Rumors are flying about some type of altercation between Houston school superintendent Terry Grier and city councilmember Melissa Noriega.
One version of the tale making the rounds is that Noriega was driving in front of Grier as they were both exiting a parking garage; Grier allegedly was upset at her slow speed. He bumped her car twice, the story goes, cursed at her and flipped the bird.
Absolutely, totally not true, Noriega tells Hair Balls.
But....she does say "I did have an experience with him, but it's kinda not my style to put that in the Houston Press."
The details of it? "Gossiping about Grier's bad behavior is not something I'm going to do."
When told people are talking about an incident she says, "It did happen."
But she says the car-bumping and finger-flipping allegations "are ridiculous....I had a very odd experience with him, [but] that was not it," she says. "That is incorrect."
We called Grier, who initially was utterly baffled by the news. HISD staff was working smoothly with Noriega's staff and had heard no problems, he said.
But he looked further into it by talking to board member Anna Eastman, and called us back to say that his understanding was that at the Mayor's Gala in April, he and his wife had been in his car, directly behind Noriega on the line to valet parking.
Noriega was driving a stickshift on the incline to the hotel entrance, and apparently was annoyed that Grier was pulling up too close to her each time the line moved up the slope, Grier says Eastman told him.
He says Eastman told him that Noriega said she got to the front of the line "and got up and got out and I got out along with my wife and that she thought I was being a jerk. I don't even remember it."
Later that night, Grier said, he and his wife were introduced to Noriega: "Anna Eastman said that Melissa was offended because my wife, when I turned to Nancy and said 'This is Nancy, my wife. Nancy, this is Miss Noriega' -- by the way, I don't remember any of this -- but my wife who is a wonderful person, genuine and salt of the earth, humble and who she is, Anna said she said 'My name is Nancy Grier, and what do you do?' and Anna said Melissa was taken aback and upset because Nancy didn't know who she was."
Grier said there was no intent to offend. "There was no intent on my part or my wife's part to behave badly, and I don't think we did," he says.
It's clear the two have some differences, beyond any social misunderstandings.
"My issues with Terry Grier, I think he came here with a charge from the board and I think the board is getting what they bought," she says. "If you want to talk about education, and what I think is a lot of the slash-and-burn stuff going on with the district, I might weigh in on that, but gossiping about Grier's bad behavior is not something I'm going to do."
Okay, then, what about his stewardship of HISD?
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"I'm just dismayed by how many good people I know are leaving [HISD]," Noriega says, adding "I'm not comfortable with Grier's approach, I'm certainly not...Everything I've heard has just been disturbing."
Grier said he "was not going to be critical of her for that opinion," but disagreed with it.
"There's 70,000 kids in our district who can't read on grade level and these children are African-American and Latino and that to me is inexcusable and we have to be willing to work hard," he said, "and we don't want any good people to leave the organization but frankly, there's some folks here who either will not or cannot meet those children's needs."
Note to bigwig party planners: Probably best not to seat these two together.