Hurricane Harvey

Harvey Adds Pressure To HISD, Already Under Threat of State Takeover

The Texas Education Agency has not made any decision if potential sanctions will be relaxed because of Harvey.

HISD Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Wanda Adams visited a northeast Houston neighborhood after Harvey, where homes and schools were damaged.
HISD Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Wanda Adams visited a northeast Houston neighborhood after Harvey, where homes and schools were damaged.

Even before Harvey hit Houston, the state’s largest school district faced one of its biggest challenges: to improve 10 chronically failing schools, or face a state take-over.

Now the recovery from Harvey will help decide the future of the district. That threat hasn’t gone away, even as Harvey’s floodwaters have receded and students head back to class.

Ten Houston schools have missed state standards for so long that the entire school board could be replaced — or the schools could be shut down — if they don’t improve this year. Those are the consequences set up in the law known as House Bill 1842.

Now the Houston Independent School District also has to fix flooded buildings, make sure displaced students are enrolled and find new locations for nine schools that Harvey hit the worst. At least one of those nine — Hilliard Elementary — is one of those already struggling schools.

Superintendent Richard Carranza said that he’s still committed to improving them.

“So those schools for us, there is no option but to actually show what we can do academically,” Carranza said. “But you see, the board and I cannot do this alone, the communities and I cannot do this alone, we need our partners to be in this fight for us.”

At a back-to-school press conference, Mayor Sylvester Turner pledged his support in the effort and hinted at a major initiative in the works — but didn’t give details.

“Just like we’ve conquered Harvey, we will conquer the fact that we have 10 schools that need be significantly improved,” Turner said. “This is a can-do city and I know it will happen and I’m prepared to join with the HISD in doing that.”

A spokeswoman at the Texas Education Agency, DeEtta Culbertson, said that administrators still need to discuss if they will relax any sanctions.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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