Okay, this is a reminder to myself as much as anyone else. The Harris County Department of Education Board will be meeting tomorrow at 1:00 pm in the Board Room of the HCDE Administration Building, 6300 Irvington Boulevard, Houston, Texas. Click here for a map. For whatever reason I keep thinking they meet on Wednesdays and have missed the past two meetings.
I haven’t written much about them since this post in support of them. Yeah, I didn’t win many conservative friends with that post but the fact is that Rep. Debbie Riddle’s bill was so flawed that I couldn’t support it. Although I didn’t write much about it, I did lobby Public Education Chair Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, Rep. Joe Deshotel out of Beaumont, and my own Rep. John Davis. I very much appreciate them listening to my concerns and am happy that the bill was left pending in committee.
But that doesn’t mean that the HCDE doesn’t need to change. I’ll be there tomorrow and will be addressing the board about the extremely high limit on Dr. John Sawyer’s expenditure approval. As it stands now, Dr. Sawyer can approve single expenditures up to $49,999.99 without board approval. That is a ridiculously high amount and needs to be drastically reduced. I will also argue that he even exceeded that directive by spending over $200,000 on paid lobbyists during the 83rd session, including paying a felon. That spending should have been considered one project – the board needs to adopt rules that specifically address this issue. I know that Dr. Sawyer has been reprimanded by several board members for this but a firm policy needs to be in place.
As well, the board needs to limit their own travel. I filed a Public Information Access request with the HCDE concerning the travel of two board members, Debra Kerner and Diane Trautman. These two members spent a combined $2,887.69 for a conference in Washington, DC in January. I probably should have included Democrat lobbyist Pat Strong in the request, as she is listed in the original request to attend. Board member Kerner didn’t arrive until late in the evening on the first day and left early on the last day. Apparently, she traveled to New York City a few days early and used the conference as an excuse. Here are the documents received from the PIA: Kerner – Trautman. What a waste of money that could and should have been used to educate children.
So yes, the HCDE needs to change its ways. But I’ve been really disappointed at the barbs hurled at Board President Angie Chesnut. She is being attacked by a bitter ex-teacher for voting with the three Democrats on the board in appointing Howard Jefferson to replace Jim Henley, who resigned back in February, as noted here. Mrs. Chesnut said from the beginning that she thought the board needed someone with experience because of the predominance of new members on the board. She put forward four names, all former board members. When political hacks tried to hijack the process and nominate someone solely because of their ethnicity, who had no experience, she convinced Mr. Jefferson to accept the position and persuaded the Democrats on the board to support him. In his interview with the board, he told them that he would not vote strictly along party lines and Mrs. Chesnut, having worked with him for many years, accepted his statement. Debra Kerner, a Democrat, is trying to replace Mrs. Chesnut as board chair so that she can pursue a partisan agenda. I hope that doesn’t happen but if it does, it does. I know that Mrs. Chesnut did what she thought was best for the department.
But because of that, according to some very bitter people, Mrs. Chesnut is a “RINO”. Hey, welcome to the club Angie! Trust me, truth doesn’t matter a whit to those folks. The same person accused me of taking money from the HCDE because I came out against Rep. Riddle’s bill. I sure could use some of that money but no, I just say what I think. For free.
So tomorrow should be interesting. Here is a link to the agenda and a special hearing agenda. One suggestion for Dr. Sawyer – you know that table you have up there for the board to be able to get snacks and drinks and such? Yeah, the elaborate one. Put it in the back of the room where everyone can partake. Or better yet, don’t spend the money setting it up. Citizens get tired of wasteful spending. Use the money to fix that sidewalk cover at the Highpoint East Campus. Principle Quinn will appreciate it far more than the board members will, I guarantee it. Cheers!