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HISD responds to Harris County treasurer's plea for state to take over district

HOUSTON – The Harris County treasurer and the Houston Independent School District board president are responding to the discussion regarding the leadership of HISD and a mishap at the treasurer's news conference Friday when someone poured water on his head.

"These folks don't believe that I or anyone else that has a different view from them have a right to free speech ... speech is protected not for speech that you like but for speech that's different. They want to drown us out in the public square," Orlando Sanchez, the Harris County treasurer, said.

Sanchez spoke Saturday about the incident that happened Friday afternoon after he called a news conference to urge state officials to oversee operations at HISD. 

"All I asked for was for the governor to move and encourage the education commissioner, through the Texas Education Agency, to go ahead and appoint the board of governors to oversee the operations of HISD," Sanchez said.

He said he is disappointed with the district's leadership.

"The HISD board is completely dysfunctional," Sanchez told KPRC. "They have had school board members indicted and arrested. They've squandered the public's money. They're in deep debt. They've had three superintendents in less than 12 months."

On Saturday, HISD board of trustees President Rhonda Skillern-Jones told KPRC that she believes Sanchez's move to call attention to HISD is "disingenuous," saying she's never heard from Sanchez before.

"I don't know where he's been or how he decided or got any of his information to make that decision or to say those things," Skillern-Jones said. "To have him call for a replacement of the board without any basis. You have to know the statute, and there's nothing in the statute that HISD trustees have violated that would trigger a state takeover."

The HISD Board of Trustees celebrated in August when the TEA released the academic accountability ratings, which showed that 91 percent of the school district met the state's academic standards.

"We have 284 schools and four of them are the basis of this discussion. Again, TEA gave us a 'B' rating, so I don't know where (Sanchez) is getting that information from," Skillern-Jones said. "When he says 'dysfunctional' he's probably referring to the way the board members relate to each other, but we view it as siblings fight amongst themselves, but when we come together to make decisions for kids to pass budgets to ensure that these kids have what they need, that is still happening."

Skillern-Jones said despite her disagreeing with Sanchez, the water incident was not justified. 

"I don't think that was appropriate. I'm sorry that that happened ... I think there are better ways that we can express ourselves," Skillern-Jones said.