Make Your Views Heard on the Difficult Decisions Facing HISD Trustees 
It is not uncommon on this blog to criticize the HISD Trustees for a host of reasons ranging from blind trust in a less-than-capable superintendent to political malfeasance. As the spring of 2011 approaches, we the taxpaying community in the district need to acknowledge the very difficult decisions facing the trustees this coming year and applaud them for the bold approach they have taken to addressing magnet school education in HISD.

In addition, the trustees have to wrestle with a shortfall in state revenues described by noted economist Paul Krugman as large as California's. Governor Perry did his best to hide Texas' economic woes behind a campaign for re-election which emphasized economic growth in Texas surpassing the rest of the nation - a growth that we now know was relative compared to an entire nation in an economic tailspin. Governor Perry is busy positioning himself for a run at the presidency. He is rarely even in the state. He is not going to deal with any budget deficits that could question his rhetoric on the health of the Texas economy.

That leaves the trustees on their own to devise a plan to make ends meet. Obviously, the Magnet Schools of America report both poses danger to them with their consistuency and provides cover. The logical place to cut will be magnet education.  Another area to cut are teaching positions, HISD's favorite whipping boy for budget accommodations and political expediency.

As taxpayers, we can only allow the trustees to make decisions we approve of. Although individual board members do not directly report to us, their day of evaluation occurs during an election.

Houstonians have been a docile group with regard to HISD governance. Now is not the time to remain quiet. Let your trustees know what you are thinking and require them to provide you with all the information you need to make decisions.

The budget cutting ax is the sheer of a weather front slowly approaching our skies. It's 100% certain to hit and unleash a deluge of tough decisions and pain.

Don't get caught in the rain unprotected. Know what's coming, know how you want to deal with it, and let your trustee know what you are thinking.

HISD Community Budget Review Meetings:
School           Address           Time

Tuesday, January 18

Chávez High School
8501 Howard, 77017 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Madison High School
13719 White Heather Dr., 77045 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, January 19
Reagan High School
413 East 13th, 77008 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Revere Middle School
10502 Briar Forest, 77042 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 22
Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center
4400 West 18th Street, 77092 9:30 a.m.

Monday, January 24
Bellaire High School
5100 Maple, 77401 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Kashmere High School
6900 Wileyvale, 77028 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Learn more about the district’s budget planning process here, or read the full press release (.pdf).CommConv2011_PR.pdf

HISD Board Agenda for Jan. 13, 2011, is online: 011311OA_POST.pdf

Why is the US Learning Disabled When It Comes to Regulating Weapons?
Tuesday’s Opinions page in the Washington Post is dedicated almost entirely to the tragic shooting in Tucson on Saturday. A screenshot of a portion of the Opinions webpage shows us the lineup of writers and their topics. In addition, one of the three editorials by the Post’s editorial board also addresses the issue and has the title “Gun control: It’s not a political impossibility”.

To summarize, then, we have Eugene Robinson and the editorial board arguing for improved laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, Dana Milbank hitting the violent rhetoric from Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck for their contributions to politically-based violence and threats of violence while George Will, Michael Gerson, Richard Cohen and Marc Thiessen all write columns that are telling America to stop blaming conservatives for the violent political landscape that they have created with their incendiary language and actions. Cohen does touch on the insanity of how easily disturbed people can get guns, but puts much of his energy into chastising anyone who blames the hateful environment created by the right wing.

Eugene Robinson’s column is a powerful argument for improving the background check process to make sure those who shouldn’t have guns don’t get them:

We may not be sure that the bloodbath in Tucson had anything to do with politics, but we know it had everything to do with our nation’s insane refusal to impose reasonable controls on guns.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, about 80 percent to 90 percent of disqualifying mental health records are not in the background-check database. Some states simply don’t bother to submit the information; others do so haphazardly. Arizona is neither the best nor the worst on this score.


We must recognize the obvious distinction between rifles, shotguns and target pistols used for sport on the one hand, and semiautomatic handguns designed for killing people on the other. We must decide that allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon, no questions asked, is just crazy. And for heaven’s sake, we must demand that laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics be enforced.

The remarkably good editorial jumps in on the gun control topic:

THERE’S A WEARYING pattern associated with gun-related tragedies in this country. An assault, like the shooting Saturday of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) and 19 others, sparks discussion about America’s lax gun laws and the ease with which mentally unstable people can buy weapons of wholesale destruction. Then come rejoinders centering on the political impossibility of common-sense legislation. And then, a lapse back into an indefensible but seemingly inevitable status quo.

The type of magazine used by Mr. Loughner was once banned in the United States. But that brief era of sanity came to an end in 2004, when Congress refused to renew the assault-weapons ban passed in the summer of 1994. Democrats suffered huge defeats in the 1994 midterm elections, and many blamed their support for the gun-control measure, which the National Rifle Association adamantly opposed. Although that election turned on many controversies, including taxes, health-care reform and gays in the military, many Democrats took away a single message: Endorsement of even modest gun-control measures can spell political defeat.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control, noted that in the recent midterm elections, 27 Democratic incumbents endorsed by the NRA lost reelection. By contrast, only two of the 101 Democratic representatives who co-sponsored a gun-control bill in the last Congress lost their seats. Support for sensible gun control need not spell the end of a career. If Mr. Obama would lead the way in making the argument, poll numbers on the issue also might begin to shift.

So, as the Post and Robinson point out, a strong case can be made for improving gun control laws and Democrats who could be seen as supporting these improvements fared very well in the most recent Congressional elections. However, an example of one of the biggest reasons gun control efforts in response to this tragedy are likely once again to lapse back into the indefensible status quo is the prominence given to the paid shills who make their livings trying to whitewash the craven ravings of our country’s right wing lunatics in order to present them as a “reasoned” political movement. With an onslaught right there on the same Opinions page of no less than four apologists for the right wing, all wringing their hands and just asking America to leave those who spew violence-laden, hate-filled rhetoric all over our political landscape” alooone”, it’s no wonder that no real progress can be made. Since Will, Gerson, Cohen and Thiessen all wrote virtually the same column, I’ll only address the one by torture-apologist Marc Thiessen:

Over the weekend, the Tea Party detractors were at it again – this time blaming the movement for the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others. Within hours of the attack, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had issued his own (admittedly) unfounded verdict: “We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was . . . she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist.” So Tea Party activists are prepared to kill those they cannot defeat at the polls?

Yes, Mr. Thiessen, if you really look at the way the right wing fuels America’s gun fetish, there really do appear to be Tea Party-associated groups that only very thinly veil their threats of gun violence if they don’t get their way.

Thiessen then relies on the most disgusting practice in hackery, trying to build a false equivalence in his desperate attempt to shield Sarah Palin from responsibility for her violent rhetoric:

Left-wing bloggers and commentators blamed the attack on Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin because she had “targeted” Giffords for defeat during the 2010 elections. The New York Daily News published a column headlined “Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ blood is on Sarah Palin’s hands after putting cross hair over district.” And an hour after Giffords was shot, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas actually tweeted: “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin.” He conveniently failed to mention that his Daily Kos had put a “bull’s eye” (their words) on Giffords in 2008 – including her on a list of centrist Democrats who should be “targeted” in Democratic primaries. Mission accomplished, Markos?

I will agree with Thiessen that Moulitsas should not have used targeting terminology. And I will also agree with Thiessen that Moulitsas’ actions were as irresponsible as those of Palin–just as soon as he shows me that Moulitsas also said something as provocative as “Don’t retreat–reload“, that he gets his jollies shooting defenseless animals from a helicopter and that he has provided a videotaped message of support for a lunatic fringe group that advocates violence and secession. The sickness in Washington that would try to paint equivalence between Moulitsas and Palin in terms of provocation to violence is a big reason why our political landscape has become completely devoid of consequences for action. As long as hacks like Thiesssen are out there painting false equivalences between people as diametrically opposite as Markos Moulitsas and Sarah Palin, Palin will be able to get away with fomenting violence and Thiessen’s former associates will never face prosecution for torture.
How on earth does Marc Thiessen sleep at night, given the evils he helps to unleash on the world?

Profiling Targeted Low Enrollment High Schools: Furr High
520 Mercury  Houston, TX 77013-5217   (713) 675-1118
Total Students (2008 - 2009): 902
Fulltime teachers: 57.1
Student/Teacher Ratio: 15.8
Eligible for discounted/free lunch: 650 ( 72 %)

Type: Regular school
Status: Operational
Locale: City: Large

Furr High School ranks 846th of 1465 Texas public high schools.

Furr High TAKS Reading Scores Grade 11

Furr High TAKS Math Scores Grade 11

Furr High TAKS Scores Social Studies Grade 11

Furr High TAKS Scores Science Grade 11

Profiling Targeted Low Enrollment High Schools: Kashmere High
6900 Wileyvale St  Houston, TX 77028-4156   (713) 636-6400

Total Students (2008 - 2009): 589
Fulltime teachers: 51.9
Student/Teacher Ratio: 11.3
Eligible for discounted/free lunch: 373 ( 63 %)

Type: Regular school
Status: Operational
Locale: City: Large

Kashmere High School ranks 1231st of 1465 Texas public high schools.

Kashmere TAKS Scores Reading Grade 11

Kashmere TAKS Scores Math Grade 11

Kashmere TAKS Scores Social Studies Grade 11

Kashmere TAKS Scores Science Grade 11

Former Yates Principal Mumphrey Will Not Face Charges
Former principal of Houston ISD's Yates High, Ronald Mumphery, will not face criminal charges: HISD
Monday, Jan 10, 2011, 02:32PM CST

By Lynn Walsh

The former principal of one of the city’s major high schools will not face criminal charges over allegations that he harassed female employees and once stuck his tongue into the ear of a school cheerleader during an alleged sexual advance, the Houston school district said.

Ronald Mumphery, the former head of Yates High School, will not be prosecuted after the Houston Independent School District’s own police department “found there was not sufficient evidence to support any criminal charges,” HISD spokesman Norm Uhl said.

Uhl said no report has been created on HISD Police’s findings in the case, though one may be written later.

In an e-mailed response to other questions posed by Texas Watchdog, Uhl suggested the news organization file a public information request.

Among the remaining questions is whether HISD police consulted with the Harris County district attorney’s office about Mumphrey.

By policy, DA Pat Lykos’ office does not discuss whether it is investigating a case or whether a case has been forwarded to it for potential prosecution. “We do not confirm or deny whether we are investigating a case until a case gets filed,” Terese Buess, with the DA’s office, said Monday.

A 30-year veteran of the district, Mumphery was reassigned by the district in late September. At that time, HISD said Mumphery had been accused of unspecified “professional misconduct,” without elaborating. He filed paperwork with the school system a few days later to retire.

The allegations against Mumphery date back to the early 1980’s and include allegations of staff members exchanging sexual favors for preferential treatment and overtime pay from the principal and allegations that Mumphery grabbed and sexually touched a 17-year-old cheerleader and student back in 1984.

The sexual harassment allegations were outlined in an HISD investigation report and include multiple witnesses and alleged victims’ testimonies.

There was no answer at Mumphrey’s home telephone listing earlier today.

Mumphery had previously served as principal at Houston’s Cullen Middle School and an assistant principal at Jones High. He earned more than $109,000 during the 2009-10 school year, according to an HISD salary database.

The allegations against Mumphery came to light, records show, after Houston school Superintendent Terry Grier received an anonymous letter in mid-September.

HISD began to investigate, reaching out to numerous former students and employees, including a current HISD employee who said she was accosted by Mumphrey when she was a student of his 16 years ago.

The woman told investigators she was a cheerleader at Yates at the time, and the report says Mumphrey was a teacher and coach there.

According to the report:

In an interview with the school district, the former cheerleader detailed the incident that occurred back in 1984: "She alleged that as soon as she came in the room he started talking sexually to her. She said she was shocked and about to leave when he grabbed her arm, pulled her to him and stuck his tongue in her ear.”

The former cheerleader said she immediately ran out of his office to the principal at the time. According to the report, Mumphery allegedly ran after the young woman, telling her to stop, but she kept running. (To read the full report and details about the other allegations. click here.)

Have questions about the Mumphery investigation or other HISD issues? Texas Watchdog wants to hear from you. Contact Lynn Walsh,, 713-228-2850 or on Twitter @LWalsh.

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