It Appears HISD's Decision is No Longer Operative and We're in the Middle of a Do-Over on Interim Superintendent

Grenita Lathan - don't count her out yet.
Grenita Lathan - don't count her out yet. Courtesy of HISD-TV
Later today, on the very day that former Superintendent Abe Saavedra was to take over the reins once again of the Houston ISD, trustees are expected to take back their decision on demoting Grenita Lathan as interim superintendent and replacing her with Saavedra.

A 5 p.m. press conference has been called at the Hattie Mae White administration building and the news media has been alerted. Lathan is expected to be there.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Saavedra has withdrawn from the opportunity to preside over this district and whatever his capabilities might be the second time around — who could possibly blame him?

It's been a whirlwind few days. On Thursday night, unexpectedly, five trustees voted to re-hire Saavedra for six months. The three African-American trustees who voted against this  — Board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Wanda Adams and Jolanda Jones — said they had been blindsided. No one told them of this prospective vote  or the private conversations some of the trustees had with Saavedra ahead of time. A racial divide was declared; an African-American interim had been rejected in favor of a Hispanic one. 

Many members of the Thursday night audience were unhappy. As the news spread, many members of the African-American community were unhappy. Mayor Sylvester Turner was unhappy and said so. In fact, late Sunday his press office issued this statement:

The following is a statement by Mayor Sylvester Turner in anticipation of the announcement that the Houston Independent School District board of trustees will reverse its hiring of former superintendent Abelardo Saavedra as interim superintendent:

"“This is a good outcome for today. But our children need a board with trustees working together, harmoniously, for the good of the children now and in the future.

"The only question that should be asked and answered is what is in the best interests of the 215,000 students in the district. Also, the administration should be allowed to do its job.

“People have become impatient with a dysfunctional board. There is no tolerance for bad behavior, regardless of who the bad actors are, when it comes at the expense of what’s best for our children.”

Following the Thursday vote, a rally was held by African-American board members and civic leaders expressing their displeasure. Leaders said they had support of all colors of the community, a statement only somewhat undercut when the film is viewed.

Sunday, as it turns out, the board met in a "special meeting." According to the HISD website on Sunday, this meeting was posted on Thursday October 11. How many people were aware of it outside of the board is anyone's guess. But then again, this board has already blown any image of transparency to smithereens.

Are good people doing bad or at least questionable things for the right or wrong reasons? Jury's still out there. Is this board setting a new bar for political backbiting and dysfunction? Boy howdy. Is the Texas Education Agency watching? You bet.  
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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.
Contact: Margaret Downing