Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the new location of the March 29 TEA meeting.

At the first community town hall hosted by officials from the Texas Education Agency, parents, teachers and community members engaged in a contentious back-and-forth shouting debacle that ended with state officials abandoning their presentation on the upcoming takeover of Houston ISD.

The first of three planned community meetings between TEA and the public took place at Westbury High School on March 21, but as TEA Deputy Commissioner of Operations Alejandro Delgado spoke to audience members in the school auditorium, he was interrupted throughout by numerous bursts from an animated crowd shouting the likes of “Makeover not takeover,” “What is the hidden agenda?” or “We voted on a board of directors; you are stepping on my vote.”

Delgado’s presentation for the one-hour time slot consisted mainly of detailed slides on the process for applying for the state-appointed board of manager positions, the deadline to apply and how the appointment process will work. The last portion of the presentation was geared toward questions from the audience. Questions were written on index cards that were passed along to the TEA officials. As each slide on the process continued, community members expressed frustration through an eruption of shouting to Delgado.

Meyerland parent Ronda Harrison is the mother of a 14-year-old who attends Women’s Preparatory Academy in Houston’s Third Ward. She said she was leaving the town hall more confused than when she entered.

“We came wanting answers,” Harrison said. “We didn’t get them, and so now there’s more frustration, anger, distrust because our questions were not answered; our concerns were ignored.”

Her other two children have graduated HISD schools and are either college graduates or attending an out-of-state school. She recalled her experience as a parent when her children attended Johnson Middle School, which is now Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School.

“At all the schools that my children have attended, we have had elected board members who are responsive to the students, the parents, the teachers and the administrative in the schools within their region,” Harrison said. “These people weren’t elected by us, and my fear is that they won’t be responsive or even care what our needs are. They may not even be from our communities or representative of all of our communities. How does that impact the education our student gets? Our board should be as diverse as HISD is.”

Delgado told the audience that the deadline for board of managers is less than two weeks away, on April 6, which is 16 business days from the official date TEA announced the takeover March 15. He said 138 applicants have applied for the board of manager positions thus far.

It was not until U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, entered the building and stepped in for Delgado that the crowd’s energy started to diffuse.

Lee represents Texas’ 18th Congressional District, which includes inner-city Houston and surrounding areas, and spoke to the audience, requesting the TEA give the district more time before the state takeover.

“We can refine the plan,” Lee said. “You can tell us what are the underperforming schools; some of them are elementary schools. That gives us a greater opportunity. But there is rumor that there are other schools on the margin in the state of Texas, and those schools are not being attacked.”

TEA has scheduled three more community meetings for the public to attend on the following dates:
  • March 22 at Chavez High School, 8501 Howard Dr., Houston
  • March 29 at Delmar Stadium, 2020 Magnum Rd., Houston
  • March 30 at Kashmere High School, 6900 Wileyvale Rd., Houston

All meetings will start at 6:30 p.m., according to the agency.