sung
Diana Davila
Wanda Adams


Dist  Name             Raised    Spent    Loans   On Hand
=========================================================
I     Santos              525    1,048        0     4,806
II    Skillern-Jones        0        0        0     2,395
III   Lira              2,500        0        0     4,072
IV    Jones                 0        0        0    12,259
V     Deigaard              0    1,927        0     7,452
VI    Vilaseca          2,500      969        0     4,506
VII   Sung
VIII  Davila                0    1,500   19,178         0
IX    Adams             4,400    6,369        0     2,814

Anne Sung did not have a July report posted as of when I drafted this. As you can see, there’s not much to see here, as nobody did any fundraising in the past period. Diana Davila did not include a cash on hand total in her report, which I think is an error, but not one to worry about too much at this time. Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Sergio Lira, Jolanda Jones, and Diana Davila are up for election in 2019, so I figure we’ll start to see action from them soon. You will eventually see a 2019 Trustee Elections link on the Board of Trustees General Information page – the 2017 election link is still there – so until then I presume there’s no one who has formally declared an intent to run. I’ll have the HCC reports next, so let me know what you think.

“As the Board turns”

deep sigh

Houston ISD Trustee Jolanda Jones publicly aired personal attacks and allegations against fellow school board members in online posts this week, chipping away at the board’s efforts to present a more collegial front in the face of administrative upheaval and potentially major state sanctions this year.

In three Facebook posts, Jones alleged a newly elected trustee called a longtime board member a “thief” and a “crook” with “no moral character,” and she accused a fellow trustee of misleading her during the process of electing a school board president. Jones also claimed five trustees who rejected HISD’s proposed budget last week will be responsible for employees losing their homes — even though board members are expected to pass the budget next week, with no adverse impact on staff members.

You can click over and read the rest; I don’t care to litigate any of it. I’m just going to say this: For the first time ever, as of last November, the Board is comprised entirely of Democrats, with (I believe) a majority of members elected with the support of the local AFT. Even if the Board were firing on all cylinders, the current partisan makeup would present as a tempting target for the state for takeover, given the issues with the low-performing schools. But at least a high-functioning Board, whose membership is two-thirds new since 2015, would have a compelling argument to make that they deserve a little more time to make progress on the problem. With the way things are now, who’s going to stand in their defense when Mike Morath picks a new Board to replace them?

HISD nixes charter partnership

First there was this.

Houston ISD board members adjourned late Tuesday without voting on a controversial measure to give up control over 10 low-performing schools after the meeting turned physical and police escorted members of the public — nearly all of whom opposed the plan — out of the room.

Chanting “no more sellouts” and shouting at trustees, most of the roughly 100 community members in attendance watched angrily as officers began physically pulling disruptive residents out of the room. The skirmish came after HISD Board of Trustees President Rhonda Skillern-Jones declared a recess in the middle of the meeting and ordered the room cleared due to repeated public outbursts.

If trustees choose to meet again, they likely will not return until Saturday at the earliest. Trustees typically provide at least 72 hours advance notice of any public board meeting. The vote had been expected to be narrow, with several trustees already voicing support or opposition for the proposal.

The uproar reflects the heated nature of HISD’s proposal to allow Energized For STEM Academy Inc., which already runs four in-district charter schools, to take over operations of the 10 campuses for five years. Without the agreement, HISD would likely face forced campus closures or a state takeover of the district’s locally elected school board due to its failure to improve academics at the schools.

HISD Interim Police Chief Paul Cordova said one person was arrested on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge, one person was arrested on a charge of interfering with duties of a public servant and one person was detained but not arrested.

[…]

In the district’s first public statement since Energized For STEM Academy was named Friday as the potential partner, Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said the organization “will help our students to reach the level of achievement that we know is possible.”

“Data shows Energized for STEM Academy has successfully led students to high levels of academic achievement as well as prepared them for college and careers since first partnering with HISD 10 years ago,” Lathan said in a statement. She has not granted any interview requests in recent days.

The choice, however, faced immediate resistance. Multiple trustees said they lacked enough information to properly evaluate Energized For STEM Academy’s academic and governance history.

Several education advocates and leaders, including the Houston Federation of Teachers, also raised several questions about Energized For STEM Academy’s ethics. They’ve particularly focused on Energized For STEM Academy’s head of schools, Lois Bullock, who serves as both employee and landlord at another in-district HISD charter organization. It’s not immediately clear whether Bullock has improperly profited off the highly unusual arrangement.

All speakers at Tuesday’s school board meeting opposed the district’s plan. Many advocated for suing the state over the 2015 law that imposed sanctions. Several questioned whether Energized For STEM Academy is dedicated to special education students, noting that the organization has a disproportionately low special education population at its current schools. A few students implored trustees to maintain current operations at their schools.

See here for the background. I was going to tell you to go read Stace and Campos before getting into my own thoughts, but then this happened.

Houston ISD leaders will not turn over control of its 10 longest-struggling schools to any outside organizations, the district’s administration announced Wednesday, a decision that puts HISD at risk of forced campus closures or a state takeover of its locally elected school board.

[…]

In a statement Wednesday, HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said the district is “not bringing another partnership proposal to the board, nor will there be another meeting to consider partnerships for the 10 schools.” She said the district will continue to carry out its current plans for improving academic performance at the campuses.

Under a law passed in 2015, known as HB 1842, the Texas Education Agency must close schools or replace HISD’s school board if any of the district’s schools receive a fifth straight “improvement required” rating for poor academic performance this year. The 10 schools all risk triggering the law, and it’s unlikely all 10 will meet state academic standards this year.

With partnerships off the table, attention now will turn to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, who has yet to announce whether any schools or districts will receive accountability rating waivers due to Hurricane Harvey. Agency officials have not said whether HISD still would be subject to sanctions if the 10 schools receive waivers that assure they are not rated “improvement required” this year.

“Any and all decisions by Commissioner Morath regarding accountability exemptions or waivers for campuses affected by Hurricane Harvey will be announced in June,” TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said in a statement.

[…]

In interviews prior to Tuesday’s scheduled vote, trustees Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, Sue Deigaard and Anne Sung said they were uncomfortable with the amount of information and time they had to vet Energized For STEM Academy. Two other board members, [Sergio] Lira and Jolanda Jones, said Wednesday that they would vote against charter partnership agreements. Trustee Elizabeth Santos had earlier said she opposed giving control of schools to charter organizations.

Many of the most vocal community members involved in the partnership debate have advocated litigation over HB 1842. To date, only one HISD trustee, Jones, has voiced support for a lawsuit. Board members have received legal advice surrounding potential litigation, though they’ve been reluctant to divulge details of those conversations because they took place in closed session.

“Suing TEA is more of a longshot at being successful,” Lira said. “From a historical precedent, there have been very few successful cases when the district files against TEA.”

The announcement that HISD would not pursue partnerships came about two hours after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he supports “HISD simply standing down.” Turner, who hinted at getting involved in partnership plans but ultimately opted against it, said he plans to contact Morath to ask for a one-year waiver.

I’m going to say the same thing I would have said if the Energized for STEM proposal had passed: I sure hope this works. It’s certainly possible that Energized for STEM could have been a successful partner, but it’s equally certain that there was precious little time to consider the idea, and not much community input. The community spoke loudly that they didn’t want that arrangement, and now they have gotten what they wanted. They had ample reason to not like that option, and to not give the HISD leadership the benefit of the doubt. Now we all need to send that same message to the Legislature, because that’s where this mess got started. The Press has more.

2017 results: HISD and HCC

There were still precincts to be counted as I was writing this so there are a couple of races where I’ll have to equivocate, but here’s what happened in the local races that had actual candidates in them. Let’s start with the easier one, the HCC races:

– Trustees Carolyn Evans-Shabazz (73%) and Robert Glaser (58%) led from the get go and cruised to easy wins.

– In District 9, Gene Pack (42%) and Pretta VanDible Stallworth (37%) will head into a runoff for the right to succeed Chris Oliver.

In HISD, there are a couple of clear results, and a couple that I’ll have to update in the morning:

– Incumbent Trustees Wanda Adams (68%) and Anne Sung (60%) were easily re-elected.

– Jesse Rodriguez (41%) and Sergio Lira (32%) were going into overtime in Distric III, while Elizabeth Santos (45%) and Gretchen Himsl (33%) were doing the same in I. Given how the District I race has gone so far, I expect it to get a little nasty for the runoff.

– Sue Deigaard (53%) appeared to be headed for a clear win in her four-way race. As of this drafting, 37 of 56 precincts had reported, but Deigaard had 4,502 votes out of 8,446 total. If the remaining 19 precincts have a proportional amount of votes in them as the first 37, a little back-of-the-envelope math suggests she’d need about 43.4% of those votes to stay in the majority and win outright. I’d say those are pretty good odds, but we’ll see.

– The race that will have everyone up way past their bedtimes is in District VI, where with 35 of 40 precincts counted, incumbent Holly Flynn Vilaseca had 50.04% of the vote – she had 3,119 out of 6,233, which puts her five votes into a majority. Either she squeaks out a clean win – she was a pinch over 50% in early and absentee voting and a slightly smaller pinch under it on Tuesday – or she goes into a runoff with a substantial lead. Good position to be in, but boy I know what I’d prefer.

UPDATE: At 12:46 AM, the final results were posted, and Holly Flynn Vilaseca wound up with 50.38% of the vote, putting her back in office without a runoff. Here’s the Chron story.

Late money in the HISD races

Here it comes.

A political action committee mostly funded by the nation’s largest teachers’ union has received $225,000 to spend on supporting four candidates for the Houston ISD school board election and a city ballot measure, campaign finance reports show.

Houston United for Strong Public Schools plans to spend in support of three incumbent candidates — Wanda Adams, Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca and Anne Sung — and newcomer Elizabeth Santos ahead of Tuesday’s election, records show. The PAC doesn’t plan to spend on candidates in two other Houston ISD board races.

Political action committees operate independently of individual candidates’ campaigns. Houston United for Strong Public Schools has received the most donations to date among PACs supporting local school board candidates.

Records show Houston United for Strong Public Schools took in $150,000 from the political arm of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents about 1.7 million public employees, most of them working in schools.

The PAC also received $75,000 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union representing about 1.6 million public service employees. In addition to supporting the four board candidates, the PAC plans to spend in favor of a Houston city ballot measure to authorize the sale of $1 billion in bonds under a pension reform plan.

That’s a lot of money, but at least from my perspective in District I, it hasn’t been particularly visible to me. I’ve received mail from the Santos campaign, but no more than what I’ve received from the Himsl and Richart campaigns. I haven’t received any robocalls or been visited by any canvassers – for whatever the reason, it’s extremely rare for someone to knock on my door on behalf of a campaign – and if there are ads running on TV or the radio, I’ve not seen them. I don’t think I’ve seen any Facebook ads or ads in my Gmail, either. Maybe the bulk of this money is being earmarked for a runoff, I don’t know. Risky strategy if that’s the case.

The eight day finance reports are now available, but you won’t see any activity related to HUSPS in there. For example, here’s Santos’ 8 day report, which includes a $5K donation from Houston Federation of Teachers COPE, but HUSPS is nowhere to be seen. You have to go to the Texas Ethics Commission page and search for Houston United for Strong Public Schools there. In their TEC report, you can see that while they’ve raised $225K, they’ve only spent $115K, and $47K of that was for polling, which ought to be fascinating given the turnout context. I can’t tell from this how much they have spent in each race – there isn’t a single entry that specifies a dollar amount for Santos, for example. I don’t spend as much time with PAC reports as I have done with candidate reports, so maybe I just don’t know how to read these. Point is, this is where to look to get the details.

All of this has caused some controversy, which has played out on Facebook. The HUSPS website has no “About” page, and it took some sleuthing to figure out their origin. Not to put too fine a point on it, but large amounts of money being spent on local races by groups whose backers are not apparent is generally something that many of us find alarming. As Campos has noted, it’s hardly unusual for the HFT to get involved in HISD elections – they’re as much of a stakeholder as anyone else, after all – but this method of doing so is new. I don’t understand the rationale behind this approach, either, but it is what they have chosen to do. We’ll see how it plays out.

More on HISD IX, and a little on HISD VII Alief ISD

Wanda Adams

As noted before, I did not do interviews in HISD Trustee races in districts VII and IX. In VII, I did interview now-incumbent Anne Sung and challenger John Luman last year when they were running in the special election to fill the vacancy left by Harvin Moore. You can listen to those again if you want a refresher on those two candidates.

As for IX, I just could not get to it. Life is like that sometimes, I’m afraid. Thankfully, there is an opportunity for you to hear from the candidates in that race – Trustee Wanda Adams and challengers Karla Brown and Gerry Monroe – if you want. There was a debate sponsored by the Forward Times on October 4, and audio of it is available here. In addition, there were articles written about each candidate in the aftermath of the debate by debate moderator Durrel Douglas:

Part 1: Wanda Adams
Part 2: Karla Brown
Part 3: Gerry Monroe

There’s also a recap of the debate, with video embedded from the event. It’s not the same as individual interviews, but it’s a chance to see how the candidates interact with each other. Go take a look or give a listen – the audio should be available as a podcast in the 610 News feed – and see what you think.

Finally, Stace rounds up the candidates in Alief ISD. I wish I had more time to follow races in other ISDs, but alas, I don’t. These elections – for school board and for city council – will have more effect on your daily life than elections for Congress and Senate do. The latter have more power, but the former have more impact. Know who you’re voting for and why you’re voting for them.

Endorsement watch: HISD VII and XI

Last two.

Anne Sung

Houston ISD, Trustee, District VII: Anne Katherine Sung

Anne Katherine Sung won in a runoff for this district last year after former trustee Harvin Moore resigned. Now voters are faced with a rematch between Sung and her former opponent, John Luman.

During her short time on the board, Sung has proved herself an engaged and effective trustee who deserves a full term representing this west Houston district, which covers River Oaks, Briar Grove and parts of Montrose and the Heights.

Sung, 38, brings in-depth knowledge of the educational landscape to the task. For more than a decade, she has been attending trustee meetings and preparing herself in multiple ways to assume a leadership role on the board.

The alumna of Bellaire High School has been a Teach for America Corp. member, an award-winning HISD physics teacher and co-founded an education advocacy group, Community Voices for Public Education. She’s currently serving as the chief strategy officer and vice president of the nonprofit Project GRAD Houston.

[…]

Wanda Adams

Houston ISD, Trustee, District IX: Wanda Adams

This troubled south Houston district needs all the help it can get. Fourteen schools within the boundaries, which stretch from the Westbury to Sunnyside, are failing according to ratings by the non-profit Children at Risk.

Despite these problems, none of the challengers provide a compelling case to remove incumbent Wanda Adams from her seat.

While there’s no question that the district is rife with inequity and that some schools need more attention and resources, Adams is one member of a nine-member board in charge of setting policy. The responsibility for these failing schools falls on past superintendents, the entire board and the community, not on a single trustee.

Adams, 50, knows her community well. A former City Council member, this professor of political science at Texas Southern University currently serves as HISD board president and has worked to make key changes to governance. She’s applied time limits to trustees’ remarks to reduce grandstanding at board meetings and has worked to develop a framework to measure district progress.

In the end, I’d say this was a pretty conventional set of endorsements. All incumbents get the nod, and no surprises in the other races. Not that there was much potential for a surprise – as noted before, the slate of candidates is pretty good. I’m not even sure what might have been a true surprise recommendation, other than possibly one of the challengers in XI.

By the way, I have previously noted that right now, the HISD Board has seven women and two men. The range of possible outcomes this November are eight women and one man, to four women and five men. Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Jolanda Jones, and Diana Davila are not on the ballot, while District I has only female candidates. Only District III, which has four male candidates, is certain to be represented by a man. I don’t have a point to make here, just an observation.

I did not do any interviews in these races. I interviewed both Anne Sung and John Luman for last year’s special election – you can listen to those here: Anne Sung, John Luman. I intended to get to District IX but life and too many other things got to me. I have a post in the works for that race, and if it goes to a runoff I’ll try again.

Endorsement watch: HGLBT Political Caucus, CVPE, and GPS

From the inbox:

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus PAC met on September 9, 2017. At the meeting the membership voted to endorse the following candidates:

Kara DeRocha for HISD School Board Trustee – District V

Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca for HISD School Board Trustee – District VI

Anne Sung for HISD School Board Trustee – District VII

Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz for HCC Trustee – District IV

Pretta Vandible Stallworth for HCC Trustee – District IX

We also voted to endorse the following propositions:

Propositions A, B, C, D and E

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus PAC will hold a public forum on September 22, 2017 at 7pm at Bering Memorial United Methodist Church in Montrose, Room 217A & B. (Enter through the North Entrance on Hawthorne Street where the parking lot is located.) The public forum will highlight Elizabeth Santos, Gretchen Himsl and Monica Flores Richart, candidates for HISD School Board Trustee – District I. The membership will take an endorsement vote at the end of the public forum. The Membership will also vote on the recommendation of the screening committee in the HISD School Board race for District III.

I was just saying that we are only now beginning to see campaign activity again post-Harvey, and a part of that is the group endorsement process. The GLBT Caucus endorsements hit my mailbox late on Sunday, and on Monday I found out about a couple of others that have come out. Here’s Community Voices for Public Education:

Elizabeth Santos in HISD District 1
Kara DeRocha in HISD District 5
Holly Flynn Vilaseca in HISD District 6
Anne Sung in HISD District 7

CVPE members voted to not endorse in District 9 and will screen HISD District 3 candidates in the near future.

Yes, everyone is going to have to go over this again once the filing deadline comes for District III, which was extended to allow people enough time to make the decision to run following Manuel Rodriguez’s death. I am aware of one candidate in District III so far, and I am sure there will be others.

One more set of endorsements, from Houstonians for Great Public Schools:

District I – Gretchen Himsl

District V – Sue Deigaard

District VI – Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca

District VII – Anne Sung

District IX – Wanda Adams

I’ll post more as I see them. I suppose it’s well past time for me to create an Election 2017 page to track all this, too.

July 2017 campaign finance reports – HISD

We still don’t know what’s happening with city of Houston elections this fall, but there’s plenty of action with HISD Trustee races. You can see all of the candidates who have filed so far and their July finance reports here. I’ve got links to individual reports and summaries of them, so join me below for some highlights.

Elizabeth Santos
Gretchen Himsl
Monica Richart

Kara DeRocha
Sue Deigaard

Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca
Daniel Albert
Robert Lundin

Anne Sung
John Luman

Wanda Adams
Gerry Monroe
Karla Brown
Susan Schafer


Name        Raised    Spent    Loans   On Hand
==============================================
Santos      13,161    2,037        0     7,845
Himsl       17,685      832      500    17,352
Richart      5,565    5,996    6,197     5,765

DeRocha     17,676    2,006      355    15,669
Deigaard    22,716      769        0    20,381

Vilaseca    14,043      157        0    13,613
Albert           0        0   30,000         0
Lundin      13,480    1,565        0    11,915

Sung        31,660    1,673        0    29,208
Luman            0        0        0       456

Adams            0    6,484        0       421
Monroe           0        0        0         0
Brown            0        0        0         0
Schafer      4,690    2,543        0     2,026

So we have two open seats, in Districts I and V as Anna Eastman and Mike Lunceford are stepping down, one appointed incumbent running for a full term (Flynn Vilaseca), one incumbent who won a 2016 special election running for a full term (Sung), and one regular incumbent running for re-election (Adams). We could have a very different Board next year, or just a slightly different one. That includes all three of the traditionally Republican districts – V, VI, and VII. Interestingly, there is no Republican candidate in District V as yet, and the Republican runnerup in last year’s special election in District VII has apparently been idle so far this year. Daniel Albert is Chief of Staff for District F City Council member Steve Le, so I think it’s safe to say that he’s a Republican. Robert Lundin is a Rice faculty member who has been an HISD teacher and administrator and also opened YES Prep Southwest. I don’t have a guess as to what his politics may be. Whatever the case, I have to assume there will be more of a Republican presence in these races, but it’s starting to get a little late in the cycle.

The next most remarkable thing is Wanda Adams’ report. I’m not sure if it was filled out incorrectly or if she really did raise no money while spending her account almost empty. I don’t know what to make of that.

Otherwise, and putting the weirdness of the Sung/Luman situation aside, it looks like we have some competitive races shaping up. If you didn’t know anything but what is in this table, you might be hard-pressed to tell who’s an incumbent. I know there’s a lot of activity already for 2018, and I feel like we’re in a bit of a holding pattern until we know for sure what the deal is with city races. I suspect there’s a lot more to come in these races. Maybe we’ll see it in the 30-day reports.

Sung and Vilaseca sworn in at HISD

The HISD Board is back at full strength.

Anne Sung

As Anne Sung and Holly Flynn Vilaseca took their oaths of office and became Houston ISD’s newest Board of Education trustees on Thursday, their husbands swaddled their months-old babies in one hand and held holy books in the other.

Sung’s 11-month-old daughter, Sarita, and Flynn Vilaseca’s 13-month-old, Nicolas, hardly made a peep as their mothers became leaders of the nation’s seventh-largest school district.

Sung was elected as the District 7 trustee and will replace Harvin Moore, who resigned from the board last summer. Vilaseca was unanimously appointed by the board Monday to fill the District 6 seat vacated by Greg Meyers, who resigned at the board’s December meeting.

Both new members will serve through 2017. Then their seats will be back up for election.

[…]

Holly Flynn Vilaseca

Sung and Flynn Vilaseca said top priorities include ensuring equity in terms of the number of talented teachers, funding and facilities across Houston’s campuses. Flynn Vilaseca said she would also like to focus on lobbying the state to abandon “recapture,” which takes money from so-called property-rich districts to assist those with lower property values.

Houston ISD officials have argued that because 75 percent of district students are considered low income, the money it pays to the state for recapture would be better spent locally.

Sung also hopes to make sure the board and district are operating ethically and transparently, particularly in the way it spends money.

Both also plan to focus on improving student achievement, especially among the district’s lowest-performing students.

“We need to bring attention back to doing what’s right for students and preparing them for life after high school,” Sung said. “We need to make sure we align what we’re teaching with what’s happening in the world.”

See here for more on Vilaseca. I’ve heard some chatter that she does plan to run for a full term in November, which will be a race to watch. I look forward to interviewing her down the line. In the meantime, the Board (which elected its officers for the year; Wanda Adams is now Board President) has a lot to deal with, including lobbying the Lege to do something about recapture, dealing with the revelations about special education, continuing the bond-funded construction projects, and so on. Welcome aboard, ladies (*), let’s get to work. The Press has more.

(*) In case you hadn’t noticed (I only just did), with the election of Sung and the selection of Vilaseca, the HISD Board is now comprised of seven women and two men.

HISD Board appoints Meyers replacement

Meet your new Trustee.

Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca

Houston ISD’s Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to name former Teach for America staffer Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca as its new District VI trustee.

Flynn Vilaseca, who will replace outgoing Trustee Greg Meyers, will be sworn in at the board’s Thursday regular board meeting along with Anne Sung, the winner of a December special election to replace District VII Trustee Harvin Moore.

Moore submitted his resignation in the summer, and Meyers submitted his in December.

Flynn Vilaseca was the first in her family to attend college and worked for Teach for America in underprivileged HISD and Bryan ISD schools. Most recently, she worked as chief relationship coordinator with ThinkLaw, which aims to enable teachers to teach critical thinking skills through case law. She said she wanted to join the board to help parents and students better navigate the system and their options.

“Public education has played such an important role in my life,” Flynn Vilaseca said. “I found out when I’m a teacher here that my story is not unique. Social capital should be built into the system.”

[…]

Board President Manuel Rodriguez Jr. said of the nine applications the board received, Flynn Vilaseca’s background and understanding of the community in district VI gave her the edge.

“With her education and research backgrounds, being bilingual and having a different cultural experience, having Colombian heritage, those were attributes that gave her an advantage,” he said.

See here and here for the background. The embedded photo is from Ms. Vilaseca’s LinkedIn profile. Here’s a slightly longer bio of her on her employer’s webpage. Among other things, she serves on Mayor Turner’s Hispanic Advisory Board, on the Civic Engagement and Promotions Subcommittee. The official HISD press release announcing her appointment is here. It remains to be seen if she will run for a full term in November or not. Regardless, congratulations and welcome to the Board to Ms. Vilaseca and to Anne Sung, who will also be sworn in on Thursday. Stace has more.

A look ahead to Houston’s 2017 elections

I want to return to something in that story about Mayor Turner’s 2017 agenda, which was near the bottom but which is a very big deal for the coming year:

A lawsuit over the ballot language used last year to extend terms to a maximum of two four-year terms, from three two-year terms, hovers in the background.

A state district judge ruled in March that the language was “inartful” but legal, and the case now is under appeal.

At stake in the near term is whether Turner and members of City Council must run for re-election in 2017 or wait until 2019.

See here for the background. Usually around this time I’m writing about the upcoming election year and what we have to look forward to. Thanks to this lawsuit, we could have a year with no city elections, or a year in which nobody knows we have city elections until April or May and everyone operates on an insanely accelerated schedule from there. With that in mind, let’s look at our Year of Elections 2017 with a frame of The Elections We Will Have, The Elections We May Have, and The Elections We Could Have.

The Elections We Will Have

Whatever else happens with the term limits lawsuit, there will be elections in HISD and HCC. The following trustees for each board are up for election this year:

HISD – Anna Eastman (District I), Mike Lunceford (District V), Greg Meyers (District VI), Anne Sung (District VII), Wanda Adams (District IX)
HCC – Carolyn Evans-Shabazz (District 4), Robert Glaser (District 5), Chris Oliver (District 9)

Mike Lunceford is not running for re-election, so his seat will be open. Greg Meyers has already submitted his resignation, and a replacement Trustee will be selected by the Board in January. It is not clear if the Board will prefer a caretaker who will not run for election in November or if the new member will try to stake a claim. Anne Sung of course won the special election to succeed Harvin Moore a couple of weeks ago. Whatever happens in November, the Board will have three different members in the traditionally Republican districts than it had at the start of 2016. That has some negative potential, as all three were devoted to public schools in a way that is not necessarily characteristic of modern Republicans, meaning that whoever wins in November could be more antagonistic than what we are used to seeing. We’ll have a better idea when we know who is selected to replace Meyers, and who emerges to run for these seats. As for Eastman, she is my Trustee and as far as I know she is in for another term, but I haven’t spoken to her in the last few weeks, and she has not made any formal announcements. I’m not aware of any reason why Adams would not run for another term.

In HCC, both Shabazz-Evans and Glaser won elections to complete the unexpired terms for trustees who had resigned following their 2011 campaigns. Evans-Shabazz was appointed to replace Carroll Robinson in District 4 in May of 2015, and then was unopposed for election. Glaser won a contested race to succeed Richard Schechter in 2013; appointed replacement Leila Feldman did not run for the seat. Oliver is a multi-term incumbent who easily defeated a challenger in 2011. Sometimes there are interesting things to say or look forward to in these races. This is not one of those times.

There will also be some number of constitutional amendments on the ballot in November, but we won’t know what they are until May or so when the Legislature finishes its business. If the term limits lawsuit goes down, preserving the new four-year terms for city officeholders, these referenda will be the only guaranteed items on your ballot this year.

The most interesting race in the area that is not in Houston will be in Pasadena, where Mayor Johnny Isbell is term-limited out and where the City Council lines may or may not be redrawn, pending the ruling in the voting rights lawsuit that is currently in the judge’s hands. That election will be in May. Other area cities such as Bellaire, West U, Sugar Land, and Rosenberg, also have elections in May. I hope to have some more information about some of these races in a subsequent post. Also of interest in May will be the San Antonio elections, where Mayor Ivy Taylor has some competition for a second full term. I’m sure I’ll do some writing about that as well.

The Elections We May Have

In addition to the statewide ballot propositions, there are two local ones that could be on your November eSlate machine, both of which could be quite contentious. Mayor Turner has stated his intention to put a referendum about the revenue cap on the ballot this year, though one presumes that could change if his pension reform bills do not pass. You can be sure that the opposition to this, mostly from the likes of Paul Bettencourt and no doubt with the help of the statewide Republican cabal, will be ferocious and very well-funded. Which in a way will be good for Mayor Turner, because if he can successfully cast this as a partisan issue, especially a “statewide Republicans meddling in our business AGAIN” issue, he ought to at least begin with the larger share of the vote. Getting those people to vote, whether or not there are other city elections to draw them out, will be the challenge. I suspect Mayor Turner doesn’t do anything without planning out how it will go, so I sure hope he has a plan for this one.

The other possible ballot item we might have is an updated Metro Solutions plan, which may include more rail construction projects, possibly including another shot at the Universities Line. This has been floated as an option by Metro Chair Carrin Patman, but it is not yet clear that it would be on the ballot, and if it would be there this year if so, and it is not yet clear what the scope of it would be. Needless to say, any rail component would generate some opposition, with a new Universities Line plan bringing out the usual suspects, some of whom would already be fully engaged in a revenue cap fight. It’s an interesting question whether you’d rather have this item on the ballot by itself, or in the same space as a revenue cap item. I’m glad that’s not my call to make.

The Elections We Could Have

This is the one that is entirely contingent on the Supreme Court, which as we know has not hesitated to stick its collective nose in our electoral business. If the 2015 term limits referendum is thrown out for having insufficiently clear wording, then the people who will be the most affected are the Council members who are in their last terms: Brenda Stardig, Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Mike Laster, Larry Green, and Jack Christie. Cohen’s District C and Laster’s District J represent challenges for Democrats, as Bill King carried both districts in the 2015 Mayoral runoff. The ideal District C candidate is in the Anne Clutterbuck-Ellen Cohen spectrum, while the low turnout District J will always be a bit of a wild card. Against that, Dems will have opportunities in both Christie’s At Large #5 and first-term CM Mike Knox’s AL #1, though as we have discussed before, cattle call races with lots of similarly-profiled Democrats have benefited Republican citywide candidates in the recent past. The ideal here is for a candidate who begins with a lot of backing to get in and largely hoover up all the support – think Melissa Noriega in 2007, or Amanda Edwards in 2015.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this, as it’s even more speculative than usual, but I do want to at least put a marker on it, since if these elections do happen they may happen all at once, with little warning and not much time to prepare. I’ll be keeping an eye on this, and will be ready for either a busier or more relaxed interview season this fall.

Luman will request recount

John Luman posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

John Luman

Talk about close races! As of last night’s “unofficial” results, only 27 votes separate Anne Sung and me. Given the tightness of the race, I feel compelled on behalf of all of you who supported and invested in me to ask for a ballot recount. Had I been the one up by only 27 votes, I would expect Anne to do the same.

While we wait for the “official” results of this race, enjoy time with your family and friends—the folks we put it on the line for.

Thanks for your support!

As I expected. I agree with what Luman says about if the result had been the other way. I can’t imagine anyone not asking for a recount when down by this small a margin, which stands now at 27 but may change by a few one way or the other when the vote is canvassed and provisional ballots (assuming there are any) are counted or not. That said, the recount is highly unlikely to change the result, because recounts almost never change results. But it’s part of the process in close races, and Luman is entirely within his rights to ask for it, as would any other candidate be. I’d have to check to see what the schedule will be for doing the canvass and then the recount, but my guess is we’ll have a final result before Christmas.

Sung nips Luman in HISD runoff

By twenty-seven votes.

Anne Sung

Anne Sung

Anne Sung narrowly defeated John Luman in a runoff election Saturday to take a seat on the Houston Independent School District board of trustees.

Sung, who turns 38 Sunday, had the backing of the Houston Federation of Teachers. The Bellaire High School graduate taught in the Houston school district after working as a Teach for America corps member in the Rio Grande Valley.

Luman, 51, an attorney and lobbyist, received the endorsement of outgoing trustee Harvin Moore. Luman has been an active member of Briargrove Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization.

[…]

Moore is quitting a year early; Sung will serve through 2017.

Here are the unofficial election night returns. Luman led by 105 votes in absentee ballots, then Sung won early voting by 72 and Runoff Day by 60. There were 6,545 total votes cast, a little bit less what I had estimated. Given the closeness of the election – Sung’s margin is 0.42 percentage points – it would not surprise me if Luman asks for a recount. There may be a few provisional or overseas ballots left to process, but probably not enough to affect the outcome. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, congratulations to Anne Sung on the hard-earned victory.

Runoff Day for HISD special election

From the inbox:

vote-button

Saturday, Dec. 10, is Election Day for voters in HISD Trustee District VII and City of Baytown Council District 3. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There are 178,717 registered voters in HISD Trustee District VII eligible to vote in the Runoff Elections. A map of the boundaries for HISD Trustee District 7 can be found at: http://www.houstonisd.org/cms/lib2/TX01001591/Centricity/Domain/10801/District%207-092614.pdf

Baytown Council District 3 covers the Northwest section of the city with 12,726 registered voters eligible to vote in the Runoff Election. District 3 is in dark blue on the map at: http://baytown.org/home/showdocument?id=2105

Election Day polling locations may be found at the Harris County Clerk’s election website, www.HarrisVotes.com. Voters may also visit www.HarrisVotes.com or call 713.755.6965 to obtain a list of acceptable credentials to vote at the polls and view a sample ballot.

See here for some background. You can find your polling location here. As noted before, turnout is low, so your vote really counts. If you live in HISD VII, or Baytown Council District 3, get out there and make your voice heard. I’ll have the result tomorrow.

Runoff early voting: Light turnout

EarlyVoting

Hey, remember that there’s a runoff for the special election to fill the HISD Trustee position in District VII? Well, early voting for it ended on Tuesday, and turnout so far is about what you’d expect for such an election. Here’s the EV by location report for the runoff, which encompasses two races: for Baytown City Council in District 3, about which I know nothing, and on page 2 the HISD election, in which Anne Sung faces off against John Luman. A total of 2,922 votes have been cast so far, of which 1,601 were in person and 1,321 were by mail, with another 3,429 mail ballots sent out but not yet returned. As a reminder, there were 35,879 ballots cast in this race in November, so however you slice it the runoff electorate will be much smaller.

Which makes the result that much more unpredictable, since who knows what the electorate will look like. It could be representative of the district as a whole, which would favor Luman, or it could tilt towards the more motivated parts of the population, which may favor Sung. If you live in HISD District VII and have not yet voted, you can find your polling place for the Saturday runoff here. If you’re not sure whether you live in HISD District VII or not, there are two ways to tell. One, if you had this race on your ballot in November then you are, and if you didn’t then you aren’t. If you don’t remember or for some reason didn’t vote in November (shame, shame), your voter registration card will indicate if you are in HISD or not, but it doesn’t specify what district you are in. You can find that if you look yourself up on the Harris County Tax Assessor website. As I said, turnout for this election is low and will be low, so your vote counts for extra. Show up on Saturday if you live in the district and make your voice heard.

Re-Endorsement watch: Sung in the special

The Chron reiterates their choice of Anne Sung for the HISD VII special election runoff.

Anne Sung

Anne Sung

Anne Sung will bring a wealth of educational experience to this position, representing a district with boundaries encompassing a broad swath of near-southwest to near-northwest Houston that includes Wisdom High School, formerly Robert E. Lee, one of the most ethnically diverse schools in Houston, and Lamar High School, which sits smack in the middle of River Oaks, one of our city’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

Sung has been a Teach for America Corp member, an award-winning HISD physics teacher, and the cofounder of an education advocacy group, Community Voices for Public Education. Currently, she’s in the educational nonprofit field, serving as the chief strategy officer and vice president of the nonprofit Project GRAD Houston.

The Bellaire High School alumna has walked the talk that “education is the foundation of the American Dream.” Sung went on to graduate from Harvard University with Bachelor of Arts and Master of Physics degrees and from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a Master’s in Public Policy.

Sung was involved in public education even before she became a parent. In a screening with our editorial board, her answers were nuanced and thoughtful. This candidate – who speaks Spanish and Mandarin – is the best-qualified person to run for trustee in years.

More or less what they said when they endorsed her in November. Early voting starts tomorrow for this runoff and it only lasts seven days, which is standard for runoffs. Hours and locations are here – basically, there’s downtown, the Metro Multi-Service Center on West Gray, and the Harris County Public Health office at 2223 West Loop South. Runoff Day is next Saturday, December 10. I estimate something like six to eight thousand votes for the runoff, so anything can happen. Get out and make you voice heard.

HISD special election runoff will be December 10

I don’t believe I’ve seen a news story about this.

Anne Sung

Anne Sung

The runoff election for the top two candidates to fill the unexpired term of outgoing HISD District VII Trustee Harvin Moore has been set for Dec. 10.

Candidates competing in the runoff are Anne Sung and John Luman.

The runoff election winner will serve the remainder of Moore’s term in office, which runs through 2017. Click here to see a map of HISD trustee districts.

Early voting times are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 through Dec. 2. Early voting on Dec. 5 and 6 is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting locations are as follows:

John Luman

John Luman

Harris County Clerk’s Office
201 Caroline St. #420
Houston, TX 77002

Metropolitan Multi-Service Center
1475 W Gray St.
Houston, TX 77019

SPJST Lodge 88 (the Heights Location)
1435 Beall St.
Houston, TX 77008

Harris County Public Health (Galleria Location)
2223 W. Loop South 1st floor
Houston, TX 77027

Here’s the interview I did with Anne Sung and the interview I did with John Luman. As noted in my analysis of Hillary Clinton’s performance in Harris County, Clinton carried the district, but 1) there were also a lot of undervotes, 2) turnout for the runoff is going to be really low, and 3) Clinton carried HISD VII with crossover votes. I haven’t done all of the numbers, but I can tell you that Dori Garza lost here by a 52-42 margin. That said, lower turnout may benefit Sung more than it does Luman, depending on who is motivated to come out and vote. Pantsuit Nation is touting this race, and it’s certainly possible that Sung will have some more momentum going in. All things being equal, though, this is Luman’s race to lose, and even if he does lose, Sung would have a tough re-election in 2017. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one as we go. If you live in HISD VII, mark the dates for voting on your calendar because they will zip past before you know it.

UPDATE: I have received word that the SPJST Lodge is not available for early voting for this runoff. It had originally been reported as being available, but that has changed. My apologies for the confusion.

Initial thoughts: Harris County

vote-button

I’m still not quite ready to resume regular blogging. I’ve got a few things drafted from before the election, several of which are non-political, that I’ll begin to put in the queue, and a couple of ones that were political that may need to be amended now. For the time being, I’ve got some initial thoughts on the county and statewide races. This is the first of those.

You can see the election night returns for Harris County here; at some point, presumably after the results are officially canvassed, these will go into the Election Archives with a date-based URL. But for now, click that link and scroll through if you want to see what I’m talking about.

So Hillary Clinton led Harris County by 100,000 votes and ten points after early voting, but while nearly every Democratic countywide candidate (all but Ann Harris Bennett) also led as of 7 PM on Tuesday, they all had much smaller margins, and could have wound up losing if the Election Day turnout had favored Republicans. That was not the case – other than Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan, who led well into the night, and a couple of judicial incumbents who had small leads in absentee balloting, Democrats won each phase, with Election Day being the best of the three, in percentages if not always in absolute votes. It was clear from Clinton’s dominating performance in Harris County – she carried the county by over 12 points and 160,000 votes – that she got some Republican crossovers. Here’s a quick comparison:

Trump = 544,960 votes
Clinton = 706,471 votes

Avg R countywide judicial candidate = 605,112 votes
Avg D countywide judicial candidate = 661,403 votes

There was a fair amount of variance from race to race, the R statewide candidates did a little better, and some Republican voters clearly went for Gary Johnson, who collected 3.04% of the total. Putting it all together, I’d estimate that 30,000 to 40,000 people who generally voted Republican downballot voted for Hillary Clinton.

Now, the judicial candidates improved their performance as well. In 2008, the average Democratic judicial candidate got about 590,000 votes. In 2012, it was in the low 570’s – sorry, I’m too lazy to go back and recalculate it – with the high score being about 581,000. That’s about 90,000 more votes than 2012, with the Republican judicials (who averaged in the 560’s in 2012) improving by about 40,000 votes. If Harris County was like a swing state in 2012, it was more like a light blue state this year.

What does that mean going forward? Well, it’s now the Republicans who have been shut out in the Presidential year cycle, and that’s going to be a problem for them in 2020 unless something changes. For 2018, Democrats still have to solve the turnout issue, but 1) it’s hard to argue the proposition that there are just more Dems in Harris County than ever before, and 2) with Democrats being the out party nationally, one would think the off-year turnout dynamic might be a bit different than it was in 2010 and 2014. That’s getting way ahead of ourselves, but the bottom line is that I see no reason why Dems can’t break through in two years. Which is not the same as saying that they will, but they can and in some sense they should. Ask me again when 2018 rolls around.

All that said, it should be noted that while turnout was at a record level in absolute terms – 1,336,985 total ballots cast – it was down from 2012 in percentage terms, 61.25% this year versus 61.99% in 2012. There’s still work to be done and room for improvement.

Other thoughts, in no particular order:

– I figured Sarah Davis would hold on in HD134, and she did indeed, winning by ten points and 9,000 votes. It was closer after early voting – she basically doubled her lead on Election Day. My guess when I get the canvass report is that Hillary Clinton carried HD134 by a narrow margin.

– Maybe HD144 isn’t such a swing district after all, as Mary Ann Perez romped to an easy win with 60.23% of the vote. Holding that seat in 2018 needs to be a top priority, and addressing the off-year turnout issue as noted above would go a very long way towards achieving that.

– HD135 needs to be on the radar in 2018, too. With basically no money or attention, Jesse Ybanez got 45.14% of the vote, which was better than Adrian Garcia did in HD135 in 2012, and nearly five points better than President Obama did in that district that year. I don’t know yet how things looked in HD132, the other district where Dem performance improved in 2012 over 2008 as there was no Democratic candidate for that seat, but right now I’d classify HD135 as a better pickup opportunity in 2018 than HD134 is.

– Another main target for 2018 needs to be Jack Morman’s seat on Commissioners Court. The HCDE Trustee race in Precinct 2 was my proxy for this. Alas, Sherrie Matula fell just short – I mean, she lost by 587 votes out of 247,773 total – but I think it’s fair to say that a strong candidate and progress on turnout could do it. You know who I want to see run here, so we’ll just leave it at that.

– As noted yesterday, Anne Sung will face John Luman in the runoff for HISD Trustee in District VII. Sung received 46.80% of the vote to Luman’s 29.25%; Victoria Bryant was in third with 17.03%, so Sung was a smidgeon ahead of the two top Republicans. I can’t wait to see the canvass data for this one, but there are two things to keep in mind. One, the universe of voters will be much smaller in December, and two, there were 35,819 votes cast in this race with 25,230 undervotes. That is, over 40% of the people who had this race on their ballot did not vote in it, most likely because they didn’t know anything about it or because they voted straight ticket and didn’t scroll down the ballot from there. That won’t be the case in December. If a precinct analysis shows that Hillary Clinto carried that district, it will be hard to see those undervotes as anything but a missed opportunity; Sung fell short of a majority by about 1200 votes, so it wouldn’t have taken much to push her across the finish line.

That’s it for the county. I’ll look at the state in the next post. Stace has more.

Dems sweep Harris County

Hillary Clinton had a 100K lead in early voting in Harris County, and increased her lead as the night went on. The only countywide Republican who was leading early on was Mike Sullivan, but later in the evening, at the time when 80% of the Election Day vote was in, Ann Harris Bennett caught and passed him. Kim Ogg and Ed Gonzalez won easily, Vince Ryan was re-elected easily, and all Democratic judicial candidates won.

The HISD recapture referendum went down big, the Heights referendum to update the dry ordinance won, and Anne Sung will face John Luman in a runoff for HISD VII. Statewide, Clinton was trailing by about nine points, and with a ton of precincts still out was already at President Obama’s vote level from 2012. Dems appear to have picked up several State House seats, though not the SBOE seat or CD23. Clinton also carried Fort Bend County, though she had no coattails, and Commissioner Richard Morrison unfortunately lost.

I’m too stunned by what happened nationally to have anything else to say at this time. I’ll be back when I recover.

Races I’ll be watching today, non-Legislative edition

vote-button

This is my companion to yesterday’s piece.

1. SBOE district 5

I’ve discussed the SBOE races before. This particular race, between incumbent Ken Mercer and repeat challenger Rebecca Bell-Metereau, is the one that has the closest spread based on past performance, and thus is the most likely to flip. If it does flip, it would not only have a significant effect on the SBOE, which would go from 10-5 Republican to 9-6, with one of the more noxious members getting ousted, it would also cause a bit of a tremor in that this was not really on anyone’s radar going into 2016. Redistricting is supposed to be destiny, based on long-established voting patterns. If those patterns don’t hold any more, that’s a big effing deal.

2. Appeals courts

I’ve also talked about this. The five courts of interest are the First, Fourth, Fifth, 13th, and 14th Courts of Appeals, and there are multiple benches available to win. I honestly have no idea if having more Democrats on these benches will have a similar effect as having more Democrats on the various federal appellate benches, especially given that the Supreme Court and CCA will most likely remain more or less as they are – I would love to hear from the lawyers out there about this – but I do know that having more Dems on these benches means having more experienced and credible candidates available to run for the Supreme Court and CCA, and also having more such candidates available for elevation to federal benches. Building up the political bench is a big deal.

3. Edwards County Sheriff’s race

Jon Harris is an experienced Democratic lawman running for Sheriff against a wacko extremist in a very Republican county, though one with a small number of voters. This one is about sanity more than anything else.

4. Waller County Sheriff’s race

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have this one on my radar until I read this Trib story about the race, in which the recent death of Sandra Bland is a factor. Waller County went 53-46 for McCain over Obama in 2008, though the Sheriff’s race that featured a problematic Republican was a lot closer. It was 58-41 for Romney, which is close to what it was statewide. Democratic challenger Cedric Watson will have to outperfom the countywide base to defeat incumbent Glenn Smith, it’s mostly a matter of by how much he’ll have to outperform.

5. Harris County Department of Education, Precinct 2

There aren’t any at large HCDE Trustee positions up for election this year, so I haven’t paid much attention to them. This race is interesting for two reasons. One, the Democratic candidate is Sherrie Matula, who is exceptionally qualified and who ran a couple of honorable races for HD129 in 2008 and 2010. And two, this is Jack Morman’s Commissioner’s Court precinct. A win by Matula might serve as a catalyst for a strong candidate (*cough* *cough* Adrian Garcia *cough* *cough*) to run against Morman in 2018.

6. HISD District VII special election

You know this one. It’s Democrat Anne Sung versus two credible Republicans and one non-entity who hasn’t bothered to do anything other than have a few signs put up around town. One key to this race is that it’s the only one that will go to a runoff if no one reaches 50% plus one. Needless to say, the conditions for a December runoff would be very different than the conditions are today.

7. HISD recapture and Heights dry referenda

I don’t think any explanation is needed for these.

What non-legislative races are on your watch list for today?

Interview with Anne Sung

Anne Sung

Anne Sung

One of the more interesting races on the ballot this year is the special election to fill the remainder of outgoing HISD Trustee Harvin Moore’s term. There are four candidates running for this seat, and I will have interviews with three of them. First up is Anne Sung, who had run for this position before in 2013 (you can listen to my interview with her from that election here). Sung is a graduate of HISD schools and a former science teacher and department chair at Lee High School. She served on Mayor Turner’s Education Transition Team and is now the chief strategy officer and Vice President at the non-profit Project GRAD Houston. Here’s what we talked about:

You should also check out this Chron recap of a trustee candidate forum on Monday, which includes video and a transcript of some yes-or-no questions for candidates Anne Sung, Victoria Bryant, and John Luman. I’ll have interviews with the latter two in the coming days.

Interviews and Q&As from the primaries are on my 2016 Election page. I will eventually get around to updating it to include links to fall interviews.

Endorsement watch: Sung in the special

The Chron endorses Anne Sung in the HISD special election.

Anne Sung

Anne Sung

Out of the four names on the ballot, Anne Sung is the only candidate who will be prepared to do a good job immediately. Sung, 38, a product of HISD schools, not only says that “education is the foundation of the American Dream,” but her life demonstrates that dream. The Bellaire High School alumna went on to graduate from Harvard University.

Sung has been a Teach for America Corp member, an award-winning HISD physics teacher, and the cofounder of an education advocacy group, Community Voices for Public Education. She’s currently filling another role in the education landscape by serving as the chief strategy office and vice president of the nonprofit Project GRAD Houston. Her opponents, John Luman and Victoria Bryant, both seem to have what it takes to become strong board members. As a practicing lawyer, Luman would bring analytical skills to board deliberations. Bryant’s background in pharmacy would be useful in a district where 75.5 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged. But the breadth of Sung’s professional career has given her a multi-faceted and nuanced perspective on the district that her opponents Luman and Bryant don’t come close to matching. Candidate Danielle D. Paulus did not answer our requests for a screening.

The Chron had endorsed Harvin Moore over Anne Sung in 2013, though they were “impressed” by her at the time. Looks like that good impression has remained. I’ll have candidate interviews for this election in the coming weeks. There’s a lot going on and thus a lot to talk about. If you live in this district, what are your impressions of the candidates? Leave a comment and let us know.

Precinct analysis: HISD Trustee district VII in a Presidential year

As you know, we have a special election for HISD Trustee in district VII on the ballot this November. There’s one Democratic candidate in that race and three Republicans. These races are normally held in odd-numbered years, in which turnout is considerably lower than in Presidential years. Overall turnout in Harris County in 2013 was 13.23%, with turnout in the HISD VII race at 21.86%; this was the highest level among the three contested Trustee races that year. In 2012, turnout in Harris County was 61.99%. There are going to be a lot more people at the polls for this Trustee race than there usually are, is what I’m saying. What effect might that have on the special election?

Well, the conventional wisdom is that Democrats do better in higher-turnout environments. There’s a lot of empirical evidence for this, but just because something is true in the aggregate doesn’t mean it’s true in all specific subsets. Here’s what the numbers look like in HISD VII in 2013 and in 2012:


Pcnct  Moore   Sung   Moore%   Sung%   Romney    Obama  Romney%   Obama%
========================================================================
54        79    222   26.25%  73.75%      531      444   54.46%   45.54%
70       271    375   41.95%  58.05%    1,487      825   64.32%   35.68%
129      473    373   55.91%  44.09%    2,369    1,279   64.94%   35.06%
135      377    205   64.78%  35.22%    1,366      657   67.52%   32.48%
139      199    317   38.57%  61.43%    1,027      965   51.56%   48.44%
177      102    134   43.22%  56.78%      628      398   61.21%   38.79%
178      198    177   52.80%  47.20%      878      375   70.07%   29.93%
204      261    537   32.71%  67.29%    1,411      939   60.04%   39.96%
217      480    226   67.99%  32.01%    1,388      633   68.68%   31.32%
227      377    118   76.16%  23.84%    1,089      289   79.03%   20.97%
233      298    351   45.92%  54.08%    1,496    1,310   53.31%   46.69%
234      629    280   69.20%  30.80%    2,327      606   79.34%   20.66%
269      398    125   76.10%  23.90%    1,278      282   81.92%   18.08%
272       77    132   36.84%  63.16%      404      660   37.97%   62.03%
282      112    186   37.58%  62.42%      765      481   61.40%   38.60%
303      541    165   76.63%  23.37%    2,052      404   83.55%   16.45%
312      247    246   50.10%  49.90%    1,286      982   56.70%   43.30%
421       11     19   36.67%  63.33%       45      169   21.03%   78.97%
431       38     40   48.72%  51.28%      309      867   26.28%   73.72%
432       35     55   38.89%  61.11%      158      402   28.21%   71.79%
434      176    128   57.89%  42.11%      657      319   67.32%   32.68%
435      303    304   49.92%  50.08%    1,515      716   67.91%   32.09%
436	 257    215   54.45%  45.55%    1,232      762   61.79%   38.21%
491      144    123   53.93%  46.07%      680      438   60.82%   39.18%
567       78    109   41.71%  58.29%      280      748   27.24%   72.76%
569      184    219   45.66%  54.34%    1,192      910   56.71%   43.29%
570       38     90   29.69%  70.31%      414      484   46.10%   53.90%
684        7      4   63.64%  36.36%       58       38   60.42%   39.58%
809        1      2   33.33%  66.67%       10       17   37.04%   62.96%
839       36     37   49.32%  50.68%      113      464   19.58%   80.42%
902      165    246   40.15%  59.85%      869      576   60.14%   39.86%
								
Total  6,621  5,773   53.42%  46.58%   29,314   18,439   61.39%   38.61%
Harvin Moore

Harvin Moore

Did that upend your view of this race? It upended mine. Before I get into what this may mean for the candidates, let’s try to answer the question why Republican turnout improved so much more in the Presidential year – or if you want to look at it more chronologically, why it deteriorated more in the off year. Here are a few thoughts about that.

It’s important to keep in mind that odd year elections are different from even year elections, in that there generally isn’t much in the odd years for Republicans in Houston. Bill King last year was the first serious Republican candidate for Mayor since 2003, and he wasn’t running on the kind of culture-war issues that tend to boost Republican turnout in even years. There wasn’t much to draw Republican voters to the polls in 2013, at least in these precincts, so their turnout lagged more compared to 2012 than Democrats’ turnout did.

Along those lines, Anne Sung ran a campaign that strongly identified her as a Democrat and a progressive, which may have helped her draw some people out, or at least ensure that some of the people who had come out anyway continued down the ballot to vote for her. Harvin Moore is a Republican, but he doesn’t have a Republican brand, if you will. You wouldn’t know he was a Republican unless you paid close attention. The difference in branding may have affected some voters in a way that benefited Sung.

Of course, it’s not always about partisan labels. Moore was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Terry Grier; in fact, Moore was the trustee who proposed extending Grier’s contract more than a year before it was to expire. Sung was a critic of Grier’s, and identified herself as such in the campaign. It may be that the closeness of the race was more a reflection of that dynamic than anything else.

Anyway. The point I’m making here is that the higher turnout we’ll see in this race does not necessarily accrue to Anne Sung’s benefit, which is not what I had originally thought. Before I looked at the numbers, I would have said that her best bet to win would have been to achieve a majority in November and avoid a runoff, where turnout would be miniscule. Think Chris Bell in the special election for SD17 in 2008 as a parallel, or what I had thought would be a parallel. In reality, given what we saw in these numbers, I’d say Sung’s job is just to make it to the runoff, then try to drum up enough turnout among friendly voters in that race to win. Conversely, each of the three Rs should want to be the other person alongside Sung in that runoff, and reap the advantage of the district’s natural Republican lean. An R-versus-Sung runoff is preferable to them than an R-versus-R runoff, which will be more about persuasion than turnout.

Field set for HISD special election

Four candidates have filed, so no one else got in since my last post.

Harvin Moore

Harvin Moore

Four candidates have applied to run in a special election to be a trustee for the Houston Independent School District. The filing deadline was Aug. 25.

The District VII seat is open because Trustee Harvin Moore is resigning a year before his term ends.

[…]

The candidates include John Luman, a lawyer and lobbyist. He’s leading a fight to stop a proposed affordable-housing project in west Houston. Ann Sung is a former HISD teacher who now works for an organization that helps low-income students go to college. Victoria Bryant is a pharmacist who started her own home health care company. The final candidate is Danielle Paulus.

See here for the background. I’ve told you what I know about Anne Sung and Victoria Bryant, so here’s what I (and Google) can tell you about the other two. The story mentions Luman’s leadership in the movement to stop the Fountainview affordable housing project – see here for a bit of background on that story, which I confess I have not followed beyond the headlines. Luman’s name also comes up in some unflattering stories. His co-counsel at Bracewell and Giuliani, in an intellectual property lawsuit, was found to have lied to the judge in the case about some facts that came up during the trial. The case, brought by their client, was dismissed with prejudice. Lisa Falkenberg wrote about this when it happened in August of 2014; the O’Connor’s Annotations blog highlighted the key aspects of how it all went down. It was Luman’s co-counsel who was accused of lying, but in the end both of them left the firm shortly afterwards. I have to believe that this will come up in the campaign, though perhaps not until a runoff.

As for Danielle Paulus, other than being Eric Dick’s wife, there’s not much I can find. Here’s her Facebook page, which reminds me that I’m told Eric Dick did not care for my tone in that previous posting. I’m sure I’ll do better from here on out. This also reminds me that Eric Dick is a candidate for the Harris County Department of Education this November, as the member from Precinct 4. He’s the Republican candidate in a Republican district – this is Jack Cagle’s precinct, which is the most Republican precinct in the county. Which is to say, Eric Dick is finally going to get himself elected to something this fall, where he will join with incumbent HCDE Trustee Michael Wolfe to do the sort of things you’d expect those two characters to do. Isn’t that great? Those are six-year terms, too. I do not expect Danielle Paulus to join her husband in becoming an elected official, but Lord knows stranger things have happened. Anyway, the drawing for ballot order is today. There aren’t a whole lot of interesting local races this year, so I figure this one will get some attention as we go along.

Three more candidates announce campaigns for open HISD Trustee seat

From the inbox, candidate number 1:

Victoria Bryant

Victoria Bryant

Victoria Bryant, an entrepreneur and businesswoman, announced her candidacy today, August 15, for Houston ISD Trustee in District VII. The position is up for election this November with the resignation of Harvin Moore, one of the board’s longest-serving members.

District VII includes River Oaks, Memorial, and Briargrove, and is home to some of the best schools in the state. But this year the district faces the daunting budgetary challenge of funding school operations without disrupting classroom standards.

“Education is key to keeping Houston and Texas an economic powerhouse,” Bryant said. “As a mother with children enrolled in HISD schools, I will fight for a quality education system that will give them the tools they need to compete in a global economy.”

Bryant is the founder and president of Ambassadors Caregivers, a home health care business serving seniors, the disabled, and the elderly. She currently serves as President of the World Chamber of Commerce of Texas and on the Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital Women’s Advisory Council. She is also a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the University of Houston’s College of Education and its College of Business.

“Victoria Bryant is an advocate for education with extensive experience in medicine and health care,” said Tony Buzbee, attorney and River Oaks resident. “Her business background will be crucial to solving the district’s budget shortfalls and modernizing our schools.”

Years ago education opened many windows of opportunity for Bryant, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who resettled in Houston in the 1970’s. Bryant attended Carnegie High School and the University of Houston College of Pharmacy, where she earned her Doctorate of Pharmacy. “My dad did everything he could to make sure I had every opportunity in the world – and it started with a great education,” said Bryant. “Here in our district, we have incredible teachers and involved parents. That said, we have much more to do to educate and empower our children for success. As we invest in their future, I am your voice on the board.”

See here for the background. Anne Sung, who ran against Moore in 2013, has also announced her intention to run for the seat. I found this 2014 Houston Business Journal story on Victoria Bryant while googling around for her.

Sung and Bryant are joined by two others: John F. Luman, III and Danielle Paulus are also listed as candidates on the HISD webpage about the special election. Paulus, as you can see from her LinkiedIn profile, is also known as Danielle Paulus-Dick, and appears to be the wife of Eric Dick, which made my eyes roll so hard. I asked around and learned that both Bryant and Luman have Republican primary voting histories – Danielle Paulus appeared on this list after I had done that, but we do all know about Eric Dick – while Sung is a Democrat, so the basic contours of this campaign are clear, if there are no others jumping in. The filing deadline is tomorrow, August 25, so the clock is ticking. Whoever emerges victorious, in November or a December runoff, will have to do it again in 2017 for a full term. I’ll check back afterwards to see what the final lineup will be.

Anne Sung will run for HISD

From Facebook:

Anne Sung

Anne Sung

I am running for HISD School Board-Position 7 in November 2016 and I invite you to join me in my campaign.

As a proud graduate of TH Rogers and Bellaire High School, I know how important a high quality education is to every Houstonian. I am a former educator and Teacher of the Year with 7 years of experience teaching physics and leading change in Texas public schools as well as 3 years as Chief Strategy Officer for Project GRAD. I understand Houston communities and higher education and know what it takes for our schools to be successful.

Together we can rebuild trust and buy-in across HISD, bringing administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents, and the community at large together so every HISD school delivers a quality education.

This race will be a sprint and with your support I know we can win. Join us at at http://anne4hisd.com/.

This is to replace Harvin Moore, who has announced his resignation and expressed a preference for there to be an election and not an appointment. He got his wish for that, as reported at the end of this story. Sung ran for the Board in 2013 against Moore – you can check out my interview with her from 2013 here – and could do well in a Presidential turnout year, given how the vote went that year. The winner of the November special election would have to run again in 2017 for a full term. Now that we know there will be one, I expect other candidates to make their interest known.

Precinct analysis: Two quick takes

I had wondered if partisan affiliation might be a factor in the HISD 7 race between Republican incumbent Harvin Moore and Democratic challenger Anne Sung. Like Houston races, HISD Trustee races are officially non-partisan, but also like Houston races, people tend to know what team everyone plays for. What did the precinct data tell us?

Dist Moore Sung ==================== C 1,278 2,046 F 148 223 G 4,921 3,126 J 240 358

That’s pretty strong evidence right there. Sung got 61.6% in Democratic district C, Moore got 61.2% in Republican G. District G was the bigger part of HISD 7, so Moore won. For a Democratic challenger like Sung to win a race like this in the future, she’d either need to at least double the turnout in the District C part of the district, or she’d need to win a decent number of crossovers, or both. So now we know.

Since I’ve been advocating that people who didn’t like Dave Wilson’s election to the HCC Board of Trustees need to take their frustration over it out in the runoff for HCC 1, it’s fair to ask what Zeph Capo‘s path to victory is, since Yolanda Navarro Flores got about 48% of the vote in November. Precinct data suggests what that path is:

Dist Flores Capo Hoffman ============================== B 103 18 34 C 3,516 2,561 1,956 G 245 175 197 H 1,851 431 610 J 201 50 105

Basically, Zeph Capo needs to win the District C part of the district. That’s the biggest part of the district in terms of turnout, but it needs to be maximized, and Capo needs to get Kevin Hoffman’s voters to come to the polls for him. Kevin Hoffman confirmed for me via email that he has endorsed Capo in the runoff – he also shared this open letter he sent to the Board with his hopes for their direction going forward – so if you supported Kevin Hoffman in Round One, you have no reason not to support Zeph Capo in Round 2. Capo has a lot of ground to make up, but he also has a lot of potential supporters available if he can reach them.

The HISD elections and Terry Grier

The Chron writes about the possible effect of the HISD Trustee elections on Superintendent Terry Grier and his agenda items like Apollo and revamped teacher evaluations. Of the three contested elections, the one that has the greatest potential to swing the way the Board operates is in District VII.

Harvin Moore

Harvin Moore

The closely watched District 7 race pits incumbent Harvin Moore, a staunch supporter of Grier, against Anne Sung, a former teacher critical of Grier’s strategies.

[…]

The board’s 6-3 vote approving the district budget in June highlighted the divide among trustees. The wedge issue was an allocation of $30 million to continue the Apollo program and to expand its key elements – small-group tutoring and a longer school day – to more campuses.

Moore, who voted with the majority on the budget, argues that HISD is headed in the right direction under Grier. Voters last year approved a $1.9 billion construction bond issue, the largest in Texas history, and the district won the national Broad Prize for Urban Education in September for its academic improvement.

Moore said he has talked to Grier privately about improving his communication with the public and is pleased with the progress.

“He’s still a strong-minded individual, and I think that’s a strength,” Moore said.

Anne Sung

Anne Sung

Sung taught at Lee High School, one of the Apollo campuses, and said the program pushed short-term gains on state tests rather than deeper learning. She also said she would like to see less emphasis on test scores in teachers’ job evaluations.

Adams said she hasn’t studied the evaluation system enough to weigh in. She wants to expand the small-group tutoring that has proven successful in the Apollo program across the district.

The Houston Federation of Teachers union, which has bashed the teacher evaluation system and generally stayed neutral on Apollo, endorsed Sung and Adams.

“No one went out and recruited people that just hated the superintendent,” union president Gayle Fallon said. “We recruited people who supported teachers. Teacher evaluation is a very big issue with us.”

The board had been moving to include test scores in the job appraisals before Grier arrived, but he has supported holding teachers accountable based on the data.

Sung has run a strong race. She’s outraised Moore and has garnered an impressive array of endorsements, mostly from Democratic-leaning organizations. That to me is the X factor in this race – partisan affiliation. HISD races, like city of Houston races, are officially non-partisan, but anyone who is paying attention knows what team a given candidate is on. Sung is a Democrat, Moore is one of three Republicans on the Board (Mike Lunceford and Greg Meyers are the others). I unfortunately don’t have any electoral data on HISD districts so I can’t make any quantitative statements, but it should be clear at a glance that District VII would be considered a solid Republican district in any context where partisan identity mattered. I have no idea how much it might matter in this context. Both candidates have focused on the issues, but I’m sure they’ve been busy letting fellow team members in the district know that they wear the same colors. It would be foolish not to. Again, I have no idea how much of a factor this will be. I do believe it is a factor, just one that isn’t readily measurable. This is definitely one of the races I’ll be watching closely.

Where things stand going into early voting

A few impressions of the state of the races as we head into early voting.

Mayor – The thing that I will be looking for as initial results get posted at 7 PM on November 5 is how the gaggle of non-competitive candidates is doing. The thing about having nine candidates in a race, even if only two of them have any realistic hope of winning, is that it doesn’t take much support for the long tail to make a runoff a near-certainty. Basically, the amount that the seven stragglers get is the amount Mayor Parker must lead Ben Hall by in order to win the election in November. If the group of seven gets 10%, then Parker needs to lead Hall by at least ten points – 50 to 40 to 10 – in order to win outright. If they collect 20%, Parker needs to lead by 20 – 50 to 30 to 20.

There are no good parallels to this year’s race, but for what it’s worth the three bit players in 2009 got 1.01% of the vote; in 2003 six no-names for 0.65%; in 2001 there were four minor candidates collecting 0.45%; and in 1997, the bottom five candidates got 11.94%. That last one, which may be the closest analogue to this year, comes with an asterisk since two of those five candidates were term-limited Council members, Gracie Saenz and Helen Huey, and they combined for 10.46% of that total. One reason why the past doesn’t offer a good guide for this year is that in all of these races there were at least three viable candidates. Everyone else, save for Saenz and Huey in 1997, was truly marginal. None of Eric Dick, Keryl Douglass, or Don Cook can be considered viable, but they all ought to have a slightly larger base than the perennials and no-names in these earlier races. How much larger is the key question, because however large it is, that’s how big Mayor Parker’s lead over Ben Hall will need to be for her to avoid overtime.

Controller – This race has been Ronald Green’s to lose from the get go, and it remains so. I don’t think his position is any stronger than it was nine months ago, but at least he hasn’t had any bad publicity recently, either. He’s largely held onto the endorsements he’s gotten in the past, though losing the Chron had to sting a little. He’s still an underwhelming fundraiser, but while Bill Frazer has done well in this department he hasn’t done enough to make himself a recognizable name, and that’s to Green’s advantage. Green probably needs Ben Hall to make a decent showing, because while Green did reasonably well in Republican areas in 2009, he will probably lose some of that support this time, and as such he may need a boost from African-American turnout. If Green loses he can certainly kiss any Mayoral ambitions he may have goodbye. If he squeaks by, I can already envision the postmortem stories that will talk about his close call and how that might affect his Mayoral plans. If he were to run for Mayor in 2015, I guarantee that narrative will follow him closely all the way through, just as Mayor Parker’s close shave in 2011 has followed her in this cycle.

At Large Council – I feel confident saying that CMs Costello, Bradford, and Christie will win, though Christie will have the closest call and could conceivably be forced into a runoff. His two opponents have picked up a decent assortment of endorsements between them given their late entries and fairly low profiles. One wonders how things might have gone if someone had jumped into this race early on, as I suggested many moons ago.

I think CM Andrew Burks could be in trouble. He’s done a reasonable job collecting endorsements, but he hasn’t done as well on that score as a typical incumbent does. Like Ronald Green, he needs Ben Hall to have some coattails in the African-American districts, but remember that Burks has not done as well in those boxes as other African-American candidates. But it’s fundraising where you really see the red flags. Combining his three reports for this year, Burks has hauled in about $57K total. His main challenger, David Robinson, reported raising over $66K just on his 30 Day form. Robinson took in another $82K on the July report. He also has over $73K on hand for the late push, while Burks has just $8K. Money isn’t destiny, but these numbers are the exact reverse of what you’d usually see with an incumbent and a challenger.

As for At Large #3, it is as it has been all along, basically wide open with each of the five viable candidates having a plausible case for making the runoff. Bob Stein pegs Michael Kubosh as basically already having a ticket punched for the runoff, but I’ll wait and see. He probably has the best name ID of the group, but that doesn’t mean he’s terribly well known. I just don’t know enough about this one to hazard a guess.

District Council races – A year ago at this time, I’d have marked first term CM Helena Brown as an underdog for re-election. Now I’m not so sure. She’s done well at fundraising, she’s garnered some endorsements – getting the HAR endorsement was both a finger in the eye for Brenda Stardig and a nice bit of establishment sheen for herself – and she hasn’t generated any embarrassing headlines in months. I believe she’s still going to be in a runoff, most likely with Stardig but not necessarily with her, but I think runoff scenarios that don’t include Brown are unlikely at this time. I might bet a token amount on her being un-elected, but I wouldn’t bet any real money on it.

Brown’s freshman colleague Jerry Davis looks to be in better shape. There’s still resentment to him in some quarters, mostly from former CM Carol Mims Galloway and her supporters, but Davis has good support on his side, and he’s gotten the large majority of campaign contributions. Kathy Daniels is a good candidate and she’ll make some noise – a runoff isn’t out of the question – but I see Davis as the clear favorite.

Districts D and I are anyone’s guess. Dwight Boykins has the edge in D, but it’s a strong field, and if Boykins doesn’t clearly separate himself from the rest of the pack he could be vulnerable in December if the bulk of the runnersup back his opponent. Anything could happen in I, where none of the four candidates seems to have a clear advantage over the others. It won’t shock me if it’s a close finish among the four, with a small number of votes separating the runoff contestants from the other two. Some runoff scenarios are preferable to others, but all scenarios are possible.

HISD and HCC – No surprises in HISD. I believe Anna Eastman gets re-elected, Harvin Moore gets re-elected though Anne Sung will have put herself on the map, and Wanda Adams wins in IX. Zeph Capo has run a strong race in HCC1 – this is one of those times where a string of endorsements will mean something – and I believe he wins there. I think Bruce Austin and Neeta Sane get re-elected, but I don’t know about Herlinda Garcia, and I have no clue who will win in the open District 5 seat.

Everything else – I think the two Harris County propositions, for the Astrodome and for the joint processing center, will pass. I think the constitutional amendments will pass, though one or more may fail for some goofy and unforeseeable reason. I do think Prop 6, the water infrastructure fund, passes. The one non-Houston race I’m keenly interested in is the Pasadena redistricting referendum. I have no idea how that is going, but obviously I’m rooting for it to go down.

Endorsement watch: HISD

Clearly, this is an early endorsements year for the Chronicle, as they follow up their HCC recommendations with their endorsements in the contested HISD Trustee races.

District 1: Anna Eastman, the board president, has been a thoughtful leader and a strong advocate for tightening the board’s ethics policy. We heartily endorse her re-election.

Eastman, an HISD parent, joined the board four years ago. She believes that the turnover among the district’s best principals and teachers is too high, and that HISD needs to pay more attention to retaining and developing its staff, and not focus only on non-renewal of low performers: “You can’t fire your way to excellence.”

She argues that openness is the best way to fight graft. “Corruption isn’t overt,” she says. “You don’t see bad people lurking in the corners. It’s far more subtle, an assumption about the way that influence works. The best way to fight it is to make as much as possible accessible to outside third parties.”

About Apollo 20, she says, “The program has noble, worthy origins, and I think it’s done an incredible job at changing school cultures. But it’s very, very expensive. The analysis that we’ve done to date shows that its biggest impact comes from the math tutors, which are the expensive part, but we haven’t seen whether their effects last beyond a year. Are there sustained performance gains?”

District 7:Harvin Moore, a member of the board since 2003, has been perhaps the strongest supporter of Superintendent Grier. Though we are impressed by his challenger Anne Sung, we endorse Moore as a steady hand and a master of HISD’s details.

Moore is a fan of technology-aided “blended learning,” which he says could help eliminate benchmark tests that consume too much classroom time. He supports expansion of Apollo 20: “It’s shown astounding results in math. And no one doubts that it’s reduced the dropout rate.”

Moore, who has served on HISD’s audit committee, says that the best way to fight corruption on the school board is to have a strong superintendent. And he argues that high teacher turnover has been good for the district: “We retained 90 percent of the most highly functioning teachers, and we exited 52 to 54 percent of the lowest.”

District 9: Of the three candidates vying to replace long-time board member Larry Marshall, a magnet for scandal, we believe that Wanda Adams, currently a member of Houston City Council, would do the best job. She is energetic and active in community affairs.

To fight corruption, she suggests that HISD make school board candidates’ campaign filings available in ways that are easy for the general public to search. And she says that when a board member has shown shaky ethics, it’s up to other board members to hold him or her accountable.

She presents herself as a consensus builder. And she is conscious of the changing needs of District 9, an historically African-American area with a growing Hispanic population.

I just finished publishing my HISD Trustee interviews, but in case you missed them, here they are:

Anna Eastman, District I
Hugo Mojica, District I
Harvin Moore, District VII
Anne Sung, District VII
Wanda Adams, District IX

As I’ve said before, I support Anna Eastman, who is my Trustee and who I believe has done an excellent job. I’m glad to see the Chron support her as well, not that I expected otherwise.

HISD race overviews

The Chron takes a look at the three contested HISD races.

CM Wanda Adams

CM Wanda Adams

The District 9 race in south Houston sees the return of W. Clyde Lemon, an attorney who held the seat for two years until Marshall ousted him in the 1997 election.

“Here we are, wanting to move the focus back to children being the priority in public education,” said Lemon, 57.

City Councilwoman Wanda Adams, whose term is expiring, and HISD teacher Coretta Mallet-Fontenot also are vying for the seat.

As a way to engage students and their parents, Lemon said he would like to see Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops based at elementary schools. He also suggested offering bonuses to draw teachers to the neediest campuses.

To help with public trust, Lemon said, he thinks HISD board members should have to file personal financial disclosure forms, as state lawmakers do.

Adams, 46, said campaign contributions should be posted online in an easily searchable system like the city’s.

With the area’s growing Hispanic population, Adams said, she wants to make sure there are enough bilingual teachers on staff. She also said HISD should seek partners to tutor struggling students at all campuses, not just prioritize the 20 schools in the Apollo reform program.

Mallet-Fontenot, 42, a second-grade teacher at Law Elementary, said the Apollo label has driven students away. She criticized the “revolving door of teachers and administrators” in the district and said teachers need to have more input in their job evaluations.

I’m just quoting from the District IX section here because I interviewed all of the candidates in the other contested races – Anna Eastman and Hugo Mojica in District I; Harvin Moore and Anne Sung in District VII. Wanda Adams was the only candidate I interviewed in District IX. These are important races, and one factor not mentioned in this story is the divergent opinions among Board members about Superintendent Terry Grier. Eastman is a prominent critic, while Moore is a big supporter. There’s potential here for Grier to wind up facing a very different Board, one way or the other. That’s worth keeping an eye on as well.

Interview with Anne Sung

Anne Sung

Anne Sung

Challenging Harvin Moore in HISD district VII is Anne Sung. Sung would be somewhat of a rarity among trustees in that she has actual classroom teaching experience – seven years in the Rio Grande Valley with Teach For America, as well as experience at Lee High School in Houston where she taught physics and was Teacher of the Year. Currently the Director of Strategic Planning and Public Policy at the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Sung has degrees in physics and public policy, and has done volunteer work in education as the co-founder of Community Voices for Public Education and as coach of the Texas American Regions Math League team. Here’s what we talked about:

Anne Sung interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.