Dr. Grenita Lathan helping an HISD student. Photo by Milton Durango.

HISD’s Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan has decided to move on from the state’s largest school district, ending three years at the helm of HISD that has seen one crisis after another.

Lathan, who called the decision bittersweet, has served Houston’s 200,000-plus students and staff for six years. She’ll start her new job as superintendent of the Springfield Public School District in Missouri in July. She’s agreed to stay on at HISD until the end of the school year.

“Our promise to our students, parents, staff and trustees is that I will continue to work as hard in my final weeks here in HISD as I’ve done over the past six years,” Lathan said. “I love this district and want to see the most orderly transition possible as we move forward.”

Lathan has acted as interim superintendent for the state’s largest school district since the previous leader, Richard Carranza, left abruptly for New York City in March 2018.

During her tenure, she’s had to deal with the district’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey, the global pandemic and its deep effects on public education, the recent winter storm crisis, and the threat of a state takeover because of long-struggling schools — a possibility that continues in the courts. 

The state also investigated HISD’s special education services, which resulted in the installation of two state conservators in January.

Members of the HISD school board who supported Lathan made several runs at having her named the superintendent of the district, but were repeatedly unsuccessful in getting her status moved up from Interim. In fact, in October 2018, she was demoted from that status and a successor chosen — an action reversed about a week later after outcry from the Black community. Other members of the board remained opposed to awarding her the top permanent position — at least not until after a national search for other candidates — and a push in November 2020 to name her the superintendent was defeated in a 6-3 vote. With the three Black board members voting in favor of keeping Lathan on board.

Lathan said that she had initially considered applying for the permanent job at HISD. But various recruiters had contacted her even before the board decided to conduct a national search, she said. And when the hiring firm for the Springfield district reached out, Lathan decided it was time to move on.

“After conducting my research, I realized that that was where I needed to go and where I needed to be at this time in my life,” Lathan said.

 What people are saying

“She’s been serving, for example, quote-unquote, as an ‘interim superintendent’ during some of the most challenging times in the history of our city and the history of any school district anywhere in the country. I think she’s done an exceptional job. I hate to see her go. I wish she was staying.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner

“Even though she’s outperformed the stated expectations given her, this board, completely intent on having a Hispanic superintendent, chose not to offer her a permanent contract after three years of stupendous service to the district. It’s just literally amazing, and yet astounding, that a superintendent could perform at that level and be so disrespected and disregarded. And we believe, for sure, that this would not have been the case, except for the fact that she is an African American woman.”

James Dixon, President, NAACP Houston

“I would like to thank Dr. Lathan for her many years of service to the students of the Houston Independent School District – especially for her leadership as interim superintendent since March 2018. From moving numerous HISD campuses out of improvement required status to her strong leadership during several major weather events and a global pandemic, she has truly been a beacon for our students, staff and families. We wish her well.”

Patricia Allen, President, HISD School Board

“Dr. Lathan has served the HISD community with dignity, grace and and unmatched proficiency. She has risen to every obstacle with fortitude and turned practically every negative into a positive. It was my pleasure to serve alongside her. Her presence will be missed, but legacy will remain in generations of students who benefited from her stellar leadership. It’s bittersweet but she earned this new rung on her ladder. I wish her well and can’t wait to see what her Black Girl Magic does next!”

Rhonda Skillern Jones, Former HISD Trustee

“I am devastated by HISD’s loss of Dr. Lathan! I was in tears on Monday. I’m happy for her because she’s an educational rock star with that certain #BlackGirlMagic! It’s unfortunate and sad and deplorable that she was treated with such disrespect by Board members Deigaard, Santos, Sung, Vilaseca, Hernandez, Cruz. Diegaard, Sung, Vilaseca and Santos are up for re-election in November of this year. I’m hopeful that Black voters will remember that they attacked Black women specifically and Black people, in HISD generally. I was told that they want a Hispanic Superintendent so we’ll see if their plan to hire a Hispanic comes to fruition. It’s against the law to make decisions based on race but various board boards members don’t give a you know what. Dr. Lathan is now a permanent superintendent in Missouri and I’m willing to bet you money that Dr. Lathan will raise the bar for Springfield and Springfield will have better educated students than HISD. I respect you Dr. Lathan.  I miss you already! Anti-Racism is required and I did that while a board member. It was hard serving with anti-Black board members. I know it was hard for Superintendent Lathan to serve with them but she was superb and is the epitome of grace under pressure. Truth is an absolute defense to libel, slander and defamation.”

Jolanda Jones, Former HISD Trustee

“I don’t blame her for leaving. Go somewhere where people appreciate you.”

Brooke Washington, Parent

“It’s for the best. The demographics of the district are shifting and we need someone who adequately represents that shift.”

Louisa Ganza, Parent