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East Waco Community Organizers Make Good on Promise
Group “Remembers Wiley” and Sees Political Changes in Air
WACO, TEXAS- The decision to close Wiley is fast becoming a nightmare that is haunting some school board members because the community organizers fully intend to clean house in the May election and replace those who voted to close G.L. Wiley Middle School.
Two candidates have emerged from Waco Community group fighting to rescue the closed middle School and change the operations culture of the Waco Independent School District.
School Board candidates Charles Harris Jr. and Norman Manning are running to level the playing field for school and students and bring real representation and stability back to the district and help restore neighborhood pride for its neighborhood schools.
“We are running to shake things up on the WISD,” Harris said. “We intend to bring changes, fresh air and new ideas and policies to the board that will serve students and schools equally. We no longer want “big schools” and “little” schools in the district.”
Harris is running for the at-large seat position in Position 6. Manning is seeking the seat in District 1, Position 1.
The community groups candidates are the second phase in the community's desire to change the governing face of the community.
The group vowed to field competent candidates against the board culprits who instigated the closure of Wiley and are making good on that promise to oust those proven not to work for the people.
Trustees Sammy Smith, Debbie Luce, Allen Sykes and Pat Atkins voted for the Wiley school. closure.The groups fighting motto has been and remains "Remember Wiley."
“Remember Wiley” is a growing grassroots movement born out of frustration over the failure of Waco school leaders to listen and care about what the taxpaying community want for students and communties. It's members got tired of appeals and inputs not being taken seriously or were totally ignored.
He is a Waco product, receiving his education in the Waco ISD system, attending Brook Ave. Elementary School for first grade, Crest View Elementary for Second through Fifth grades; R.L. Smith Sixth Grade Center, then Tennyson Jr. High School for seventh and eighth grades; and graduated from Jefferson Moore High School in May of 1984 .
He is a retiree of the U.S. Army where he served for over 20 years and retired form active service in October of 2005.
Harris is a veteran of the Iraqi war where he served in Iraq from Jan 04 to Feb 05. Harris is a member of Bracks United Methodist Church in Waco. and holds an associates degree form Central Texas College and is currently attending Mclennan Community College pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work.
He is married to his wife of 23 years Mrs. Donna Harris, also a graduate of University High School.
The couple has one child Briana Harris. She is a junior and varsity cheerleader and step team member at University High School.
Closing Wiley was that last straw that caused pastors, political leaders and East Waco citizens to come alive and stand together with a plan – To organize and change the political landscape and work to elect real citizens who represent the voice of the people.
Electing new members from community organizers is met with the promise that new board will respond to the needs of the people calling for issues to be on the forefront and the people informed.
“We were given little say so,” Manning said. “It is still a fight here and I have stepped into this to bring voice to the minority community. Our input needs to be heard and stronger and respected and if elected to serve, the community will have a voice. I have high principles and will do what is right and best for all.”
Manning returned to Waco two years ago and since has seen the problems grow as leaders failed to represent all the people. He is following in the footsteps of his mother, who was active in the fight for changes years ago in the WISD.
“We are stepping into this in prayer,” he said. “It is still a fight here to keep school open and I am here to take up the fight my mother took up to help the community. Now is the right time for change and closing this community school is the rallying cry driving our movement.”
Other issues facing the district include the addition of school attendance zones and the busing of children out of community and neighborhood schools areas.
Fighting to Save the Children also continues its weekly marches and peaceful protests against the closing of G. L. Wiley Middle School to keep the issue on the forefront.
The Waco Independent School District board of trustees voted to close the school and disperse the Wiley students to Brazos and Cesar Chavez middle schools and G.W. Carver Academy.
The board heard nearly four hours of pleas from the community to keep the school open before deliberating, but finally voted 4-3 in favor of a proposal to close the school.
Organizers had responded days before school's start Aug. 25 with a lawsuit that claimed Texas Open Meetings Act violations and racial discrimination in Wiley's closing. A temporary restraining order granted Aug. 21 by 170th District Court Judge Jim Meyer forced the school to open. However, the school board voted again — on the day about 100 students returned to Wiley — to close the school in a 4-3 vote.
The board's actions satisfied the judge, who after three days of hearings last week denied the plaintiffs' attempt to keep the school open while the lawsuit was heard.
The group decided to drop the suit, but it spurred efforts to start a grassroots effort that has turned into a movement.
“We want operations to be fair across the board,” Harris said. “We want the same programs for all students. All deserve the same opportunity to excel.”
According to Harris, the current board favors Waco High School, it flagship high school while not providing the same curriculum and educational programs and opportunities at University High School.
Both men say the shakeup will call for serious role and responsibility changes including calling on board, teachers, administration and parents to work closer together to implement fair and equal change that benefits every student and citizen in the community.
The controversy has awakened a sleeping giant.
Dr. Jimmy Hunter of the Toliver Chapel Missionary Baptist Church said that once sleep at the wheel, “we allowed someone else to drive. No more. Our goal is to never play from behind again.”