HOUSTON – The Texas Education Agency informed the Houston Independent School District’s board of trustees on Wednesday that the board will be taken over by appointed state managers.
In a letter addressed to HISD’s board president and the district’s superintendent, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath laid out the reasons for the takeover, including the results of a Special Accreditation Investigation, the lowered accreditation status and the low performance of Wheatley High School.
"The long-standing failure of the board of trustees to provide better educational opportunities to the students of this campus, compel me to appoint a board of managers," Morath wrote.
According to Morath, a majority of the board of managers will consist of members of the HISD community. Job descriptions for the state board of managers were posted at TEA.Texas.gov.
In addition to the managers, TEA will also appoint an interim superintendent.
Critics argued that an appointed school board will strip citizens of their right to elect trustees.
“I am a firm believer of democracy no matter the outcomes," HISD's board president Diana Dávila wrote in a statement sent to KPRC 2. "The commissioner not allowing newly elected trustees to represent their communities is a slap in the face of democracy,"
Others questioned the reasoning behind the takeover.
"Why would you want to take it over?" asked Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. "I don't think any of us -- win, lose, or draw with what the races are -- nobody should feel comfortable with a board takeover."
A date for the takeover of the state's largest school district was not in the letter.
HISD officials issued the following statement about Wednesday's news.
"The Houston Independent School District has received a letter from Commissioner of Education Mike Morath regarding the appointment of a board of managers. 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."
The news is not unexpected. A final report issued in late October recommended for a second time that state managers take over HISD’s board.
After HISD elections
Wednesday's decision follows Tuesday's election results, which flipped four seats on the board. Some thought the replacement of four of the nine board members would encourage Morath to keep the board in place.
“It’s obvious from the returns that the voters have spoken," said Kathy Blueford-Daniels, who ran for the District 2 seat, and will advance to the Dec. 14 runoff election.
Other newly elected board members said, no matter if the TEA takes over, they would remain a presence at board meetings.
"I will be watching what the board of managers is doing," said Judith Cruz, who declared victory in the District 8 race, defeating current board president Diana Dávila. "I will ensure that the community is aware, that they know how to hold the board of managers accountable, that I am the liaison that has desperately been needed and will continue to be needed."