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Education News

Texas Education Agency Appoints 2 Conservators Over Special Ed In Houston

Each of the two new conservators come with 40 years of experience in special education, and they’ll have a broad scope of responsibilities.

Houston ISD Headquarters
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media
HISD’s Hattie Mae White Administration Building.

The Texas Education Agency has tasked two conservators to shore up special education services in Houston schools.

The move comes a few months after a TEA investigation slammed the Houston Independent School District for failing students with disabilities.

Each of the two new conservators come with 40 years of experience in special education. One — Molly Cordeau — has spent a decade in state oversight of school districts. The other, Fred Schafer, has directed special education in Katy ISD, among other districts.

Their new task is a big one: Fix what the TEA called “institutionalized” failures in special ed in HISD.

“We went through a very deliberative process to determine the very best individuals that would be suited and situated best to serve and support your students,” said Jeff Cotrill, deputy commissioner of standards and engagement at the state agency, at last week’s HISD board meeting.

The conservators told the school board last week they’re up for the challenge.

“I firmly believe that in the field of special education, support is a very crucial part of making sure that we’re in compliance,” Cordeau said.

Schafer said he’s also worked as a special ed monitor and conservator in another school system.

“What I have found in doing in that role is that orking together, we can make significant improvements,” he said.

Among the issues they’ll face are making sure HISD identifies all students with disabilities for special services, involving parents in decisions about their children’s education, and addressing inconsistent processes in identifying children with disabilities, as well as any other problems highlighted in the state’s special investigation into special ed in HISD.