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'They have pretty much sentenced the school district to a takeover,' HISD board president says

A Texas Education Agency investigation report recommends the Houston Independent School District board of trustees be replaced by a board of managers.

HOUSTON — After months of turmoil on the HISD board, the Texas Education Agency wants the entire group replaced by a state-appointed board of managers.

The recommendation is reportedly based on alleged misconduct and other infractions, including possible violations of the open meetings act.

But current board president Diana Davila believes the state should wait on any drastic changes.

"They have pretty much sentenced the school district to a takeover," said Davila.
"There is a due process and I feel that due process has been skipped. And it's unfair for the citizens of Houston and the 200,000-plus students that the district must oversee every day."

The report turmoil included a hasty vote to replace its interim superintendent. 

That decision was quickly reversed.

Governor Greg Abbott has also advocated for state intervention and criticized the district's leadership as a quote "disaster" on Twitter.

"This is politics, you know, and it’s messy,” said Houston Federation of Teachers president Zeph Capo.

Capo has numerous issues with the current board. But he believes local voters should clean house and not bureaucrats in Austin.

“There is a tremendous amount of evidence to show that school board takeovers by the state or others, on the whole, do not work,” said Capo.

He recommended parents and others focus on their neighborhood schools, and not the central office, as we approach another academic year.

"That’s where the learning actually happens," said Capo. "That’s where the relationship bonds and the trust needs to be built.”

HISD itself is not commenting on the TEA’s findings.

"We can confirm TEA has sent a preliminary report to HISD," TEA spokesman Jake Kobersky wrote in a statement. "Because the investigation which spurred this report is still ongoing, and to allow HISD time to respond, we cannot comment further at this time. If you would like additional information on the special investigations unit process, please visit [this] link."

The TEA isn't commenting on the report either, or saying how soon a board of managers might take over.

Meanwhile, Davila said the board is already working to better manage itself by hiring consultants during a recent meeting.

Under state law, the Texas Education Agency takeover can happen if a school’s been labeled “improvement requirement” for five or more consecutive years, starting with the 2013-14 school year. 

The other options: Close those chronically underperforming schools; or let an outside group run them.

Four chronically underperforming HISD campuses could trigger these changes if their ratings don't improve in 2019: Highland Heights Elementary School; Henry Middle School; Kashmere High School; and Wheatley High School.

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