The Houston Chronicle was duped into believing that “Houston Community College had cleaned up its ethical act”. The Houston Chronicle and Houston Community College voters were also duped into believing Houston Community College was “busting at the seams” and the college needed a $425 million bond issue for new buildings. The enrollment at Houston Community College has declined 15.3% over the last two years (from 56,592 to 47,928 according to the Texas Association of Community Colleges and the Houston Community College CAFR).
The Houston Community College board, under Chairman Richard Schechter, committed to “doing things the right way”. Commitments are cheap; ethical actions are priceless. The Houston Chronicle 1/27/13 editorial “Houston Community College concerns” raised three concerns with HCC.
- The Chronicle questions the decision to return former board member Herlinda Garcia as an interim replacement to the HCC board. This was an excellent decision by the board. There was not “a presumably large universe of possible replacements”. There were only 2 other applicants, and one did not show up for the meeting. What the Chronicle considers “baggage” of Ms. Garcia, others of us consider her to have principled beliefs and high ethical standards. If memory serves me correctly, the Chronicle had endorsed her numerous times in the past.
- Why the sudden resignation of Schechter? Did Mr. Schechter not get his way in selecting the contractor (which his daughter has worked for) to administer the bond program? Mr. Schechter’s involvement, behind the scenes, with the $150 million contract for the Westheimer campus, was handed over to the HCC Foundation. Did this action circumvent and keep secret the bid process? When Mr. Schechter was chairman, he got his friends Larry Vesalka a legal contract, Brad Deuster a media contract, and Boris Miles the insurance contract at HCC, just to mention a few friends. The board finally wised up to his ways and Schechter knew it. He took his marbles and went home.
- The decision of Chancellor Mary Spangler to take medical leave (we wish her a full recovery) created a gap in HCC leadership at the highest level. Not True! Mary Spangler had been nothing more than a figure head. Deputy Chancellor Art Tyler had been running the college, in concert with Mr. Schechter, with an iron fist behind closed doors to the benefit of their favorites. As I and others see it, Ms. Spangler wanted Mr. Tyler appointed interim Chancellor. The board surprised everyone and made an excellent decision in appointing Renee Byas interim Chancellor. Could another reason Mr. Schechter quit be that he saw the tide turning and his control slipping away?
Since the first of the year with the appointment of Ms. Garcia, the board has finally started moving in the right direction. I personally applaud her leadership and I believe she will continue to serve the taxpayers and students of the district. The appointment of a replacement for Mr. Schechter is before the board. There are enough educators and lawyers on the board. We need an ethical, principled person with business experience or a CPA to fill the void. Keep the direction of the board moving upward and positive.
The Chronicle needs to do some serious investigative reporting into Houston Community College. I have a file cabinet full of statistics, facts, and open records requests that can be substantiated that I would be willing to share. Writing editorials without facts, making insinuations, telling half truths and only hearing one side of an issue leads to bad journalism. Please join me and others in shining the light of truth on Houston Community College and help them become an institution of higher education that we can all be proud of.