HOUSTON – Thomas Howell, a Houston High School graduate and battalion Executive Officer in the Mississippi Army National Guard, is the newest Houston School Board Trustee.
The vote by the Houston Board of Alderman last week to appoint Howell to the city school post was 3-2 and not without controversy and lengthy discussion.
The motion to appoint Howell as the school district’s at-large trustee was made by District 3 Alderman Frank Thomas, seconded by District 1 Alderman Tony Uhiren and supported by Alderman-At-Large Barry Springer. District 2 Alderman Shenia K. Jones and District 4 Alderman Willie Mae McKinney voted against it.
Mayor Stacey Parker had tabled a previous vote in May after aldermen voted 2-2 to appoint Joe Orr as the next trustee. Springer was absent from that meeting. Jones nominated Orr for the spot in May and her motion was seconded by McKinney.
“The numbers are there to have another minority on the board,” Jones said last week.
“I don’t think that has anything to do with it,” said Thomas. “One, Mr. Orr has a child who is not a student in the district. I also think Howell is the best man for the job. That’s the main reason for my motion.”
Jones pointed out there are Houston teachers who children don’t go to Houston schools.
“They are basically saying ‘I’m good enough to teach your kids but you’re not good enough to teach my kids,’” said Jones. “I’d like to see how many kids they release to go to school in other districts. I you live in this community you should send your kid to school in this community. If we appoint people to the school board they need to be accountable to us – the city.”
Springer cast the deciding vote and said he was looking for the best candidate.
“I voted to put Joe on the school board the last time and I understand there were some problems with his children and teachers,” said Springer. “I went to people in the community and begged them to send us their best minority candidate, because I like to be sensitive to those things.
“The guy nominated and on the floor before us is impressive,” said Springer. “I don’t think we will find a better guy.”
McKinney asked the board to once again delay their vote.
“My motion stands,” said Thomas, and Parker called for voice vote.
Others who had submitted their name for consideration for the trustee’s post were Jonathan Blane “T-Bird” Arledge and Tommy J. Skelton. Kevin Faulkner had initially asked the city to consider him for the post but later withdrew his name from consideration.
The city’s appointment has been prompted by the resignation of At-Large Houston School District Board Member Zack Huffman who tendered his resignation March 7 and will step down June 30.
Huffman was elected without opposition in 2011 to take the place of At-Large Trustee Dennis Washington who chose not to run for the post.
Huffman’s resignation was prompted by his acceptance of a job serving students in the Mississippi Delta this summer as a member of Teach For America.
Howell will take his seat on the Houston School Board at their regular monthly meeting July 8.
He is also a graduate of Mississippi State University with a degree in Business Administration. Howell is currently working on his Master’s Degree. He is a member of Houston First Baptist Church. He is married to Leigh Ann Howell and they have one child who is a student at Houston High School.