HISD Regional Supervisor May Have Memory Problems About Teacher Concerns At T.H. Rogers

T.H. Rogers is known as a pretty great school, in or out of the Houston Independent School District. But as my column this week ("Let the Record Reflect") shows, the principal there, Dr. Cathryn White, is at odds with several of her teachers.

Quoted in the story is the Regional Supervisor who oversees Rogers, Barbara Thornhill. Teachers and union officials from the Houston Federation of Teachers told the Houston Press they had complained for months about White, but Thornhill did nothing.

Thornhill disagreed, telling the Press no one brought any allegations to her about White at any time in or out of HFT meetings. And that's what we printed.

Which infuriated Zeph Capo, the HFT government liaison.

As it turns out, Hair Balls has come into possession of two e-mails that contradict Thornhill's statements.

In an e-mail dated February 26, 2009 from Capo to Thornhill,  the union leader says he is scheduled to represent two teachers at Rogers, that he met with several teachers at Rogers and "they were emphatic about their desire to transfer."

He goes on to say that a colleague of his is "setting up a meeting with the paraprofessional staff at the school interested in finding another place to work."

"I am unsure as of yet what the catalyst is behind the level of discontent, however it is coming from every aspect of the campus staff," Capo writes. Later he says, "I feel obligated to bring this matter to your attention, though I am concerned that the principal will react in a manner that will escalate the morale problems in an attempt to scare them into silence." He also writes that Thornhill has "been very fair and upfront" and that's why he's bringing her this.

In a February 27 e-mail back to Capo, Thornhill writes: "I have asked Jocelyn Mouton to contact you today. Dr. Mouton is the EP in charge of supervising the teaching and learning at TH Rogers. I appreciate your contacting me about your concerns."

So how is Thornhill able to say she knew nothing of the teacher/principal problems at Rogers? Did she forget about this e-mail exchange and her asking Dr. Mouton to look into it?

Hair Balls has sent those questions to the HISD press office and will update when they become available. Hair Balls is also waiting on a copy of that HISD survey of Rogers employees that Thornhill had said would have much more validity than an HFT survey done in March. The HFT survey, among other things, showed 56 percent of those who responded didn't think White meets minimum standards for instructional leadership.

The word we got was that the HISD-ordered survey didn't show results all that different than HFT's. We'll let you know either way once we get our hands on it.

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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