Books Debate Continues With School Board

Parents and neighbors stood out in the hallway to hear at the HPISD school-board meeting. (Staff photo: Sarah Bennett)
Parents and neighbors stood in the hallway to hear at the HPISD school-board meeting. (Staff photo: Sarah Bennett)

The HPISD Board of Trustees clearly expected a crowd at the Oct. 14 meeting, as it was held at the Armstrong Elementary auditorium instead of the usual McCulloch Intermediate School location.

(Update: HPISD had long scheduled the meeting to be held at Armstrong in honor of the Centennial celebrations.) But even Armstrong’s auditorium didn’t provide enough seats. Prior to the meeting’s start, parents and neighbors were gathered outside the auditorium, spilling into the hallway and lobby, straining for a chance to hear.

The first item of note was an “Ebola update” from Dr. LeeAnn Kridelbaugh, who is a member of the medical-education staff at Cook’s Children’s Medical Center. She briefed the board on Ebola health concerns, and then met in the library with school nurses and a handful of parents with additional questions. Sources have reported that absences at Armstrong have gone up since county judge Clay Jenkins (an Armstrong parent) has been at the front of the Ebola fight — though school nurses have confirmed that there is no reason to panic.

Pins were passed out at Tuesday's meeting. (Staff photo: Sarah Bennett)
(Staff photo: Sarah Bennett)

But the real interest came when Highland Park’s board policy on “EFA” or local instruction came up, specifically with reference to the recently banned temporarily suspended (and then reversed) books in the classroom. Parents both sides of the argument — or rather, from all points on the spectrum — gathered for the briefing, prepared to speak, and handed out topical business cards and buttons.

Bill Banowsky, a partner at Thompson & Knight, briefed the board on the formal “reconsideration” process to be followed. Following additional words from superintendent Dawson Orr and HPHS principal Walter Kelly, parents and community members were able to voice their concerns.

“Like many, my initial thoughts were that the fervor was surely being overdone. Then I read the actual passages,” said University Park resident Steve Smith, who then read passages aloud from an unidentified text. “It is being stated by some that these are taken out of context … in what context is this appropriate?”

Only two students from the high school spoke. Both expressed their trust in teachers to provide appropriate content and steer classroom discussions in an educational and informative direction, even on uncomfortable or controversial topics.

Business cards were also passed around. (Staff photo: Sarah Bennett)
(Staff photo: Sarah Bennett)

Essentially every possible angle of the discussion was represented through the many speakers, from concerns about the content itself, to transparency questions, to issues with opt-out or alternative lesson planning.

Mass applause often followed each speaker, regardless of which side of the argument they represented.

At roughly 8 p.m., discussion on the matter finally closed. With almost the entire agenda still remaining, the board called for a “five-minute recess” in which most of the audience left.

The item, as presented on the agenda, was discussion only and required no vote.

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11 thoughts on “Books Debate Continues With School Board

  • October 15, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    hum, I’d figure with the recent ebola patient living just blocks away from University Park, these people would be more worried about it than past book bans.

  • October 16, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Was this agenda item just about the reconsideration procedure for The Art of Racing in the Rain? Or is the district considering changing its policy? I did not realize Watermark Church’s fight against our English teachers was ongoing.

  • October 16, 2014 at 9:36 am

    @Observer – You can find the agenda online here:

    The agenda item was not necessarily in reference to one book in particular, nor was it intended to change policy. It was simply to review, for the board and the audience, the proper protocol for reconsidering texts for classroom use. Hope that’s helpful!

  • October 16, 2014 at 9:58 am

    @Ray – and i would have figured Highland Park Tx would have had more concern about being aerial sprayed with mosquito poison not long ago.

    Book debate?….I would be very concerned about the outsourcing of HP’s school crossing guards by Mayor Joel Williams III and his okie dokie town council a few months ago to apparently save a buck and shift liability to a third party. Am I not correct?

    Saving a buck on the backs of the school children. How about the outsourced “someone” leaving early, and, sitting in his car while a little girl was left to cross the school zone street on her own? How is that for saving money Mayor Williams?

    Thanks HP administration for crying about (HP DPS) having to fill in if a school crossing guard was needed. In some areas, the HP DPS need to be present to ticket the crazy driving.

    HP Council and administrators should not have allowed the blowing of the town’s money.

    Shameful, and now you want to borrow money to spend for more?

  • October 16, 2014 at 10:52 am

    @ Sam: I wasn’t aware of the outsourcing of crossing guards. This explains things, I noticed a crossing guard at MIS walking away from the school zone BEFORE school had started! There was a good half dozen kids that needed to cross the road as we approached the cross walk!

  • October 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    @sam you are 100% correct on the crossing guard issue. I sorely miss the lady guard at granada and High school. She truly cared about her job and was clear and concise about what she wanted the cars to do. Traffic moved well under her command. What an insult to her ( wish i knew her name) with the person they replaced her with.

  • October 16, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    University Park (which includes MIS) outsourced the crossing guards quite a while back. The lady at Granada/High School … I think her name is Tracy … is great. She is often, but not always, still there. The other person at Granada/HS is what I call a schlunker. I stopped once; told him/her (I’m not sure) to pull off the ear phones, pull up his/her pants, and pay attention to the kids.

    The outsourcing company is at

    It looks like HP has now outsourced this function as well.

    If you see problems, like the guard walking away early, email to the Chief of Police of the respective cities. Not HPISD … they’ve wrung their hands of it. And tell your City Councilpeople that it is a poor idea.

  • October 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

    mad for plaid letters just went out last week. I forwarded mine to Tavia Hunt. She’s got deep faith and deep pockets. Looks like HPISD is willing to turn over their English curriculum development to her and her ilk so I think I will just let her write those checks.

  • October 17, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Good luck with that bond issue next year Dr Orr. Between book banning/reinstating and proposing to lop off a chunk of our park system for your own swimming pool you have managed to piss off just about everyone in town. Pepto Bismol!

  • October 20, 2014 at 7:50 am

    MISMOM — the crossing guard you are talking about is named Tracy. What a professional! She cared about her job and the kids. One morning a few years ago a UP officer filled in for her because she was ill and the intersection was mayhem. If HPISD could hire a team of Tracys all would be right in the world.

  • October 23, 2014 at 8:35 am

    @Madatplaid, hilarious! I might do the same. If I had complained to Dr. Orr with my no name last name, I’m sure he would have patted me on the head and ignored my emails/comments like most of the administration does. A lot of these folks complaining live in the district but their kids go to private school! Wish they would put their time, energy and funds into getting a high school for their previous school so they can dictate the education over there! Somehow the previous generations of HP kids have survived just fine reading these books!


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