Education News

Houston Mayor Says He’s Been Asked To Get ‘Very, Very Involved’ With HISD’s Struggling Schools

“I’m deciding to what degree and to how far I’m willing to get involved in the day-to-day operation of any of the schools,” Turner said

The Houston Independent School District is pursuing partners to help save its 10 most struggling schools, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he’s been asked to get “very, very involved” in those schools.

The state law authorizing these kinds of partnerships, called SB 1882, allows for a range of partners. They can include charter schools, nonprofits, higher education institutions or a governmental entity, like a city.

Last week, HISD’s Grenita Lathan gave the board of trustees a preview of the kind of partners the district wants for 10 schools that HISD must improve or be forced to close: “Our local universities being able to partner as it relates to the academics and then also having a governance structure with another partner,” said Lathan. She’s since been tapped as interim superintendent.

HISD’s spokesman Tracy Clemons said that the district is “still exploring partnership options.”

But when News 88.7 asked at City Hall Wednesday if the city of Houston would consider becoming an official partner, Turner demured.

“Let’s just say that I’ve been asked to be very, very involved by multiple individuals and then I’m deciding to what degree and to how far I’m willing to get involved in the day-to-day operation of any of the schools,” Turner said.

HISD has to send any partnership plans to the Texas Education Agency by April 30th for approval.

In Austin, state officials said that they want local districts to take the lead on developing these partnerships. But there are certain standards they must meet.

Associate Education Commissioner Joe Siedlecki  said that they’ll look for things like: “what is the education plan, what is the capacity of the partner to execute the plan?”  

Siedlecki said that if partners get the OK in June, they would run the schools, starting with the top staff. 

“The selection, the hiring, assignment, or approval of assignment of the principal and instructional staff, as well as making decisions about curriculum, calendar and the like,” Siedlecki explained.

The big benefit to HISD is it can get a two-year break on state sanctions — and maybe even more money for 10 schools on the state’s must improve list.

Siedlecki added that the two-year pause on state accountability would apply for the 2018 and 2019 school years, essentially giving any partner one academic year to turn-around schools.

Under the state law known as HB 1842, HISD must improve chronically failing schools this school year, or it must close them down or outside managers could replace the entire school board. The partnership route under SB 1882 offer a third alternative.

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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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