Issues and Answers
Views on board politics
A school board trustee holds a curious position, somehow
wrapped in a flag, with images of apple pie and Mother. It is an almost universally unpaid political office but holds great power.
That power stems from the fact that many of the issues school
boards deal with closely touch people's lives.
There have always been those who see some of those issues-
desegregation, racism and sexism, in particular-as isolated sociopolitical matters to be dealt with outside the schools. But I feel
they are basic to the education of the individual. The child who is
dealt with stereo typically, who is put into or kept out of certain
courses or counselled toward or away from certain goals because
of his or her sex or race is clearly being short-changed.
In the 1960's the big issue was desegregation. Now we have the
magnet schools, which are really fine, but have they done much
The question of accepting federal aid sparked bitter debate a-
bout "losing local control" which really meant "they will make
us integrate our schools." Now, HISD gets more than $5 million
a year from the federal government.
Sex discrimination wasn't dealt with at all during my tenure.
No consciousness was raised and there were no laws to use as leverage. Ironically, the school board is the one elected position that
the public has always regarded as proper for women. After all, it
has to do with children, doesn't it?
The successful candidate will find out he or she has a choice
of how to function once on the board. A board member can become a "yes person" to the administration or one who takes direction from stronger members. The responsible member, however,
will study the unendingly fascinating, many-faceted operation of
the public schools, ask lots of questions and find ways to initiate
and pursue matters so as to avoid violating tne line of demarcation
between board and administration. This person will soon learn the
best way to get the public's attention on an issue is to speak of it
in financial terms, not in terms of morality and law.
Board members have the power to make changes. Voters must
be careful about whom they give that power to and then see that
they use it properly. G.B.
Gertrude Barnstone was a member of the Houston Independent
School Board from 1964-69.
Wright's sentiments are similar,
but she cautions that, "I wouldn't
want a person to teach homosexuality in the classroom—and I would
not want them to teach religion
either." Morris is "not in favor of
witch hunts," but doesn't see any
advantages in keeping teachers with
"open tendencies." Wedgeworth
agrees with other candidates of Dis
trict 1 that "It's their business-
their private life," but adds, "I
personally would not want them
teaching children." Navarro was reluctant to be specific, and only
stated that we should surround our
children with "emotionally balanced, physiologically stable, and emotionally secure adults that can be
a guiding light and inspiration."
School board trustee candidates
in the fifth district are Craig Roberts, Andrew Byrd, Bert Bares.
William Pisciella, Betty Blue Alexander, Geneva Kirk Brooks, and
1. Coed Phys-Ed
All candidates are in favor of
expanded athletic programs for
girls, with the exception of Byrd,
who refused to comment. Brooks
feels, however, that girls do not
have enough stamina for some activities. Butler stands on his pre-
vious school board record with re-
gard to the issue of sex discrimination in education. Pisciella adds
that discrimination in tracking
girls academically into unproductive fields must not go unchallenged. Roberts also points out that
"we need to ensure that HISD
meets the spirit as well as the
letter of the law."
2. Magnet Schools
All candidates, except Brooks,
feel that the magnet school concept must be expanded. Pisciella,
noting that 102 HISD schools are
totally segregated, feels that the
magnet approach to integration
needs to be reviewed by a special
3. Sexist Texts
Again Byrd declined to comment. All other candidates report
that they would review and make
recommendations on any materials
passed to them. Alexander and
Bares went a step further. Alexander says she would try to ensure
that the committee of review for
materials used in the schools
would have a full understanding
of the issues at hand. Bares offered
to sign a written pledge that he
would work for an immediate review of all such materials or texts.
Brooks alone is opposed to free
tuition for children of migrants or
aliens, on the grounds that it would
encourage an increase in the flow
of illegal aliens into the school sys-
|Barbara Bogue and Ellen Berman are free-lance writers. Janet Beals i
a co-editor of the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Area Women's News.
tern. Alexander stated flatly that
the issue is in the courts, and the
schools will have to abide by that
decision. Roberts, Bares, Pisciella
and Butler all feel that no child
should be denied education. "We
can't throw the kids out," admonishes Roberts. Pisciella noted that
virtually all undocumented workers are paying for the educational
system already, either through taxes or indirectly through rent. Byrd
adds that he would judge each case
on its merits.
5. Women Administrators
All candidates are in favor of increasing the numbers of women at
administrative levels. Pisciella has
already been involved in affirmative action on this issue in the
Houston Teachers Association.
Bares brought up the companion
issue of poorly paid support personnel in HISD, a largely female
group, for which he would also
seek higher wages. Roberts affirms.
"I know there are lots of qualified
women out there," and guarantees
that job openings will be announced publicly.
All candidates expressed the o-
pinion that the schools must offer
sex education, as many children are
not getting it at home. Pisciella
feels, in addition, that it should be
broadened to discuss attitudes towards sexual stereotypes.
7. Gay Teachers
While a majority of candidates
in this district feel that a person's
private life is their own business,
only Pisciella heartily denounced
the Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the firing of a gay
teacher. He also affirms his full
support of gay rights, feeling that
it is an important issue. Brooks,
on the other hand, says, "I do not
believe that anybody who has a
perverted or deviant handicap
should be in a situation where they
could be models for children. When
homosexuals have to flaunt it, they
can go into other businesses."
Bares, Alexander, Butler, and Roberts share the opinion that if gay
teachers do not indulge in improper conduct with children, they
should be left alone. Bares notes,
"Anyone who ■ doesn't flagrantly
abuse the law should not be bothered." Alexander "would not want
anyone's civil rights infringed upon," but if a case of abuse was
proven, she would recommend removal. Roberts is firm about e-
valuating teachers on classroom
performance alone, though he too
would suspend a teacher (via proper procedures) who indulged in
sexual abuse. Butler, fearful of
witch hunts, again would evaluate
on classroom behavior. Byrd feels
he cannot make a comment on this
Candidates for District VI are
Maxine Davis, Lou Harris, Theda
Hoyt, and Howard Humphreys.
1. Coed Phys-Ed
The candidates differed widely
in their views on Title IX enforcement and sex-integrated physical
education classes. Davis favors the
classes, and would like to see a
broader program, including more
intramural activities. Along the
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HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH OCTOBER 1977 PAGE 7