Community advocates call for Cy-Fair ISD board member’s resignation

Cy-Fair ISD board trustee Scott Henry is being criticized for comments made at a Jan. 10 work session. (Screenshot courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair ISD board trustee Scott Henry is being criticized for comments made at a Jan. 10 work session. (Screenshot courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)

Cy-Fair ISD board trustee Scott Henry is being criticized for comments made at a Jan. 10 work session. (Screenshot courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)

A newly elected Cy-Fair ISD board member is being criticized for comments he made his second month in office. During a Jan. 10 board work session, Scott Henry said he did not want the district to be like Houston ISD, noting the district has a higher dropout rate and percentage of Black teachers.

Ryan Irving, who ran against Henry in the November election and now serves as president of the Cy-Fair Civic Alliance, said in a Jan. 12 interview with Community Impact Newspaper his organization was calling for Henry’s resignation. The Cy-Fair Civic Alliance is a nonpartisan organization formed as a direct response to the recent election to hold trustees accountable for ensuring district policies are in the best interest of all students.

“But where we draw the line is where we have trustee Henry making racist comments about Black educators. We don’t tolerate any type of hatred or racism or sexism of any kind, and that’s really the reason why we decided to take this route,” Irving said. “When it comes to a district that is 78% minority, it is important that Scott Henry is made an example of what Cy-Fair will and will not tolerate.”

At the Jan. 10 board work session, district officials reviewed the results of an equity audit the board unanimously called for in September 2020. Three new trustees were elected since, including Henry, who expressed his disappointment in the audit Jan. 10, calling it a “pile of rubbish” and a “heap of junk.”

Members of the Cy-Fair Civic Alliance and local elected officials, including Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner have called attention to a specific comment Henry made. A 40-second video clip has been shared via social media thousands of times since Monday’s four-and-a-half-hour meeting.

“The statewide average for Black teachers is 10%. Houston ISD—which y’all used [as] a shining example—you know what their average number of percentage of Black teachers is? Thirty-six percent. I looked that up. Know what their dropout rate is? Four percent. I don’t want to be 4%. I don’t want to be HISD,” Henry said. “I want to be a shining example. I want to be the district standard. I want to be the place—the premium place where people go to be. And quite frankly, we have a limited budget with limited resources, and we have a great place. And let’s don’t mess it up for everyone else.”

Nikki Cowart, president of the local teachers union Cy-Fair American Federation of Teachers, called Henry’s comments “ignorant and appalling.”

“It’s time for Scott Henry to go—to prevent another embarrassing and hurtful display of ignorance, racism and incompetence,” she said in a statement. “It’s time for him to resign, because he clearly can’t help inspire a diverse population of our kids in Cy-Fair schools after his pathetic rant against providing opportunities for all students.”

Audit findings

Millennium Learning Concepts, the consulting firm that conducted the audit, cited research that shows students have better academic performance and tend to be suspended less when they have teachers of their same racial background. District data showed 22% of the district’s student population was white, while 66% of teachers, 72% of principals and 63% of executive leadership were white in 2019-20.

The audit also found Black students were disproportionately disciplined and African American, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged and special education students lagged behind their peers academically in CFISD.

HISD’s dropout rate at the high school level was 3.1% in 2019-20 compared to 0.8% in Cy-Fair ISD and 1.6% statewide, according to the 2020-21 Texas Academic Performance Report released by the Texas Education Agency. Black students made up 19.3% of the student population in CFISD last school year, and 15.1% of teachers were Black. In HISD, 22.4% of students and 35.4% of teachers were Black.

Irving, who graduated from Langham Creek High School in 2016, said he can recall having two Black classroom teachers—not including athletic coaches—during his entire K-12 education in the district.

“It was something that I personally needed, especially as a third grader walking into a classroom and seeing not only a person of color, but seeing somebody that looks like me, somebody that talks like me, who is also well-educated, who understood my background and my issues,” Irving said. “It honestly made me feel very optimistic as a young child just having that example, and I’m now still friends with that teacher to this day.”

Henry’s response

Henry released a statement Jan. 12 saying his comments were “twisted” and that he wants schools to “get back to the basics” of reading and math.

“Any suggestion that I said more Black teachers leads to worse student outcomes is a flat out lie and those spreading that lie should be ashamed of themselves,” Henry said. “I am proud that our school district has placed an emphasis on hiring diverse teachers and that we exceed in doing so.”

Irving said based on this statement, he does not believe Henry understands how his words offended others or that he has taken accountability for them.

“I’m genuinely hurt ... not just as a former Cy-Fair ISD student but as an African American citizen of our community,” Irving said. “I do hope that he understands what he said was wrong.”

The CFISD board of trustees will convene for its regular Jan. 13 meeting at 6 p.m. Attend in person at 10300 Jones Road, Houston, or tune into the livestream here.
By Danica Lloyd

Editor, Cy-Fair

Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in 2016. As editor, she continues to cover local government, education, health care, real estate, development, business and transportation in Cy-Fair. Her experience prior to CI includes studying at the Washington Journalism Center and interning at a startup incubator in D.C., serving as editor-in-chief of Union University's student magazine and online newspaper, reporting for The Jackson Sun and freelancing for other publications in Arkansas and Tennessee.