As the Texas Education Agency prepares to name new board managers and a new superintendent for Houston ISD as part of an ongoing state intervention into the district, TEA officials are asking the existing elected board members to lend insight and institutional knowledge to those who are soon to take their seats.

The TEA remains on track to name new members of the board of managers on or around June 1, TEA Deputy Commissioner for Governance Steve Lecholop said. Speaking to members of the HISD board of trustees at a May 18 meeting, Lecholop added the new superintendent—picked directly by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath—will be announced at the same time.

How we got here: The state takeover was officially announced in March, several months after a decision by the Texas Supreme Court cleared a legal path for the TEA to move forward and more than three years after the TEA first announced intentions to take over the district, setting off the yearslong legal battle. The TEA has argued it is compelled by state law to proceed with the intervention based on the academic performance of Wheatley High School, the continued appointment of a conservator in the district and a 2019 investigation into the district.

However, the TEA’s intervention plans have also been criticized by public education advocacy groups, Houston leaders and other community groups in Houston who have expressed a wide range of concerns, including the installation of a board of managers that is not accountable to voters; the potential jeopardization of progress the district has made in recent years in state accountability ratings; an overemphasis on standardized testing; and research at the national level showing state takeovers of local school districts have not led to improvements elsewhere.

Current situation: A total of 462 people applied for spots on the TEA’s board of managers, a number Lecholop said was narrowed down to 227 people who were able to complete the TEA’s Lone Star Governance training required for board consideration. Evaluations of the remaining 227 candidates will continue until the planned June 1 announcement, he said.

Dates to know: With June 1 the target date for the naming of new board members, Lecholop said the district’s agenda review meeting already planned for that day will likely be delayed to June 8. Two other scheduled meetings are also likely to each be pushed back a week, he said, including a budget workshop that would be moved from June 8 to June 15 as well as a planned meeting to adopt the fiscal year 2023-24 budget, which would be moved from June 15 to June 22.

Meeting highlights: Lecholop identified three ways he said the elected board members could help with the transition to the new appointed board of managers in June.
  • Serve as liaisons to the community, connecting new board members to the community during a 90-day community engagement strategy. During those 90 days, Lecholop said trustees could reach out to the new incoming members and fill them in on the groups in each community with whom to engage.
  • Partner with board members to share institutional knowledge on what needs to be addressed in the district, vision, values and concerns
  • Helping new board members with the process of developing new goals and constraints that will be in effect once the current goals expire at the end of the 2023-24 school year
The timeline: The TEA's intervention is expected to last until certain criteria are met that demonstrate the district can return to elected leadership. The criteria are related to academic performance; the district’s approach to supporting students with disabilities; enacting board conduct that is consistent with high-performing teams; and providing strategies for long-term improvement.

The first year that exit criteria are met, three elected board members will be allowed to return to the board, replacing three of the appointed members. Three more members would return in each of the following two years until the nine-person board is once again entirely made up of elected officials.

Morath's newly appointed superintendent choice would remain in the position pursuant to contractual obligations.

Quote to note: “We have an incredible board services that help move things along, but when you have nine people that don’t know the ropes, it can get pretty complicated,” District 1 Trustee Elizabeth Santos said, speaking on the planned adoption of a new budget several weeks after nine new board members take over.

Going forward: The elected trustees will no longer have access to their HISD email address starting June 1 or whenever the new board takes over. District 7 Trustee Bridget Wade raised concerns at the May 18 meeting about staying in touch with constituents and serving as liaisons to new board members without a clear way for residents to get in touch. Lecholop suggested setting up a new email address on their own for that purpose but said he would look into other solutions and follow up.

District staff will continue to be employed as the takeover moves forward, and Lecholop said district operations will continue to run as they are now, including all summer plans for the district.