You don’t grow up the daughter of a public school teacher without developing a special relationship to education. A love of its potential, pride in its accomplishments, and knowledge of all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. The path to college for my parents, Carlos and Olga Flores, was challenging. My mother’s family had to pick cotton to be able to afford school supplies, and my father’s parents saved and sacrificed to make sure he got to college, since they could not afford to finish their public school educations. By the time they started a family, my mother was already a certified bilingual teacher in San Antonio, and my father, an architect.
Because of their commitment to education, my brother, sister and I grew up hearing about “when” we went to college, not “if.” Our family’s college talk was so constant that I declared in 2nd grade that I would be attending college at “Oxford”, because I had heard it was the best. While my path did not lead to Oxford, at the age of 17, with my public school High School diploma, I flew out to New Jersey to attend Princeton University. After receiving my A.B. in public policy from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson school, I attended Columbia Law school, graduated with a law degree. After I returned to Texas as quickly as I could, making Houston my home.
I began my legal career as a litigation in a big Texas Law firm. However, I was always looking for opportunities to use the skills I had acquired to serve vulnerable populations. This desire was in large part inspired by my parents--my mother spent her career teaching low income students and students for which English was a second language, and my father spent his architecture career partnering with nonprofit and religious institutions to create HUD housing projects for low income and elderly communities.
In 2006 I had the opportunity to leave the law firm to work for Congressman Nick Lampson’s campaign against Majority Leader Tom Delay. In this position, I had the unique opportunity to combine my interest in politics with the ability to develop practical communication, outreach, and organizing skills and research effective ways to engage with the Latino community. When we emerged victorious, I was able to help create and lead the District’s Constituent Services department which was directly responsible for assisting constituents with a variety of problems and concerns with Federal services including social security, veterans benefits, immigration issues, and healthcare.
That same year I married my husband, Chris. After working for the Congressman’s office and in a few other political positions, I took some time off to begin our family. In 2009 our first child Atticus was born, followed by his sister Athena in 2011 and their brother Augustus in 2013. Although I was officially taking a break from work, in between diaper changes and rocking babies to sleep, I was always looking for ways to serve this new parenting community of which I had become a member.
In speaking with other parents at the playground, I quickly learned about HISD’s unique choice/magnet system, and how this system elicited questions and concerns from parents, many of whom were educated outside of HISD. In the Summer of 2014, in coordination with a parents’ group I founded in the Heights, I hosted an education town hall for parents to help answer questions. This gave rise to the one phone call that gave rise to two years of research, writing, and advocating with the District.
Soon after the town hall, I received a phone call from a dear friend, a former HISD teacher, who had just received a phone call from the parent of a former student. The parent had a simple question about her neighborhood magnet program, and was trying to find an answer on her daughter’s cell phone – she didn’t have access to internet from her home. An hour later, the three of us, with three computers, and three degrees among us, could not find the answer to this basic question. From that day on, I could not get out of my head the various questions that this brought up – how many other parents had access only to smartphones, how many had difficulty making phone calls or visiting schools during regular business hours, how many had a difficult time finding transportation to the one and only school choice fair, how many had trouble submitting the paperwork required to attend magnet schools, how did this impact the Latino and low income communities’ ability to attend magnet schools, and most importantly, did all students have equal educational opportunities available to them?
From that day on, it became my mission to research equity and related issues in HISD, and advocate for change. I asked for data and crunched numbers over and over again; I read studies and reports; I wrote memos, letters to the editor and editorial essays; sent e-mails; met with anyone who would talk to me – administrators, academics, civil rights organizations, nonprofits, agencies, elected officials, media, parents, advocates, lawyers; and studied anything I could get my hands on about equity and education. I was determined to learn everything I could about our schools and whether or not we had equity in our magnet program, gifted and talented program, testing practices, and discipline policies. I vowed from the outset to go where the data took me – if my research found that the system I was researching was equitable, I would happily move on to something else. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to move on from these matters.
Through these three years I have held several official positions related to education. I am grateful to have been a member of the Houston Heights Association Education Committee, have served as a member of the HISD Hispanic Advisory Committee, and most recently, co-founded the Texas Education Coalition, a group of parents that advocate for funding for Texas public schools. However, it is the unofficial study, outreach to our community, and advocacy that has equipped me with the knowledge, tools, and point of view to make a difference in our school district.