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Saturday, June 10, 2023





Well folks, it looks like the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has decided to take over the Houston Independent School District (HISD), the largest school district in Texas and one of the biggest in the nation. Yes, you heard that right, the democratically elected school board and superintendent are out, and a new board of managers and superintendent appointed by the TEA are in. And let me tell you, the reactions have been mixed, to say the least.

So, what triggered this hostile takeover, you ask? Apparently, it all started with a 2015 law called HB 1842 that mandated an "intervention" and sanction of a public school that has received an academically unsuccessful performance rating for at least two consecutive school years. One of HISD's schools, Wheatley High School, violated this law by failing to meet state standards for seven consecutive years. And so, Mike Morath, the state commissioner of education appointed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, had no choice but to either order a closure of Wheatley or order a board of managers for the whole district. He chose the latter option, saying it was not in the best interest of kids at Wheatley to close the school.

But hold on a second, some critics of the takeover argue that Wheatley's performance rating was based on flawed standardized tests that do not reflect the quality of education or the challenges faced by students in low-income and minority communities. They also point out that HISD as a whole has improved its academic outcomes and graduation rates in recent years, and that Wheatley was making progress under a new principal and a partnership with Texas Southern University. So, what gives?

Well, on June 1, 2023, TEA announced Mike Miles as the new superintendent of HISD, along with nine new board of managers who will replace the elected HISD trustees following the state's intervention. Miles is a former superintendent of Dallas Independent School District and Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs. He has a reputation for being a reformer who pushes for higher standards, accountability, and innovation, but also for being controversial and divisive among teachers, parents, and community members.

And who are these nine new board of managers? We've got Janette Garza Lindner, a former HISD teacher and administrator who ran unsuccessfully for an HISD trustee seat in 2021; David Davenport, a former HISD teacher and principal who currently serves as an associate superintendent at Fort Bend ISD; Myrna Guidry, a retired judge who served on the 339th District Court in Harris County; Ed Hugetz, a former interim provost and senior vice chancellor at University of Houston; Judy Long, a former HISD teacher and principal who currently serves as an executive director at Spring Branch ISD; Margaret O'Brien-Molina, a former journalist and communications director at United Way of Greater Houston; Dipak Patel, a business owner and community leader who serves on several boards and committees in Houston; Daniela "Dani" Hernandez, a senior at Eastwood Academy High School and a student representative on the HISD Board of Education; and Kendall Baker, a former city council candidate and community activist who has been vocal in opposing the takeover.

Now, these new leaders have diverse backgrounds and experiences, but some critics question their legitimacy and suitability to lead HISD. Some have raised concerns about the lack of transparency and public input in their selection process, as well as their potential conflicts of interest or political agendas. Some have also noted that the new board does not reflect the racial and ethnic composition of HISD's student population, which is 62% Hispanic, 22% Black, 10% White, and 4% Asian. The new board has four White members, three Hispanic members, one Black member, and one Asian member.

And how have people reacted to all this? Well, it's been quite the mixed bag. Some have welcomed the intervention as an opportunity to improve HISD's performance, governance, and culture. They have expressed confidence in Miles' leadership and vision and hope that he will bring positive changes to the district. They have also praised some of the new board members for their expertise, experience, and commitment to education.

But others have opposed the takeover as an unjustified and undemocratic move that undermines local control and community voice. They have expressed distrust in Morath's authority and motives and fear that he will impose his agenda on HISD without regard for the needs and interests of the students, teachers, parents, and community members. They have also criticized some of the new board members for their lack of connection, representation or accountability to HISD's stakeholders.

The takeover has even sparked protests, lawsuits, and campaigns from various groups who want to stop or reverse the intervention. The Houston Federation of Teachers has repeatedly decried the lack of transparency and due process in the takeover process and has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of HB 1842. The Houston Education Association has launched a petition calling for a referendum on the takeover and has urged teachers to resist any changes that would harm their working conditions or students' learning outcomes. Several HISD students, parents, educators, and community members have also organized rallies and marches to voice their opposition to the takeover.

So what are the implications and challenges of all this? Well folks, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. The takeover of HISD is not a simple or quick solution to the district's problems. It is a controversial and complicated intervention that will require careful planning, execution, evaluation, and communication. It will also require collaboration, cooperation, and compromise among all the parties involved.

The new leaders of HISD will face many challenges in their attempt to turn around the district and improve its outcomes. They will have to deal with complex and interrelated issues such as academic achievement gaps, school quality and equity, teacher recruitment and retention, student enrollment and attendance, budget constraints and funding disparities, facility maintenance and safety, curriculum standards and assessments, special education and bilingual education services, parent and community engagement, and district culture and climate. They will also have to overcome resistance and skepticism from some of the district's stakeholders who may not trust or support their decisions or actions.

So buckle up folks because we're in for a wild ride. Let's just hope that democracy makes a comeback sometime soon because let's face it - kind of nice wasn't it?

Texas AFT :First Week of TEA’s Takeover of Houston ISD, in Review - Texas AFT 

Community shakes up first HISD board meeting since TEA takeover 

Where Houston ISD stands 6 days into TEA's takeover with 1st board meeting ahead 

Houston ISD's new board approves temporary contract for new superintendent amid raucous board meeting via @KHOU