Education

HISD Names its Lone Superintendent Candidate and He's From Tennessee

Millard House II
Millard House II Screenshot
Millard House II, the director of schools for the Clarksville Montgomery school district in Tennessee was named the lone superintendent candidate for Houston ISD today by school board trustees in a unanimous vote.

His selection still has to go through a 21-day waiting period before a contract can be signed as is usual in hiring Texas superintendents.  And there's still the question of whether the Texas Education Agency's Commissioner Mike Morath will be able to swoop in and replace the school board — a matter tied up in the courts right now.

House made a few remarks in the brief meeting called to announce his selection, thanking his previous school district and resolving to be the kind of leader for Houston who will get the board and the community to believe in his vision.

"It brings me great pleasure to not only bring my family but to bring my expertise to this community," he said. The Clarksville-Montgomery School System with its 36,000 students and 42 schools has a student body that is both smaller and much less diverse than HISD's 196,000 students and 276 schools.

House said he would be working with his Tennessee district to ensue a smooth transition there and said he would miss the community there.  According to ClarksvilleNOW.com, a recent proposal to raise House's pay by $60,000 a year was not greeted very favorably by some members of the county commission that oversees the superintendent's salary in the Tennessee district who said the district was struggling with other budget problems. It was ultimately defeated.

In one bit of probably unintended humor, House thanked "a wonderful, spirited board of trustees." HISD's board, of course, in recent years has been known for its infighting, as well as having members who didn't get along too well with Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan — who was passed over for the permanent position more than once. (She is leaving to become superintendent of the Springfield Public School District in Missouri.) So it's still to be seen how much House welcomes that spirited board in the future. 

Neither he nor the trustees took any questions.

Richard Carranza was the last superintendent in HISD, leaving the position to become chancellor of the New York City Schools, a position he left earlier this year. Searches for Carranza's successor were suspended by a TEA conservator appointed to work with the district. The board came under increased scrutiny because some of its schools that could never rise above low-performing status and there were questions about trustees' interference in vendor contracts and their inability to get along with each other. Several independent assessments have said HISD is falling far short of what it should be doing in its special education programs.

In 2019, the Texas Legislative Budget Board evaluated HISD and cited it for poor financial planning and operation — its health insurance fund projected a $2.1 million loss. It was paying a lot of late bills meaning interest charges were tacked on and overtime pay had gone wild. 

So for an incoming superintendent looking to share his vision, he'll have a lot of jumping off points — all helpfully outlined for him by state agencies, independent auditors and parents. 
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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