Education

Is It For Whom the Bell Tolls Time for HISD's Trustees, Despite Kashmere's Success?

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan greeted an ecstatic crowd with mostly good news. Expect an appeal on Wheatley.
Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan greeted an ecstatic crowd with mostly good news. Expect an appeal on Wheatley. Photo by Margaret Downing

click to enlarge Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan greeted an ecstatic crowd with mostly good news. Expect an appeal on Wheatley. - PHOTO BY MARGARET DOWNING
Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan greeted an ecstatic crowd with mostly good news. Expect an appeal on Wheatley.
Photo by Margaret Downing
It was an almost completely glorious day for Houston ISD Thursday as dignitaries, staff, district officials and true believers gathered at Kashmere High School to celebrate that school finally scoring a "C" in the state accountability ratings.  Because when you're looking at another "F," clearing the hurdles with a "C" is next to a miracle.

U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee and Mayor Sylvester Turner were among those addressing the packed room, praising all concerned including the students. As Turner put it, "Today is a big deal for the city of Houston as a whole."

But unfortunately for the district and its beleaguered trustees, Wheatley High School wasn't as successful in this year's Texas Education Agency assessment. Wheatley has spent too many years on the Improvement Required List which by TEA's own rules means the odds again increase that either the entire school board will be replaced, or that historic campus will be shut down.

Overall, the district earned a high B — an 88 — with 92 percent (250 out of 271) of its schools earning a passing grade. Fifty seven earned A's, 78 B's, 86 C's and 29 D's.

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan addressed the Wheatley situation amid all the revelry. She explained that Wheatley would have earned an overall grade of a D with a score of 63 except for a new TEA provision introduced in 2018. That provision says that if a district receives an "F" in any of four individual categories - Student Achievement, Academic Growth, Relative Performance, Closing the Gaps) that the highest overall score it can achieve is a 59 or an "F." That same provision cratered the hopes of five other HISD schools that remain on the Improvement Required list.

"Wheatley High School will rise to greatness once again," Lathan said. "We will continue to support Wheatley."  She predicted that Wheatley would earn a "C" rating next year but that, of course, may be out of HISD's hands. 

Last year, HISD got a stay of execution when the TEA waived official ratings for several low-performing schools because of the extensive damage done by Hurricane Harvey and its flood waters. This year there were no mitigating circumstances to keep all the official assessments from coming out.

Trustees Jolanda Jones, Wanda Adams, Rhonda Skillern-Jones were there and presented a united front calling once again for Lathan to be named the permanent superintendent of the district. Jones also took it upon herself to apologize to everyone there and throughout the district on behalf of the board saying trustees had interfered with Lathan's ability to do her job — something a TEA investigation also concluded.

Trustee Anne Sung also addressed the crowd, congratulating Kashmere and its first year principal Reginald "Reggie" Bush for the school's accomplishment. Other members of the nine-person school board did not attend.

click to enlarge Not a bad first year at all for Principal Reginald "Reggie" Bush as Kashmere moved off the Improvement Required list. - PHOTO BY MARGARET DOWNING
Not a bad first year at all for Principal Reginald "Reggie" Bush as Kashmere moved off the Improvement Required list.
Photo by Margaret Downing
In his remarks, Bush said, "We had to add the human element back to Kashmere High School." Kashmere is not a testing facility, he said, but "where we prepare young people for life."

To see how all the schools and districts in Texas did in the latest ratings, go to txschools.gov.
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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