Houston ISD trustees took steps to advance the search for a new superintendent. They also addressed a concern among staff about using sick leave during mandatory COVID-19 quarantines. Here is a roundup of news to know from HISD this week.

Superintendent search firm selected

After interviewing three potential firms, trustees opted Jan. 6 to select the Austin-based firm JG Consulting to oversee the recruiting and vetting of superintendent candidates for HISD.

The action authorizes the district legal team to draft a contract to be approved. In November, trustees moved to resume the search after the Texas Education Agency halted a previous attempt.

JG Consulting was ahired Jan. 4 to run the search for Dripping Springs ISD's new superintendent and completed a successful superintendent search process for Austin ISD last summer amid the pandemic.

CEO James Guerra said his firm was positioned to sell the district to up-and-coming leaders nationwide.

"I think it's also important to underscore and to highlight how critically important it is as a team of 15, if you will—the nine of you plus the six of us—to work in unison. It's incredibly important that we're all singing from the same sheet of music," he told the trustees.

District policy amended to continue offering 80 hours of COVID-19 leave

The trustees backed a plan Jan. 6 to continue offering 80 hours—the equivalent of two work weeks—of paid medical leave in the event of a staff members' exposure to COVID-19, a provision that was previously covered by a federal law.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expired Dec. 31, which raised questions over how the district would handle paid leave taken in the event that a staff member is exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We are pleased and grateful to the board for supporting our employees who are required to quarantine as a result of contracting COVID-19 or being exposed to it,” Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “This measure allows us to help our staff, students and their families who are affected by the risks posed by the pandemic.”

As of Jan. 8, 235 staff members and 155 students had tested positive for COVID-19 in HISD.

HISD resumes food distribution

HISD Nutrition Services has resumed its weekly community distribution program on Wednesdays and Saturdays to provide food to students and families in need.

The sites provide seven days' worth of student meals to any child under age 18 and attending any school district.

A schedule of distribution times and locations is available at www.houstonisd.org/studentmeals.