Millard House II

Millard House II 

As the Texas Education Agency prepares to take over Houston Independent School District on June 1, the HISD board of trustees held what is likely to be their final public meeting before the takeover happens in the coming weeks.

With the standard passing of motions and approval of prior meeting minutes on May 11, there was also an extended period when trustees spoke directly to the communities they have served ahead of being removed in favor of state-appointed managers.

“Thank you for allowing me to serve you… service is what I do,” said District II board member Kathy Blueford-Daniels, whose district includes local schools such as Highland Heights, Oak Forest, and Stevens elementary schools as well as Frank Black Middle School and Booker T. Washington High School.

More than two months after the decision was announced, there is still uncertainty hanging over the district. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted last Saturday that he has heard from sources that former Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles has been tabbed to take over, but the TEA has not publicly confirmed.  The TEA said during a recent meeting that no information about who will be on the board of managers or appointed as superintendent will be released until the previously-announced June 1 date.

The efforts to enforce a takeover began in 2019, when TEA Commissioner Mike Morath began efforts to replace the HISD board amidst allegations of board misconduct as well as nearly a decade of low academic performance at Wheatley High School. The district sued the TEA in 2020, and was granted an injunction by a Travis County judge – which was later upheld by an appeals court. In January, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the agency and threw out the injunction – clearing the way for the takeover that will be enforced beginning in the coming weeks.

But even though they will soon no longer be serving in the same capacity, board members said they will continue to fight for their communities.

“I will not be going away. I will still be watching, asking for transparency and sharing of information with the public,” said Judith Cruz, whose District VIII includes Sinclair Elementary. “This board showed up, we put in the time and we put in the work even though we disagreed a lot of the time.”

In a March 15 letter announcing the takeover, Morath cited one of the district’s campuses – Wheatley High School – receiving “unacceptable” academic performance from 2011-2019, which he said requires the TEA to either close the campus or appoint a board  of managers if it happens for at least five consecutive years. He also cited that the district previously had a conservator assigned for more than two consecutive school years as among the reasons for the takeover.

Over the last two years, the district has raised 40 schools that previously received failing grades in the TEA’s annual performance ratings up to passing grades, according to the most recent data from the TEA. And Superintendent Millard House II said that, board members, staff, teachers, and communities should be proud of what has been accomplished in recent years despite the impending takeover.

“It been a journey like no other – filled with challenges that you all see in public on a daily basis, traps, and lessons learned. I really have had the honor to witness firsthand the incredible work being done in our classrooms with our educators and those who work with our students on a daily basis,” House said. “The passion and dedication of our teachers, staff, and students has been really inspiring to what I do and have the opportunity to do on a daily basis.”

And that passion, board members said, will not go away despite the fact that they are being taken off their seats.

“I’m always going to fight. Because I am that kid at Wheatley, at Waltrip, Yates, Worthy, etc. I’m that kid,” Blueford-Daniels said. “…I’m going to always try to do what’s best for our children.”

House echoed the sentiment.

“I want to thank the HISD community for your support, for your tireless dedication to our (kids),” he said. “It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to serve as your superintendent, and I’m proud of all that we have accomplished together.”

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