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Deputy Commissioner Held Private Meetings in Houston When School District’s Future Was Uncertain

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said that there are two ways to look at the situation.

News 88.7 reviewed sections of Deputy Education Commissioner AJ Crabill's calendar and found a series of meetings in Houston.
News 88.7 reviewed part of Deputy Education Commissioner AJ Crabill’s calendar and found a series of meetings in Houston.

The Texas Education Agency held private meetings to discuss the future of the Houston school district earlier this year, when the future of several Houston schools and the elected school board was at stake.

News 88.7 checked out the calendar of Texas’ Deputy Education Commissioner AJ Crabill. It shows that over a period of 10 weeks from April to June, Crabill visited Houston nearly every weekend and had over two dozen meetings with community leaders, education advocates and others. They met at places like House of Pies, Hotel Zaza, private homes and community centers.

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said that there are two ways to look at the situation.

“The negative perspective is that these meetings are being held with private individuals and groups, out of the public eye,” Jones said.  “The positive, though, is that these meetings are actually taking place and we’re not just having someone in Austin say, ‘This is the law of the land, this is the way it’s going to be, we don’t care what anyone else thinks.'”

Jones added that it would be more in line with good governance to have a public forum in addition to private meetings for sensitive conversations.

“If I was going to be charitable, I think what the (Texas Education Agency) and Deputy Commissioner Crabill wanted to avoid is political posturing and a soap box and a media circus, and instead try to meet with the individual groups, see what their concerns were and then go back to Austin and craft a plan that is amenable to all sides,” Jones said.

News 88.7 confirmed with at least two participants that Crabill discussed the state law that triggers a school board takeover, known as House Bill 1842.

Last school year, the Houston school district managed to avoid a state board of managers or closing several schools. However, it must continue to improve to continue to avoid those penalties.

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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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