By Charlotte Aguilar
The state made its move Wednesday (March 15) to take over Houston ISD, which Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said would begin in earnest after school is out with replacement of the elected school board by a local “board of managers” that he will appoint by June 1.
In fact, the education agency posted listings Tuesday — apparently prematurely — to attract applicants for the positions. The job list and FAQs were pulled down, according to the Texas Tribune, but re-posted today. Morath told KHOU-Channel 11 news that the process is officially open now.
In an interview with KHOU-Channel 11 anchor Len Cannon, Morath outlined the process: “…they will assume all the powers and duties of the elected school board, so it’s essentially a shift in local control from the current locally elected board to an appointed board of nine. They then have all of the duties and obligations to govern the school system like any governing body in the State of Texas, so they’ll oversee the superintendent. They’ll set strategic direction. They’ll set budget. Their job as a team is to be focused like a laser on the needs of students above all else.”
Superintendent Millard House II, who was brought on in June 2021, issued a statement acknowledging his days are numbered and promising “my focus will be on working with our Board of Trustees and the TEA to ensure a smooth transition without disruption to our core mission of providing an exceptional educational experience for all students.”
The takeover of HISD’s 276 schools, educating 197,000 students, has been a four-year process — much of it a legal battle that the school board ended at its March 9 meeting following a Texas Supreme Court ruling in January against the district’s arguments.
According to Morath’s messaging, the district will have to meet performance guidelines, meet standards for its special education program, and the board of managers will have to focus on “student outcomes.”
The state has taken over seven districts in the last 20 years, with TEA intervention lasting from two to six years, according to the Texas Tribune. In HISD’s case, Morath says the goal is to return it fully to local control.
The last time HISD was involved in a TEA takeover, it was in quite a different role. In 2013, the state closed the adjacent North Forest School District after years of warnings, and HISD absorbed it fully.
FULL MEDIA STATEMENT FROM HISD SUPT. MILLARD HOUSE II
I stepped into my role understanding the obstacles we faced as a district including a looming TEA intervention. My team and I remained focused on building a framework that prioritized a high quality educational experience supported by world class talent for all students.
I am proud to say, in the last 19 months, we have already seen vast improvements. Because of the hard work of our students, teachers, and staff, we have lifted 40 of 50 schools off the D or F TEA accountability ratings list. Together, with our parents, community members and leaders, we developed the district’s first comprehensive five-year strategic plan to build a better HISD.
Today’s announcement does not discount the gains we have made district-wide. I am confident our educators and staff will continue to do the necessary work to ensure positive student outcomes at every level. For our students and families, it is education as usual, and the school year continues as normal. As we wrap up this school year, my focus will be on working with our Board of Trustees and the TEA to ensure a smooth transition without disruption to our core mission of providing an exceptional educational experience for all students.