Texas Education Agency to install board of managers for Houston ISD: Here's what that means

Houston ISD board of trustees
The Houston ISD board room is about to receive a state-mandated overhaul. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Houston ISD board room is about to receive a state-mandated overhaul. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Texas Education Agency notified Houston ISD on Nov. 6 that it will be appointing a board of managers to take on the oversight role of the district, the largest in the state to receive this kind intervention. Here is a breakdown of what this means and what could happen next.

Read a copy of the TEA's enforcement action against HISD here.

What does "takeover" mean?

The intervention applies only to the board of trustees and the superintendent. The TEA commissioner has the authority to appoint a board of managers, who will serve in place of the elected trustees, in certain circumstances. The commissioner can also appoint a new superintendent or appoint interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan to the role. The board of trustees does not run the day-to-day operations of the district but should provide accountability and broad oversight of policy, budget and strategic planning. "We want to assure our students, parents, staff, and community members that our primary focus will continue to be the education and success of our students," the district said in a release.

What happens to the board of trustees?

The elected trustees, including the two members newly elected Nov. 5, will retain their positions but will be stripped of their voting powers when the managers are appointed. How they can participate and cooperate with the appointed board is not defined. When the board of managers is transitioned out, trustees are gradually phased back in over a period of years.

Why is the state taking over HISD?

Under Texas House Bill 1842, passed in 2015, if a school does not meet accountability standards after five years, the TEA must order the closure of the campus or the installation of a board of managers to improve campus performance. In fact, HISD has not been able to lift Wheatley High School's rating since 2011, prior to the state law.

This alone was sufficient cause for the TEA's takeover order, but TEA Commissioner Mike Morath also cited an accreditation investigation's findings that board members had violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, interfered with contracting processes and exceeded their authority beyond state law as cause for ordering a board replacement.

What could stop the takeover from happening?

The HISD board of trustees has filed a lawsuit and is asking for an injunction to block the takeover or at least delay its implementation until the case can be heard. The suit challenges the findings of the accreditation investigation, and a hearing is set for Dec. 5. As for Wheatley, the district or a petition of parents of students at the school could opt to close the school in order to avoid the sanctions, but that would not resolve the TEA's findings regarding the board members' conduct.

When and how will the new board of managers be selected?

The TEA has already posted an application form with a deadline of Jan. 2. Information on the roles, duties and criteria has been published on a special TEA webpage for HISD.

According to the TEA enforcement letter, "a majority of the board of managers will consist of members of the Houston ISD community who are committed to service on behalf of the students of the district and the community." Per state law, the board "must, if possible, include community leaders, business representatives who have expertise in leadership, and individuals who have knowledge or expertise in the field of education."

According to the TEA, once the call is made for a board of managers, the agency will host regional workshops and forums to explain the roles and duties of the managers. The agency will screen the applications, interview candidates, and provide them a board orientation and governance training. At that point, a list of finalists are sent to the commissioner for approval.

According to research conducted by the Greater Houston Partnership, in previous cases the process has taken around four to six months from announcing the call for a board of managers to the swearing in.


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