HISD Replacement Board on Hold After Judge's Ruling

Superintendent Grenita Lathan will soldier on with her elected board for a while to come.
Superintendent Grenita Lathan will soldier on with her elected board for a while to come. Screengrab from HISD TV

In the latest twist in the ongoing battled between the Texas Education Agency and the board of trustees of Houston ISD, chalk up one for the school district's elected representatives.

A state district judge based in Austin late Wednesday stopped the planned takeover of the board by the state — at least for now. Judge Catherine Mauzy issued an injunction saying the TEA and its commissioner Mike Morath won't be going forward with their appointed board until after she has a chance to further review the case and issue a final ruling.

That means that HISD Superintendent Grenita Lathan, who herself doesn't know if she'll be replaced or allowed to stay after a TEA takeover, will continue to work with a board elected by voters, rather than one sent by the state.

As could be expected, the TEA was not happy and while expressing its disappointment, said it would appeal. The plan had been to replace the HISD board, including the just-elected board members, with an appointed board in the spring.

In November, when Morath announced he was going ahead with the takeover plan after months of will-he, won't-he, he said it was because of HISD's continued inability to improve academic standings at Wheatley High School and because of board behavior that went beyond dysfunction into alleged misconduct.

HISD trustees filed a lawsuit saying the state was taking away Houston voters' right to elect their own school board. The Houston Federation of Teachers later attempted to join the HISD trustees' lawsuit.

HISD argued that the state was not correctly interpreting a state law that says after five consecutive failing grades at any school in the district, that the district must either shut down that school or its board of trustees must be replaced by people appointed by the TEA. The appointed board is expected to be in place from two to five years.

The TEA statement in response to the judge's ruling:

“The wheels of justice are turning—and those wheels often turn slowly.

While we are disappointed by the court’s issuing of an injunction, we do not expect this temporary setback to in any way impact our deep commitment to improving outcomes for the school children of Houston.

We intend to immediately appeal this decision; and we are confident we will prevail at the appellate court level.

Any time you are taking on a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, the road to meaningful change is long and arduous, but when the futures of our children are at stake, we will stop at nothing to make sure they are properly provided for.”
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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