By Charlotte Aguilar
The Houston Independent School District will no longer be independent, with the Texas Education Agency informing district leaders Wednesday (Nov. 6) that it would be taking over the state’s largest school system because of a “failure of governance.”
That means naming a replacement superintendent and a new board to run the district’s nearly 250 schools — which educate more than 200,000 students — to “prevent imminent and substantial harm to the welfare of the district’s students.”
In fact, the TEA is accepting applications for the board now. Other than that, not much is immediately known about the procedure and timetable for the takeover.
With nearly 30,000 faculty and staff, HISD is also one of Houston’s largest employers, and its $2.4 billion budget and multibillion-dollar construction projects are a vital part of the area’s economy.
An investigation delivered last week to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath recommended ouster of the board because of reported violations of the state open meetings laws and lack of required communication with some board members, in addition to irregularities in awarding of contracts.
It was a double-whammy, with the district facing takeover after Wheatley HS received its seventh failing grade on accountability standards. The district’s appeal of that grade was denied by the state on Tuesday.
One last hope is HISD’s request last week in federal court for an injunction against a takeover. Ironically, Sue Deigaard, the trustee who represents Bellaire, West University and parts of southwest Houston, complained on Facebook that she had not been informed of the filing.
Two other trustees facing re-election and implicated in the state findings of board wrongdoing — President Diana Davila and Sergio Lira, a former Bellaire HS assistant principal who represents Houston’s eastside — were rejected by voters in their bids for re-election Tuesday.
TEA also informed two smaller districts Wednesday that they would be taken over — Shepherd ISD in east Texas, and Snyder ISD in west Texas.
Back in 2013, the TEA shut down the 7,500-student North Forest ISD and ordered it to be annexed — into the Houston ISD.
Based in part on reporting from the Texas Tribune