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'The state of our schools is strong' | HISD superintendent focuses on job amid possible TEA takeover

HISD Superintendent Millard House II said the district had not received any official notice from the TEA regarding taking over HISD.

HOUSTON — Houston ISD superintendent Millard House II delivered the district's annual “State of the Schools” address Friday. This comes a day after he released a statement about the possible "imminent" Texas Education Agency takeover

In his statement, House said the district had not received any official notice from the TEA regarding taking over HISD and when he does get any information, he will provide updates. 

"I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what the future will bring," House said during the "State of the Schools" address. 

House told the crowd, much like his statement, that his priority is sticking to the strategic plan he developed during his first 19 months on the job. Something that came after academic and other issues triggered the TEA's initial takeover attempt. 

“It was so bad in 2019," said Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt. "It was not only a disservice to families, it was leaving kids under-educated."

Bettencourt helped craft the law that restored the A through F accountability rankings. He said a dysfunctional board and outright criminal activity also plagued HISD. 

"So I know there’s corruption still there that hasn’t been rooted out, so at this point in time, I’ll support whatever decision TEA Commissioner Mike Morath makes."

Bettencourt admits there probably has been some bounce off the bottom, and some extremely troubled HISD schools have seen improvements.

“As of today, the state of our schools is strong," House said. 

So far, the TEA has only said it continues to review a recent court ruling to determine the next steps.

Parents, community leaders rally

Friday afternoon in downtown Houston, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the head of Houston's NAACP branch joined teachers, parents and elected officials, pleading for the state to reconsider the possible TEA takeover of HISD. 

"Leave HISD alone," Turner said during a rally.

Turner said 40 of the 50 schools that scored a D and F in 2019 are no longer failing. That includes Wheatley High School in Fifth Ward, which suffered several straight years of failing accountability ratings and not only put that campus at risk of closure but also the entire HISD board at risk of a state takeover. 

Charlotte Camacho was at the rally. Her daughter and several family members graduated from Wheatley. 

"I'd rather hold up signs, stand out there in the rain, in the snow, and fight for it," she said.

Kendra Yarbrough Camarena was also at the rally. She's an HISD parent. 

"I want to be able to elect my board members and speak to my board members so that they have to be accountable to me," she said.

On Friday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released her first statement on the possible TEA takeover. 

“The Texas Education Agency’s rumored plan to take over HISD is outrageous at best and a thinly-veiled threat to democracy at worst. School boards are one of the purest expressions of American democracy. From election denial to serious proposals to take over elections in our county, to attempts to limit our budget, to now this attempt to take over the eighth largest school district in the nation, the state is taking politics too far and working to limit democracy, and the established rights of our citizens."

"Most research shows that takeovers do not generate academic benefits. But that’s not what this is about. This is about democracy. The issues that TEA had with HISD in 2019 no longer apply in 2023. HISD is a school district that is moving upward. Wheatley High School is no longer failing, the school board TEA found an issue with no longer exists, and the superintendent is widely respected. The only constant is that teachers continue to overwhelmingly oppose a takeover."

"I urge the state to rethink their disastrous plan to upend our schools and stop this latest show of political theater.”

Watch the full HISD Foundation 2023 State of the Schools Address below: 

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