Trustees postpone decision on Houston ISD Student Congress

The Houston ISD board of trustees voted 8-1 to postpone a decision to cut ties with the student congress. (Screenshot via HISD TV)
The Houston ISD board of trustees voted 8-1 to postpone a decision to cut ties with the student congress. (Screenshot via HISD TV)

The Houston ISD board of trustees voted 8-1 to postpone a decision to cut ties with the student congress. (Screenshot via HISD TV)

Houston ISD trustees voted Feb. 11 to postpone a decision on whether to cut ties with the student congress, a body it helped establish in 2014, asking the district to seek additional solutions to repair the strained organization and ensure adequate representation of student voices.

"Our students weren’t given the opportunity to succeed. ... We can’t give up on our students," trustee Elizabeth Santos said.

In the vote to postpone, trustees asked for the item to return for a vote no later than the August board meeting.

Administrators said they have been unable to develop a working relationship with the student congress, which has experienced an internal struggle over its own leadership and direction, prompting its founders, Amy Fan and Zaakir Tameez, to become more involved last year. Their involvement, however, also spurred further division among its membership and posed problems for HISD administration.

"Amy and Zaakir did amazing things at HISD," said David Dzul, a Debakey High School student. "But the same organization they created doesn't exist today. There's no structure. We never asked for their help."

At public comment during the Feb. 11 meeting, Dzul said it was "terrifying and unacceptable" that the founders, now college graduates, could intervene in a student organization. Student congress has a designated administration liaison but not a formal adviser.

HISD proposed cutting ties with the group, allowing it to exist but without formal recognition by the board, and creating a student advisory council with district-supervised elections, transportation and support to encourage participation and equity.

"This item does not silence student voices; it actually elevates," interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said.

Trustees were not convinced, however, that cutting ties was the right approach.

"I find in our existing regulations ... the foundations to help our existing student groups succeed," trustee Anne Sung said. "Given the passion and the leadership of the student congress members that came and spoke today, I’d really like to see us try to support them."
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


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