Education News

HISD Superintendent Ready to Take on Challenge, Start Thinking of ‘Plan B’

“This is a call to action for the entire district.”

Houston ISD Superintendent Richard Carranza meets with staff and families on the first stop of his Listen & Learn Tour of the district at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center, September 14, 2016.
Houston ISD Superintendent Richard Carranza meets with staff and families on the first stop of his Listen & Learn Tour of the district at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center, September 14, 2016. The school has missed state standards for the last two years, one of 27 HISD schools considered “improvement required” by the state.

Houston’s school chief has been on the job less than a year, and now he faces a steep challenge: improve ten schools that have chronically failed to meet state standards. Otherwise, the Texas Education Commissioner will either close all those schools — or replace the district’s school board with his own board of managers.

HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza sat down with News 88.7 to talk about this new school year and how he plans to take on the challenge.

Here are some highlights from the conversation.

  • How he sizes up the situation: “It really is do or die. Literally, by August 15th of 2018, either the campuses have improved sufficiently enough to move out of ‘improvement required’ status or the Commissioner of Education can close those campuses or, in the thermonuclear option, come in and remove the board and install a board of managers. So in a real sense, this is kind of do or die.”
  • How HISD got to this point: “I think that systemically we’ve done it to ourselves. The way we’ve placed programs — not only magnet programs, but also dual language programs — how we’ve gone about doing that hasn’t always benefited or been a positive influence on these particular campuses. How we’ve drawn attendance boundaries. In addition, I think how we fund schools to do to do business is not helpful to the schools.”
  • How will HISD improve these schools: “We’re going to start the school year with those schools fully staffed. In some cases, we’ve pulled master teachers from other areas and they will go into those schools if they haven’t been able to hire a teacher yet. We’ve made sure that every one of those schools has an experienced principal … We’re working very closely with Mayor (Sylvester) Turner in the city of Houston around providing the wraparound services for those campuses that we know now many of those schools need. And then just a heightened level of looking at every dollar that’s spent, how it’s being spent.”
  • What parents outside of these struggling campuses should consider: “This is a call to action for the entire district …  I don’t think that there’s anyone in our district that would sit comfortably by and be OK with schools being shut down in one part of our city. That’s just not who we are as Houstonians. So you can’t say that the district is healthy and doing well, if you have a portfolio of schools that for multiple years have not been making academic improvement the way we want them to.”
  • Will he consider closing schools to avoid a state take-over: “I’ve never been a proponent of closing schools because when you close a school in a community — especially the communities that we’re talking about– what you do is. you start the decay of the community. Now if there’s an opportunity to re-purpose the schools, then I think we should have a conversation. We should probably start having that conversation right now — what is Plan B? Because January will be too late, not enough time to plan for it.”
  • Is this the job he imagined a year ago: “I feel like I’m called to be here. I feel like I need to be here. And, quite frankly, I am so, so optimistic about how we’re going to actually take on this challenge. And for all the naysayers, show them that actually we can do this.”

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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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