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HISD teachers and parents react to possible TEA takeover

TEA takeover efforts started in 2019 due to perpetually failing schools, and among other things, alleged misconduct by certain HISD trustees.

HOUSTON — The Texas Education Agency could finally take over the Houston Independent School District as soon as next week.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the takeover would remove city control. He also said HISD Superintendent Millard House II and the HISD Board of Trustees could be replaced.

"The state is overreaching on this issue," Turner said during Wednesday's Houston City Council meeting.

The news of the TEA taking over HISD is not surprising. The TEA launched its takeover efforts in 2019 due to perpetually failing schools, and among other things, alleged misconduct by certain trustees. In January, the Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion ruling that cleared the way for the TEA takeover.

Teachers react

Most of the teachers the KHOU 11 News spoke to on Wednesday were not behind the idea of the TEA taking over HISD. Some of those who are against it said they hope the state listens to their concerns. They said they don’t feel like someone in Austin would better understand the problems they deal with in Houston.

"The people who are there that do have authority are not accountable to you and may not be as accessible as your current elected board members," teacher Carretta Fontenot said.

They said they're the ones in the classroom every day and the possibility of a TEA takeover is causing uncertainty among teachers. Officials with the Houston Federation of Teachers said their members are nervous and some are even considering leaving the district by the end of the year if the takeover happens.

"They do feel very targeted. Some are talking about leaving the district," Fontenot said.

They said if that happens, it will cause a strain on the teacher shortage the district is already dealing with. Teachers said they feel like the district made changes and was moving in the right direction. They want the make sure the locally elected board continues on that path.

"We are going backward with a state takeover and it's incomprehensible for many of us why this decision (was made), at this point, despite the successes that we have seen. Despite the pandemic and the successes ... the trajectory we are following," teacher Daniel Santos said.

It's not a done deal, but some teachers said they won't go down without a fight. Local union leaders said they'll have a response for Gov. Greg Abbott next week.

Parents react

Some parents are for the takeover, but the majority of the ones that spoke to KHOU 11 News on Wednesday were not.

They said they're worried that their power to elect representatives for the district will be stripped away.

"We lose our votes. We are being disenfranchised with this. We voted this school board. We took out the people and put in new people," parent Libby Ingrassia said.

Ingrassia said keeping the control local is better for the kids. She's worried that the state agency won't do what's best for them.

"The policies that TEA has shown an interest in do not match what I think good education is," Ingrassia said. "I think that keeping it in local control is safer for our students. Now, that requires us, the parents, to be super involved in that local control. But at least we have that ability when it's local."

Dani Hernandez, the president of the HISD School Board, said the community should choose who's running HISD.

"I passionately believe that HISD needs a Democratically elected board and that parents in the community should get input on who is running the district," Hernandez said.


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