Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan Announces She's Leaving HISD

Grenita Lathan in November 2020 when the board voted 6-3 not to give her the superintendent spot.
Grenita Lathan in November 2020 when the board voted 6-3 not to give her the superintendent spot. Screenshot

Dr. Grenita Lathan, the polarizing figure at the center of several of the Houston ISD's defining moments in the last three years, announced Monday by Twitter that she is leaving to become superintendent of Springfield Public Schools starting July 1, 2021.

Saying it was "a bittersweet moment," Lathan said she intends to remain at the helm of HISD until the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Members of the HISD school board who supported Lathan made several runs at having her named the superintendent of the district, but were repeatedly unsuccessful in getting her status moved up from Interim. In fact, in October 2018, she was demoted from that status and a successor chosen — an action reversed about a week later after outcry from the Black community. Other members of the board remained opposed to awarding her the top permanent position — at least not until after a national search for other candidates — and a push in November 2020 to name her the superintendent was defeated in a 6-3 vote.

According to the Springfield website, Lathan was a unanimous section after a nationwide search. She'll be moving from the seventh largest district in the country with 196,000 students and 276 schools to a district with about 26,000 students and  63 schools. .

During her tenure, HISD made some academic gains but couldn't solve the problem of some historically low-performing schools — which resulted in an attempted takeover (still to be decided by the courts) of the district by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. 

Another problem, that pre-dated her tenure, was the district's special education services which never seemed to improve despite calls from the board and Lathan's administration to do so. In fact, the TEA last September harshly criticized the district for what it said was a "historical failure." HISD was not doing timely initial special ed evaluations and the TEA alleged "falsified data in order to hide these failures."

In-fighting among board members that split along racial lines did nothing to burnish the district's reputation, while the administration continued to be questioned over how it conducted its business especially about its contracts.

Lathan took over from Superintendent Richard Carranza who bolted the district when the opportunity arose for him to be named chancellor of the New York City public schools (Carranza recently announced he was leaving that post this month).

The board had already started a search for a new superintendent, although it is still to be seen whether HISD or the TEA will prevail in who will be running the district.

Patricia Allen, president of the HISD school board, who had supported Lathan for the HISD superintendency, issued this statement:

“As president of the HISD Board of Education, I would like to thank Dr. Lathan for her many years of service to the students of the Houston Independent School District – especially for her leadership as interim superintendent since March 2018. From moving numerous HISD campuses out of improvement required status to her strong leadership during several major weather events and a global pandemic, she has truly been a beacon for our students, staff, and families. We wish her well.”
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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