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Houston Superintendent Terry Grier Says ‘It’s Just Time’ To Step Down

Much like his tenure, Grier’s resignation drew mixed reactions.



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HISD school board members flanked Superintendent Terry Grier as he announced his resignation.
Laura Isensee
HISD school board members flanked Superintendent Terry Grier as he announced his resignation.

The Houston Independent School District will have a new leader next year. Superintendent Terry Grier is resigning after six years in charge of the nation’s seventh largest school district. He made the announcement Thursday afternoon before a large crowd in the lobby of the HISD headquarters. He’ll stay on the job until March 1, 2016, several months before his contract is up in June. “Someone said to me, ‘Well, why now? What’s going on?’” Grier said. “You can’t be school superintendent in Houston forever, even though you might want to. You just simply can’t.” Standing on stage with a cane, Grier also mentioned health issues. He’s struggled to recover from knee surgery this summer and has another knee surgery this fall. “It’s just time. That’s it in a nutshell. It’s just frankly time,” he said. The average tenure for a leader in a large urban school district is less than three years. Grier, who started in 2009, has far outlasted that. Much like his tenure, his resignation drew mixed reactions. “I don’t know about other people, I was surprised,” said Trustee Harvin Moore. “It kind of caught me off guard,” said Wretha Thomas, union president for HISD’s blue collar workers. Trustee Juliet Stipeche said that she was surprised, “that it happened today. I think there was writing on the wall.” “I feel no remorse for him leaving. I mean he needed to go,” said Gerry Monroe, executive director of the United Urban Alumni Association. With Grier, HISD has won prestigious national prizes – like the Broad Prize — and launched ambitious programs. It spent over $50 million to turn around struggling schools, called Apollo 20. It’s ramped up dual language programs to more than 50, including immersion schools for Mandarin Chinese and Arabic. And this year every high schooler is getting a laptop. “He has made a lot of omelets, which means breaking a lot of eggs,” Moore said. ”I think that’s been good. I think that’s healthy. I’ve been very, very pleased – as I think most people have with the incredible results – that have happened under his tenure.” Others see mixed, or even negative, results. Graduation rates have improved, but progress in reading is stagnant. And some contend signature programs, like Apollo 20, created more harm than benefit for students and teachers. “It’s the story we’ve seen across the district over the last six years, where the positive initiatives end up being overwhelmed by this emphasis on testing, testing, testing to ferret out supposedly bad teachers and push them out the door,” said Hany Khalil, a teacher and member of Community Voices for Public Education. Before he leaves, Grier has vowed to fix one major project: a nearly $2 billion school construction program that’s facing a budget shortfall and angry community members.