Our Children Deserve the Best

 Kandice Webber, guest author

Kandice Webber, guest author

Education is the neutralizer. It does not change the thoughts of a racist, and it does not render one bulletproof. Education does not automatically afford a person privileges nor does it correct the wrongs that have been done in this country. Education applies an opposition to the force of oppression. Education is energy.

The power of education is no secret, and it is coveted.  This power is so magnificent that billionaires and corporations are trying to buy and sell it. When you control the information a population receives, you control the population. Period.

Before we take another dive into the intrinsic flaws of our school board; acknowledge the importance of your education or at least acknowledge the difference an education would have made in your life. Now, apply that feeling to the children you love the most. Throughout this piece, refer back to that feeling. In this fight for educational equity, refer back to our children because this is all about them.

On April 24, 2018, I walked into the school board meeting with one thing on my mind; protect the education of Black and Brown children. I don’t currently have children in HISD. My children have graduated. I have a 4-year-old grandchild with special needs who deserves the opportunity to reach her fullest potential. She needs education that works for her. She is a Black child who has faced and overcome more trials at a tender age than I, as her grandmother, have ever known. I watched my grandbaby fight for her life and she won. So now I will fight for her to live the absolute best life she can because she is worth it. Black and Brown children are worthy of our best fight. This country owes each and every one of them their best shot at neutralizing the institutional biases against them.

Our children don’t stand a chance if we sell them out to the very corporations that own the privatized prisons that have staked claim on their parents’ freedom. We live in a country that has made a commodity out of our Black and Brown lives. We are watching our children slide down this school to prison pipeline and if we don’t take control of this situation that pipeline will become a short walk in shackles. On April 24, 2018 the HISD school board had every intention of handing our children over to the corporate monsters that make a living by inducing our children’s failure. Ten schools in predominately Black and Brown neighborhoods were on the chopping block. Those ten schools were saved from that fate, because we said NO. Those school board members didn’t grow a heart. Our community shut down the meeting and stopped the vote. We still have power. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The HISD school board is attempting to reframe the narrative. Don’t fall for the okeydoke. They want us to believe that if we continue to push for greatness we are inevitably handing our schools over to the TEA. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They are trying to scare us into submission so they can walk away with money in the bank and a political career that is paid for by our children. They want us to believe that a superintendent that was deemed unfit to serve by another school board is the best our children can get and they are willing to go to the slimiest lengths to make you believe it.

Grenita Lathan is not the solution to our problems. She is another side effect of faulty leadership, and the very board members we have trusted with our children’s education have launched a campaign of shameful tactics to force her down our throats. I thought Rhonda Skillern Jones, Wanda Adams and Jolanda Jones couldn’t sink any lower than April 24th, but unfortunately, I was wrong.

They have partnered with Gerry Monroe to muddy the waters and deter us from seeking the right candidate that can balance the scales of injustice in our schools. Grenita Lathan has been seen in pictures with Gerry Monroe. She has welcomed his endorsement and with the help of Black elected officials, she is attending our churches, community meetings and schools to proclaim herself as the woman that can save our schools.

Gerry Monroe is a vile and disgusting exhibit of toxic masculinity.

This is the same man that threw dollars at the Black women that sit on the school board as if they were for sale. He has made numerous videos calling Jolanda Jones a dyke and stating he would do horrible things to Adams with a crowbar. He has consistently made homophobic and transphobic comments about the Black community and has no problem threatening physical violence against women who do not agree with him. He is a liar and a threat to our children’s education. He is a proven threat to Black women. I seriously question the judgment of any person that would partner with him to do any good thing.

I am horrified at the thought that the very Black women who have been subjected to his antics would now unite with him to promote Lathan’s position as the permanent superintendent of our school district. What do they stand to gain by partnering with such a nasty human being?  The payoff must be grand. How can we trust them to make the right decisions for our daughters when they can excuse the inexcusable behavior that has been hurled against them?

Jolanda Jones appointed this man to sit on the Special Education Ad Hoc Committee. She would actually position this predator in such a way to influence the education of our most vulnerable students! Let’s be crystal clear here. She is sacrificing our special needs children to intimidate Anne Sung into voting for Grenita Lathan. Anne Sung is over the Special Education committee. These unethical tactics may work for her in other arenas, but we cannot allow her to utilize these tactics at the expense of our children. I refuse to allow her to bring harm to my grandchild, and you should reject this behavior as well.

As Black women, we should denounce anyone who seeks to normalize and/or promote any man that threatens harm to our girls and ourselves. Full disclosure, I am not a fan of Jolanda Jones, Wanda Adams or Rhonda Skillern-Jones. I’m not a fan of Anne Sung either, but they are women and deserve much better than what has been dealt to them at the hands of Gerry Monroe.

The fact that they lack the moral fortitude to keep themselves safe from harm should sound the alarms of danger. If they refuse to protect themselves how can we trust them? If Grenita Lathan is not deterred by his behavior, how can she possibly be the right fit for our school district?

Gerry Monroe claimed the closure of Kandy Stripe Academy was the result of racism against our community. That is just another lie a man with no ethics is willing to tell to hide the truth. Here are the facts.

Kandy Stripe has been operating on an annual contract that could have been terminated any year for the past twenty years. This year, when all the other contracts for in district charters were approved in June, the administrators at Kandy Stripe failed to turn in all of its paperwork, which meant the Kandy Stripe contract was ineligible to be voted on with all the other contracts. Had it gone with those contracts, it would have passed, because they were all voted together.

Then, the HISD school board explicitly decided to take the month of July off and not meet again until August—and while the board debated taking that time off in open session, not once did Dr. Lathan mention that the renewal of this charter contract was still pending and needed urgent action. Dr. Lathan then put the item on the agenda in the August meeting, leaving the fate of the school to be decided two weeks before the academic year began.

Additionally, everyone should know that Kandy Stripe is a FOR PROFIT school. It is obvious to me that in the future, this kind of thing can be prevented by every parent at these contract charter schools being informed upon enrolling their child that the school is a contract school, subject to termination by the school board, and a notification of the length of the contract.

Those parents put faith into the fact that the owners of Kandy Stripe would do everything in their power to provide quality education to their children. The administrators and owners of Kandy Stripe knew they could potentially be facing closure in June 2018 when they did not turn their paperwork in on time and did not make this known to those parents. Neither did Dr. Lathan.

The parents and advocates that spoke out about the closure of Kandy Stripe were simply restating the facts. For profit education is not a solution to the problems in HISD. We have been open and honest about our intentions. Our only goal is to bring equity to all children in HISD.

Gerry Monroe and Grenita Lathan cannot say the same.

The next time they show up at your church or community meeting, ask them when Dr. Lathan put Kandy Stripe on the agenda. Ask them hard questions and demand answers. Our children deserve answers and the parents of Kandy Stripe Academy deserve to hear the truth.

The school board wants you to believe we must rush to secure a superintendent to avoid TEA takeover. WE will not be the cause of a TEA takeover. Their horrible judgment and lack of professional ethics will be the reason the TEA makes moves to take over our school district.

They are playing a dangerous game at our children’s expense, and we will lose our opportunity to neutralize the systemic oppression positioned against our Black and Brown children if the HISD school board keeps playing these games.

Don’t take the word of the self-proclaimed Hood CNN reporter. Seek truth. Demand respect. Do not take no for an answer, and do not settle.

No Closures. No Partnerships. No Takeovers. No Manipulation.