HISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan said the district is ready to take on anything that is coming its way.

“We have weathered many storms in our district,” said Lathan during an HISD Foundation State of the Schools speech. “Many storms.”

Lathan issued a call to action urging supporters to work together by employing, “One Voice and One Vision” to equitably raise the standard of excellence for all students in the district, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

She focused on the future during her address, but she also spoke about the recent past. That includes recent FBI and IRS activity at district headquarters and at the chief operating officer’s home, which led to him being placed on paid administrative leave.

“Any time there’s a concern as it relates to personnel, we make decisions of what happens to them in the interim while matters are being looked into,” said Lathan.

Meanwhile, the Texas Education Agency’s planned takeover of HISD is held up in court. Many believe the takeover is inevitable, however, despite some student achievement and other improvements.

“But our focus has to remain on every child that we serve,” said Lathan. “We have over 210,000 students that arrive to us daily, seeking and wanting to receive a quality education.”

Complicating matters of late are concerns over the coronavirus. The district has already devoted an entire section on its website to the illness.

“And we’ve communicated information to our team members [and] to our parents,” said Lathan.

HISD is asking all students, families and staff to take extra precautions when traveling over spring break and to self-quarantine for 14 days if returning from countries identified in the CDC’s travel warnings.

“If the virus continues to grow and we were to become impacted, we’re ready to provide services to our students,” said Lathan. “That might be through distance learning where students can utilize laptops, go online.”

Lathan also told the crowd of about 700 that despite the challenges faced by the district, innovative teachers, inspiring leaders, and resilient students have helped HISD earn its current high “B” rating, with a score of 88 under the TEA’s accountability system.

“I appreciate everyone in HISD who has worked diligently to achieve an impressive list of notable accomplishments,” Lathan said. “We have expanded access to pre-K classes for our youngest learners and created productive mentorship programs for our students. Across the district, we are expanding and transforming educational opportunities for our scholars at every grade level.”