Education News

NAACP Leaders Call Vote Against Interim Houston ISD Superintendent ‘Racially Polarized’

Last week, the HISD board rejected naming Grenita Lathan as the permanent superintendent and instead voted to resume a national search.

Several leaders with the local NAACP called the vote against HISD’s interim superintendent “misguided.”

Pastors and leaders with the NAACP’s Houston branch spoke out in support of HISD’s interim superintendent Grenita Lathan Tuesday, after a failed vote to name her the sole finalist for the role last week.

“The 6-3 decision not to name Dr. Grenita Lathan as the official superintendent was a misguided vote, not in the best interest of our children,” said Dr. James Dixon, II, the vice president of the local NAACP, outside of HISD headquarters.

“It was also a vote that ignored the worthiness of Dr. Lathan for this position, based merely on meritorious performance,” he said. “More concerning is the racially polarizing tone and appearance displayed by this misguided action.”

Lathan, who is Black, has served as interim superintendent for more than two years.

During that time, she’s navigated recovery from Hurricane Harvey, turned around long-struggling schools like Worthing High and is dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“She serves with compassion, she serves humbly, she serves with a smile on her face,” said Dr. SJ Gilbert II, with Mount Sinai Baptist Church. “Of the evil done against her, she speaks nothing of it. She keeps on doing for these children what’s necessary.”

Under her tenure, HISD has also faced a potential state takeover — currently in litigation — and the Texas Education Agency has probed the school board’s behavior and longstanding problems with special education services.

HISD’s three Black board members supported Lathan as permanent superintendent, while the other six HISD trustees did not. Instead, the majority voted to resume a national search, though several members invited her to apply.

Still, leaders at the press conference Tuesday maintained they weren’t speaking out because Lathan is Black, but because of her track record and qualifications.

They echoed some of the comments from last week’s HISD board meeting.

“I know that we have had some turbulent times,” state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat, said at the meeting last Thursday.

“But as one of the largest school districts in the state of Texas and with the cutting edge of work that we’ve been able to accomplish … I think that she has earned an opportunity to be able to continue representing the school district in the capacity of HISD Superintendent,” Thompson said.

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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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