HISD School Board Run-Off — Election Day: December 11

2021-12-09T15:24:50-06:00News|

It’s a Run-Off!

School Districts play a central role in neighborhoods, and policy decisions are deeply connected to a community’s broader urban and environmental context, particularly to the issues of transportation, health, safety, and equity.

Elections that fall on odd years experience low voter turn-out — only 9% of registered Texan voters cast their ballots in the Nov. 2 election. This number grows even smaller during run-offs as there are often very few items on the ballot. For a position with so much riding on it, voting is imperative.

Before the November 2 election, we teamed up with BikeHouston and LINK Houston to create a questionnaire to help you get to know the HISD Board candidates. This questionnaire was sent to candidates for whom contact information was available. All responses are unedited and are presented as-received.

We’re sharing those responses from six of the eight remaining candidates — all of whom had a second opportunity to take the survey — in both English and Spanish. None of the District V candidates furnished responses.

For more information about the Run-Off election, including polling locations (voting is county-wide) and a sample ballot please visit Harris County Elections. Early voting will be held from November 29 through Dec 7 and election day is December 11, 2021.

** Polling Locations will be open from 7 AM to 7 PM everyday EXCEPT December 5, when they will be open from Noon to 5 PM.

Candidates are listed by district and alphabetically.

District I — Honorable Elizabeth Santos, Incumbent

Campaign website: santos4hisd.com

Lea las respuestas en Español aquí

School Role in the Community

1. What is your philosophy about the role that HISD campuses play in their broader neighborhood?

Neighborhood schools are the souls of our communities. When properly supported, they amplify the power that comes from the unique and rich identities of our people. They become a resource and a rallying point. We saw that when our community schools distributed food and medical services at various times during the pandemic. I have long advocated for the community-schools model because it creates the social power necessary for us to close the longstanding gaps caused by decades of inequity.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access

2A. How do you plan to ensure safe access to schools for students with transportation challenges and in school zones with unsafe walking conditions?

In the short run, we need more reliable school bus service, and that means paying bus drivers a competitive wage so our transportation system can run at full capacity. But in the long run, our goal should be to drastically reduce the number of miles driven daily just to shuttle children all across our city. The solution starts with putting neighborhood schools first, building sidewalks and street lights in neglected neighborhoods, and mobilizing our communities to provide support where they can, like what Stella Mireles has done with Safe Walk Home Northside.

2B. How do you envision HISD working with local governments to meet the Vision Zero goal to ensure no person is killed in a crash by 2030?

We have to take geography more seriously. It is not good enough to give ten kids an opportunity to go to a great school across town. Our goal should be to make it easy for our families to choose their neighborhood schools. More kids going to their zoned schools (and more efficient zone boundaries) means fewer cars on the road. It means less time commuting and less road rage. But a great neighborhood school requires more than resources within the school. It requires a strong surrounding neighborhood, with access to quality food, transportation routes to good jobs, and affordable housing.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access (Bus Service)

3. How will you work to ensure all students presently walking in hazardous conditions can safely access HISD schools, whether the student lives within two miles of their neighborhood school or is walking to reach a bus hub to reach their magnet school?

[No answer provided]

Air Quality, Health, and High-traffic Road Proximity

4. What will you do to address this major health concern?

It all goes back to building up neighborhood schools as institutions that belong to the community. Marginalized communities will always be targets for development that brings harmful health effects. To reverse that trend, we must unite and direct our collective power to demand environmental justice.

HISD Vehicle Fleet

5A. What are your plans for improving the environmental impact of the HISD vehicle fleet, such as school bus replacements, retrofits, and routing changes?

I support investing in a bus fleet that minimizes emissions. But it will be very difficult to reduce our impact as long as we rely so heavily on bus transportation to move children daily across long distances. We need to reduce motor vehicle traffic and replace it with foot traffic. We need accessible, quality neighborhood schools.

5B. Do you plan to take advantage of clean school bus funding opportunities offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency such as the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates and Electric School Bus Rebates?

[No answer provided]

District I — Janette Garza Lindner, Challenger

Campaign website: janetteforhisd.com

Lea las respuestas en Español aquí

School Role in the Community

1. What is your philosophy about the role that HISD campuses play in their broader neighborhood?

Schools should be integrated partners with their communities and both ensure that community voices are present and heard. Utilizing existing structures, such as the Site Based Decision Making Committee which has slots for community members is a good place to start. Programs for volunteers to support programs from tutoring to neighborhood watch teams to community gardens provide benefits both for children and community. District I has had the “Safe Walk Home” program since the tragic stabbing death of Josue Flores. Volunteers are trained in CPR and commit to being present during school drop off and pick up times. The goal is to create a safe environment for children and families by ensuring community presence through an extra set of eyes on kids as they travel to and from home and school.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access

2A. How do you plan to ensure safe access to schools for students with transportation challenges and in school zones with unsafe walking conditions?

Near term, zones should be drawn taking safe walking routes into consideration. Where that is not possible, transportation and, at the very least, crossing guards must be provided for any dangerous, highly trafficked passages. Historically the City of Houston has (reimbursed the district)* for crossing guards and maintained speed zone beacons. Children should not have to cross train tracks or major thoroughfares at all, but particularly unsupervised.

In 2017 the state passed a law providing funding for transportation in unsafe areas that otherwise did not meet the distance requirement (over 2 miles). This was called the Josue Flores law in response to the stabbing death mentioned previously. To my knowledge that provision has not been utilized for kids in Houston. While no child should have to fear the route to and from school, we must ensure kids are safe when safety conditions don’t meet the standard everyone would expect for their child.

With a focus on improving schools across HISD and providing a high-quality education at each campus, my vision is that the need to travel long distances for school is reduced. This positively impacts safety for our students and reduces the dependency on transportation for more of our student community.

2B. How do you envision HISD working with local governments to meet the Vision Zero goal to ensure no person is killed in a crash by 2030?

The HISD Transportation department should maintain a presence and positive relationship with city, county and state transportation entities and have a voice in the decision making process. The ongoing debate over the I-45 expansion has a direct impact on District I schools. I would support having a voice from the COO’s team present in those discussions to advocate for children and families directly affected.

Supporting the expansion of bike lane infrastructure, cross walks with working beacons, and road “diets” such as the one proposed on 11th street in the Heights are additional ways to help us move towards that goal. Finally, a long-term strategy to provide high-quality education options across all our neighborhood schools will reduce the dependency on car and bus transit, shorten travel times to/from school, and further contribute to our Vision Zero goal.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access (Bus Service)

3. How will you work to ensure all students presently walking in hazardous conditions can safely access HISD schools, whether the student lives within two miles of their neighborhood school or is walking to reach a bus hub to reach their magnet school?

I support applying for the extra funds designated through the Josue Flores Law, SB 195, passed in 2017. These funds could be used to provide actual bus transportation or other supports to ensure kids are getting to and from school safely based on the needs of the neighborhood.

Air Quality, Health, and High-traffic Road Proximity

4. What will you do to address this major health concern?

I support actions to improve air quality and believe proximity to roadways must be taken into account when building or refurbishing dated school buildings. I also support the district taking a position on issues such as the aforementioned I-45 expansion.

HISD Vehicle Fleet

5A. What are your plans for improving the environmental impact of the HISD vehicle fleet, such as school bus replacements, retrofits, and routing changes?

We need to ensure the busses we have are maintained and as we replace our fleet we prioritize electric and other clean energy fueled vehicles. We also need to take advantage of grants and other programs available to support these costs.

5B. Do you plan to take advantage of clean school bus funding opportunities offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency such as the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates and Electric School Bus Rebates?

Yes.

District VI — Honorable Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, Incumbent

Campaign website: hollyforhisd.com

Lea las respuestas en Español aquí

School Role in the Community

1. What is your philosophy about the role that HISD campuses play in their broader neighborhood?

Neighborhood schools are the heartbeat of their communities, and should be a focal point, not just for education but for the overall continuity of the community. I strongly support continuing to strengthen HISD campuses’ presence and influence in their respective neighborhoods, including expanding the hours when the facilities are open and the delivery of wrap-around services.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access

2A. How do you plan to ensure safe access to schools for students with transportation challenges and in school zones with unsafe walking conditions?

The District should work collaboratively with appropriate jurisdictions (City, County, etc.) to identify areas of need and focus, and to improve mobility and safety conditions. I have previously done this on behalf of constituents, reaching out to the relevant City official to resolve such an issue. As a Board, we must also prioritize student mobility on and around our campuses by making sure there are adequate crossing guards, traffic mitigation, functioning sidewalks, etc.

2B. How do you envision HISD working with local governments to meet the Vision Zero goal to ensure no person is killed in a crash by 2030?

Eliminating traffic injuries and fatalities on and around HISD campuses must be a priority for the district. Again, increased cooperation and collaboration are key. Identifying dangerous intersections and traffic situations, adding traffic calming and mitigation measures where appropriate, as well as leveraging HISD police and other local law enforcement to maximize safety should be priorities. Additionally, the district should make sure the logistics systems used for bus routes have the flexibility to accommodate exceptional circumstances where service may be needed inside the 2-mile radius.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access (Bus Service)

3. How will you work to ensure all students presently walking in hazardous conditions can safely access HISD schools, whether the student lives within two miles of their neighborhood school or is walking to reach a bus hub to reach their magnet school?

As mentioned, the Board should be prepared for the district to consider exceptional circumstances where service may be needed inside a school’s 2-mile radius. We should hold a workshop with the district COO and appropriate transportation staff to identify problem areas and circumstances, and develop a plan to resolve them. We also must collaborate with appropriate jurisdictions to address problems — gaps in sidewalk coverage, needed traffic calming and mitigation, etc.

Air Quality, Health, and High-traffic Road Proximity

4. What will you do to address this major health concern?

HISD is beginning to look into transitioning our bus fleet to renewable energy vehicles. In fact, our new Superintendent, Dr. House, has relevant experience in this regard, which was a factor in hiring him. Additionally, the district should work to lower its carbon footprint. COVID-19 has also facilitated improvement of air filtration inside HISD facilities. At campuses in proximity to high vehicle traffic zones, leadership should also look at scheduling outdoor student activities during lower traffic times where possible.

HISD Vehicle Fleet

5A. What are your plans for improving the environmental impact of the HISD vehicle fleet, such as school bus replacements, retrofits, and routing changes?

Again, we are beginning to consider options for vehicle fleet conversion, and Superintendent House has experience in this regard. Federal regulation will likely require the district to improve its impact or risk being fined.

5B. Do you plan to take advantage of clean school bus funding opportunities offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency such as the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates and Electric School Bus Rebates?

No answer provided.

District VI — Kendall Baker, Challenger

Campaign website: bakerforhouston.com

Lea las respuestas en Español aquí

School Role in the Community

1. What is your philosophy about the role that HISD campuses play in their broader neighborhood?

HISD campuses play a very important role in the the broader neighborhood. The campuses reflects a place of learning for school aged children who reside therein as well as a place where parents may meet to and voice there concerns about what is being taught as well as participate in school activities such as PTA’s and etc. HISD campuses are vital to the neighborhood in many ways for example when students are in school it provides a sense of security to the working parents. Other great examples are school attendance reflects decreased drop out rates and even crime is reduced because students should have healthy and safe place to learn and to occupy their time and provide growth to their mindset. Having a great education often equates to being a productive member of society. All of these are just a few examples of the role HISD campuses play in their broader neighborhood.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access

2A. How do you plan to ensure safe access to schools for students with transportation challenges and in school zones with unsafe walking conditions?

As a trustee, I along with the Board would continue to work with City, County and State of Texas leadership to produce workable solutions to make sure that all students have a safe pathway to and from traveling to school. I would use my decades of experience with the City of Houston including working with the Department of Public Works and Engineering and other Departments to ensure that all safe and equitable physical access to HISD campuses and back to their home will not be hindered by any unnecessary red tap. One injury or death is way too many. My goal and commitment would be such as the City of Houston and the is to end all traffic deaths or serious injuries however I envision it happening before 2030.

2B. How do you envision HISD working with local governments to meet the Vision Zero goal to ensure no person is killed in a crash by 2030?

I stress again that I will tap into my nearly 30 years of experience working with the City of Houston and make it a priority work out the most feasible plan, including input from residents and local community leaders, to ensure that no person is killed even before 2030.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access (Bus Service)

3. How will you work to ensure all students presently walking in hazardous conditions can safely access HISD schools, whether the student lives within two miles of their neighborhood school or is walking to reach a bus hub to reach their magnet school?

I will identify all present walking hazards and work all responsible parties including the City of Houston, private property owners, HISD, etc., to ensure that students who live within two miles of their neighborhood school or is walking to reach a bus hub do so in a safe and secure manner. Students should not have to think or worry about walking to and from school. Their minds should be as peaceful as possible to ensure that their main focus is on achieving their educational goals.

Air Quality, Health, and High-traffic Road Proximity

4. What will you do to address this major health concern?

As a trustee, my style of governance will be to keep the public informed of the issues at hand short term. Long term I will work with my colleagues within the my job scope to review and create policy with the goal of keeping students health and safety a top priority. I would also stay abreast of US EPA, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, American Lung Association, etc., information so that HISD can take proactive measures to counter these many problems.

HISD Vehicle Fleet

5A. What are your plans for improving the environmental impact of the HISD vehicle fleet, such as school bus replacements, retrofits, and routing changes?

We would continue to make sure our current fleet are in great working condition by requiring regular inspections and maintenance. We would also begin to replace vehicles with hybrid and/or electric vehicles in a cost effective manner to reduce pollution. Concerning routes, I would review current routes to ensure we have the safest measures in place for the local neighborhoods, students and drivers.

5B. Do you plan to take advantage of clean school bus funding opportunities offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency such as the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates and Electric School Bus Rebates?

Yes.

District VII — Honorable Anne Sung, Incumbent

Campaign website: anne4hisd.com

Lea las respuestas en Español aquí

School Role in the Community

1. What is your philosophy about the role that HISD campuses play in their broader neighborhood?

HISD schools are often the hearts of neighborhoods and community. The community supports the school through participation in school activities and by supporting the school with volunteer time, wraparound services, and financial donations. The school supports the community by providing a place for community meetings, continuing education, programs for students and families, and shelter during emergencies like hurricanes.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access

2A. How do you plan to ensure safe access to schools for students with transportation challenges and in school zones with unsafe walking conditions?

As a member of Mayor Turner’s education transition committee, I highlighted the need for the city to support students to be able to get to school safely and on time. As a trustee, whenever community members reach out with concerns about safety, I refer these concerns, so that either the school can address if the issue is on school property (e.g. provide crossing guards) or the school can advocate with the city to request well labeled crosswalks and ensure visibility of school zone traffic lights.

2B. How do you envision HISD working with local governments to meet the Vision Zero goal to ensure no person is killed in a crash by 2030?

HISD should continue to work with city council members and with city government to ensure safe walking conditions for students living within 2 miles of schools and to ensure transportation is provided for students for whom walking routes are hazardous or who live more than 2 miles from a school. This can include traffic studies and also ensuring well labeled crosswalks and visible school zone traffic lights.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access (Bus Service)

3. How will you work to ensure all students presently walking in hazardous conditions can safely access HISD schools, whether the student lives within two miles of their neighborhood school or is walking to reach a bus hub to reach their magnet school?

Where students are walking in hazardous conditions, HISD provides for transportation to be provided for students; I have requested transportation for students whenever such a situation is reported to me and will continue to do so. I will also ask our administration to ensure parents are notified about the availability of this service, so that parents can easily request transportation.

Air Quality, Health, and High-traffic Road Proximity

4. What will you do to address this major health concern?

I have supported partnerships to provide schools with devices to measure air pollutants at school sites, so that students can avoid air exposure on days when air pollutants are high. I have also advocated for improved air filtration and purification systems, so that the air in schools can be cleaner. I will advocate for high traffic roadway construction to consider the location of schools when roadways are being planned and constructed.

HISD Vehicle Fleet

5A. What are your plans for improving the environmental impact of the HISD vehicle fleet, such as school bus replacements, retrofits, and routing changes?

I will advocate for HISD to transition to an electric bus fleet and to consider more efficient routing that decreases emissions.

5B. Do you plan to take advantage of clean school bus funding opportunities offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency such as the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates and Electric School Bus Rebates?

Yes.

District VII — Ms. Bridget Wade, Challenger

Campaign website: bridgetforthekids.com

Lea las respuestas en Español aquí

School Role in the Community

1. What is your philosophy about the role that HISD campuses play in their broader neighborhood?

HISD campuses are the gateway to a neighborhood. Strong schools are a key factor in determining the outcomes for a community and can drastically improve property values.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access

2A. How do you plan to ensure safe access to schools for students with transportation challenges and in school zones with unsafe walking conditions?

As a Trustee, I will place a high priority on community and student civic engagement opportunities. For example, students can benefit by serving as crossing guards and understanding the importance of their role in ensuring their own safety and the safety of fellow students.

2B. How do you envision HISD working with local governments to meet the Vision Zero goal to ensure no person is killed in a crash by 2030?

HISD can improve local schools. Better schools that are close to home means less travel, and therefore less room for accidents.

Safe and Equitable Physical Access (Bus Service)

3. How will you work to ensure all students presently walking in hazardous conditions can safely access HISD schools, whether the student lives within two miles of their neighborhood school or is walking to reach a bus hub to reach their magnet school?

A possible solution for this issue: Use HISD security as a roaming service to monitor hazardous areas, before and after school. A second solution: offer ride service options for high-trouble spots.

Air Quality, Health, and High-traffic Road Proximity

4. What will you do to address this major health concern?

This issue is a county matter, but as a Trustee, we can work with the county to address improvements.

HISD Vehicle Fleet

5A. What are your plans for improving the environmental impact of the HISD vehicle fleet, such as school bus replacements, retrofits, and routing changes?

HISD would do its part to positively impact the environment by investing more in good teachers, improving campus grounds and fostering neighborhood schools. The current bus fleet can therefore be reduced, leading the way to lower vehicular emissions.

5B. Do you plan to take advantage of clean school bus funding opportunities offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency such as the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebates and Electric School Bus Rebates?

Maybe.

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