‘I love this district’: HISD interim superintendent Grenita Lathan announces departure, accepts superintendent position in Springfield Missouri

HOUSTON – The Houston Independent School District announced Monday via social media that Grenita Lathan, the interim superintendent, is leaving the district, sharing a statement from her on Facebook.

Lathan made remarks Monday afternoon about her departure during a press conference. Lathan said she has accepted a new position as superintendent with the Springfield Public Schools in Springfield Missouri, starting on July 1.

“Really excited about the opportunity that the new school district will afford me,” she said.

The HISD school board voted last November not to name Lathan as the next superintendent, announcing a nationwide search. In 2018, the board removed Lathan as interim to go with a more favored candidate, former superintendent Ab Saavedra, who turned down the job. Dr. Lathan was then reinstated.

“I respect the decision that the board made to conduct a nationwide search but I also respect who I am as a leader and who I am as a woman,” Lathan said. “Actually going to be the first female of that school district and I know what my skills are.”

Lathan noted how she has navigated numerous challenges from Hurricane Harvey, the coronavirus pandemic to the recent winter storm during her three years as interim superintendent. She said she is honored and thankful for the opportunity and thanks HISD for the six years she has served in the district.

Lathan talked about the district’s achievements while in the interim superintendent position by committing services and supply resources to students and their families, especially during the pandemic.

“The hard work will not end today. My promise to our students, parents, staff and trustees, is that I will continue to work as hard in my final weeks here at HISD as I’ve done over the past six years,” she said. “I love this district and want to see the most orderly transition possible as we move forward.”

HISD released the following statement about Lathan’s announcement via social media:

“It’s a bittersweet moment as I accept an opportunity to make a positive impact in the Springfield (Missouri) Public School District, while bidding farewell to one of the most remarkable school districts in the country. The students, teachers, principals, staff, parents, and community of HISD are close to my heart, and I leave knowing that they are resilient and stronger together. Their light will keep shining through, and they will continue to be known for their innovation and success. I am beyond honored and thankful for this amazing opportunity, and I thank HISD for all the lessons learned, the success of our students, and the commitment of our staff. It has been more than six years that I have worked shoulder to shoulder with our principals, administrators, and teachers to get dozens of schools out of improvement required status and help our students reach their full potential. I intend to work as interim superintendent until the end of the 2020-2021 school year. My new position begins on July 1, 2021.”

The social media post also included a statement from Patricia Allen, HISD Board of Education president:

“As president of the HISD Board of Education, I would like to thank Dr. Lathan for her many years of service to the students of the Houston Independent School District – especially for her leadership as interim superintendent since March 2018. From moving numerous HISD campuses out of improvement required status to her strong leadership during several major weather events and a global pandemic, she has truly been a beacon for our students, staff, and families. We wish her well.”

Dr. Lathan’s departure came as a shock to some board members.

“I feel mixed emotions honestly,” said trustee Anne Sung. “I’m excited for Dr. Lathan I think Springfield is gaining a seasoned educator who’s going to do well for their kids but it’s also a loss to Houston ISD.”

Board member Kathy Blueford-Daniels said she’s proud of the work Dr. Lathan has done for the district.

“I just wish her the very, very best with her future. It’s just sad that we relied on her for the last three years or more and to carry to this district and these children and now she’s leaving,” Blueford-Daniels said.

Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said she had a good working relationship with Dr. Lathan and thought she should have applied again for the HISD superintendent position.

“I was really looking forward to us forming a bond that would foster progress for our district and our students,” Anderson said.

HISD has already begun the process of finding a new leader. The board hired a search firm last month to aid in the nationwide superintendent search. In March, the district will have a community meeting. In April, HISD plans to open the application process. Interviews will be hosted in May and the goal is to have a finalist begin in June.

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