With board of trustees’ fate in question, business leaders urged to step up support for Houston ISD

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Following a keynote address by Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath in which he called for broad community engagement in public schools, Greater Houston Partnership President Bob Harvey told area business and school leaders he expects the replacement of Houston ISD’s board in the coming months and asked them to get involved and advocate for a new direction for the district.

“HISD needs a fresh start,” Harvey said during closing remarks at the partnership’s first-ever State of Education summit. “That’s why we’ve called on Commissioner Morath to appoint a local board of managers to run the district that is composed of a diverse group of Houstonians who will prioritize our children and create sustainable conditions where clear-minded decisions can be made.”

On Sept. 5, the board of trustees asked the district to formally appeal the rating of Wheatley High School—one of two potential triggers that could lead the school board to be removed. An appeal decision could come as late as December, when the TEA will formally finalize its accountability ratings.

The other potential trigger is the state investigation into five board members that recommended their removal, citing evidence of violations of the Open Meetings Act and interference in district contracting. The board members involved in the investigation have filed a lawsuit to appeal those findings.

Harvey also pledged that the GHP, a regional chamber of commerce for 11 counties and over 1,000 organizations in the Houston area, would remain engaged in the district for the long haul even though prior attempts to do so, Harvey said, were “episodic.”

“We’re talking about years; we’re talking about five years; we’re talking about a decade to really transform HISD,” Harvey said. “We see it as necessary.”

Part of that means participating in the upcoming board of trustees election, he said, because whoever is elected could be seated before a state intervention occurs and could remain elected after the managers’ appointments end. That could be as short as two years, if failing schools improve their ratings.

“This is an opportunity to reset the culture of governance. … It also requires a plan for a thoughtful transition that returns control back to the electorate,” Harvey said.

The partnership’s comments came after a keynote address by Morath, who touted the role that House Bill 3, the comprehensive school finance bill that passed this summer, will have on improving student outcomes across the state.

“We are much better than we have ever been before, but we’re still not good enough for all of our kids,” Morath said.

Morath also called on business and community leaders to volunteer their time and talents to help public schools thrive.

“You need to adopt a school, you need to adopt a kid, you need to adopt a teacher. You need to be engaged in this work, because it is too difficult without your help,” Morath said.

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  1. The chief spokesman for the Greater Houston Partnership is blinder than a bat, i.e., blind as a bat. HISD’s student population is 8.8% white. The state’s TEA will be unable to do what Mr. Harvey wants, a “fresh start” for the HISD. TEA appointed managers are generally good for two years. At the end of two years, TEA starts to install “elected” board trustees, as is the case today. The reinstatement of an elected board starts in 2022 and has a full elected board by 2024, 2 in 2022, 3 in 2023 and 4 in 2024. Similar TEA takedowns in Texas have not yielded improvements for the districts that have had their elected boards taken out by TEA. Wheatley is a failing high school campus, been so for 7 straight years. TEA should order the closing of Wheatley. HISD has 27 other high school campuses that are doing just well. Mr. Harvey does not like the electoral process that gives us our HISD board of trustees. What Wheatley needs is an additional $4,000.00 per student to turn the campus around. If TEA does not want to invest in Wheatley, close it does. If Mr. Harvey does not like to trustees that the voters of the HISD elect to run their school district, Mr. Harvey should move to Houston and run for a seat on the HISD board of trustees. I and several tens of Houston ISD voters will vote him down in a New York minute. TEA is already contacting Republican Latinos, Blacks and Whites to serve as appointed managers. Good luck. Can’t win at the ballot box, remove the elected board, a Democratic one for sure, and appoint a Republican board. How nifty.

  2. Of the two basis for removing the HISD elected board of trustees, the matter of a failing campus for 7 straight years. close the campus or invest an additional $2,000.00 to $4,000.00 per student to turn the campus around. On the matter of bad board members, the board members are by the state constitution and state law, The Texas Local Government Code has the provision for removing any local Texas government official, from the (1) a district attorney; (2) a county attorney; (3) a county judge; (4) a county commissioner; (5) a county clerk;
    (6) a district clerk; (7) a district and county clerk; (8) a county treasurer; (9) a sheriff; (10) a county surveyor; (11) a county tax assessor-collector; (12) a constable; (13) a justice of the peace; (14) a member of the board of trustees of an independent school district; and (15) a county officer, not otherwise named by this section, whose office is created under the constitution or other law of this state. Removal can be for cause, incompetence, or official misconduct or for intoxication, on or off duty. The action has to be in a county district court with judicial removal possible after atrial by jury, not a trial by judge. A TEA report that HISD trustees committed wrongs are trumped by Texas state statute, see TLCC, Section 87.012. You cannot take down any locally elected officer based on allegations. Similar standards for removing any elected official are part of the law of the land. the HISD has been in existence since 1923. It has take minorities 96 years to be voted into office to run their school district. Morath’s TEA action to remove the elected board is a political game, which the GOP might win today, but the future long term history of the HISD is already written. Minorities, and Democrats at that, for the most part, will eventually rule the day. If an HISD trustee has committed transgressions which are the basis for a boot out, file a complaint with in the Harris County District Court and let a Harris County jury adjudicate the matter. Striking out a trustee for being a part of a “walking quorum” without a trial by a jury of his or her peers, as required by state law is unlawful, which you will find is one of the basis of the lawsuit the trustees have filed against TEA and Morath.

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Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.
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