Houston ISD trustee Carol Mims Galloway Monday made it clear once again and in even stronger terms that she thinks the current district administration headed by Superintendent Terry Grier is dumping on the people of the Fifth Ward in its plans to shutter the H.P. Carter Center.
"The administration came in and told everybody to vacate the place. It was supposed to be done by October," she railed. "This is a total lack of disrespect for the community. Disrespect to the board. Never have we ever just up and closed a school in the middle of a school year."
Galloway said instead of the board considering the issue and deciding whether to go ahead with it, it has now been put in the position of ratifying an already done deal. She charged that there was a complete "lack of transparency" in how it was handled.
And then, in the absence of Grier who was said to be away at an education conference, Chief Academic Officer Chuck Morris apologized to Galloway, agreed it hadn't been handled correctly and said it was all his fault.
"I will take responsibility for what happened initially. The budget was two some million dollars; we started looking at that. That's not being good stewards of taxpayer dollars." He said his mistake was in thinking they could make an immediate change and pull the students from the school in October. "We stepped out of line and we backed off."
In September, Grier's administration announced that they'd discovered that the Howard P. Carter Career with only 54 students was costing more than $2.86 million a year to run.
About a month later, in early October, Grier proposed shutting down the school. The trustee vote on this was delayed when Galloway protested. But it's back on the agenda for Thursday night's board meeting.
In fact, Morris said, the administration and trustees should have discovered the staggering per pupil cost at Carter in their budget deliberations last year.
Galloway complained Monday that she hadn't been kept fully informed about plans for the school, now down to 31 students.. Trustee Larry Marshall waded in with comments about having to make tough choices and then seemed to suggest that Galloway was old and forgetful (although still active).
Coming around again, Galloway conceded the administration had told her about its concerns for Carter "in passing" but she never thought they'd advocate shutting it down this year.
"All of a sudden we realize we have made a drastic error in budgeting. Now the community and I have to pay for our [HISD's] mistakes," Galloway said.
As it turns out, there may be little actual savings realized even with Carter closing down this year since its budget is already set. Unless the district can find other jobs for its excess teachers from Carter, it is committed to paying their salaries, Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett said.
There are accompanying plans to move the Contemporary Learning Center into the H.P. Carter site and modify its programs. (And all of the students who go to H.P. Carter can continue to attend school in the same building, just under the CLC moniker.) . Grier had previously questioned the direction and mission of CLC and also criticized the need for cosmetology classes at that school since no one taking them seemed to be going into a beauty school career.
If approved by the board, Carter will close in December.
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