HOUSTON (FOX 26) — Turmoil outside of Houston Independent School District on Friday afternoon when a news conference was disrupted by angry parents and others who oppose a Texas Education Agency takeover of the district.
The news conference organized by Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Friday, but protesters had their own agenda as they interrupted it several times. They also followed Sanchez wherever he walked to try to speak with reporters.
The Northwest Mall parking lot become chaotic and Sanchez was not able to start his news conference until almost two hours after the time it had been scheduled. And even then, it required Houston police to stand by in case of any outbursts.
"I’m calling on the governor, and imploring our governor and the Texas Education Agency to step in and take over HISD,“ said Sanchez.
"HISD has had ample opportunity to provide a quality education for the children and the taxpayers and they have failed," added Sanchez.
That was the message that took almost two hours to deliver. As soon as Sanchez tried to speak, he was drowned out by more than a dozen protesters chanting, "Go away TEA!," "Whose house? Our house!," and “Shame!”
"We fight and fight and fight because every child deserves an education," said Kandice Webber, one of the protesting parents. "They do not deserve what Orlando Sanchez is trying to do two communities that he has never even spoken to."
The situation quickly escalated when someone in the crowd dumped a bottle of water over Sanchez’s head. The crowd then claimed that a member of Sanchez’s staff had assaulted them.
Even members of the Houston ISD Board of Trustees came to speak out against Sanchez’s involvement, feeling elected officials don’t have a place in district affairs.
"They all come in at the end, at the tail end, trying to get cheap political shots," said Houston ISD trustee Sergio Lira. "Well, we’re pretty tired of being criticized.”
"Everybody’s talking about, 'Oh, they are going to close, they’re going to privatize, they’re going to do this,'" said Houston ISD Board of Trustees president Rhonda Skillern-Jones. "Why isn’t anybody talking about those schools could come out of IR? We reduced our IR schools from 52 to 27 to 12, and now four."
Police eventually showed up to site of the commotion. Despite the disruptions, Sanchez stands by his belief that Houston ISD has too many issues to fix on its own, saying the incident with the water is further proof of that.
"It’s part of business as usual at HISD," said Sanchez. "You can’t have a conversation without having to call in law enforcement and I think the public and the taxpayers are fed up with it."
The board of trustees has to decide what the plan is for those schools by February 2019. If the four failing schools don’t meet standard in 2019, the TEA is required by law to replace the entire school board. The failing schools in question can also be closed.