The trustees for the largest public school district in Texas will be replaced by a state-appointed board of managers.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, in a Wednesday letter addressed to Houston ISD interim superintendent Grenita Lathan and school board president Diana Davila, informed the district that its nine trustees will be replaced by a board of managers, many of whom will be members of the HISD community. Morath said he would inform the district of his appointments at an unspecified later date.
In Wednesday’s letter, provided to The Leader by the Texas Education Agency, Morath cited multiple reasons for deciding to replace the HISD board and superintendent, continue having Doris Delaney serve as conservator for the district and lower HISD’s accreditation status: the continued unacceptable academic performance at Wheatley High School, which failed to meet state academic standards for the seventh consecutive year; and the results of the TEA’s special accreditation investigation that found HISD trustees violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and contract procurement rules, acted individually on the behalf of the board and exceeded the scope of their authority.
“Given the inability of the board of trustees to govern the district, these sanctions are necessary to protect the interests of the district’s current and future students,” Morath wrote.
HISD can ask the TEA for a formal review of the sanctions by submitting a written request by Nov. 20.
“We want to assure our students, parents, staff, and community members that our primary focus will continue to be the education and success of our students,” HISD said in a statement.
A day before Morath sent his letter to HISD, Davila and trustee Sergio Lira lost re-election bids to Judith Cruz and Dani Hernandez, respectively. Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who represented area schools in District 2, and Jolanda Jones did not seek re-election. Katherine Blueford-Daniels and John Curtis Gibbs will compete in a runoff for the seat vacated by Skillern-Jones, while Patricia Allen and Matt Barnes are headed to a runoff for the seat vacated by Jones.
According to the TEA, the newly elected trustees will not be installed until Morath starts the process of transitioning the board back to locally elected trustees. That could be at least two years after a state-appointed board of managers is put in place.
The other HISD trustees, whose staggered four-year terms were not affected by this year’s election, are Wanda Adams, Sue Deigaard, Holly Maria Lynn Vilaseca, Elizabeth Santos and Anne Sung. Santos also represents area schools in District 1.