Upchurch Home saved from AISD

School Board votes 7-0 to Drop Eminent Domain action

By David Taylor
Managing Editor

It’s over. After months of anxiety, worry, and a new high blood pressure diagnosis, Travis Upchurch, Jr. can finally relax following a 7-0 vote by the Aldine ISD school board last Tuesday night to stop eminent domain proceedings against the 79-year-old.

Upchurch was relieved following the vote, telling KPRC’s Bryce Newberry, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m just glad it turned out like that.”

The Aldine ISD Board of Trustees voted to discontinue negotiations to purchase land from Travis Upchurch at 1810 Aldine Meadows and land owned by the Upchurch family at 1926 Aldine Meadows authorized by prior resolutions dated November 15, 2022, and April 18, 2023.

The land had been in the family for more than 100 years and the family were big supporters of the district till this occurred.

“This will allow Travis Upchurch to retain ownership and landowner responsibilities for these properties. To this end, this matter is concluded, and all negotiations have ceased,” read a statement by the district following the vote.

His son Travis was skeptical at first.

“This is all new ground for us and the district,” he said. “We don’t want just a verbal agreement.”

Two days later, Upchurch received a letter from Annette Ramirez, assistant general counsel for the district, confirming the offers to purchase the land and all negotiations by the district had officially ceased. Copies were mailed to Upchurch, Jr. and his children.

He also held some suspicions about the vote occurring just six days before early voting for the $1.8 billion bond and school board races began.

“As I understand it, they also rescinded their power to use eminent domain in the future,” he said. “I guess in the future they can vote to use it again, but for now, it’s done.”

Upchurch was quick to thank the hundreds of supporters in the community who wrote letters of support or showed up to the meeting.

“There were folks we didn’t even know that were speaking to the board on our behalf,” said an amazed Upchurch.

He specifically thanked Dr. Jill Metcalfe a former classmate and teacher in Aldine, community organizer Araceli Ramos, AISD school board member Viola Garcia, Chairman Carlos Silva of the East Aldine Management District, and old family friend and real estate broker Todd Edmonds who helped the family navigate the uncertain waters of eminent domain.

“Mrs. Garcia was the only board member that acknowledged our letters and phone calls we sent to all the board members, and we appreciate it,” Upchurch said.

He also thanked the staff at the district who worked with him. “They were all very professional,” he said.

One of the disappointments of the whole process for Upchurch and his siblings who all worked together to save their father’s home, was board members who said they didn’t know anyone lived at the property.

“They kept saying ‘we have new information that’s come to the board’s attention and we’re going to have another vote on it.’ You want to take a guess what that new information was? Someone lives there!” Upchurch said.

Upchurch had been before the school board with his siblings repeatedly, and he found it incredulous that they wouldn’t know his father was still living there.

“That also meant that nobody bothered to call him, send him a letter, knock on the door, leave a postcard on the gate or even notice the dogs running around in the yard!” he said. “They didn’t even look in the county records to see that the house is homesteaded.”

Since July, Travis, his siblings, and strangers had come before the board and telling them to let him continue to live out his life on the property.

“I’ve been telling the board to their faces,” he said.

He was stunned.

“I hope my father hasn’t been used as a political pawn in all of this,” he said.

Upchurch and his siblings weren’t done with the district but have returned the favor to help some of their friends in their bid for board seats.

Apparently, the district also sent out an email to those who spoke on behalf of the Upchurch family announcing the board’s vote.

“We are thrilled to have this behind us,” said Tara Upchurch, the daughter.

She said they did a lot of research and digging to find out how the board was operating and get the necessary details to defend their father and his property.

“No one really watches school boards and how much power they have. Now it makes me want to watch my own local board to find out what’s happening with them,” she said.

She said she wouldn’t feel better about things in Aldine until after the election.

“We can’t vote, but we can get the word out and tell people what we’ve learned in our experience,” she said.

Tara said they had fallen in love with the Aldine community again because they came out and supported her dad.

“It really feels like a win for everyone, not just my dad.”